The government is looking into the need to make amendments to do away with the mandatory death penalty in legislation pertaining to criminal offences, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said today.
As of now, the government had deferred the death penalty for drug-related offenders, she said.
“The last cabinet meeting resolved to implement the government's decision to defer the death penalty imposed on 17 people convicted of drug offences.
“In a broader context, we also touched on the need to consider whether the same thing can be applied for offenders in other crimes,” she said at a press conference after launching EduWAQF, an educational wakaf (Islamic endowment) initiated by AWQAF Holdings Berhad, in Bangi.
Wan Azizah said this measure would enable Sirul Azhar Umar, who was convicted and sentenced to death over the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu, to return to Malaysia from Australia if he wanted to.
She said Sirul, who had sought protection in Australia, was unlikely to be allowed to return to Malaysia so long as he had to face a death penalty upon his coming back.
"That’s why we are discussing whether it is necessary for us to change the sentence or replace it with any penalty,” she said.
It had been reported that Australia authorities had allowed a Malaysian request for Sirul to be extradited on condition that Malaysia agreed to bear the costs but the former Special Action Unit member reportedly refused to return home for fear of having to face the death penalty.