I am glad that the government didn’t cave in to pressure. I am talking about the recent calls by advocacy groups which sought to end capital punishment.
Thank God, our leaders have decided to retain the death penalty, but which will no longer be mandatory as the government has given judges the discretion when sentencing offenders.
The public should therefore understand that the death penalty is not abolished and will remain. Many people appear to be confused, just remember that it will no longer be mandatory.
Let me say that I am all out for the death penalty to stay. I know many activists, rights groups and so-called individual human rights champions will not agree and will criticise my stand. These people, despite the government’s latest concession, are seeking a total abolition of the death penalty.
In a public poll sometime back by three newspapers namely, Berita Harian Online, Harian Metro and the New Straits Times Online, about 80 per cent of Malaysians opposed the government’s move to axe the death penalty.
De facto law minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar recently said the capital punishment would be replaced by other forms of punishment at the discretion of the courts. What this means is that judges will no longer be bound by the term that had previously left them with no other alternative but to impose the death penalty on criminals for offences like drug trafficking or discharging firearms while committing robbery.
The Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, for example provides for a mandatory death penalty, which leaves the courts with no choice but to mete out the death penalty even though the judges have before them several evidences that should be taken into consideration.
With the government’s latest move, the court at its discretion can substitute the mandatory capital punishment with a life sentence instead.
But I am somewhat uneasy by this ‘discretionary power’ given to individual judges. Now, don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying that our learned eminent friends should not be given the discretion. I am just worried that the system might be open to abuse.
For example, can we trust our public officers appointed to decide cases in a court of law not to listen to the powerbrokers?
Aren’t these public officers appointed by the powerbrokers who in turn are elected by the people?
So, to ensure that this discretionary power is not open to abuse by our public officers and the powerbrokers, why can’t we have a system that allows the people to appoint these public officers like in the United States?
As I said earlier, I am against the abolition of the death penalty – and I am also not comfortable with the government’s decision to give the learned men the discretion to impose the death sentence or life sentence!
Discretionary powers aside, I fear the abolition of the mandatory death penalty will lead to an increase in major crimes like drug trafficking, robbery with firearms and murder.
Let’s look at drug trafficking alone; in spite of the mandatory death sentence, drug-related cases remain very high. So what makes you think we can expect the cases to see a decrease now that the mandatory death sentence is scrapped?
What about murder under Section 302 of the Penal Code. What justice can be meted out to those convicted of murder? Will life imprisonment suffice? What about the victims’ family members? Shouldn’t the law consider the fact that an innocent life has been taken?
Yes, the judge can decide to pass either the death or life sentence. But do you think a punishment other than the death penalty meted out is fair to the victims’ family members? Come-on lah!
Amnesty International Malaysia said recently that the death penalty is cruel, inhumane and a violation of the right to life. “We have seen and documented time and time again how the use of mandatory sentencing has disproportionately harmed the most marginalised and disenfranchised members of society, how the death penalty itself has not served as a unique deterrent to crime, and how its continued use has stifled the necessary and visionary work towards enabling fair justice and addressing issues at the root causes.”
Really? What about the rights of the victims’ families?
The decision by the Cabinet to give judges discretion in sentencing means amendments will still need to be tabled and passed in Parliament before the decision takes effect.
There are 1,341 people on death row, with 905 of the cases involving mandatory death sentences for drug trafficking.
At present, there are 11 offences which carry the mandatory death penalty.
Others that carry the death penalty include:
- Waging or attempting to wage war or abetting the waging of war against the King or governor.
- Abetment of mutiny in the armed forces or causing a mutiny.
- Abetment of suicide of child or insane person.
- Kidnapping or abducting in order to murder.
- Hostage-taking resulting in death.
- Rape resulting in death.
- Gang-robbery with murder.