KUALA LUMPUR: It takes only 15 seconds and RM1,975 to end the life of an inmate on death row, says Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong.
"I visited a prison yesterday (Oct 29) and was shown the process how an inmate on death row is sentenced to be hanged to death.
"They are kept in a room next to the hanging room the night before their sentence is carried out, and brought out the next day where the entire process takes only 15 seconds," he said when winding up his ministerial reply on issues raised during debates on the Mid-Term Review of the 11th Malaysia Plan in Parliament Tuesday (Oct 30).
He noted that it cost the Government RM1,975 to hang a death row inmate, plus an additional RM800 to bury the body if not claimed by the family.
Liew told the House that there are currently 1,281 inmates on death row whose sentences have been suspended, following a moratorium on the death penalty.
Earlier to a question by Ram Karpal Singh (PH-Bukit Gelugor), Liew said that there were 65,222 inmates nationwide.
He added that some 36,000 inmates, or 55% of the nation's prison population, were for drug-related offences.
Based on estimates, he said that it cost the Government RM38 to RM41 a day to house an inmate or RM2.4mil a day for the total prison population.
He acknowledged that reclassification of dangerous drug offences, particularly for medical use, could lead to a reduction in the number of inmates and cost.
"If drugs such as marijuana (ganja) and morphine being used to treat cancer patients, it is my view that we can relook the definition of such drugs on whether to decriminalise them or not," he said.
Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong (BN-Ayer Hitam) urged the government to set up a special select committee to study proposed amendments to abolish the death sentence.
He said a careful study was needed to ensure justice for all parties, and also the cost implications.
Earlier, Speaker Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof and several lawmakers attended a seminar against the death penalty held in Parliament.
In his opening remarks, Mohamad Ariff said Malaysia was committed to abolishing the death penalty.
"The seminar on the abolition of the death penalty is timely, given the renewed commitment in Malaysia to adhere to international human rights standards," he said.
Mohd Ariff, a former Court of Appeal judge, noted that the consequences of executing a man or woman who is innocent, is a risk and danger that the criminal justice system must address.