Home Diskusi Columnist: Is Malaysia’s mandatory death penalty being phased out?

Columnist: Is Malaysia’s mandatory death penalty being phased out?

Malaysian on death row Kalwant Singh was executed early morning of7 July 2022 in Singapore’s Changi Prison, and his remains will be taken back to Cameron Highlands, later on, put another fight for the death penalty to be phased out in Malaysia.

Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law), said on June 10, 2022, that the cabinet has decided to eliminate the obligatory death sentence. The Cabinet decision came after the Special Committee to Review Alternative Sentences to the Mandatory Death Penalty presented its findings. Tun Richard Malunjun, the former Chief Justice, is in charge.

Malaysia now has 11 mandatory death penalty offences, including drug-related offences, which account for the biggest chunk of death sentence cases. The Cabinet decision would offer the judge’s discretion in the sentence.

According to a written response from the Malaysian Parliament in February 2022, there are presently 1,341 persons on death row, with 905 instances including mandatory death sentences for drug trafficking.

The Reality

Normally, the Prime Minister makes every major announcement by the present administration, even if it is a half-baked policy. Perhaps the Prime Minister wants to be the centre of attention in this wobbly alliance. However, after it was revealed by the designated minister, it created more confusion than clarity.

Before you start applauding, keep in mind that these revisions still need to be proposed and voted in Parliament before they become law. The statement did not say when the government expected to conclude its review of alternative sentences or give an indication of what the changes might entail.

Between the lines of the Cabinet decision, there are requests for more research to generate recommendations for alternative penalties for crimes that carry the mandatory death sentence. Who will undertake the research, when it will be tabled, and how long it will take to reach parliament remain unsolved questions.

Even though the present administration is claiming credit for this initiative, most of us have already forgotten that Malaysia took the initial steps toward abolishing the death penalty in October 2018 under the short-lived Pakatan Harapan government, and has a moratorium on executions today.

Despite the government’s massive marketing campaign, which may be aimed at gaining support from human rights activists, the death sentence will stay on the books. Judges will now have the option of imposing an alternative penalty for the 23 offences that carry the death penalty.

I believe the Malaysian government enjoys floating proposals for human rights projects because it realizes the world community has a short attention span and will interpret this as a sign of Malaysia’s development.

The announcement comes at a critical juncture. In April, Malaysia’s prime minister and foreign minister requested Singapore’s government twice to give mercy to Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, a 33-year-old Malaysian native who faced the death penalty in Singapore after being found guilty of importing heroin into the country in 2009. Nagaenthran, who was cognitively challenged, was offered a return to Malaysia by the Foreign Ministry.

The communication between Malaysia and Singapore revealed hypocrisy: Nagaethran would have faced the death penalty in his native country.

Additional Questions to Answer

To secure popular political support, the government must learn from the hasty repeal of the ISA (Homeland Security Act). There are now parties who are unconcerned with religious and racial sensitivities that endanger national security. They capitalised on the development of information technology, particularly the limitless freedom of social media. Many people were already repentant when the ISA was repealed, and they lobbied for its reinstatement. Regrettably, it is too late. This experience must be considered if the government wishes to abolish a statute such as an ISA. National security and justice for victims of forced crimes are also considered. The priority should not be to apprehend the perpetrators of the atrocities.

For situations of heinous crimes resulting in death, such as organised murder, the mandatory death penalty must be maintained. The government is more concerned with the destiny of vicious offenders than with defending victims of cruelty when it comes to protecting them.

It’s also important to consider the expense of funding life-sentenced offenders. Consider the amount of money needed to sustain thousands of life-sentenced criminals. Every year, the cost is undoubtedly in the hundreds of millions of dollars. These costs range from the use of taxpayer funds for food, medicine, and other necessities to the hiring of brutal criminals.

It is preferable for a fund of that magnitude to be utilized to assist the destitute or the victims’ families.

The death sentence is still enforced in Singapore, China, and several other nations. Even in China, corrupt offenders are subjected to death sentences. President Jokowi of Indonesia recently proposed introducing a death sentence law for corrupt offenders.

With Malaysia’s high prevalence of bribery crime, the death sentence might be one of the alternatives that the government should consider.

For me, the Malaysian government’s strategy should focus on the situation, the conditions, and the goals, rather than on popularity.

DISCLAIMER: Air Times News Network is not responsible for opinions expressed through this article. It’s the columnist’s personal view and doesn’t necessarily reflect our stance.

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