Economic Director in the Prime Minister's Office, Shahril Hamdan speaks to Malay Mail during an interview at Menara Dato Onn in Kuala Lumpur April 12, 2022. Picture by Firdaus Latif
KUALA LUMPUR, June 11 — Umno information chief Shahril Hamdan said today Putrajaya’s decision to repeal the mandatory death penalty for dozens of offences reflects a significant shift in mindset among leaders of the ruling coalition towards a more “balanced thinking”.
“It’s a relic of the past to think that regardless of circumstance or context, there can only be one punishment for certain crimes — that is for the state to end your life,” Shahril said in a brief statement to Malay Mail.
“That’s what the abolishment of the mandatory use of death penalty recognises.” Up until yesterday, leaders from the predominantly right-wing party have hesitated against calls to abolish the death sentence, and in some instances pinned the issue as a part of a broader liberal agenda to subvert Malay rule.
Shahril, one of the prominent voices representing centrist leaders within Umno, said there is wealth of data that points to the need for “at least, more flexibility and discretion in meting out punishment.” “(There is) scant evidence that the death penalty is an effective deterrent,” he said.
“Therefore, from both a practical and humane point of view, yesterday’s move makes sense and makes me proud that Malaysia is making a bold step in the right direction,” he added.
Rights groups have long argued that capital punishment betrays the principle of human rights and is seen as cruel, inhumane, and degrading under international law.
De facto law minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said in a surprise announcement yesterday that the repeal of the mandatory death penalty will be a step towards reforming the criminal justice system.
Shortly after the announcement, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob issued a public statement to clarify that the death penalty will remain and not be abolished, and the change is only on the fact that judges are now given discretion in sentencing.
The death sentence is handed to 33 offences of which 11 are mandatory.
The decision comes after more than a year since the proposed abolition was first mooted by the former Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration.
The planned Bill was left hanging after a power grab ousted the PH government.
There are currently 1,366 people on death row as of September 2021, a majority of them found guilty under section 39(B) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952.