KUALA LUMPUR: A lack of concern by the government has led to the people also viewing the issue of the mandatory death penalty in the country as being of little importance, the Malaysian Bar said today.
The Bar’s human rights committee co-chairman Andrew Khoo said only opposition parties seem to care, and consider the abolition of the mandatory death penalty an issue that needs more attention.
He said one of the reasons behind the failure to support the move may be the government’s observation that there are many developed or first world countries also carrying out capital punishment.
“Countries like the United States and Singapore still practise capital punishment though it is not mandatory in their countries.
“However, the death penalty is still mandatory in Malaysia, and we are trying to change that,” Khoo said at a conference titled “Abolition of the Death Penalty in Malaysia and Asia Pacific” here today.
The death penalty is mandatorily imposed in Malaysia for murder, drug trafficking and possession of firearms.
Since January 2003, the punishment has been extended to rapists who cause death, child rapists and also those involved in acts of terrorism.
Khoo also pointed to a survey by research firm Ipsos Malaysia that found Malaysians to be in favour of having judges use their discretion on whether a death penalty should be imposed or not during sentencing.
The survey conducted in 2012 on 1,535 respondents also found 70% did not believe that death was an appropriate punishment in drug trafficking scenarios, such as those involving drug mules, drug couriers and repeat drug traders.
However, 65% were agreeable to the death penalty for murder in the first degree, that is killing with intent, while 87% did not consider it appropriate punishment for a person who robbed using firearms but where no injury was caused.
Meanwhile, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) civil rights committee member Ngeow Chow Ying said the organisation was facing obstacles in reaching out to the public to create awareness on the issue.
“This is mainly because it is difficult for us to get information and statistics from the government,” she said.
Ngeow added that the topic of death penalty is not appealing to the public for conversation.
“We’re having difficulty on that. But good interaction with the public is necessary for them to know the seriousness of this issue and why we should abolish such punishment,” she said.