BFF-51 Malaysia accused of U-turn on death penalty abolition

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MALAYSIA-DEATH-POLITICS

Malaysia accused of U-turn on death penalty abolition

KUALA LUMPUR, March 13, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – The Malaysian government was
Wednesday accused of a “shocking” U-turn on plans to abolish capital
punishment after a senior official said only the mandatory death penalty
would be axed.

A reformist alliance which stormed to power last year announced in October
that it had decided to scrap capital punishment entirely, a move that would
have handed a reprieve to more than 1,200 people on death row.

Executions are currently mandatory for murder, kidnapping, possession of
firearms and drug trafficking, among other crimes.

The decision to axe capital punishment, carried out by hanging in
Malaysia, had however sparked opposition from murder victims’ families and
opposition politicians.

Mohamed Hanipa Maidin, a deputy minister in the prime minister’s
department, told parliament about the change of plan.

“We have made a decision. The government will only repeal the mandatory
death penalty,” he was cited as saying by official news agency Bernama.

This means it will be at a judge’s discretion whether to order someone to
hang or send them to jail for offences where a death sentence is currently
mandatory.

Any change to the law must however be approved by parliament and there is
still a chance the government may change its plans, or their proposal could
be defeated.

Legal reform group Lawyers for Liberty accused the government of making a
“complete U-turn”.

“The reversal of the earlier decision is shocking, unprincipled and
embarrassing,” said the group’s N. Surendran in a statement.

“To hold out hope of being spared the gallows, only to have the hope
snatched away again is extremely cruel and unjust.”

Amnesty International described the announcement as “disappointing”,
adding the government “appears to have bowed to political and public pressure
to retain the death penalty”.

“The government must reconsider,” said Amnesty’s Malaysia executive
director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu.

“The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading
punishment.”

The move could have implications for a major scandal involving the murder
of a Mongolian model that has been linked to the country’s ex-leader Najib
Razak.

Malaysia wants to extradite former policeman Sirul Azhar Umar, who was
sentenced to hang over the model’s death and has maintained he was ordered by
“important people” to commit the murder, from Australia.

But Canberra’s policy is not to send people back to countries where they
may face death. Najib has long been implicated in the model’s killing, but
denies the claim.

BSS/AFP/RY/1842 hrs