Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Call to scrap death penalty for drug traffickers stirs a tempest (NST)

Call to scrap death penalty for drug traffickers stirs a tempest

A BREWING DEBATE: While some urge holding a referendum on the issue, locking away drug kingpins for good is a no-brainer

Four drug traffickers were sentenced to 15 years’ jail and caning at the Kota Baru Sessions Court earlier this month. Their time in jail should be as painful as that of the people whose lives they had destroyed.
Desmond DavidsonTHE clamour to be heard is growing louder by the day. Ever since Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz announced on Oct 12 that the government was considering the possibility of withdrawing the mandatory death sentence for drug offences and replacing it with jail terms, pro-life groups and advocates probably saw that as a "God send"  for their voices to be heard before the government makes any final decision.

Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye was among the few prominent people who have waded into the brewing debate.

He has asked the government to take the question to the people.

Lee wants the government to consult the public before a final decision is taken on reviewing the mandatory death penalty for drug offenders.

In plain simple English, Lee said the government's argument to get rid of the death penalty for drug traffickers to save Malaysians who became drug mules abroad was a load of rubbish.

In a statement he made last week, he said: "The reason is not cogent enough to justify the removal of the death penalty much as we want to help save the lives of Malaysian drug mules detained abroad".
Lee said there must be more convincing reasons if the death penalty is to be scrapped.

Lawyer and DAP stalwart Karpal Singh and his lawyer-politician son Jagdeep Singh Deo, too, joined the growing chorus with a piece of their mind.

While echoing Lee's sentiments, Karpal, however, went a step further by calling on the government to hold a plebiscite to obtain public opinion on the contentious issue.

He believed it was important to have strong public opinion on the issue by holding a referendum.

Capital crimes in this country include murder, terrorist acts, treason, kidnapping, rape, possession of firearms and, of course, drug trafficking.

The Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, under Section 39B, provides for the mandatory death sentence for possessing and distributing drugs.

But the use of the death penalty is highly controversial.

When the Dangerous Drugs Act was amended to add Section 39B, it was drawn up to act as a stiff deterrent to the drug scourge sweeping the country.

The penalty is so stiff that mere possession of 200g of ganja, or cannabis as it is known elsewhere in the world, is enough to put anyone away for 20 years. Trafficking in more than 200g of dangerous drugs carries the death sentence.

There are 930 prisoners on death row as of Oct 10, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Abu Seman Yusop told the Dewan Rakyat, including drug traffickers.

According to a report by Australia's ABC News in August this year, the number of inmates on death row for drug offences is over 300 over the past five years.

This shows that even with the threat of death, Section 39B as a deterrent was not exactly a resounding success.

I for one would like to join the Lees and Karpals and say: Abolish the death penalty. We do not need to play God.

Christians would be familiar with the 10 Commandments. One of them simply states: "Thou shall not kill". 
This is interpreted by many as not to kill for any reason.

I am sure such commandments are found in the teachings of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and all the other religions you can think of.

The next question that would be asked is: "What is the appropriate sentence then?"

I would opt for a very long sentence -- life with no possibility of parole. It is a fact that drugs had destroyed countless lives and broken many families.

Make their time in jail as painful as that of the people they had destroyed. Don't give them a chance to get out of jail to continue destroying people's lives.

Like the proverbial saying, lock them up and throw the key away.

Let these traffickers rot in jail.

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