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Malaysia plans to table Bill on death penalty in October

THE STRAITS TIMES – Malaysia expects capital punishment will no longer be mandatory in the country by next January, once it obtains the required approvals from Parliament, according to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

The government intends to table the draft laws in Parliament by October, and it will need to go through both the House of Representatives and the Senate, he said at a briefing yesterday.

Malaysia on Friday announced it had agreed to abolish the mandatory death sentence.

The move would allow courts to mete out substitute punishments in cases that currently carry a mandatory death sentence. The 11 such offences include those committed against the king, terrorism and murder.

Wan Junaidi said, “Alternative penalties following the abolishment of the mandatory death penalty will be at the discretion of the courts.”

To be sure, the country has no plans to abolish the death penalty altogether, so judges would still have the option of choosing capital punishment in those cases, said Wan Junaidi.

“I haven’t agreed with the death penalty since 1978,” he said.

Malaysia on June 10 announced it had agreed to abolish the mandatory death sentence. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES

“So if there are many more of the younger generations thinking along the same line, then perhaps one day we will see the end of the death penalty as well.”

Wan Junaidi also said the government could not commute the sentences of those currently on death row yet as the amendments were yet to be finalised.

However, he added that the moratorium on executions, implemented since 2018, would remain as long as the amendments were not yet finalised.

Permatang Pauh Member of Parliament (MP) Nurul Izzah Anwar said the proposed abolition of mandatory death sentences was an important step forward in legal reform.

“However, this development must be part of a wider agenda of reforming prisons and places of detention.

“We must ensure incarcerated persons and the institutions that host them are safe and fit for purpose.

“I am encouraged by not just this announcement – but also the Prisons Department that has been actively working towards realising prison reforms through further training, on the ground engagement and hard work.

Meanwhile, on discretionary powers given to judges on sentencing, former Federal Court judge, Gopal Sri Ram, said it would allow judges to look at factors that were peculiar to each case before deciding to impose the capital punishment or a custodial one.

“There is a vast difference between the case of a man who is unable to prove provocation as defined in the Penal Code but may yet show provocation in fact.

“In such a case in court, in the absence of countervailing facts, a sentence of imprisonment would suffice.

“Similarly, in drug cases, there may be extenuating circumstances to warrant imprisonment rather than death,” he said.

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