Malaysia: Criticized for delaying abolition of Mandatory Death Penalty

Media statement by Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan and Publicity Secretary for Wanita DAP Kasthuri Patto on Monday 11 July 2016 in Penang.

Cabinet should not keeping shifting the goal post on committing to abolish the mandatory death penalty and table the amendments in the coming October Parliamentary sitting.

 

In a parliamentary reply dated 20 May to my question on the breakdown of nationalities on death row in Malaysia and if the government is ready to abolish the mandatory death penalty, up to 30 April 2015, 1042 are facing the death penalty. 629 are Malaysians and 413 are foreigners. 649 executions are pending court appeals whereas 393 are seeking pardon from the State Pardon’s Board.

While I welcome Law Minister Nancy Shukri’s statement yesterday amidst justifying the delay on tabling the amendments on the mandatory death penalty, the burden lies on her as Law Minister to table the proposals to the cabinet and together with Tan Sri Apandi Ali as Attorney General, should once and for all advocate and push for human rights reforms such as this to gain confidence amongst Malaysians, members of ASEAN and of the global community, carving a new identity for Malaysia as an abolitionist country.

In a written reply to Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo in March 2014 on whether the government would impose a moratorium on executions and that the government is prepared to study the effectiveness of it, the government had clearly stated that it had no intention on a moratorium on executions, particular for those who have exhausted all avenues in seeking pardon from individual State Pardon’s Boards.

The reply also shockingly stated that the issue of the government abolishing the death penalty is non-existent as the State Pardon’s Board headed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has full authority to abolish the death penalty for offences committed in the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya and for offences committed in other states, the jurisdiction lies within the powers vested in the Yang di-Pertua Negeri after the Federal Court has upheld the decision to execute, also citing Article 42(1) of the Federal Constitution on the power to grant pardons, reprieves and respites in respect of all offences by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. And all this while, the Parliament has been given the impression that the ‘power’ to bring about these changes lies within the Cabinet and the AG.

This is the first case of shifting the goal post.

Secondly, the government clearly states, time and time again, that public opinion is in favour of retaining the death penalty. If yes, then it is laughable and ironic that the government decides as and when it wants to listen to public opinion as an online poll conducted by Gerakan in February 2016 shows that more than half of the 1523 anonymous respondents wanted an end to the death penalty. While the majority of the Malaysian public vehemently oppose the implementation of GST, the Government decides to turn a deaf ear to public opinion with stringy replies justifying the need to have it. According to Professor Mai Sato from University of Reading, when carrying out surveys on death penalties, a yes or no answer hardly addresses the weight of the matter which is for a state to take one’s life away. Tailor made public surveys with options given to the respondent have proven to be best strategies when gathering data on public opinion regarding the death penalty. However the government appears cagey on tailor made death penalty questionnaires to gauge public opinion. Such dense double standards speaks volumes about the severe lack of political will to bring amendments to the mandatory death penalty in the country.

The third shift of goal posts is, by not granting discretionary powers to the judges to hand down different forms of punishment apart from the death penalty, shows the dark hands of executive interference in the criminal justice system and judicial independence.

On 19 June 2016, Nancy Shukri stated in The Star that she really wants to see the amendment to the mandatory death penalty be passed and implemented prior to the 14th general election. As elected officials with legislative power, Members of Parliament have a duty to protect the rule of law and human rights. MPs from both sides of the divide must use our positions to push for the abolition of the death penalty with our governments as well as regional and international organisations. As Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of law, it is her moral responsibility to put political differences aside and together with MPs from the opposition and members of the civil society such as Amnesty International, Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN), HAKAM and also members from the Bar Council to advocate for this tectonic change in our national policy in displaying valiant commitment in upholding and protecting human rights, especially on the right to life.

Cabinet should not keeping shifting the goal post on committing to abolish the mandatory death penalty and table the amendments in the coming October Parliamentary sitting.

 

Kasthuri: Cabinet shifting goal post on death penalty

FMT Reporters

| July 11, 2016

The latest shift of goal posts was by not granting discretionary powers to judges to hand down different forms of punishment.

Kasthuri-Patto

KUALA LUMPUR: The Cabinet should not keep shifting the goal post on its commitment to abolish the death penalty, said Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto. “It should table the amendments in the parliamentary sitting in October.”

As Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of law, added the MP, “it was Nancy Shukri’s moral responsibility to advocate for this tectonic change in national policy.”

“She should demonstrate commitment in upholding and protecting human rights, especially the right to life.”

The latest shift of goal posts was by not granting discretionary powers to judges to hand down different forms of punishment apart from the death penalty, said Kasthuri. “It shows the dark hands of executive interference in the criminal justice system and judicial independence.”

Earlier, recalled the MP, the government shifted the goal post twice.

In a written reply in March 2014 to Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo, the government stated that it had no intention to impose a moratorium on executions, particularly for those who had exhausted all avenues in seeking pardon from individual State Pardon Boards.

Secondly, the government has clearly stated, time and time again, that public opinion was in favour of retaining the death penalty. “The majority of the people vehemently oppose GST, yet the government has turned a deaf ear to public opinion,” said Kasthuri.

In a parliamentary reply, dated May 20, to the MP’s question on the breakdown of nationalities on death row in Malaysia, it was disclosed that 629 were Malaysians and 413 were foreigners.

649 executions are pending court appeals whereas 393 are seeking pardon from State Pardon Boards. – FMT News, 11/7/2016

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