Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang wants suicide to be decriminalised as an urgent measure during the pandemic — calling for an amendment to be made in the upcoming Parliament sitting.
He also urged Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to hold off on the prosecution of attempted suicides until after the amendment is made.
"As an urgent anti-Covid-19 pandemic measure, Parliament should decriminalise suicide in the September/October meeting starting on Monday (Sept 13)...
"Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob should announce that no one will be prosecuted for attempted suicide until the law is amended," Lim said in a statement today.
The DAP lawmaker said the pandemic highlighted that suicide is not a criminal issue but a social and health problem.
He added that symptoms of increased depression and stress — such as insomnia, anxiety, and irritability may affect daily functioning.
At present, anyone who attempts to commit suicide faces criminal prosecution under Section 309 of the Penal Code, where they can be punished with a jail term of up to one year, a fine, or both.
Lim cited police statistics which showed there were 638 suicide cases reported in the country between January and July this year — a 143 percent increase compared with the same period last year.
For the whole of 2020, authorities recorded 631 suicide cases, also an increase from 609 in 2019.
“This is the time to decriminalise attempt suicide, which is a crime under the present law,” Lim said.
He highlighted that despite a rise in mental health cases, there remains a shortage of psychiatrists in the country
“Malaysia’s psychiatrist-to-patient ratio was only a tenth of the one per 10,000 recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“There are a total of 400 psychiatrists in Malaysia when there should be 3100,” he added.
He further called on Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin and de facto Law Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaffar to prioritise this agenda.
The Health Ministry previously backed a push to decriminalise suicide, with both ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah and Khairy speaking out on mental health.
If you are feeling depressed or suicidal, or know someone who is, please call the following hotlines:
Agape Counselling Centre Malaysia
03-77855955 or 03-77810800
Life Line Association Malaysia