Wednesday, December 06, 2017


Media Statement – 7/12/2017


Amendment to end mandatory death penalty for drug offences amended again

MADPET(Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) welcomes the fact that the government has amended the Bill to amend Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, which now provides for the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking. The Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2017, as amended, was passed after the 3rd reading on 30/11/2017 at the Dewan Rakyat. 

This amending Bill has been amended to remove the earlier pre-condition of a Public Prosecutor’s written certification of assistance before judges had the discretion in sentencing, that will allow the imposition of the sentence of life imprisonment instead of the death penalty. This amendment vide Dangerous Drugs(Amendment) Bill – Amendment in Committee(D.R.45/2017) amended the Bill entitled the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2017.

After the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2017, which was tabled in Parliament on 23/11/2017 for the first reading at the Dewan Rakyat(House of Representatives), a lot of groups and persons including MADPET(see Media Statement dated 24/11/2017) expressed dissatisfaction that judges would only be able to exercise discretion during sentencing if and only when the ‘Public Prosecutor certifies in writing to the Court, that in his determination, the person convicted has assisted an enforcement agency in disrupting drug trafficking activities within or outside Malaysia.’(Section 2(b) of the Amending Act). 


On 30/11/2017, the need for the Public Prosecutor’s certification was removed. The words “the Public Prosecutor certifies in writing to the court that in his determination” was removed and replaced with the word, “that”. This means that one of the points that the judge now must consider before sentence is passed is that ‘the person convicted has assisted an enforcement agency in disrupting drug trafficking activities within or outside Malaysia.’ 

Whilst, this is definitely better, there still remains a concern whether persons convicted would really be able to provide such assistance, and the when will such assistance be required to be provided. 

Rightly, that assistance should be provided only after one has been tried and convicted. To suggest otherwise would be most prejudicial to the accused person, and it may seen as forcing  accused persons into doing things that are self incriminatory, including statements, that will assist the prosecution get a conviction, in the face of a threat of being sentenced and put to death. This is most unacceptable especially in a capital cases, where if one is convicted, it may result in the imposition of the death sentence. 

We know that many a times drug trafficking is usually carried out by kingpins and their criminal organisations, and as such there is also a real risk that any such ‘assistance’ by the convicted person may bring to them and/or their families retaliation and/or harm, more so when the fact of this assistance is made known. Malaysia, as such, must develop a substantive witness protection scheme that will ensure safety of the convicted as well as their families, if need be.

The other concern is the fact that some convicted will in fact may have very little information, not sufficient to have ‘assisted an enforcement agency in disrupting drug trafficking activities within or outside Malaysia’, noting that words used on the face of it indicates that assistance given ‘..has assisted..’. One can only provide assistance as much as one is able to, and it may sometimes be seen as not being useful or sufficient to assist any enforcement agency. As such, what is expected to escape the death sentence may still be unreasonable. It may have been better, if all that is required was what a person reasonably could have done to assist, irrespective of whether it really assisted the enforcement agency or not. Until there is an amendment, it is hoped that when judges do consider this element of ‘assistance’, reasonableness and reality is also considered.


It was most disappointing that the new amendments to the Bill did not address the concern as to what will happen to the 800 or more still on death row for drug trafficking. It was best that all their sentences be forthwith commuted to imprisonment.


Although, if and when this amendment comes into force, it will apply also to cases where trial had started but the accused has not yet been convicted. 

There are serious concerns about trials that have already started. Evidence will have been adduced, challenged and/or rebutted in these trials where both the accused and prosecution were operating under the belief that on conviction, there will only be the mandatory death penalty. As such, even when the amendment comes into force, it will only be just if there be a new trial before a new judge, given the fact that the strategy and conduct of the trial would most likely be very different given the fact judges would now, after the amendment comes into force, the discretion to not sentence the convicted to death. 

In light of the upcoming amendment to section 39B, MADPET calls for the immediate stop of all section 39B trials pending the coming into force the amendment that gives judges the discretion to impose a sentence other than the death sentence. There should be new trials before different judges for all these cases.


It was also revealed by Minister Azalina Dato’ Othman Said, as stated in the Parliamentary Hansard dated 30/11/2017, that the prison department statistics revealed that from 2000 until 2017, 113 persons were sentenced to death under section 39B of the DDA 1952, whereby only 11 were executed, whilst another 122 persons have been pardoned and had their death sentence commuted to life imprisonment. There was, however, no disclosure as to why some were executed and others had their sentences commuted. Did diplomatic concerns or other unacceptable considerations have a part to play in these decisions as to who lives and who is hanged to death?

MADPET urges that the death sentence of all persons on death row, especially for drug trafficking, be immediately commuted to imprisonment.


The Minister also stated that the police statistics reveal an increase of drug cases every year despite the drastic measures taken by the police, which we could take as including the fact of the existence of the mandatory death penalty for section 39B DDA 1952 – drug trafficking. 

Since January 2014 until October 2017, 702,319 individuals for arrested by the police for the offence of trafficking and possession of drug. 

A total of 21,731 persons were arrested under section 39B DDA 1952(drug trafficking), whereby investigation papers were opened for 13,036 persons and 10,878 persons were charged in court. The Minister also revealed that 68 drug kingpins were arrested during this period. 106 illegal laboratories were also raided resulting in the arrest of 409. (Hansard Dewan Rakyat, 30/11/2017)

The death penalty for drug trafficking came into being in 1975, and in 1983, there was an amendment that brought in the mandatory death penalty. It is clear now that even the mandatory death penalty has not deterred people from committing the offence of drug trafficking, and in fact there has been an increase of persons committing this crime.

As such, merely giving the judges the option of death sentence or life imprisonment (with at least 15 strokes of the whip) also needs to be reviewed. Severe punishment is not serving as a deterrent, and as such, we should be looking at rehabilitation and second chances to persons convicted of even the crime of drug trafficking.

Our concern should be rehabilitation, and it is certainly most unjust to be sentencing a first time offender or a young person to life imprisonment.

MADPET would suggest that section 39B should be further amended setting a minimum sentence of 5-10 years, as this will be more just. Judges then will have discretion to impose the appropriate sentence depending on the facts and circumstances of each case.

Malaysia also needs to look at the reasons why people commit this mandatory death penalty crime. One of the main causes may be poverty. Hence, the way forward in reducing the crime of drug trafficking (or other crimes driven by poverty) may be addressing the socio-economic conditions that drive people to be willing to risk their life and liberty for monies.

MADPET also urges that all persons arrested for drug offences be accorded the right to a fair trial, and that detention without trial laws like the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (POCA) and the Dangerous Drugs (Special Preventive Measures) Act 1985 not be used. The Minister revealed that 68 drug kingpins have also been arrested, but sadly there seem to have been little publicity about their trials and/or convictions.  

MADPET also would like to remind the Malaysian government that they were looking at abolishing the death penalty, especially the mandatory death penalty, for all crimes not just for drug trafficking. Whilst, we welcome this move to abolish the mandatory death penalty for section 39B, we urge that the abolition of the mandatory death penalty is expedited. 

MADPET reiterates its call for the abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia, and for the imposition of an immediate moratorium on all executions pending abolition.

Charles Hector
For and on behalf of MADPET(Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)

* Some relevant extracts from 30/11/2017 Hansard, where the Bill was passed..

Pelbagai langkah drastik yang diambil oleh kerajaan. Namun begitu statistik Polis Diraja Malaysia tetap menunjukkan peningkatan kes pada setiap tahun. Dari Januari 2014 sehingga Oktober 2017, seramai 702,319 orang individu ditahan polis di atas kesalahan mengedar dan memiliki dadah. Seramai 21,731 individu ditangkap di bawah seksyen 39B, Akta Dadah Berbahaya 1952 disemak 1980, Akta 234...

...Seterusnya sebanyak 13,036 orang kertas siasatan ke atasnya telah dibuka dan sebanyak 10,878 orang kesnya telah dituduh di mahkamah dalam masa yang sama. Lebih membimbangkan adalah sebanyak 1,743 tangkapan melibatkan penuntut sekolah dan sebanyak 1,953 tangkapan melibatkan penuntut institusi pengajian tinggi di bawah Akta 234 dari Januari 2014 sehingga Oktober 2017. Pada masa yang sama, sebanyak 68 kingpin telah ditangkap dalam tempoh tersebut. Lebih parah lagi, sebanyak 106 makmal haram memproses dadah yang beroperasi secara aktif telah diserbu oleh pihak berkuasa dengan tangkapan mereka yang mengendalikan makmal itu seramai 409 orang....

...Jika dilihat daripada statistik pihak penjara dari tahun 2000 hingga tahun 2017, seramai 113 orang yang telah dikenakan hukuman mati di bawah seksyen 39B DDA 1952, hanya 11 orang yang telah dihukum gantung iaitu 82 peratus. Manakala sebanyak 91.7 peratus, seramai 122 orang yang telah diberikan pengampunan dan keringanan hukuman iaitu dikenakan hukuman penjara seumur hidup....

...6.21 ptg.
Menteri di Jabatan Perdana Menteri [Dato’ Sri Azalina Dato’ Othman Said]: Tuan Pengerusi, sub fasal 2(b) rang undang-undang ini akan memasukkan subseksyen 39B(2A), (2B) dan (2C) ke dalam Akta Ibu dipinda:-
                (a) dalam perenggan 39B(2A)(d) yang dicadangkan dengan menggantikan perkataan “the Public Prosecutor certifies in writing to the court that in his determination”, dengan perkataan “that”;
                (b) dengan memotong subseksyen 39B(2B);
                (c) dengan menomborkan semula subseksyen 39B(2C) sebagai subseksyen 39B(2B); dan
                (d) dalam perenggan 39B(2B) yang dinomborkan semula, dengan menggantikan perkataan “For the purposes of subsections (2A) and (2B)”, dengan perkataan “For the purposes of subsection (2A).

Pindaan kepada subfasal 2(b) rang undang-undang bertujuan untuk meniadakan perakuan daripada pendakwa raya tentang bantuan yang diberikan oleh orang yang disabitkan....

...[Rang undang-undang dilaporkan dengan ada pindaan; dibacakan kali yang ketiga, disokong oleh Timbalan Menteri Perdagangan Antarabangsa dan Industri (Datuk Haji Ahmad bin Haji Maslan) dan diluluskan]...

– Hansard Dewan Rakyat, 30/11/2017
Bil. 57
30 November 2017

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