The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) shared a statement on the 10th of June stating that, “The government has agreed to abolish mandatory death penalties in this country with substitute punishments at the discretion of the court.”
This decision was made after taking into account the recommendations made by the special committee on Substitute Sentences against Mandatory Death Penalties. The statement shared by the Minister emphasised that, “This action is very significant to ensure that the amendments to the relevant Acts take into account the principles of proportionality and constitutionality of any proposal to the government later.”
It has also been confirmed that the Cabinet has agreed to conduct further research and studies on the proposed substitute sentences for 11 offenses carrying mandatory death penalties, 1 offense under section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 (Act 234) and 22 offenses carrying the death penalty but with the discretion of the court. The statement clarified that, “This shows the government’s emphasis on ensuring that the rights of all parties are protected and guaranteed, thus reflecting the transparency of the country’s leadership in improving the country’s criminal justice system.”
In light of the Minister’s statement, the Prime Minister chimed in, stating that, “We are of the view that everyone deserves a second chance. If there are two options (of sentences), and if the offender is found to be a hardcore drug trafficker to the extent of causing hundreds of thousands of people to die (due to drugs), he can be sentenced to death and allowed to be sent to the gallows.
“However, if the judge, in his discretion, felt that the offender should be given a second chance and decided to sentence him to life imprisonment with whipping, he can substitute the mandatory death penalty with that life sentence.”
In conclusion, it should be noted that the government has yet to set any specific timeframe in which the abolition of the mandatory death penalty is to take effect. Besides, no draft legislations have been released as of the present. Moreover, although the mandatory death penalty is slated to be abolished, this does not mean that the death penalty is to be completely done away with. The abolition only applies to the “mandatory” part of the death penalty. As such, it would mean that the death penalty would be exercised at the discretion of the court.