DAP reps want fed govt to prioritise repealing suicide law in Penal Code next Parliament

From left: Dr Yii, Ramkarpal, Ng and Lim in a group photo together.

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KUCHING, Dec 23: Democratic Action Party (DAP) Members of Parliament have called on the federal government to prioritise decriminalising suicide and table the proposed repeal of Section 309 of Penal Code in the next Parliamentary session.

Section 309 states that whoever attempts to commit suicide, and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine or with both.

Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen, Subang Jaya MP Michelle Ng and Kampung Tunku MP Lim Yi Wei, in a joint statement today, said those who attempt suicide are supposed to be given the necessary therapy and support, not treated as a criminal.

The trio mentioned that in October 2021, then Deputy Health Minister II Datuk Aaron Ago Dagang told the Dewan Rakyat that the move to decriminalise suicide has started but required some adjustments to the Penal Code.

In March 2022, it was announced that the proposal to amend the Penal Code and decriminalise attempted suicide was still being studied by the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC).

Based on recent data from the Ministry, from 2018 until June 2021, 902 cases of attempted suicide have been prosecuted in court.

“This is not only a waste of court resources but may also aggravate this serious problem.

“The very existence of such archaic laws perpetuates the stigma surrounding suicide, which then discourages at-risk individuals from seeking help during crisis, increasing their likelihood of committing suicide.

“The current law is ‘very damaging’ to someone who is already feeling vulnerable and may exacerbate the problem as it pushes individuals to choose more violent and irreversible means of harming themselves to ensure that their attempt is successful to avoid prosecution should they survive,” they said.

They also said criminalising suicide does not address the underlying factors such as poor mental health and arduous living conditions driving the individual to attempt suicide in the first place.

The MPs also urged the federal government to immediately declare a moratorium on all prosecutions for suicide attempts and set up a national suicide registry to formulate targeted measures to address the rising case rate.

“We are aware that the delay in decriminalisation is due to views that enhancements are needed in the law after Section 309 is repealed, and that all these must be done in the same Parliamentary sitting.

“We take the view, however, that these enhancements can come after. The repealing bill can be tabled first. This is because attempted suicide charges are still being brought as studies on the substituting laws are being done.

“Should there be any concern in there being a lacuna upon repeal – the government can instruct, administratively, for the police to invoke its powers under Section 10 of the Mental Health Act in cases of attempted suicide to admit the person into a psychiatric hospital,” they added. — DayakDaily