“Knowing your son will die is agonising, but not knowing when is torturous,” -Sapenah Nawawi , 58, the mother of Shahrul Izani
"The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said today she hopes to take her proposal to amend the Penal Code and abolish the mandatory death sentence to the Dewan Rakyat as early as March next year." - see End of Malaysia’s mandatory death sentence on the horizon(Malay Mail, 17/11/2015)
See also:-Attorney-General Tan Sri Apandi Ali also did commit to propose to the Cabinet that the mandatory death penalty be scrapped (Malaysian Insider, 13/11/2015). Appandi Ali, who is also the Public Prosecutor, said that ‘…mandatory death sentences were a "paradox", as it robbed judges of their discretion to impose sentences on convicted criminals….’ - see MADPET Glad That Malaysia will abolish the Mandatory Death Penalty in 2016
Happy birthday, Shahrul Izani
He was arrested for possession of 622 grammes of cannabis in 2003, when he was only 19 years old. After spending more than six years in detention awaiting trial, Shahrul was convicted by the Shah Alam High Court of drug trafficking, an offence that carries the mandatory death sentence, in December 2009.
Then, the Court of Appeal heard and dismissed his appeal on the same day on October 12, 2011. Again, on June 26, 2012 the Federal Court heard and dismissed his appeal.
Two years later in 2014, Shahrul applied for clemency before the Pardons Board of Selangor state. That meant he had now exhausted all his appeals, and could be executed at any time.
I first came across Shahrul’s case through Amnesty International Malaysia (AI). Shahrul’s plight was one of three death-row cases that AI were highlighting for the 2015 World Day Against the Death Penalty, which falls on October 10 annually. In my first encounter with the family of Shahrul in AI’s office, the persistence and courage of Shahrul’s mother, Sapenah Nawawi in defending her son touched my heart deeply.
I clearly remember how her tears started running down her face, whenever she spoke of her son. She believes strongly in her son and most importantly, she and the family have not given up on him.
For more than a decade, Sapenah has hardly missed any weekly trip between her home in Klang and the Sungai Buloh prison to visit Shahrul.
Thus far, Sapenah has approached various non-governmental organisations (NGOs), lawyers, and state authorities and also tried to seek a royal pardon for Shahrul.
Basically, they have exhausted every possible channel and money, to save him from the gallows.
Currently, Malaysia is one of 58 countries that still practice the death penalty, compared with the 140 countries which have abolished it.
Should the death penalty be abolished? Very often, supporters of the death penalty argue that the death penalty could deter others from committing a particular crime.
But, they are wrong. More importantly there is no evidence to back up such an argument.
The death penalty is wrong because by sentencing someone to death, you are basically denying his or her right to life.
If we look at this from the lens of Shahrul and family, the emotional cost to the families of victims and the convicted can’t be measured.
Imagine that’s what Shahrul Izani has to go through every day, not knowing when will be his last breath as he could be hanged any day now.
Imagine what the family of Shahrul has to go through, not knowing when will be the last day of them seeing their loved one.
Listening to Sapenah and the family’s stories, of how they have to carry on their lives in such an emotionally-draining environment is totally beyond what I could possibly imagine. Years of frustration did not in any way stop them from trying to release Shahrul from the gallows.
It has been 13 years since Shahrul had a decent birthday. He is turning 32 on March 9.
For 13 years, Shahrul has maintained his innocence. According to Sapenah, Shahrul himself has done a great number of researches to free himself from the death sentence.
In conjunction with this, currently AI has launced a 'Wish #ShahrulIzani Happy Birthday" campaign to encourage Malaysians to bring him some cheer and support. As we could see from the AI Malaysia website, all of us could contribute in giving him hope and some joy.
As highlighted in AI's statement and I quote, “The aim of this campaign is to give a young man hope, especially when hope, to him, is in short supply. For a man who is forced to listen to a fellow death row inmate struggle to breathe his last when hanging from a rope, we hope that this action would bring him some small comfort.”
“We hope that the birthday greetings will encourage Shahrul and his family and show them that we have not forgotten him and will continue to stand with him. On another level, AI Malaysia also hopes that this campaign will drive home the point that the death penalty solves no crime, nor will it deter drugs from the market or prevent other crimes from happening.”
Here in Malaysia, we practice mandatory death penalty that leaves judges with no discretion to decide any other sentences. However there was some progress last year when Attorney-General Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali said he wished the courts had some discretion over the decision to send convicts to the gallows or otherwise, depending on the crimes that he or she has committed.
The move was also concurred by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri.
Realistically, this campaign will not be able to take away their pain, but at least it could send out some support to Shahrul and his family to continue the advocacy and hope.
With this, I would like to wish Shahrul Izani, happy birthday and don’t give up hope. – February 29, 2016.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.
22 February 2016