KUCHING - The case of Jabing Kho, the Sarawakian on death row in Singapore, is having an impact on Malaysia's capital punishment.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Nancy Shukri said on Sunday abolishing the mandatory death sentence is a 'priority' for her.
Currently, the matter is in the drafting state, she said, adding a bill could be presented to Parliament by March.
"This is one of the most important ones (bills) to me. It's very difficult... especially when we have to face Kho's case.
"We go to appeal (in Singapore) and yet we also have the same kind of law," Nancy said here on Sunday.
"The death penalty will still be there but minus (it being) mandatory, meaning we are giving the power back to the courts."
"Last year, Malaysia executed two on death row, both for murder, she said.
"The country has not executed those found guilty for drug offences for sometime. "We are keeping them in jail. We hope they get their pardons from state rulers," Nancy said.
As of this October, there are 1,022 prisoners on death row in Malaysia. Since 1998, a total of 33 have been executed in Malaysia.
On Kho, the minister said neither the Federal nor state governments have heard from Singapore since November 23, the day its court reserved judgement on the Sarawakian's bid to review his death sentence.
However, Nancy said, because it was a murder case, "normally, they would not give any clemency".
"We'll just have to wait. The Federal Government had done its part. Now, the State Government is appealing based on humanitarian grounds.
"On record, I must say we respect the laws of another country, which is also why Malaysia is mulling abolishing mandatory death sentences."
She said Kho's case had made it clear this was "exactly the kind of situation that can put us in an awkward place" if another country were to appeal for clemency to Malaysia.
Kho, a 31-year-old Sarawakian of Chinese-Iban ethnicity, was scheduled to hang on November 6, but was awarded a temporary reprieve less than 24 hours to his execution after his lawyer filed a criminal motion at the Singaporean Court of Appeal on November 4 for remittance.
He was convicted for the murder of a construction worker in 2008.
Nancy was speaking to reporters after a charity fundraiser for the Sarawak Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Kuching yesterday.
Earlier this month, Attorney-General Tan Sri Apandi Ali said he would propose to the Cabinet that the mandatory death penalty be scrapped.
He said mandatory death sentences were a "paradox" as it robbed judges of their discretion to impose sentences on convicted criminals.