Despite latest Cabinet decision, Justice Minister says 1,342 inmates are still watching the gallows until further notice

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Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law), speaks to the media during a press conference in Putrajaya on June 13, 2022. — Photo by Shafwan Zaidon

By R. Loheswar

Monday, June 13, 2022 12:35 MYT

PUTRAJAYA, June 13 – Convicts in Malaysia who are currently on death row will continue to have their sentences upheld until further notice, Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said today despite the government’s recent stance to abolish the mandatory death penalty.

But the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department for Law and Parliamentary Affairs has indicated that their fate may change as a tribunal to review their sentences has been proposed.

He revealed that there are currently 1,342 death row inmates in the country since talks began to abolish the mandatory death penalty in 2012.

“Besides discussing alternative forms of punishment, we have decided that the sentencing of the 1,342 people sentenced to death while discussions were ongoing on the abolition of the mandatory death penalty would remain.

“It will remain as is until changes are made to the law or we abolish the mandatory death penalty completely,” he told a press conference here.

Wan Junaidi said the proposal to set up a tribunal to discuss the 1,342 death row inmates came from the attorney general’s office.

He added that the members of this tribunal will be made up of judges from the two highest courts, since matters related to the Federal Constitution.

Wan Junaidi reiterated that the government had agreed to abolish the mandatory death penalty, leaving the alternative sentence to the judge’s discretion.

He said a victim impact statement can now be submitted by the accused or his family, in accordance with Section 183A of the Penal Code.

“For cases involving death, the death penalty remains at the discretion of the court while cases that do not involve death, the court may not sentence the person to death. If the death penalty is not used, the accused can still be subjected to caning.

“The governments’ decision to abolish the mandatory death penalty involves 11 offenses of which nine fall under the Penal Code and two under the Dangerous Weapons Act 1971,” he added.

The minister also said that there will be 22 amendments to existing laws.

Among those that will have alternative penalties are Section 574 of the Penal Code, Section 206 of the Arms Act 1960, Armed Forces Act 1972, Service Industry Act 2006 Water, the Strategic Trade Act 2010 and the Kidnapping Act 1961.

“I would also like to add that the mandatory death penalty for drug distribution under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 no longer carries the mandatory death penalty.

“It will be replaced by an alternative sentence at the discretion of the court. This is how they can sentence the person to life imprisonment or not less than 15 strokes of the cane,” said Wan Junaidi.

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