PETALING JAYA: Malaysia could see amendments to the Penal Code to decriminalise attempted suicide as early as the middle of next year, says Datuk Liew Vui Keong.
The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said at present a policy paper was being drawn up by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), taking into consideration the views of stakeholders and approaches of different jurisdictions within the Commonwealth.
“After it is done, the paper will be brought to the Cabinet for a decision before it is tabled in the Dewan Rakyat for the necessary amendments to the Penal Code.
“I hope to see the amendments by mid-2020, ” he said in a statement.
On Friday, Singapore announced that it has amended its laws to decriminalise attempted suicide.
It said that the legislation would come into effect on Jan 1,2020, as part of the Criminal Law Reforms Act, which was passed in Parliament in May this year.
Liew said among the provisions being looked into were Section 309 for attempted suicide; and Sections 305 and 306 for abetting suicide.
He said the government, through the AGC, has been actively studying how to decriminalise suicide in a holistic matter.
“There must be a suitable alternative mechanism that can be put in place to address the mental health issues (behind suicide attempts). We are looking into this now, ” he said. Separately, the Malaysian Bar Council agreed that it was timely for Malaysia to follow suit.
Its president Datuk Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor described Singapore’s move as “a way forward”.
“The decriminalisation of suicide attempts is an appropriate move. Those attempting suicide as a way to end their emotional suffering might well be in need of medical assistance and counselling, more than penal punishments, ” he said.
The Health Ministry also said it supported the move to decriminalise attempted suicides in order to remove the stigma on mental issues.
“It is hoped that more people who are at risk will come forward to seek help (with the decriminalisation), ” it said.
Mental Illness Awareness and Support Association president Anita Abu Bakar said they had been championing the cause since its inception. No one wants to end their life.
“It is a cry for help as they don’t see a way out of their struggle and pain.
“If we decriminalise suicide attempts, it will encourage them to reach out for help, ” she said.
Those facing personal problems or contemplating suicide should contact the 24-hour Befrienders hotline at 05-547 7933 (Ipoh), 04-281 5161 (Penang) or 03-7956 8144 (Klang Valley).