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Malaysia's Royal Pardons System

about 2 years ago



Pardon statistics

During the recent sitting of the Parliament, it was revealed that 95 convicts have their parole order approved or in certain cases, a reduction in sentences, thanks to a royal pardon.

The statistics recorded between 2010 and February 2016 was released by Home Minister-cum-Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi in a written reply to an opposition leader.

So how does it work with the parole order and receiving a royal pardon?

In order for a convict to be eligible for the parole, they must have undergone a minimum sentence of one-year jail or at least half of the sentencing period, and are required to serve the remaining sentence by fully complying with other conditions such as house arrest.

Those who were sentenced to the capital punishment of death penalty can be referred to the Pardons Board

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The power to pardon

Death sentences in Malaysia are carried out by hanging. Among the criminal offences that would result in an individual being sentenced to death upon conviction are, murder, attempted murder, murder during gang robbery, drug trafficking, kidnapping and treason.

When it comes to royal pardon, only the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or Sultan has the power to grant pardons, in their absolute discretion, to the convicts.

Under Article 42 of the Federal Constitution, Yang di-Pertuan Agong (the King) has the power to grant pardons to convicts, irrespective of the offences committed in the Federal Territories. For offenders in other states, the state Ruler or Sultan has absolute discretion and power to grant pardon.

So how much influence does the board have over Sultans' final decision or vice versa?

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The Kedah example

Article 42(1) of the Laws of Constitution of Kedah states that the reigning monarch has the power to allow pardons, postponements or to reduce the length of sentencing for offences committed in the state.

Article 42(2) stated that Sultan can act based on advice of the Pardons Board (consisting of the Federal Attorney-General (AG), Menteri Besar and a maximum of three other members appointed by the Sultan).

Question arises as to whether the Sultan has the final say in decisions on allowing or dismissing the pardons requested by convicts.

Law experts have different opinions over this matter. Former AG Abu Talib Othman once said the ruler acts on the advice provided by the pardons board while some lawyers opined that the ruler has absolute discretion.

Who is eligible?

Many are confused over the processes and eligibility for the royal pardon.

Basically, there are no fixed rules or regulations pertaining to the process.

It is not stated clearly as to who can be the applicant and there is not deadline for the King to decide on granting clemency.

In deciding the pardon, the King can take into consideration other factors which the court are not allowed to, such as claims of innocence and injustice.

For example, the court may hand down a sentence based on circumstantial evidence but the King and the pardons board can take this into consideration on pardon requests.

In other words, the King has to decide based on conscience and thorough consideration without being influenced by any other party, quarter or individual. This is because at the end of the day, the King does not need to provide reasons for his decision when granting the pardon.

Regardless of the outcome from the State's Pardons Board based on the King's decision, it cannot be challenged in court. In other words, his decision is the final outcome for the convicts.

Bear in mind that Sultans' decision is non-justiciable.

Examples of royal clemency

Let's take a look at some of the past cases whereby the convicts were granted clemency and escaped death penalty for their offences.

In a high-profile case last year, a Filipino woman, Jacqueline Quiamno was spared from the noose after she was convicted for smuggling drugs at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). The Sultan of Selangor and the Selangor Pardons Board pardoned her following clemency requests from the Philippine Embassy and her family.

In some circumstances, the ruler or King might grant clemency to death row inmates in conjunction with their birthdays.

The Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, pardoned four death row convicts last year. Their death sentence was reduced to life imprisonment. The four, convicted of murder and drug trafficking offences, were among the 30 appeal cases submitted to the State's Pardons Board.

However, it should be noted that there were not much mention of royal clemency and the statistics in local media.

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This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice. Every situation is unique and dependent on the facts (ie, the circumstances surrounding your individual case) so we recommend that you consult a lawyer before considering any further action. All articles have been scrutinized by a practicing lawyer to ensure accuracy.