Decision on decriminalising suicide attempts in Malaysia lies with Cabinet: Khairy
Support from the police and Ministry of Home Affairs are also crucial before the matter can be tabled in parliament, said the health minister.
PUTRAJAYA: The decision on whether to decriminalise suicide attempts in Malaysia now lies with the Cabinet, said Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin on Wednesday (Sep 28).
He said that his ministry had earlier submitted a memorandum for a moratorium on the prosecution and conviction involving attempted suicides to the Cabinet.
However, the Cabinet then decided that a study be conducted by the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) on the issue before a decision is taken, he added.
He highlighted that the results of the memorandum will now be discussed in an engagement session with stakeholders, including the Home Affairs Ministry and the police.
"Right now, we need the views of the police and the Home Ministry (on the memorandum), “ said Mr Khairy to reporters on the sidelines of a fund distribution programme for mental health non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
"When I brought up the memorandum (before this) they did not seem to agree much. So let’s see if they can be influenced to support efforts to decriminalise suicide attempts,” he added.
“On whether the moratorium will be raised in the next (parliamentary) session, this depends on the Cabinet’s decision,” said Mr Khairy.
The memorandum is in an effort to decriminalise suicide attempts and to defer or repeal sentencing of the offence under Section 309 of the Penal Code until amendments to the law are made.
Under Section 309 of the Penal Code, whoever attempts to commit suicide can be jailed up to one year, fined, or both.
In March, de facto law minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said a study on proposed amendments to the law to decriminalise suicide attempts was almost finished and would be submitted to the Cabinet for approval.
He said the government had, via the AGC, taken the initiative to study laws related to attempted suicide and abetment of such attempts, due to statistics showing the growing number of attempted suicides across all ages.
“Based on the findings of the study, the AGC has examined the available legal options as well as the legal implications if the offence of attempted suicide is removed from the criminal justice system,” said Dr Wan Junaidi in a written parliamentary reply.
“In addition, the AGC has also examined the need to amend other related laws in order to avoid loopholes if the offence of attempted suicide is removed from the criminal justice system,” he added.
“The study covering the proposed amendments to the law has almost been finalised and will be submitted to the Cabinet for approval,” he said.
SUICIDE STATISTIC SHOWING WORRYING TREND: KHAIRY
In the same event on Wednesday, Mr Khairy outlined that Malaysia saw an 81 per cent increase in suicide cases in 2021, with 1,142 cases reported last year as compared to the 631 cases in 2020.
“Trend of suicides, according to police data, showed an 81 per cent increase in 2021 from 2020,” said Mr Khairy.
“This is a worrying statistic that requires attention and quick action by authorities,” he added.
The health minister also pointed out that mental health issues have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, evident by data from the Ministry's psychosocial helpline.
He noted that since March 2020, the Ministry has received more than 307,000 calls of which 74.3 per cent were made by individuals who needed emotional support and counselling due to chronic stress, depression as well as anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Contributing factors include financial issues such as loss of income or employment, crisis in household finances, issues relating to family relationships, death of loved ones as well as domestic abuse," said Mr Khairy.
During the height of the pandemic, prolonged lockdowns and financial issues led to an average of four suicide cases reported each day.
The situation prompted the Health Ministry to warn the public to watch out for symptoms of depression such as any change in behaviour among friends, colleagues and relatives.