Malaysia takes bold move to abolish Sedition Act, death penalty

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Singapore's neighbouring country, Malaysia has decided to abolish colonial-era Sedition Act, which is widely used to rein in dissent and the cabinet is working on the suspension process of the death penalty by the end of 2018.

The Malaysian Sedition Act states that any individual, who (a) does or attempts to do, or makes any preparation to do, or conspires with any person to do, any act which has or which would if done, have a seditious tendency; (b) utters any seditious words; (c) prints, publishes, sells, offers for sale, distributes or reproduces any seditious publication; or (d) imports any seditious publication,

-shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable for a first offence to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both, and, for a subsequent offence, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; and any seditious publication found in the possession of the person or used in evidence at his trial shall be forfeited and may be destroyed or otherwise disposed of as the court directs.

The offences also include that any person who without lawful excuse has in his possession any seditious publication shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable for the first offence to a fine not exceeding.

Gobind Singh Deo, the Communications and Multimedia Minister said on Thursday, October 11 that the Malaysian cabinet had decided to suspend the use of the Sedition Act as they prepare a bill to repeal the law. The abolishment of the death penalty news has sparked off a lot of discussions.

"As far as we are concerned, a decision has been made and it has to be communicated to the attorney-general. And, of course, it's for him to decide what to do next," Deo said in a press conference as quoted by Reuters.

Later, the Law Minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong announced on Wednesday, October 10 that the cabinet has decided to repeal the death penalty. In addition, the Amnesty International secretary-general Kumi Naidoo said in a statement that "We are calling on the Malaysian parliament to completely abolish the death penalty for all crimes, with no exceptions."

death penalty

The death penalty is carried out by hanging as provided in Section 277 of the Criminal Penal Code. But, the law changes when it comes to the sentencing of pregnant women or a juvenile. If a woman is pregnant then the death penalty converts into life imprisonment and for juvenile offenders also the sentence may change.

In addition, Keong also said that since Malaysia is abolishing the death penalty "all executions should not be carried out." So, this could save two women, Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong, a Vietnamese, who were found guilty of assassinating Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last year.

However, the bills to repeal both the laws are expected to be presented during the parliament session, which takes place on Monday.

This article was first published on October 12, 2018