The Death Penalty Will Be Abolished But Most Malaysian Are Saying No! Why?


Recently, it was announced that the Government has agreed to abolish the death penalty.

For most Human Rights activists, this signaled a huge victory on their part. However, curiously enough, not all Malaysians were happy about this decision.

In fact, in a recent poll that we conducted, a huge majority disagreed with the Government’s decision to get rid of the death penalty.

But why?!

Well, to better understand why there is a huge ruckus surrounding the death penalty, we have to revisit a recent case that was decided in the Malaysian Courts.

On the 30th of August 2018, the Shah Alam High Court sentenced Muhammad Lukman to death by hanging. His crime? Possessing, processing and distributing cannabis oil. 

Now, the conviction and subsequent sentencing were considered controversial. This was due to the severity of the penalties in contrast with the actual crime itself.

Cannabis, which is also known as marijuana, is a psychoactive drug which is used for medical and recreational purposes. In fact, it has been proven that cannabis has a plethora of medicinal benefits such as;

  • Treating chronic pain;
  • Help relieve muscle spasms;
  • Control epileptic seizure;
  • Help decrease anxiety if used in low doses; and 
  • Relieve arthritis discomfort. 

Several countries have in fact legalized the use of medical marijuana – Argentina, Canada and Italy to name a few. 

Muhammad Lukman (giving the thumbs up)

Back to our case.

Muhammad Lukman was caught selling cannabis oils. When the police raided his house in on the 7th of December 2015, they found;

  • 3.1 liters of oil containing THC
  • 1.4kg of a substance containing THC
  • 279g of cannabis

The impression given was as if Muhammad Lukman was some sort of drug kingpin. However, that isn’t the case!

Truth is, Muhammad Lukman was providing cannabis oil – without receiving any profit – to patients who were suffering from ailments that are incurable with legal medicines.

Unfortunately for him, his good deed is an offense under Section 39B of Malaysia’s Dangerous Drugs Act 1952. A crime punishable by DEATH!

Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh PICTURE BY SAYUTI ZAINUDIN

As lawyer and DAP politician, Ramkarpal Singh, succinctly commented on Muhammad Lukman’s sentencing;

Cases like that made the point very clearly that the mandatory death penalty ought to go

Death Sentence No More

While the Cabinet has announced that the death penalty will be abolished, our PM Tun Mahathir has clarified that the necessary Act has to be passed to repeal it.

When asked what would replace the death penalty, Law Minister, Datuk Liew Vui Keong stated that a minimum of 30-years imprisonment would serve as a replacement.

He said;

The bill to repeal (death sentence) will be tabled in Parliament after the memorandum on the matter was approved by the Cabinet

Similarly, in the UK, the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965 replaced the penalty of death with a mandatory sentence of imprisonment for life.

Yet, this announcement has brought upon some backlash from certain quarters of the Malaysian community. Why?

Many of those who opposed the abolishment argued that the death penalty serves as a deterrent against violent and heavy crimes.

Others also stated that there is a need for the principle of ‘an eye for an eye’.

So it comes down to the big question: REASON v EMOTION

I have asked many people from of all walks of life about this, and I realised that there is a middle ground in this argument, which lies between reason and emotion.

To put it simply, here are two scenarios. 

SCENE 1: A man murders a whole family during a burglary

SCENE 2: A mother sets her husband on fire for raping their daughter

With all good reason, anyone in their right mind would argue that the former murderer deserves to be sentenced to death, more so than the latter. Instead, some may even applaud the action of the latter and call the husband a “beast”.

BUT, why the unfairness/biases when both committed murder with an intention to kill the other?

We cannot deny that, in the latter, any man or woman can relate to that situation and imagine if they were the parents of the rape victim.

It is undeniable that we, as human beings, are prone to emotions and judgments.

Therefore, here are 3 simple reasons why the Death Penalty should be abolished:

  • Risk of executing innocent lives exists in any justice system

The death penalty is irreversible and irreparable. No matter how developed a justice system is, it will always be susceptible to human failure.

  • Incompatibility with human rights and dignity

Violates the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.

  • Does not deter crime effectively

As recently stated by the General Assembly of the UN (UNGA Resolution 65/206);

there is no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty

Plus, aside from just imposing prison time, why not get an alternative?

When a judge sentences someone to jail, there are 4 factors in play :

  • Retribution – punishing the person for doing something wrong
  • Rehabilitation – correcting problematic behavior
  • Safety – keeping threats out of the community
  • Deterrence – making sure offenders are afraid of breaking the law once again

And let’s face it. There’s not a lot of evidence to suggest that the threat of prison time actually deters criminals from committing crimes. It would instead overcrowd prisons and be extremely costly to taxpayers.

So rather than punishing offenders, why not rehabilitate them!

Norway shows promising results after capital punishment was abolished in 1902 and the maximum prison sentence is 21 years.
This is not an office, it’s a PRISON!

Norway’s Halden Prison (aka “World’s most humane prison”) have cells and the commissary look like IKEA and Whole Foods, no barred windows or security cameras and unarmed guards befriend the prisoners.

I, myself, perceive that the sentence of life (to a certain period) with more effective rehabilitation policies and programmes would potentially reform prisoners’ lives.

For instance, prison education. Such programmes should aim at actively encouraging offenders to assume responsibilities not only for their own behavior but for that of others.

I get it, programmes like these would mean dedicating a lot of time, which in turn costly for the government. Plus, not everyone can be successfully or wished to be treated in the first place.

Nevertheless, I believe that should the government support efforts to create a true system of rehabilitation, it would work to the advantage of not only the offenders but the society as a whole.

What do you think about the abolishing the death penalty? Should we?