The Malaysian Bar unequivocally opposes the recent proposal, mooted by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and various other parties, to introduce the death penalty and caning as punishments for corruption.
The Royal Malaysian Customs Department has also proposed the introduction of caning as a punishment for various smuggling offences.
Although we fully support the fight against corruption and smuggling, we remain resolute in our advocacy for the abolition of the death penalty and all forms of corporal punishment — including caning or whipping — irrespective of the offence committed.
Central to our absolute rejection of the death penalty for any and all offences is the belief that every person has an inherent right to life. This right is enshrined in Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution, which shuns the arbitrary deprivation of life.
The right to life is a fundamental right that is absolute, inalienable and universal, irrespective of any crime committed by the accused person. Further, the extended time spent on death row has an effect on the mental health of the person concerned, and amounts to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
In respect of caning or whipping, the Malaysian Bar stands unreservedly against all forms of corporal punishment, in accordance with the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and international human rights norms.
We reaffirm our stance that corporal punishment must be totally abolished as a form of punishment for all offences. It is a harsh and barbaric form of punishment that causes harmful and long-lasting psychological effects and has no place in a modern, civilised and compassionate society such as ours.
Empirical evidence shows that neither the death penalty nor corporal punishment has been effective as a retributive and deterrent sentence.
Corruption is an undeniable plague that obstructs our nation’s development. It imperils the rule of law, undermines our institutions, and endangers human life. For Malaysia to advance as a nation, the scourge of corruption must be tackled in a comprehensive and consistent manner, which requires the establishment of a viable constitutional and legislative framework.
To this end, the Malaysian Bar — in collaboration with the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas), the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4), the Citizens’ Network for a Better Malaysia and Transparency International Malaysia — submitted a joint memorandum on 28 July 2015, entitled Joint Memorandum for the Reform of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to the MACC and to the previous government, setting out our proposals to reform the MACC for it to comprehensively address and deal with corruption.
The key reform proposals presented in the joint memorandum were:
- Create an independent anti-corruption commission, a constitutionally mandated commission, beyond the scope, control and influence of the executive
- Ensure the independence of commissioners serving the commission; and
Ensure security of tenure for the chairman and commissioners.
The Malaysian Bar calls upon the MACC and the government to reconsider the joint memorandum that was submitted and to adopt its proposals as a vital and decisive step towards combating corruption in a comprehensive and consistent manner for a corruption-free Malaysia.
George Varughese is president of the Malaysian Bar.