Cabinet to mull scrapping death penalty for drug offences

graphic by MZUKRI

THE Cabinet will review options to abolish capital punishment for drug trafficking offences, de facto Law Minister Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said.

Following the final report by the special committee to review alternative sentences to the mandatory death penalty, which was submitted to the government on July 17, the minister said discussions will be held before a decision is made on the matter.

“The final report contains recommendations on alternative punishments for 11 offences that carry the mandatory death sentence, offences under the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 (Act 234), and 21 offences that carry the discretionary death sentence,” he told the August house yesterday.

He was responding to Ramkarpal Singh (Pakatan Harapan [PH]-Bukit Gelugor) who asked the prime minister whether the government would abolish the death sentence for drug trafficking.

Takiyuddin added that the committee had also made recommendations for long-term improvements to the country’s justice system.

“The report is expected to be presented at a Cabinet meeting for consideration and approval.

“The findings are expected to answer the debate on whether the government will propose amending the punishment for drug trafficking to a minimum jail sentence so that punishments will be given based on the facts of each case,” he said.

According to the law minister, as of Aug 11, a total 918 prisoners have been sentenced to death under Section 39B of which 472 are Malaysians and 446 are non-citizens.

Under section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act, those in possession of 15g or more heroin and morphine; 1,000g or more opium (raw or prepared); 200g or more cannabis; and 40g or more cocaine will receive the mandatory death sentence.

Last year, a special committee was established to carry out the Compensation Penalty Study on Mandatory Death Penalty within four months from Sept 20, 2019, to Jan 31, 2020.

“The special committee submitted the study on July 17 instead of January as they needed more time.

“Regardless, it is the government’s intention for the changes to be implemented as soon as possible. Malaysia continues to engage in smart partnerships with countries that use their laws to curb drug abuse in addition to other measures used to address drug trafficking,” Takiyuddin said.

He emphasised that the government also takes international conventions into consideration.

“My predecessor has initiated this matter, for the national interest. We have conducted the study and I will evaluate as best as possible which stems from the previous government’s intent to make sure that justice is served.

“I give my assurance that we will fully consider the recommendations that have been set out by the committee,” he added.

The special committee members comprise former Federal Court judges, former Attorney General’s Chambers officers, former Prisons Department senior officers, the Bar Council, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, academics, criminologists and civil society organisations.