Monday, March 18, 2019

"The native hue of resolution is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought" Hamlet

"Malaysians against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is saddened by the alleged U-turn by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his cabinet members who had decided earlier to abolish the death penalty, but now will apparently only abolish the mandatory death penalty.

On March 13, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Hanipa Maidin was reported as saying in Parliament that only the mandatory death penalty, which is the penalty for nine offences under the Penal Code and two under the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971, will be repealed.

It must be noted that the cabinet under Mahathir had, at a meeting in October 2018, decided to repeal not just the mandatory death penalty, but the death penalty for 33 offences under eight acts.

“The cabinet has decided to abolish the death penalty, and it will be tabled in the next Parliament sitting, which will begin on Oct 15, said Liew Vui Keong (Minister in charge of law in the Prime Minister’s Department)… ‘All death penalties will be abolished. Full stop.’”

This decision was applauded worldwide, and even celebrated at the recent 7th World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Brussels, which also highlighted the United Nations General Assembly’s seventh resolution for the moratorium on executions pending abolition that was adopted on Dec 17, 2018, with 121 countries in favour of it, including Malaysia for the very first time.

Abolition of the death penalty usually occurs as the end point of long process and depends on the firm decision of a leader endowed with strong conviction and courage. The ancient curse of vengence,  the "law of the talon" is deeply embedded in our conscience and cultures; the transit to abolitionis is always contended. We are not informed of the hidden opposition and failure of Malaysia's prime minister to carry through his promise. We must wait another day, another leader. A great opportunity has been lost. The Philippines dithers, Thailand threw away the opportunity in the final year of the observance of a declared moratorium which would have achieved de facto abolition.
One may salute Timor Leste which achieved independence in 17 years of struggle, and proudly declared rejection of the death penalty in its founding constitution.

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