Govt committed to decriminalising attempted suicide, says law minister

Liew said that the Attorney General’s Chambers has been actively studying and reviewing how to amend the law to decriminalise suicide. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Liew said that the Attorney General’s Chambers has been actively studying and reviewing how to amend the law to decriminalise suicide. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PUTRAJAYA, Feb 3 — The government remains firm on its decision to decriminalise attempted suicide, said de facto Law Minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong, following the conviction of a 38-year-old disabled man by the Kuala Terengganu Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said that the conviction and sentencing was “concerning” and that the government was working to table the amendments to the Penal Code by mid-2020.

“It is very concerning. Attempted suicide or any form of self-harm for that matter is a mental health condition and must be treated medically. These individuals must be provided necessary access to mental healthcare and be cared for as patients, not prisoners,” he said in a statement here.

Liew said that the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) has been actively studying and reviewing how to amend the law to decriminalise suicide since the government’s announcement last October.

“We remain firm in seeing this through. There must first be sustainable and viable mechanisms in place for these individuals to access mental healthcare before the law is amended to decriminalise suicide. What exactly these mechanisms will be and how they will operate is being studied at the moment,” he said.

When asked to elaborate on a timeframe for the amendments to be tabled in Parliament, the minister responded by saying, based on the current progress, and subject to approval from the Cabinet, he hoped that this would happen by the middle of the year.

It was reported yesterday that a 38-year-old disabled man was sentenced to six months in prison by the Magistrate’s Court in Kuala Terengganu for attempted suicide on December 23 last year.

According to the charges read, the man had wanted to take his own life because he is under tremendous pressure.

Today, rights groups Lawyers for Liberty and Hakam called on the AGC to review the sentence and refer it to the High Court so that it can be quashed.

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