Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said the government will be increasing penalties on drink-drivers, but they will not go to the extent of introducing the death penalty on the said crime
The issue of drivers committing the offence while under the influence of alcohol and drugs was brought up by Arau Member of Parliament (MP) Datuk Seri Dr Shahidan Kassim during the question and answer (Q&A) session of the Dewan Rakyat sitting today, 15 July.
In response to Arau MP's question, Dr Wee said that the Cabinet has already agreed to increase the punishments on drink-driving crimes by amending Sections 41 to 45 of the Road Transport Act.
According to him, the Bill is currently being reviewed by the Attorney General's Chambers. Once the Cabinet has given its final approval on 17 July, the proposed amendments will be brought to the Dewan Rakyat for tabling.
Among the proposed amendments is to increase the jail term to 15 years
He said under Section 44 of the Act currently, the maximum jail time is 10 years for those driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
"The amendment will see first-time offenders facing 15 years imprisonment [...] and 20 years for the subsequent offence," said Dr Wee, reported Malay Mail.
He said the maximum fine will also be increased to RM100,000 for the first offence and RM150,000 for the following offence. The current fine is capped at RM20,000.
"We are also going to increase the period of licence suspension from 10 years to 20 years. The punishment in this new law will be harsher," added the Ayer Hitam MP.
"Another thing is that in this law, we will make imprisonment as a mandatory punishment. Previously, the law stated that you can either be fined or jailed - but this time, we will ensure you will be fined and jailed."
The threshold of blood alcohol content (BAC) will also be lowered to the standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO)
New Straits Times reported him as saying that Malaysia's current BAC threshold is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml blood. Under the new amendments, it will be reduced to 50mg.
"Our warning is simple. If you have been drinking or you are already drunk, do not drive. If you still drive, you will have to pay the price," said the Minister.
When answering if the death penalty will be introduced to offenders involved in fatal accidents, Dr Wee contended that it won't happen unless prosecutors can prove offenders exhibit the intention of murder
He suggested that the Penal Code (Act 574) should be used instead on drink-drivers who have the intention of murder beyond reasonable doubt.
"It is true that we despise (drink-drivers taking the lives of other road users), but we cannot take rash action so as to ensure drink-drivers do not escape the appropriate legal action," Dr Wee said.
He reiterated that the government's stance is clear, which is non-Muslims are free to drink however they want - the government won't restrict their rights - but once they are under the influence of alcohol, they are not allowed to drive.
When Lumut MP Datuk Dr Mohd Hatta Md Ramli asked if the government will ban the sales of alcohol as suggested by PAS, Dr Wee dismissed it and contended that the problems lie more in education on road safety.
Former transport minister Anthony Loke then lauded Dr Wee for following the proposed amendments as drafted by the previous government, but Dr Wee took the opportunity to take a jab at his predecessor
He said the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government needed less than 100 days to make serious progress on the amendments, unlike the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government that did nothing in their 22-month rule.
"This shows PN's commitment to the issue," he said while receiving applause from the Dewan Rakyat.
In mid-February, the former government announced that they were planning to introduce harsher punishments on drink-drivers: