KOTA BARU, KELANTAN - A smaller version of the guillotine, similar to that reportedly used to behead French king Louis XVI and his queen Marie Antoinette during the height of the French Revolution in 1793, is set to emerge in Kelantan.
Kelantan is led by Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS). The state's hudud law technical committee is said to be facing problems finding suitable methods to amputate the limbs of those convicted of stealing and is reportedly considering this "mini" form of the guillotine as an option.
Its chairman, Mohd Amar Abdullah, said that he would suggest to the panel to use such a contraption, which would not need a surgeon to operate.
Mr Mohd Amar, who is Kelantan's Deputy Chief Minister, also said that despite the negative reactions to getting surgeons to amputate the limbs of offenders, the committee was still mulling over the idea.
"The surgeon must first agree to carry out the procedure, but he is likely to face the wrath of the Malaysian Medical Association for violating the Hippocratic Oath," he said. The oath to uphold professional and ethical standards is usually taken by doctors and their assistants.
Mr Mohd Amar said the guillotine was fast, effective and needed only one person to pull the lever, two others to hold down the offender and a doctor to ensure the punished person does not suffer drastically from the punishment. The judge who meted out the sentence must also be present.
"I will make extensive studies on the method used during the French Revolution in the 18th century, when guillotines were used to sever the heads of those sentenced to death," he added.
Ironically, France's guillotine was introduced to end the preceding centuries of inhumane torture of criminals and eliminate the severe pain endured under capital punishment.
The device, based on a heavy falling blade, is named after Dr Joseph Ignace Guillotine, who did not invent it but lobbied extensively for its use.
The first execution with a guillotine took place in 1792 at the Place de Greve in Paris, and involved convicted armed robber Jacques Nicolas Pelletier.
The last person to be beheaded by guillotine was convicted killer Hamida Djandoubi in 1977. The Tunisian had been found guilty of killing his former lover, Elisabeth Bousquet. France abolished the death penalty in 1981.
Mr Mohd Amar said probable methods to mete out punishment, including the chopping off of limbs of offenders under Syariah Criminal Code II 1993, were discussed in a meeting chaired by Kota Baru MP Takiyuddin Hassan recently.
Among those who attended the meeting were eight muftis and several doctors, he said. "I plan to...propose the mini guillotine idea for detailed discussions," he said.
Kelantan intends to table two private members' Bills in Parliament for hudud laws to be implemented and enforced in the state next year.
The first is to give wider powers to Syariah court judges to hear and mete out sentences under the Syariah Penal Code, while the second is to allow federal departments, like the police and prisons department, to be used by the state government to enforce its hudud laws.
Under Article 76A of the Federal Constitution, crimes such as stealing, robbing, causing hurt, rape and murder come under the Penal Code.
In an immediate reaction, Kelantan Malaysian Chinese Association deputy chairman Tan Ken Ten described the plan to introduce the mini guillotine as ridiculous.
"I do not know what else they will come up with after this. They are becoming creative with ideas and making it up as they go along with their plans to enforce hudud in the state," he said.
"The whole episode sounds like a joke. By resorting to an 18th-century device to carry out capital punishment, they will become the laughing stock of the world."