Malaysia seeks to scrap mandatory death penalty for terrorism, murder

KUALA LUMPUR • The Malaysian government will seek to scrap the mandatory death penalty for 11 offences, including for committing acts of terrorism, the de facto Deputy Law Minister Mohamed Hanipa Maidin said in Parliament yesterday, according to Malaysian media.

Five of the offences pertain to terrorism, including directing and committing terror acts. The rest cover murder, hostage-taking, organised crime, offences against the constitutional monarch and the use of firearms, the reports said.

"The government will suggest to replace the mandatory death penalty as provided for in the Penal Code and Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act, with the death penalty on the court's discretion," Mr Mohamed Hanipa, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, was quoted as saying in response to a question by an opposition lawmaker.

Mr Mohamed Hanipa said the move would fulfil one of the 27 promises made by the Pakatan Harapan government in last year's general election. But he said there was no decision on creating a parliamentary committee to study the abolishment of the death penalty.

Anti-death penalty group, Lawyers for Liberty, slammed the government's move to scrap the mandatory death penalty rather than abolishing capital punishment altogether - as it had pledged to do last year - as "shocking, unprincipled and embarrassing".

The organisation's adviser, Mr N. Surendran, said in a statement that the government's backpedalling was "motivated by the fear of a political backlash".

As of October last year, there were 1,279 people on death row in Malaysia, the majority of them for drug trafficking offences.

A total of 146 countries have abolished the death penalty either in law or practice.

Meanwhile, de facto Law Minister Liew Vui Keong said plans to abolish the death penalty were still a work in progress.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2019, with the headline 'Malaysia seeks to scrap mandatory death penalty for terrorism, murder'. Print Edition | Subscribe