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A hangman's noose

Death penalty to be replaced with 30 years’ imprisonment should it be abolished, says Malaysian Minister

Minister in the Malaysian Prime Minister’s Department VK Liew has announced that current impending death sentences will be converted to a minimum of 30 years’ imprisonment should the government decide to abolish the death penalty.

In response to an additional question by Batu Kawan Member of Parliament (MP) P. Kasthuriaani of the Pakatan Harapan coalition during a Parliamentary session in Kuala Lumpur yesterday (16 Oct), however, he elaborated that “Their jail term will run from the date the pardons board commutes their death sentences to life imprisonment.”

This means that the commutation of their sentences will not be applied in retrospect, and that part of the new custodial sentence will not be replaced by the time already served by persons convicted.

When questioned by Ayer Hitam MP Wee Ka Siong regarding the justification behind the government’s decision to abolish the death sentence, suggesting that it might be an abrupt one, Liew referenced a study conducted by I-CeLLS — an organisation under the Attorney General's Chambers — titled “Death Penalty in Malaysia and the Way Forward,” which concluded that there was no evidence pointing at the effectiveness of the death penalty as a means of preventing the spread of crime.

Instead, findings from the study have shown that when persons who are wrongly convicted and sentenced to the death penalty, their families suffer the greatest impact, which have been proven to be irreparable. 

Illustrating his point, Liew said: “In Malaysia, there were cases where innocent people were accused of murder due to false testimony from key witnesses.

"Even though the charges were set aside due to the false testimony, cases like these show that an innocent person could have been sent to the gallows.”

The abolishment of the death penalty sentence was a part of the Pakatan Harapan coalition’s manifesto. It is also in line with the international benchmark with regards to human rights, which generally deems the death penalty to be draconian in nature.