Sunday, July 29, 2012

Only 98 pardons since 2001 in Malaysia

Natural life prisoners and those on death row need society's compassion

FOREVER is a very long time to pay for one mistake made in the stupidity of youth. For the people who are counting away the seemingly endless breaths of their days on death row or as natural life prisoners, just one thing done in haste, anger, bravado  or recklessness -- so incredibly easy to do without thought  --  and one must pay with one's life.

Whether it be spending 10 to 20 years waiting for "The Drop" that always threatens but takes forever to happen; or whiling away the decades waiting for the Angel of Death to extend an invitation, prisoners on death row and natural life know that once they have been thrown into prison, the only way they are going to get out is either through a pardon, or in a body bag. And so, they wait; the majority of them being young adults when they went in, youth and middle age passes them by within the four walls of the prison; and still they wait.

So, for the eight prisoners who were granted a pardon and immediate release by the Sultan of Johor yesterday, freedom must be nothing short of a miracle. For, once all legal and judicial appeals have been exhausted, technically, there are no other avenues of release. A pardon, if it is given, is a privilege, not a right; and it depends purely on the compassion of one person: the ruler of the state or territory in which the crime was committed. So few and far between are these that prior to yesterday, there have only been 98 pardons since 2001 of various sorts of crimes; of these, 50 were outright releases, and 48 reduced sentences. Compare this with the thousands of ordinary people who end up in prison every year, and the over 900 on death row today.

Admittedly, most of these people did commit serious crimes during their day (the attorney-general is considering reviewing the death penalty for drug mules), and they should make reparations to society for the damage and loss they have inflicted. But does that have to be paid for at the end of the noose or with the eternal torment of life behind bars? Is there no room for redemption and society's mercy? For, forgiveness is not just about the state of grace of the prisoners, but also of society -- to have enough compassion for a human being who has done wrong to give him another chance, and to return him to society. But, second chances should not be left to chance. Natural life prisoners must be given a tangible date of release. Life must have real hope or else redemption will be meaningless. - New Straits Times, 22/7/2012, Editorial, Second chances

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