LETTER | The confirmation by Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail at a function yesterday that the government is mulling the abolishment of the death penalty in Malaysia is most welcome, and certainly a step in the right direction.
However, it is unclear if the deputy prime minister was advocating the abolishment of the said death penalty for the purpose of extraditing Sirul Azhar Umar, who was convicted for the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu in 2015 and now currently being held in Australia.
It must be stated at once that the death penalty ought to be abolished as a matter of principle, and not merely to facilitate the return of Sirul, as it is an inhumane form of punishment and numerous studies have found it to be an ineffective deterrent.
I have been a staunch proponent of the abolishment of the death penalty and debated the bill to remove the mandatory death penalty in drug related cases intensely in Parliament last year.
Unfortunately, although the said bill was passed, its scope is very limited and applies only in certain restricted circumstances which I do not wish to touch upon here.
The government must have the political will to completely abolish the death penalty and impose a moratorium on pending death row cases during that process.
There are currently various crimes that impose the death penalty, and each of them should be amended in the next Parliament sitting to expedite the process of the total abolishment of the death penalty in this country.
Of course if the death penalty is abolished, it is very likely that Sirul will be extradited as there would no longer be any reason for Australia to hold him there.
Indeed, if Australia continued to hold him despite the death penalty being abolished, it may be seen as harbouring a convicted murderer without justification, which can strain bilateral ties between the two countries and tarnish the image of Australia in the eyes of the world.
I look forward to the government announcing its intention to abolish the death penalty soon, and hope that the necessary bills to do so will be presented in Parliament for debate this coming parliamentary sitting which commences on July 16.
RAMKARPAL SINGH is the MP for Bukit Gelugor.
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