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Hard to abolish mandatory death sentence as Malaysians favour ‘eye for an eye’ punishments, says ex-law minister

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Padang Rengas MP Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz speaks during an interview at his office in Kuala Lumpur September 15, 2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Padang Rengas MP Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz speaks during an interview at his office in Kuala Lumpur September 15, 2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 17 — Former law minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz has admitted that it is difficult to abolish the country’s mandatory death sentence, as Malaysians always demand “an eye for an eye”.

He said ignoring public opinion and pushing through the amendments to the law necessary for its removal would inflict collateral damage on any government of the day.

“Well, I don’t believe in the mandatory death penalty. But then again, if you want to touch the law, you must convince the rakyat and our rakyat still feel that it must be an eye for an eye.

“Yes, it cuts across all races,” Nazri, who is a staunch advocate for the abolishment of the mandatory death sentence, told Malay Mail in an interview recently.

In 2018, the then Pakatan Harapan (PH) government announced that it planned to abolish the death penalty and halted all pending executions — in a move that was hailed by international human rights groups.

The death penalty would then be replaced with a minimum 30-year prison sentence.

But in February this year, the PH government said it was still studying the possibility of abolishing the mandatory death penalty but not capital punishment altogether.

A survey published by research outfit The Centre in June, however, found that most Malaysians feel the mandatory death penalty should be retained, especially for brutal crimes like murder, where the perpetrator exhibited high levels of intention and aggression.

The death penalty is currently applicable to 33 offences in Malaysia, including 12 for which it is the mandatory punishment. They are drug trafficking, murder, offences against the King, five offences pertaining to terrorism, hostage taking, organised crime, firearms offences and rape.

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