Mandatory Death Penalty to Be Repealed for 11 Criminal Offences

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The mandatory death penalty for 11 criminal offences are to be repealed and substituted with the death penalty imposed at the discretion of the court, the Dewan Rakyat was told today.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Hanipa Maidin said this mandatory death penalty was for nine offences under the Penal Code and two under the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971.

“We have made a decision. The government will only repeal the mandatory death penalty. We will make the amendments. This is in keeping with the 27th pledge in the Pakatan Harapan (election) manifesto,” he said when replying to a question from Che Abdullah Mat Nawi (PAS-Tumpat) during Question Time.

The nine offences under the Penal Code carrying the mandatory death penalty are:

  • Section 121A (offences against the person of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Ruler or Yang di-Pertua Negeri);
  • Section 130C (committing terrorist acts);
  • Section 130I (directing activities of terrorists groups);
  • Section 130N (providing or collecting property for terrorist acts);
  • Section 130O (providing services for terrorist purposes);
  • Section 130QA (accepting gratification to facilitate or enable terrorists acts);
  • Section 130ZB (accepting gratification to facilitate or enable organised criminal activity);
  • Section 302 (murder);
  • and Section 374A (hostage-taking).

The two offences under the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act are:

  • Section 3 (discharging a firearm in the commission of a scheduled offence)
  • and Section 3A (accomplices in case of discharge of firearm).

However, when met by reporters later, de facto Law Minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong said the government’s decision was not yet final, and that the matter was still a work in progress as it considers three options.

“Our first option is to totally abolish the death penalty. The second option is to look into the removal of the mandatory death sentence only.

“As for the third option, it is to remove the current discretionary powers of the judge when sentencing for offences under the Dangerous Drugs Act and commute it into life imprisonment.

“So all of this are still under consideration,” he said, adding that the government expects to table the amendments in the current parliamentary session.

Meanwhile, Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has described the government’s decision to remove the mandatory death penalty for only 11 offences, instead of the complete abolition it had promised last year as “shocking, unprincipled, and embarrassing”.

According to LFL adviser N Surendran, this is a “complete U-turn” from the announcement made by the Cabinet last October, in which it decided on a total abolition of the death penalty and gave a public undertaking to this effect,

“The reversal of the earlier decision is shocking, unprincipled and embarrassing.

“This is all the more so as the decision for total abolition had made international news and was praised throughout the region and the world,” he said in a statement Wednesday (March 13).

Surendran, however, said the government’s backtracking was “motivated by the fear of a political backlash in the event of total abolition”.

“In short, the government sacrificed principle on the altar of political expediency. In giving in to unjustified pressure and irrational objections, Pakatan Harapan has failed to display moral leadership, but instead succumbed to moral cowardice,” he said.

As of October 2018, there were 1,279 people on death row in Malaysia, the majority of them for drug trafficking offences.

A total of 146 countries have abolished the death penalty either in law or practice.