MCA Youth: Retain death penalty with judges’ discretion

MCA Youth calls on Law and Institutional Reforms Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said and the government to re-consider the proposal to keep life imprisonment as an alternative to the mandatory death penalty instead of imprisonment of not less than 30 or 40 years and a minimum of 12 strokes of the rotan.

The topic of abolishing the mandatory death penalty sparked the public’s interest in 2018 when the government announced plans to abolish capital punishment.

Besides, the idea drew widespread criticism from the public where as a result, the government tabled a Bill in 2022 to allow judges discretionary powers over the imposition of life imprisonment as an alternative to the death penalty.

“MCA Youth supports the government’s decision to abolish the mandatory death penalty with an alternative sentence based on the court’s discretion although the government’s decision to allow appeals may be viewed as irrelevant and not empathetic to the family members of victims of violence,” MCA Youth civil society bureau chairman Heng Zhi Li pointed out in a statement.

Heng Zhi Li (Photo credit: Facebook)

The following are findings from a research by the MCA Youth executive team against the abolition of the death penalty:
1. The government should ensure that the death penalty is maintained for serious offences involving human lives and national security, such as murder, kidnapping, terrorism, conspiring with enemies of the state etc, so that it continues to have a deterrent effect on potential criminals. 
2. The amendment to the Bill for the abolishment of the mandatory death penalty should not apply retrospectively to inmates as it would affect the rights of the victims’ families who have pursued a fair and just sentence, especially in cases where the lives of loved ones were lost due to the offender’s crimes. 
3. Natural life imprisonment should be maintained as the alternative to the mandatory death penalty as proposed in 2022. If the justification for abolishing life imprisonment is due to overcrowding in prison as alleged by Law and Institutional Reforms Deputy Minister Ramkarpal Singh, then such a decision is unfair to those victims who lost their lives at the hands of these criminals. 
4. If the government introduces imprisonment of not less than 30 or 40 years as the replacement for life imprisonment, the actual imprisonment period after deducting public holidays and taking into account good behaviour is much fewer than 30 years. 

According to Heng, MCA Youth agrees that in terms of basic human rights, legislative amendments should serve the dual purpose of punishing criminals and maintaining social harmony. 

Heng further added that MCA Youth urges the government to ensure that the Bill will empathise with the victims’ next-of-kin, especially where the lives of their loved ones were extinguished in cases of murder, rape, kidnapping, or terrorism

“This will show that the government wields a ‘zero tolerance’ attitude against potential terrorists and criminals if they commit offences for which forgiveness is impossible to come by,” Heng pointed out. — March 24, 2023

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