New drug law would give AGC power of life and death, says MP

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Source: Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 29 — Putrajaya’s proposal to make the death penalty optional could instead allow the Attorney-General’s Chambers to decide if an accused should die for his crime, said PKR’S N. Surendran.

Criticising the government for stopping short of removing the death penalty in the proposed amendments to the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, the Padang Serai MP said the change would mean the courts could only opt for a lesser sentence if the prosecutor was agreeable.

“The Bill does not go far enough, gives the power to decide life or death to the public prosecutor and is in breach of the doctrine of separation of powers.

“The new amendments are thus a serious trespass upon judicial authority and infringe the constitutional doctrine of the separation of powers. The act of sentencing and the type of sentence must be purely a judicial exercise, without any involvement whatsoever of the executive.He alleged that shifting the power to determine the maximum sentence to the prosecution would create new opportunities for corruption.

Surendran then proposed that the Bill to be amended to allow the courts full autonomy to decide on sentencing in drug cases that would attract the death penalty.

The amendment, tabled for first reading today by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, seeks to reinstate Section 39B that previously allowed judges to issue prison sentences, whipping, and death as possibly penalties.

It was removed in 1983 so that drug traffickers could only be punished with death.

Under the new amendment to Section 39B(2) of the DDA, any person who is found guilty of trafficking dangerous drugs can be punished with either the death penalty or life in prison with at least 15 strokes of the cane.

The Bill also states several circumstances for the courts to consider when deciding whether to mete jail for life or the death penalty.