‘Only 15 seconds to end a life’

IT takes only 15 seconds and RM1,975 to end the life of an inmate on death row, says Datuk Liew Vui Keong.

“I visited a prison and was shown the process of how an inmate on death row is hung.

“They are kept in a room the night before the capital punishment is meted out.

“The following day, they are brought to the hanging room and the entire process takes only 15 seconds,” said the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department when winding up his ministerial reply on issues raised during debates on the mid-term review of the 11th Malaysia Plan in Parliament.

Liew said it cost the government RM1,975 to hang a prisoner on death row, plus an additional RM800 to bury the remains if they were not claimed by family members.

He told the House that there were currently 1,281 inmates on death row, but their punishment had been suspended following a moratorium on the death penalty.

To a question by Ram Karpal Singh (Pakatan-Bukit Gelugor) earlier, Liew said there were 65,222 inmates nationwide.

He said some 36,000 inmates or 55% of the nation’s prison population were jailed for drug-related offences.

Based on estimates, he added, it cost the government between RM38 and 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.

“In light of drugs such as marijuana and morphine being used to treat cancer patients, it is my view that we can re-look at the definition of such drugs to see 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, as well as the cost implications.

Earlier, Speaker Datuk Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof and several lawmakers attended a seminar held in Parliament on the abolition of the death penalty in Asia.

In his opening remarks, Moha­mad Ariff said Malaysia was committed to abolishing the death penalty.

“The seminar is timely, given the renewed commitment in Malaysia to adhere to international human rights standards,” he said.

Mohamad Ariff, a former Court of Appeal judge, pointed out that executing an innocent person is a risk and danger that the criminal justice system must address.

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