Friday, August 22, 2008

DNA expires...or so we were told

KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 18, 2008): The government tabled the long awaited Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) Identification Bill 2008 at the Dewan Rakyat for its first reading today. [The Sun]

The DNA Bill. What is that you may ask? It is a shame to see that not many Malaysians know about this new law that is going to be passed by the Dewan Rakyat. That's not a surprise since the front pages of mainstream newspapers these days are flooded with by-election topics or corruption scandals. Well, this has been going on right under our noses as the rulling government is going all out to get this bill passed in Parliament.

Here's a little insight to this law-to-be: The DNA Bill, when passed, will give the police the power to demand DNA samples from crime suspects in an investigation. This is because the current law does not allow the police to acquire such samples from suspects by force. However, the issue here is not the bill itself but the timing of it. Why now? Why propose such a bill at the same time when a certain former Deputy Prime Minister refused to provide his DNA samples in the wake of sodomy allegations. Nothing is coincidental in politics-a thought worth noting.

However, such political motive was refuted by Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar (right) as he stated, "It is not politically motivated and has nothing to do with Anwar (Ibrahim). The government has been working on this bill since 2001. It is ridiculous to attribute it to political motives." [NST, 19/8/2008]

How disturbing it is to know that it took 7 years for the Home Ministry to table an important bill such as the DNA Bill for a first reading (on 18/8/2008).

To be honest, the DNA Bill is not entirely a bad thing. There are far too many unsolved cases in the past few years that the police need to get it off their chest. But it is also quite clear that the ruling coalition is using all means, even by exploiting the Dewan Rakyat to bring down one man, Anwar Ibrahim. Syed Hamid Albar however contradicted that notion, saying, "I don't think they (the opposition) should attribute a sinister motive to it. If there is a case in court and you are not guilty, why should you worry about this bill?"

Anwar Ibrahim (left) refused to give his DNA samples to the police to assist in the investigation which Saiful Bahri accused the former for sodomizing him. If the DNA Bill is passed, Anwar will have no other choice but to give a sample to the authorities. Doesn't this DNA Bill sound more like it was taylor-made to serve an ulterior motive?

It is easy to just call for Anwar to surrender his DNA and make everyone happy. However it is not as simple as that. Anwar believes that by giving the authorities new body tissue, there is a possibility that 'evidences' could be planted and be used against him in court. That fear is justified simply because there is no need for a 'new' DNA sample as the police already had one back in 1998 (when Anwar was also charged for sodomy). Our dear Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi made this statement:

“The DNA sample the authorities have is too old so they need a new sample. What is wrong with that?" [The Star, 19/7/2008]

That line sounded like a slapstick joke from a stand up comedian. Who ever said that DNA has an expiry date? For your information Mr. Prime Minister, DNA is not a brand of frozen fishballs.

Abdullah Badawi also seemed oblivious to the existence of thousand year-old mummies found in Egypt where their DNA can still be extracted by scientists today. Anwar Ibrahim, on the other hand is only 61.

Since the police now have Anwar's DNA from 1998, why are they still asking for another DNA sample? All they need to do is check for any body tissue found up in Saiful's anus and cross-reference it's DNA signature which a report such as these (below). Anwar's DNA would have already been decoded in such a manner in 1998.

It will be interesting to see whether there will be fewer unsolved crimes for the police in the future when the DNA Bill is finally passed. The government continues to reiterate that now is the 'right' time for introducing such a revolutionary bill to fight crime when all these years, the sins done on Nurin Jazlin, Sharlinie and other victims have yet to be atoned for.

For further reading:
  1. - Experts to use DNA testing on Egyptian mummy
  2. HowStuffWorks - How DNA Evidence works?
  3. ThinkQuest - Forensic DNA
  4. - Genetic Fingerprinting

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  1. comm said...

    DNA only expires if not handled properly. Go figure...

  2. Jia Huan said...

    As a Biology major I can safely say that DNA does not expire. DNA will degrade under harsh conditions, i.e. being exposed to enzymes like DNAse but it doesn't expire when kept in conditions you would find in a genetics lab. Even if the sample is degraded, no new sample will be needed when you have prior records of the suspect's DNA fingerprint. It should be stored in the police's files especially if it's a DNA fingerprint sample of someone with a criminal record(has been jailed). Therefore, what is needed now is to take whatever DNA samples found in Mr.Saiful's anus, run the DNA with the same set of restriction enzymes that they ran with Anwar's DNA sample back in 1998, and voila, we'll know if it matches. There is no need for a new sample to be taken. Thanks for the good read!