Malaysia may soon do away with mandatory death sentence: Minister

Judges in Malaysia may have the discretion to hand down death and whipping sentences by early 2023. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PUTRAJAYA - Mandatory death and whipping sentences could become a thing of the past in Malaysia by early next year with amendments to the laws to be tabled in Parliament next month.

Instead, judges will have the discretion to hand down the two sentences.

"If everything goes well and there are no disruptions to the coming budget session, we will no longer have the mandatory death sentence in 2023," said Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

"This will also apply to whipping as it will be left to the discretion of the judges," he told The Star in an interview on Monday.

The Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Parliament and Law) said he intended to table the proposed amendments during the Parliament meeting starting on Oct 3.

"The amendments on the mandatory death sentences will cover amendments to 33 sections under the law and involve mandatory death sentences for 11 offences," he said.

The 11 offences comprise nine under the Penal Code and two under the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act.

On the fate of those now on death row, Dr Wan Junaidi said the government was still mulling over its options.

In June, it was reported that there were 1,342 death row inmates who were in limbo as to their fate.

Of the number, over 900 were convicted for drug trafficking while the remaining were for murder.

Of the total, 844 are Malaysians and 498 are foreigners from 40 countries.

The abolition of the mandatory death sentence was first raised by the Pakatan Harapan administration in 2018.

A moratorium on execution was then implemented.

On whipping, Dr Wan Junaidi said the proposed amendments would not do away with the punishment but again give judges the discretion on whether to impose it.

"Personally, I view whipping as very brutal and violent and simply inhumane.

"That is why I am suggesting that judges have the discretion to impose the punishment," he said, adding that most offenders suffer open wounds with many fainting after three strokes.

With discretion given, judges can weigh the gravity of the harm committed by offenders on their victims before imposing the punishment.

He said there might be instances where a judge might say no to whipping in some cases, but impose it on "sadistic" offenders who cause hurt to their victims.

Dr Wan Junaidi said he would meet the Attorney-General's Chambers soon to discuss the matter before seeking Cabinet approval to table the amendments.

On a separate matter, he said the recently passed anti-hopping law was expected to be enforced this month. THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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