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MP SPEAKS | Mandatory death penalty abolishment - step by step

MP SPEAKS | Multiple developments have occurred in regard to the abolition of the mandatory death penalty since Friday, June 10, 2022, when the government made a statement, committing to studying the abolition of the mandatory death penalty.

And most recently today, the government also said an announcement will be made tomorrow, June 13, 2022, in regard to circa 2,000 convicts who are at present on death row.

This has caused disquiet amongst many quarters, and many questions abound about these two consecutive developments in the past 48 hours.

The government’s announcements are certainly a welcomed move, but only the first of many steps moving forward. Albeit the government may impose a moratorium on a policy basis, ie to halt the carrying out of any executions whilst a more detailed study is carried out, laws will eventually have to be amended for the death penalty is entrenched in pre-existing laws, including the Penal Code, Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971, and Armed Forces Act.

Many questions have to be addressed incrementally, accounting for not just the views and sentiments of members of the cabinet, but the lawmakers in Parliament too.

What this entails is that the government will have to table Bills in Parliament to amend the laws. Members of Parliament who represent the voters would have to be consulted and the Bills debated upon.

Abolishment must be scrutinised

For the imposition of the death penalty carries an element of irreversible finality to it, the principles and merits of the Bill must be deeply scrutinised.

This is over and above the fact that attitudes towards the death penalty vary across demographic lines, with many still holding on to the opinion that the death penalty ought still to be retained for the most heinous of crimes.

Perhaps we may take a cue from the drafting of the Anti-Hopping Law, where a Parliamentary Special Select Committee (PSSC) shall be established to scrutinise all the existing laws which carry a mandatory death penalty, thus accounting for the views of MPs across party lines, experts and of course, the victims and next of kins who have suffered from the crimes committed which at present carries the mandatory death penalty.

The PSSC will be able to fast-track the process for law reform by providing a platform for legal discourse and debates via a multi-party committee of MPs, relevant NGOs and stakeholders.

This will help restore the public’s faith in a system that is transparent and inclusive.

As a backbencher, I have witnessed the present Keluarga Malaysia government demonstrating political will to embark on many overdue law reform efforts, which I applaud.

However, with the present discourse on the abolition of the mandatory death penalty, many of us are left in the dark on the depth and breadth of the potential change in policy and law here.

We are left to speculate on many fronts, which inhibits MPs like myself to contribute constructively to the debate here.

The report which former chief justice Richard Malanjum prepared but not made public creates more questions amongst MPs and the rakyat to understand the justifications of the study.

All that we have now are news headlines and brief government announcements, which are open to speculations.

The final say should rest in the hands of the rakyat through their members of Parliament.


AZALINA OTHMAN SAID is Pengerang MP.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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