Kedah’s alcohol, 4D ban ignores elephant in the room – widespread ketum and drug abuse

The Kedah government’s decision to enforce an effective ban on the operation of all gaming shops and the sale of alcohol in the state has tongues wagging.

While some hailed the move, others say the state government had failed to address the elephant in the room –the abuse of ketum and drugs, which is rampant there.

Widely grown in the state, ketum leaves are mixed with cough mixture, rat poison and even mosquito coil. Those who consume it say it acts as an energy booster. However, it is prohibited in Malaysia under Section 30 (3) of the Poisons Act, 1952.

Criminologist Datuk Dr P. Sundramoorthy said the abuse of ketum was not limited to the working class.

“There are professionals in Kedah who are also hooked on it (ketum),” said Sundramoorthy, an honorary associate professor (criminology) at the School of Social Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia.

The problem is so widespread that Kedah police had even called on the state government to ban people from growing ketum. The suggestion was made in October, last year.

In November last year, Kedah police crippled the biggest drug syndicate in the state. The seizure of various types of drugs was worth more than RM18 million.

The Department of Statistics of Malaysia revealed that in 2019, Kedah recorded the highest number of drug addicts in the country (3,582).

Instead of addressing the ketum and drug problem, Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, last month, said that it would not renew business licences issued by local councils to gaming shops.

Sanusi believed this would tackle social ills caused by gambling. He also said there would be curbs on the sale of alcohol in certain areas in Kedah where the demand for such drinks was low, adding that the limitation on the sale of alcohol would not affect non-Muslims.

Sundramoorthy said the right thing to do was to instead focus on enforcement, intervention programmes, rehabilitation, and treatment.

“This is where the state government should facilitate and work with federal agencies.

“The state government should not intervene only when there’s a problem. What are they doing to educate the young in addressing drug abuse?”

He said state administrators should work closely with non-governmental organisations.

“They (the state government) can’t do it on their own.”

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