Saturday, July 2, 2022

Hands off Malaysia’s road to abolishing death penalty, lawyers tell cops

Lawyers for Liberty says enforcement authorities have 'no business' taking public positions on policies and legislation.

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Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today urged Bukit Aman not to interfere in government policies on the use of the death penalty, following the proposal by the police for a drop in the minimum amount of syabu possessed in order to qualify for capital punishment.

Bukit Aman Narcotics Criminal Investigation Department director Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay had said that several acts related to drug penalties should be amended or enacted, in line with developments in the abuse of banned substances in the country.

While heroin had once been the drug of choice, he said, now syabu and ecstasy pills were gaining currency.

“Earlier, for heroin, 15g mandated a hanging sentence but for syabu and ecstasy pills, it was 50g… so we want the weight for syabu to be reduced to 15g,” he said, adding that the proposal had been brought to the home ministry before being submitted to the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

LFL said Ayob’s statement was disconnected from the government’s announcement a day earlier that it would do away with the mandatory death penalty.

“This is precisely why it is undesirable for enforcement bodies such as the police to make public statements on politically controversial policy issues such as the usage of the death penalty,” LFL director Zaid Malek said.

“The objective of the government as well as the Malanjum special committee is clearly to reduce and limit the usage of the death penalty in drugs and other cases. Contrary to this, Ayob’s proposal adds another new category of drugs offence punishable with death.”

Law minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said on June 10 that the government had agreed to abolish the mandatory death penalty and substitute it with other forms of punishment to be decided by the courts.

He added that the Cabinet had agreed for further scrutiny and studies to be conducted on the proposed substitute sentences for 11 offences carrying the mandatory death penalty, one offence under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, and 22 offences carrying the death penalty at the court’s discretion.

Zaid said issues regarding drug use and whether this should be allowed or criminalised were “multifaceted” and should be left to the experts, “based on proper and thorough information, scientific studies and research”.

“There is no rational basis for Bukit Aman’s proposal that the possession of 15g of syabu should be punished with death,” he added.

“The duty of enforcement authorities is to uphold and enforce the laws enacted. They have no business taking public positions on policies and legislation.”

Urging the police to respect the government’s approach and position on the death penalty, he said the police should focus on dismantling the operations of drug kingpins.

“Leave drugs legislation to the government of the day and Parliament,” he added.

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