MALAYSIA — The Malaysian Parliament (Dewan Rakyat) has passed a Bill to remove the mandatory death penalty for certain offences and provide judges with the discretion to impose a death sentence or other penalties.
The Bill was passed by a voice vote on Monday (3 Apr), after being tabled for its third reading.
Under the Abolition of Mandatory Death Penalty Bill, judges would be granted the discretion to impose the death penalty rather than being required to do so when convicting offences that currently carry a mandatory death sentence.
The new measures will apply to 34 offences currently punishable by death, including murder and drug trafficking. Eleven of them carry the mandatory punishment.
The Bill also proposes replacing the mandatory death sentence with a new alternative of imprisonment for a period between 30 and 40 years, combined with no fewer than 12 strokes of the cane, as a replacement for life and natural life imprisonment.
Capital punishment will also be removed as an option for some serious crimes that do not cause death, such as discharging and trafficking of a firearm and kidnapping.
Malaysia has had a moratorium on executions since 2018, when it first promised to abolish capital punishment entirely. The move to remove the mandatory death penalty is seen as a further step towards abolition.
The Bill was debated by 10 Members of Parliament and passed after the third reading by the Deputy Minister of Law and Institutional Reform, Ramkarpal Singh.
Speaking in Parliament, Mr Singh said the mandatory death penalty is one of the punishments considered as a method to achieve justice, especially when involving heinous crimes. However, he argued that capital punishment was an irreversible punishment that had not been an effective deterrent for crime.
“The death penalty has not brought the results it was intended to bring,” he said while wrapping up the parliamentary debates on the bill.
“The effectiveness of the death penalty as a form of prevention cannot be ensured as there are many factors that influence the number of prosecutions or crime rates,” said Mr Singh when presenting the bill in Malaysia’s Parliament on Monday.
Malaysia’s latest move to abolish mandatory death sentences is a significant step towards a more progressive legal system. This comes as a stark contrast to some Southeast Asian nations that have increased their use of the death penalty in recent years.
For instance, Singapore executed 11 people for drug offences last year, and Myanmar carried out its first death sentences in decades against four pro-democracy activists.