KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian civil society and campaigners are rejoicing because of the Malaysian government’s move to abolish the death penalty in the country.
''All death penalties will be abolished. Full stop,” said Liew Vui Keong, the de-facto law minister.
He added that the Malaysian government would abolish all forms of death penalties in the country and a moratorium on all executions would be imposed. Currently there are more than 1,250 people on death row.
The bill for abolishing the death penalty will be tabled in the upcoming Parliament session, commencing on Oct. 15. If passed, Malaysia will be only the third country in Southeast Asia to abolish the death penalty. The first was Cambodia in 1989, while the Philippines followed in 2006.
However, the move is seen as a step forward by the Pakatan Harapan government toward adopting a progressive policy in the ASEAN region. The fragility of the rule of law in most Southeast Asian countries would mean Malaysia might lead the way in abolishing capital punishment.
“It’s welcome news for us,” Khaizan Sharizad told Arab News. Sharizad is a lawyer and filmmaker based in Kuala Lumpur; she recently made a film on the death penalty in Malaysia. “I hope that it will be passed in Parliament,” she said.
Sharizad personally does not believe that the death penalty is an effective tool for deterring crime. She said that the justice system is not perfect, and that mistakes can happen. “The punishment is irreversible if a person is found not guilty,” she added.
The announcement was also welcomed by the European Union delegation to Malaysia as the EU has been campaigning for the abolition since 2009. They partnered with the Malaysian Bar and the Malaysian Human Rights Commission in 2011 in a public campaign for abolition of the death penalty.
“The EU considers capital punishment to be cruel and inhumane punishment, which does not deter crime more effectively than other punishments and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity,” said a representative from the EU to Arab News.
The president of the Malaysian Bar, George Varughese, wrote in a press statement that the Malaysian Bar “wholeheartedly welcomes” the Malaysian Cabinet decision.
“We look forward to seeing the legislation being tabled and passed,” he wrote.
The bar has long been a strong advocate and campaigner for the total abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia. “In a modern society, we must focus more on rehabilitation and restoration,” he wrote.
Liew said that the Malaysian government was currently studying certain cases and reviewing the punishment. He added that his administration would inform the Pardon Board to investigate various applications for offenders on the death penalty waiting list to either be commuted or released.