KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 6 — The Malaysian government today introduced amendments to existing legislation in Parliament to replace the mandatory death penalty for several criminal offences, in a significant step towards bringing the country closer towards complete abolition of capital punishment.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar had earlier tabled a slew of government Bills relating to the abolishment of the death penalty for their first reading in Dewan Rakyat.
The Bills were the Penal Code (Amendment) Bill 2022, the Criminal Procedure Code (Amendment) Bill 2022, Kidnapping (Amendment) Bill 2022, Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill 2022, Arms (Amendment) Bill 2022, Firearms (Increased Penalties) (Amendment) Bill 2022 and the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Bill 2022.
To date, Malaysia currently recognises 33 capital crimes, including murder, drug trafficking, treason, acts of terrorism and waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, of which 11 are punishable by mandatory hanging upon conviction.
However, Malaysia has imposed a de facto moratorium on executions since 2018.
According to the Bills’ Clause, any persons who has committed an offence in the aforementioned principle Acts will be sentenced — whether at trial or appeal — in accordance with the provisions of the respective amended Acts even though the offence was committed before the date of coming into operation.
Some of the amendments introduced are to substitute the word “life” with “natural life”, whereby a new definition for the term of “imprisonment for natural life” is to be deemed for all purposes to be a sentence of imprisonment until the death of the person convicted.
Several criminal offences under the Penal Code would also see the mandatory death penalty abolished and replaced with discretionary power granted to the court on whether to impose death sentence or imprisonment for natural life with whipping.
The amendments also sought to vary the sentence of fine to the sentence of whipping for several offences under the Penal Code as well.
The second reading of the Bills is expected to take place in the current Parliament sitting from October 3 to November 29.
On June 8, the government agreed in principle to abolish the mandatory death penalty and to substitute it with other sentences which are subject to the discretion of the court.
In August 2019, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration formed the Special Committee to Review Alternative Punishments to the Mandatory Death Penalty to examine alternatives to the mandatory death sentence.
The PH government, however, collapsed in February 2020, before the Bill for the abolition of the death penalty could be tabled in the March meeting of Parliament that year.