Sunday, May 29, 2011

SIRD Condemns Decision of Singapore Court to Sentence Author Alan Shadrake to 6-week Jail Term

SIRD Condemns Decision of Singapore Court to Sentence Author Alan Shadrake to 6-week Jail Term

PETALING JAYA, 27th MAY 2011 – Following the sentencing of Alan Shadrake to a 6-week jail term for criticizing the way the death penalty is administered in Singapore, through his book Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock (SIRD, 2010), the Strategic Information and Research Development Centre (SIRD) condemns the decision of the Singapore court, stating it as a blatant disregard of the concept of freedom of expression.

“This is the heaviest sentence that an author has received for exposing the truth,” said Chong Ton Sin, Managing Director of SIRD. “Even at 76, and with various health complications, he continues to face these challenges with a strong spirit.

“He had a chance make a public apology and plead guilty to lighten the sentence, but he told me that he would not. He needed to make a stand for what he believed in, and that was freedom of speech. I salute him for his courage and perseverance. As his publisher, and more importantly his friends, we at SIRD are fully behind Alan. We await his release and look forward to having him back with us here in Malaysia.”

Singapore’s highest court earlier today, rejected Shadrake’s appeal and upheld the sentence that was imposed on him in November of last year. The 76-year-old veteran investigative journalist and author will report to court at 9am on Wednesday (1st June 2011) to begin his sentence, after he finishes medical tests over the next few days.

The writer has been sentenced to 6 weeks in jail for writing about the injustice and abuse of power regarding Singapore’s issuing of the death penalty.  In his book he highlights the lack of impartiality in the way Singapore’s laws are implemented. While the book has not been officially banned in Singapore, sales in Singapore are prohibited by the government.

Despite having to go through months of gruelling court sessions, Shadrake worked on a revised and updated version of his book over the last couple of months. The new revised and updated Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock (2nd ed.), which was released on 13th May 2011 by SIRD in Malaysia, contains details of his arrest, trial, and judgement in the court of Judge Quentin Loh.

For more information about both editions of Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock, please visit or email SIRD at

Monday, May 16, 2011

441 hanged to death since 1960, another 696 on death row as at 20/2/2011

Time to abolish death sentence

Athi Shankar | April 3, 2011 
A total of 441 persons had been sentenced to death since 1960 while another 696 are waiting for execution of their death sentences in Malaysian prisons.
GEORGE TOWN: A DAP parliamentarian today called on the government to give a serious re-thinking to abolish the death sentence and substitute it with a more ‘humanely’ life imprisonment

Describing it as ‘a cruel sentence against human rights’, Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong said the death penalty had proven not to be an effective tool to deter crime.

“Convicts can be prevented from reoffending via life sentence, without the necessity to take their lives,” he argued.

He pointed out that given to the imperfect nature of the justice system, it was impossible to eliminate human error.

However, he said, this flawed system was still being continued to enforce an irreversible and cruel capital punishment that could not deter criminals and prevent crime.

He said a justice system that had not been infallible shall never pass an irreversible and cruel sentence in the name of justice.

“The government should initiate a comprehensive bipartisan discussion on the death penalty.

“It is time for serious rethinking on the death penalty,” said Liew in a statement.

He said in a civilised nation that respected humankind dignity, regard should be had for the legal maxim “better 10 guilty men go free than an innocent man die”.

He cited many nations of seriously rethinking capital punishment as “a barbaric and abhorrent punishment” fundamentally opposed to the nature of human rights.

According to Amnesty International, 30 countries have stopped the use of capital punishment in the last decade.

Liew said in the larger scheme of national safety and crime deterrence, it was crucial for the justice system to ensure that criminals were brought to justice through strong police investigative work with integrity.

“The country’s judicial system shall be just and seen to be just.

“Taking away lives in form of capital punishment has proven could not help to eliminate crime,” he said.

696 awaiting execution

He suggested that for a start, the government should amend the Dangerous Drugs Act to return the discretion of sentencing to the judge.

Currently, the hands of the judges are tied upon conviction as the death penalty was mandatory under Section 39B of the Act.

According to Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein’s reply to Liew’s question last Thursday in Parliament, 441 persons had been sentenced to death since 1960.

As of on Feb 22 this year, another 696 are waiting for execution of their death sentences in Malaysian prisons.

Of the 441 persons hanged, 228 were involved in drug trafficking and 78 were convicted for murder.

Another 130 were for illegal processions of arms, while four more were convicted for waging war against the King. The remaining one was involved in kidnapping.

Among those awaiting the gallows, 479 convicts were involved in drug trafficking, 204 in murders and 13 in illegal processions of arms.

Some of them are in the process of appealing to overturn their convictions and sentences, while several others are seeking pardons from the Pardon Board of respective states.

Among them, 676 are males while 20 are females, while some 90 percent are between 21 and 50 years old. - Free Malaysia Today, 3/4/2011, Time to abolish death sentence

An effort towards the abolition of the death penalty

Six NGOs, together with the cooperation of the Malaysian Bar Council and certain Members of the Malaysian Parliament, have come together to make a stand on the use of the death penalty in Malaysia.
A forum held in Kuala Lumpur on 11 May 2011 was the first in a series of events to be organised as part of a long-term campaign for the abolishment of the death penalty in Malaysia.

The forum, which focused on the death penalty in relation to drug offences, had three panellists: Andrew Khoo, chairman of the Malaysian Bar Council’s Human Rights Committee, YB Gobind Singh, lawyer and MP of Puchong, and M Ravi, Singaporean human rights lawyer.

The forum’s moderator, Ms Sharmila Kumari of human rights NGO Hakam, opened the forum with the hope that the death penalty campaign would become a national movement. “As Malaysians we cannot just sit back as fellow citizens are in this situation [facing the death penalty] without making a stand,” she said.
“You should trust your judges”

The first speaker, Mr Gobind, questioned the necessity of the mandatory aspect of the death penalty, which takes away the judges’ discretion in meting out sentences. “At the end of the day you should trust your judges,” he said.

He explained the presumption clauses that are part of Malaysia’s Dangerous Drugs Act (DDA), which shifts the burden of proof on to the accused*. The law is therefore stacked against the accused, and makes it extremely easy to convict a person.

Once a person is convicted, the judge has no choice but to hand down the death sentence.

Mr Gobind mentioned that there had been cases in Malaysia where appeal courts later found that prior judges had been wrong, or when laws had been amended as they were deemed to be wrong or unjust.

“What do you tell the families of those people who have been hanged [under the old law]?” he asked the audience.

He later added that “where a system is subject to flaws I don’t think we should take the risk to subject a person to death”, as the execution of a death sentence is irreparable, and studies suggest that it does not work as a deterrence.
“Lives cannot be taken for granted”

In his speech, Mr Ravi stated that in all Commonwealth countries except Malaysia and Singapore, the mandatory death penalty has been declared to be a “cruel and unusual punishment”. This is because the mandatory nature does not allow any room for mitigation, and takes away the powers of the judges.

He updated the audience on the case of Yong Vui Kong, whose case has gained a lot of media attention in Malaysia. Vui Kong has until 4 July 2011 to submit his clemency petition. If the petition is turned down, Mr Ravi expects that Vui Kong will be executed some time in November.

Mr Ravi urged the Malaysian government to intervene on the behalf of another Malaysian, Cheong Chun Yin, who is also in Singapore’s death row. Cheong’s time is running out as a reply to his clemency petition to the Singapore president could arrive any day now.

He also felt that certain issues in the case of Yong Vui Kong would give Malaysia the grounds to take the case up with the International Court of Justice in a bid to save the young man’s life.

Mr Ravi then brought up the case of Noor Atiqah, a Singaporean single mother who was sentenced to death in the Shah Alam High Court in Malaysia in March 2011. Atiqah currently has two more rounds of appeals to go, and is being represented by forum panellist Mr Gobind.

Mr Ravi spoke about the cooperation between himself and Mr Gobind, as well as with the UK-based Death Penalty Project, to mount a constitutional challenge of the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia.

“We are quite positive this challenge will succeed,” Mr Ravi said, adding that the momentum that the anti-death penalty campaign has gained in Malaysia since Yong Vui Kong’s case was first brought up has been encouraging. He urged the Malaysian people to continue pushing the momentum and to “make a stand to say that lives cannot be taken for granted.”
“There can be mistakes”

The final speaker, Mr Khoo, gave a brief overview of the DDA in Malaysia,which was first passed in 1952. He pointed out that from 1952 – 1975, the DDA did not have a provision for the death penalty to be used, and that the death penalty was only made mandatory in 1983.

He also presented the following statistics: between 1988 and 1995, human rights organisation SUARAM reported that there were 194,797 drug addicts registered. Between 1988 and 2005, there were 289,763 drug addicts registered, meaning that there had been an increase of 94,966 drug addicts between 1995 and 2005.

Mr Khoo asked the audience to think about what the statistics suggested. “Are we not hanging enough people? Or is the mandatory death penalty not working?” he said.

He urged everyone to look at the socio-economic background of many of the people who had been deemed by the courts to be trafficking drugs. “We need to ask ourselves whether society is somehow partly responsible forputting these people in a situation of being susceptible to being in thesecircumstances,” he said.

Like his fellow panellists, Mr Khoo also questioned the need for the mandatory death penalty, saying, “We want experienced judges, but at a time where they can bring their experience to bear in sentencing, we have taken the power away from them.”

In closing, Mr Khoo brought up the issue of public perception of the death penalty, which he said was the “greatest challenge” in the campaign.

He felt that anti-death penalty campaigners would have to be ready and willing to address the fact that families are being hurt by loved ones turning into drug addicts, and that such a debate was necessary.

He also highlighted a need for a situation or case that would point out the sheer injustice of the mandatory death penalty for drugs to the public “to bring the story home”.
“What can I do now?”

After the panellists had given their speeches, Chun Yin’s father, Mr Cheong, made an emotional and desperate plea to the audience, saying that his son had been tricked into carrying drugs into Singapore.

“I don’t know what to do. He’s been used by others, what can I do?” he asked with tears in his eyes. “I asked him to come back and help me again. I’m sick, I have high blood pressure, I need to take medication… what can I do now? I don’t sleep at night. I just wait for him to come home.”

What the public can do
During the question-and-answer session, Mr Gobind said that according to the Home Minister, 441 people** have been hanged in Malaysia since 1960, for which 228 cases were for drug offences.

The Home Minister also revealed that, as of 2 February 2011, 696 people are currently on death row in Malaysia, 479 for drug offences.

The panellists all agreed with a suggestion from the floor that a coordinated, long-term and sustained campaign be launched against the death penalty in Malaysia. Both Ms Kamuri and Mr Khoo said the door was open for any volunteers or organisations in Malaysia to join the campaign.

The panellists, as well as Ms Ngeow Chow Ying from the Save Vui Kong Campaign, also urged the Malaysian public to lobby their respective MPs and state assemblymen, as well as to do their part in raising public awareness within their own networks of family and friends.

After the forum, the audience was invited to take a look at a small exhibition by Amnesty International’s Malaysian chapter on the death penalty around the world.

* These presumption clauses can also be found in Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act.

** An Amnesty International report on the death penalty in Singapore estimated that 420 people have been hanged between 1991 – 2004.
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Source: - The Online Citizen, 13/5/2011, NGOs form a coalition against the death penalty in Malaysia

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

SUHAKAM is also against the death penalty

Well, SUHAKAM is also against the death penalty...

The commission is against capital punishment and had recommended for it to be removed. How do you think we should rehabilitate a convict? Bisky Tee, Bandar Utama

Suhakam is against capital punishment as it is one of those human rights principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and other international human rights conventions. It is our hope that we would be able to do away with this inhumane form of punishment one day. Suhakam had recommended that the Government consider placing a moratorium on capital punishment with a view to abolishing it in the future.

Suhakam has made visits to prisons and undertaken legal research with a view to making recommendations on prison reform to ensure compatibility with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners.

There are already some mechanisms in place on the rehabilitation of prisoners by way of providing them with counselling, religious education and spiritual activities, as well as vocational training to better equip them with skills before re-entering mainstream society. Except, perhaps for some hardened criminals, many serving prison sentences could and should be rehabilitated. The important thing is for the prisoners, having served their sentences, to be given a second chance to resume their lives as citizens without being stigmatised by society. - Star, 5/2/2011, Suhakam’s Tan Sri Hasmy Agam answers Your 10 Questions