If executions are carried out in secret, that opportunity for people and even the government to do the right thing and stop the hanging is lost, laments Charles Hector.
Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is shocked by the recent revelation that Malaysia executed two people in 2014 for murder, a fact that was disclosed by Nancy Shukri, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, the de facto law minister in a news report. No information is disclosed as to who and when.
It is most disturbing that these executions seemed to have been carried out in ‘secret’, more so since in 2014, when prior knowledge of impending hangings did result in lives being saved. Our Sultan and the government need to be praised for their prompt action that stayed two executions.
We recall the case of Chandran s/o Paskaran, who was convicted for a murder in 2003 and sentenced to death by the Johor Baru High Court in 2008. His execution scheduled for 7 February 2014 was known a few days before that date.
This knowledge moved concerned persons and groups including the Malaysian Bar to do what was needed to try and save a life. At the eleventh hour, compassion moved the Duli Yang Maha Mulia Sultan of Johore, who intervened and stopped the hanging of Chandran s/o Paskaran.
Then, in March 2014, we have the case of Osariakhi Ernest Obayangbon (aka Philip Michael), who was convicted of murder and was alleged to have been on death row for 18 years, who was scheduled to be hanged on 14 March 2014.
Yet again, prior notice of impending execution moved people to action. The government of Malaysia, and in particular Nancy Shukri, the de facto law minister, and Abdul Gani Patail, the then attorney general, then acted to obtain a stay of execution.
Chandran s/o Paskaran and Osariakhi Ernest Obayangbon (aka Philip Michael) escaped the gallows because people were made aware of the impending executions, which made it possible for them to act and save lives. In both cases, people knew about the execution dates at the last minute, but hopefully in the future such information will be disclosed much earlier.
Now, if executions are carried out in secret, that opportunity for people and even the government to do the right thing and stop the hanging is lost, and Malaysia extinguishes another human life.
We note that the global trend has been consistently towards abolition, reflected also by the ever-increasing support for the United Nations General Assembly resolutions since 2007, which also call for a moratorium of all executions pending abolition.
In 2014, the fifth time for an anti-death penalty resolution, 117 nation states voted in favour, 38 against, 34 abstentions with four absentees. Every time it was passed, we see the number of countries in favour of abolition of the death penalty growing.
Minister Nancy Shukri disclosed that as of October 2015, there are 1,022 persons on death row in Malaysia. She also said that there have been no executions for drug offences for a long time.
Madpet is with the Minister when she said, “We hope they get their pardons from state rulers” and hope that all those on death row will have their sentence commuted.
Madpet urges the Malaysian government to immediately declare a moratorium on all executions, which will also be in line with the UN General Assembly resolutions.
In the event that Malaysia still intends to execute individuals, then reasonable notice should be given to Malaysians, giving us all yet another opportunity to demonstrate our humanity and respect for human life by saving yet another from the hangman’s noose as was done in the case of Chandran s/o Paskaran and Osariakhi Ernest Obayangbon.
Madpet also urges Malaysia to adhere to the United Nations General Assembly resolutions, which amongst others, call for the need to “make available relevant information with regard to their use of the death penalty, inter alia, the number of persons sentenced to death, the number of persons on death row and the number of executions carried out”. This information should be made available promptly.
Madpet welcomes Malaysia’s recent commitment to abolish the mandatory death penalty, but urges Malaysia to go one step further and abolish the death penalty.
Charles Hector is coordinator of Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet).