In October 2018—just months after Malaysians voted out the coalition that had been in power since 1957—Liew Vui Keong, the new head of the Legal Affairs Division in the Prime Minister’s Department, announced that the death penalty would be completely abolished for all offences in the country.

In January 2019, at an emotional meeting with families of death row inmates, he said, “I believe that if you believe killing is wrong, then you cannot support the government doing it.”

But pro-death penalty voices—including opposition party members, former police chiefs, and lawyers—have emerged. Public outrage over violent crimes such as the death of a nine-month-old baby as a result of rape and abuse, allegedly by the child’s caregiver’s husband, has also fuelled such views.

Members only

Log in or

Join New Naratif as a member to continue reading

We are independent, ad-free and pro-democracy. Our operations are member-funded. Membership starts from just US$5/month! Alternatively, write to to request a free sponsored membership. As a member, you are supporting fair payment of freelancers, and a movement for democracy and transnational community building in Southeast Asia.

Emily Ding is a freelance writer, journalist, and editor based in Kuala Lumpur and Berlin. She tells stories about travel and cultures, social justice and human rights, and the legacies of war. (

Charis is an illustrator, comics editor, and programme designer based in Malaysia. Her interests include how comic artists and illustrators exchange resources in their networks, capacity-building for comic artists and illustrators, and drawing as a research method. Charis was formerly Comics Editor and Illustrations Editor for New Naratif.

Ellena is a visual communication designer based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Her creative works are integrations between design-thinking and economic, sociopolitical, and cultural discourses. Her works can be found at She's New Naratif’s Art and Design Manager. Reach her at