What about our feelings? Kin of murder victims lash out at death penalty repeal

R. Loheswar
Tan Siew Lin, mother of Annie Kok Yin Cheng, holds back tears as she speaks during a news conference at the Legal Affairs Division of the Prime Minister's Department in Putrajaya January 14, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 14 — Several family members of murder victims raised concerns that Putrajaya was being insensitive towards their feelings with its move to abolish the mandatory capital punishment for heinous crimes like murder.

They claimed that justice will not be served as long as killers are allowed to walk free, while others may use loopholes in the system to avoid the gallows.

“We used to celebrate her birthday together on the sixth on June every year. Now she’s dead but the government is considering abolishing the mandatory death penalty.

“How is this fair? If he is let loose I will find him or ask someone to find him and shoot him dead,” said Tan Siew Lin, referring to her late teen daughter Annie Kok Yin Cheng, who was murdered and raped in 2009.

“For us there is no closure as long as we know these criminals are out free or that there is a chance for them to escape the death penalty,” she added.

Tan said she tried handing over a memorandum with 50,000 signatures from those opposing the abolition of the death penalty to lawmakers last year. She claimed she was refused entry into the Parliament.

A guest must be accompanied by an MP to enter the Parliament.

“The government doesn’t understand our pain. If it abolishes it, we will make noise,” added Tan, whose daughter’s killer, Rabidin Satir, is currently awaiting trial on several charges of rape, theft and murder in separate cases.

Representatives and family members of murder victims who refuse to accept the abolishment of the death penalty pose for a group photo in Putrajaya January 14, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Today, family members and representatives of the alleged murder victims — Datuk Kevin Morias, Datuk Sosilawati Lawita, Stephen Wong Jing Kui, Chee Gaik Yap, Annie Kok,

Muhammad Hafiz Indris, and Nurulhanim Idris and the late YB Datuk Mohd Mazlan B. Idris — attended a meeting with a Parliamentary Select Committee here to plead against the repeal of the mandatory death penalty for heinous crimes involving premeditated killings resulting loss of lives, like murder and terrorism.

The family members present were all victims of murder said they all felt the committee has already made up their mind to abolish the mandatory death penalty, and the meeting was just a formality.

“They asked us, if the death penalty is imposed and the perpetrator is killed, will that bring your loved ones’ back to life and will it really make us happy?

“I feel this is a silly question,” said Mansur Ibrahim of UMMAH, representing the family of murdered toddlers Hafiz and Nurulhanim.

Mansur said countries who have removed the death penalty are now bringing it back as there has been an uptick in crime, but did not provide any examples to back his claim.

Out of 195 members of United Nations, only 55 countries still retain the death penalty.

“Seems as though they’ve already set their minds to abolish the mandatory death penalty for heinous crimes. We just met them as a formality,” said Alan Ong Yeow Fooi, a human rights activist also representing the victims’ families.

The families and their representatives’ stand is that the mandatory death penalty must be retained for heinous crimes involving premeditated killings and loss of lives like murder.

The families said no to compensation as an alternative to reducing murderers’ punishment to mere imprisonment and seeing them walk free.

Tan Siew Lin (left) holds up news clippings of her daughter Annie Kok Yin Cheng as she speaks during a news conference at the Legal Affairs Division of the Prime Minister's Department in Putrajaya January 14, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

Chairman of the Social Care Foundation, Tan Sri Robert Phang, claimed that Malaysia could be a haven for criminal activity if capital punishment is abolished.

“If the public demands it, then a referendum should be made on this issue,” Phang said.

At the meeting today, the select committee was represented by Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, Tan Sri Zahrah Ibrahim, Datin Paduka Sri Zauyah Be, Datuk Mah Weng Kwai and Dr Farah Nini Dusuki.

The Pakatan Harapan government made a historic decision on December 2018 by voting in favour of a United Nations resolution for member states that still retains the death penalty to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing this punishment.

Two months after being voted into power in May 2018, the government ordered in July that year a suspension of all pending death sentences. However, it has since demurred on total abolition of the capital punishment.

The Cabinet has been mulling three options: total abolition of the death penalty; or making the death penalty non-mandatory for crimes such as murder; or giving judges full discretion during sentencing for those convicted under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act.

The abolition is expected to be tabled in the Parliament in March.

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