Lord Fakafanua, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly submitted the Illicit Drugs Control (Amendment) Bill 2021, which proposed the death penalty for certain offences. This included adding the death penalty for the offence of unlawful import and export of 5kg or more of a Class A illicit drug. It also added the death penalty on the third or consequent strike for any person who without lawful excuse supplies, administers, compels or engages, employs or uses a child for illicit drugs offences.
The introduction of this Bill was in response to the alarming rate of illicit drugs abuse in Tonga. Of particular concern to the Lord Speaker were reports of involvement of children and youth in the commission of illicit drugs offences. It was also to recognize that the stricter penalties are to be used as a deterrent against the rise of drugs related crimes in Tonga.
The Bill was vigorously debated in the Legislative Assembly on 26 August 2021, where a majority of the Members expressed that they did not support the inclusion of the death penalty for various religious and ethical reasonings. Consequently, the Lord Speaker agreed to withdraw the provisions relating to the death penalty and also to accept the motions from Members to revise certain maximum penalties.
The Bill, with amendments was passed with a total vote of 19-0 on 26 August 2021. It is part and parcel of 3 new bills the Lord Speaker introduced in contribution to the national efforts to curb and control illicit drugs and intoxicating substances abuse in Tonga.