Asia Malaysia Malaysia to abolish death penalty; halts death sentence for time being

Malaysia to abolish death penalty; halts death sentence for time being

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In a revolutionary move, the Malaysian government has announced that it plans to abolish the death penalty currently employed by its legal system as punishment for heavy crimes. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Liew Vui Keong, who is the de-facto Law Minister, made this announcement on Wednesday, 10 October.

“All death penalty will be abolished. Full stop”, he said. The minister was quoted as such by members of the press after the “Law Reform Talk” which he chaired was concluded at the Faculty of Law, Universiti Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. He also stressed that since the government had made that decision, all executions that have yet to be carried out should be stopped.

Liew Vui Keong informed the press that the Pardons Boards would be directed to study various applications death row (waiting list) convicts could be commuted or released. A commuted death sentence would mean the convict has to face life imprisonment as punishment for causing death(s) for which he or she had been handed the death sentence by the court in the first place.

Even as the government is reviewing certain cases and its punishment, many aspects and factors have to be carefully considered to make sure the right penalty was handed out to the offender. An example would be drug-related cases whereby due consideration should to be given to drug mules (currently tried under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, which carries the mandatory death sentence) as opposed to those who were found guilty of a more serious crime.

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The sentiments of the families affected by crimes such as murder must also be factored in by the Malaysian government, who plans to table the bill to abolish the death penalty as early as Monday, 15 October when parliament reconvenes. The relevant legal paperwork are said to be in the final stages at the chambers of the country’s Attorney-General. Liew Vui Keong further shared that the Attorney-General had agreed for the said bill to be presented to the Malaysian parliament in the upcoming session.

Apart from the death penalty, the Pakatan Harapan government also plans to do away with other controversial and draconian laws such as the Sedition Act 1948. There has been continuous calls by local and international NGOs like Amnesty International and SUHAKAM (Human Rights Commission of Malaysia)for such laws to be repealed as it has been subject to abuse by the executive power against its critics such as politicians who oppose the elected government, activists, journalists and even writers.

The shocking but most welcomed news of Malaysia joining other countries such as the Senegal, who abolished the death sentence for all crimes in December 2004, Liberia in September 2005 and its colonial master UK in 1965 was indeed apt as 10 October is World Day Against The Death Penalty. It is a celebration organized by the World Coalition Against The Death Penalty, a group made up of 38 human rights organisations, regional authorities, bar associations and trade unions. The news was also trending on social media such as Twitter with many people expressing their joy. The British High Commission in Malaysia personally noted this on their official Twitter page.

When the bill is tabled and passed in the Malaysian parliament, it would be another feather in the cap of popular accomplishments for the Pakatan Harapan government that is already enjoying the popularity of abolishing the highly unpopular Goods and Sales Tax (GST) back in June 2018.

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