KUALA LUMPUR, June 11 — The Malaysian Bar has today called on the government to expedite the draft legislation for alternatives to the mandatory death penalty as soon as possible to avoid any death sentences from being meted.
The president of the umbrella body for lawyers, Karen Cheah Yee Lynn, lauded the Cabinet's decision to replace the mandatory death penalty in 11 offences with alternative sentences but said that there has been no announcement of any timeline or any release of draft legislation.
'We certainly look forward to the conclusion of a study to be carried out on the proposed substitute sentences for 11 offences carrying the mandatory death penalty, and seeing relevant legislative reforms being tabled and passed by both Houses of Parliament in the Parliamentary session that begins on 18 July 2022
'However, we note that there has been no announcement of any timeline, or any release of draft legislation to this effect. The Malaysian Bar therefore calls upon the Government to introduce the amending legislation without further delay.
'Any further delay will mean more people being sentenced to die,” she said in a statement here
Cheah also said that while the announcement to give judges discretionary power in sentencing is a significant step forward for the country, it still falls short of an earlier pledge to abolish capital punishment entirely in Malaysia, which was announced by former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department the late Datuk Liew Vui Keong, on 10 October 2018.
She also reiterated the Bar’s call to issue a moratorium on the execution of death row inmates to ensure that the more than 1,359 convicted persons currently on death row are also spared the death penalty.
'We advocate that all death sentences be commuted to sentences of imprisonment, proportionate to the gravity of offences committed, and take into consideration the mitigating factors and distinctive circumstances that surround each case. Only then will the punishment meted out be both just and effective,” she said.
She also reiterated their offer to provide assistance to the government to draft short-term and well as long-term reform plans to realise the ultimate objective of total abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia.
'The Cabinet decision is clearly a correct one and a step towards the right direction, but more has to be done to ensure total abolition of the death penalty. The death penalty has no place in a society that values human life, justice, and mercy; nor does it assure a civilised and secure society, but diminishes our humanity,” she said.
Yesterday, de facto law minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar announced that the government has agreed to abolish the mandatory death penalty and substitute sentences at the discretion of the court.
Following Wan Junaidi's announcement, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob explained that the death penalty will remain and not be abolished, and the change is only on the fact that judges are now given discretion in sentencing.
Wan Junaidi had said the Cabinet had also agreed for a further study to be carried out on the proposed substitute sentences for 11 offences carrying the mandatory death penalty, one of which is under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952.
He also said the government has yet to set a timeframe for the abolition of the mandatory death penalty to take effect with many areas needing refining, including the proposal to set up a tribunal to study cases already served with the mandatory death sentence.