Minister: Death penalty may not totally go, Cabinet weighing two other options

Datuk Liew Vui Keong, whose portfolio covers legal affairs, said the three options relating to death penalty will be presented to the Cabinet this month. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Datuk Liew Vui Keong, whose portfolio covers legal affairs, said the three options relating to death penalty will be presented to the Cabinet this month. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 ― The federal government might not fully abolish the death penalty  as previously proposed and is considering two other options, Datuk Liew Vui Keong said.

Liew said the government expanded the initial proposal to include the alternative following feedback from non-governmental organisations, families of crime victims and convicts on death row, as well as from the Home Ministry's own findings.

Liew, whose portfolio covers legal affairs, said the three options relating to death penalty will be presented to the Cabinet this month.

“I believe that Cabinet will make a moderate decision,” he was quoted saying in an interview with local daily Sin Chew Daily.

Liew said the first option is for the “total abolition” of the death penalty for 33 criminal offences covered in eight Acts, replacing it with life imprisonment instead.

These eight laws are the Penal Code, Firearms (Heavier Penalties) Act 1971, Firearms Act 1960, Kidnapping Act  1961, Armed Forces Act 1972, Water Services Industries Act 2006, Strategic Trade Act 2010, and the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952.

The second option is for the death penalty to be non-mandatory for crimes such as murder, with judges gaining the discretion to alternatively sentence convicts to life imprisonment.

The third option involves only abolishing the mandatory death sentence for the offence of trafficking in dangerous drugs under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act, and changing it to life imprisonment of 30 years, Sin Chew Daily reported.

Section 39B of the Act currently provides judge with limited discretion to impose life imprisonment and whipping of at least 15 strokes for those convicted of drugs trafficking, instead of giving them the death sentence.

When exercising this discretion, however, the law limits judges to only considering four circumstances, including the condition that there was no evidence of buying and selling of a dangerous drug when the convicted person was arrested.

The three other conditions are that there must be no involvement of an agent provocateur; that the convict's involvement was only limited to transporting, carrying, sending or delivering a dangerous drug; and that the person convicted has assisted an enforcement agency in disrupting drug trafficking activities within or outside Malaysia.

Liew said these four conditions were too restrictive, so the government is considering doing away with them and giving judges full discretion when sentencing those convicted under Section 39B for drug trafficking.

Liew said he would table the Bill regarding death penalty in Parliament after Cabinet makes its decision.

For the Parliament meeting from March 11 to April 11, Liew reportedly said the government will table at least eight Bills, two of which involve proposed amendments to the Federal Constitution.

Sin Chew Daily said it understands that the two constitutional amendments may include the government's proposal to lower the voting age from 21 years to 18 years old, as well as possibly to restore Sabah and Sarawak autonomy.

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