Monday, October 22, 2012

Maybe at last no more death penalty for drug mules

Below, a New Straits Times Editorial of 23/10/2012. This is a mainstream newspaper, which is perceived to be owned/controlled by those alligned with the ruling parties

Amendments are afoot to spare the death sentence on on some drug offences

TWO years ago, when Wisma Putra intervened to seek clemency from the Singaporean government on behalf of Yong Vui Kong, a young Malaysian convicted by the Singaporean courts for drug trafficking and sentenced to hang, the irony of the situation did not elude anyone. While the Malaysian government, political parties and non-governmental organisations were clamouring to save the life of one citizen incarcerated on death row in the neighbouring country, the lives of hundreds of Malaysians hung similarly in the balance on death rows here at home. The attempt to seek a commutation for Yong was an indication of the value of even one citizen's life; but that the same value was not accorded to citizens on this side of the border smacked of hypocrisy.

But, thanks to some 250 other Malaysians suspected of being drug mules and detained by foreign nations that actively practise capital punishment, the lives of about 640 people on death row in Malaysia for drug offences could change for the better. Previously, the government's response to such situations has been to promise to see to it that the accused has fair legal representation; other than that, it would not interfere in another country's application of its domestic law. However, the increase in such occurrences, coupled with tearful pleas from broken-hearted parents of what are mainly young and foolish mules, seem to have necessitated a change of response. But, obviously, Malaysia can only plead for leniency or mercy if it proves itself to be just as lenient or merciful. Hence, the move to reform drug penalty laws on the domestic front.

It is good that we are moving one step closer to removing the death penalty for drug mules, with discussion in government for a suspension of executions until the matter is settled. If the amendment is adopted, current death row inmates will have the opportunity to apply for re-sentencing, to which the government is recommending a minimum of 30 years. But, ideally, the death penalty should be abolished altogether, and not just in cases that involve low-level drug mules. For, while drugs remain a scourge on society and a concerted effort must be made to fight the drug war, there is still no scientific evidence that the death penalty works as a deterrent to drug trafficking or the huge business of its production and sale. As the experience of many countries, including Malaysia, has shown, most of those caught under draconian drug laws are not the big-timers the laws are meant to target. The taking of a human life by the state in such offences should thus be carried out as sparingly as possible. - New Straits Times, 23/10/2012, Editorial, Stay of Execution

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