Malaysia’s cabinet has ordered the suspension of the colonial-era Sedition Act and the death penalty, pending a discussion on both by the country's parliament Monday.
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The law minister in the Prime Minister's office Liew Vui Keong said the issue was discussed when the cabinet met Wednesday morning.
“All the papers are in the final stage. The Attorney-General has also indicated to us that it is ready to be tabled, hopefully in this (parliamentary) session,” he added.
Malaysia will also halt 1200 pending executions for crimes including murder, kidnapping, drug trafficking, and treason.
"Since we are abolishing the sentence, all executions should not be carried out,” said Keong. "We will inform the Pardons Board to look into various applications for convicts on the [death penalty] waiting list to either be commuted or released."
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s coalition won the general elections in May with the promise of repealing oppressive laws. Before the May elections, scores of politicians and activists were detained and charged under the Sedition Act as former Prime Minister Najib Razak’s administration clamped down on dissent.
Communications and Multimedia Minister, Gobind Singh Deo, said Thursday that cabinet had decided to suspend the use of the Sedition Act as they prepare a bill to repeal it altogether.
The decision of the Malaysian government was welcomed by rights groups worldwide. The Swedish ambassador to Malaysia took to Twitter to praise the decision.
Amnesty International also welcomed the decision urging Malaysia to "completely abolish the death penalty for all crimes, with no exceptions", calling it a "terrible stain" on the country's human rights record.
Lawyers for Liberty, a Malaysian human rights group with close ties to the center-left People's Justice Party, praised the government's decision, saying that capital punishment is barbarous and pointless as it has never been proven to deter serious crimes. Its adviser, N. Surendran, said the new government has shown that "it is a force for moral good and an example for the region and the world."
While 142 countries have rejected capital punishment, many Asian countries such as China, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam still impose it.