Family members and representatives of murder victims are vehemently against any move to abolish the mandatory death penalty for heinous crimes, including premeditated killings.
They expressed their firm stand in a 90-minute meeting with the Select Committee for Abolition of Death Penalty chaired by former Chief Justice Tan Sri Richard Malanjum on Tuesday.
Representatives for the families of murdered victims. (Seated front row, from right) Sew Kok Wee and Alice Tan (parents of Annie Kok), Ummah’s Mansor Ibrahim (representing murdered children Muhd Hafiz Idris and Nurulhanim Idris), Wong Hie Huong (sister of murdered HSBC Banker Stephen Wong Jing Kui), and Allan Ong Yeow Fooi of NGO Protect Malaysia (representing the families of Kevin Morais and businesswoman Sosilawati Lawiya). Standing at the back is Christina Teng, a lawyer for victims’ families, and Robert Phang.
The families comprised that of the late deputy public prosecutor Datuk Kevin Morias, millionaire Datuk Sosilawati Lawiya, bank manager Stephen Wong Jing Kui, university student Chee Gaik Yap, Annie Kok, one-year-old Muhammad Hafiz Idris and his sister Nurulhanim Idris, 4.
Tan Siew Lin, 57, the mother of Kok, who was 17 years old when she was raped and killed at her house in 2009, wants her killer to hang.
“If he is freed, I will hunt down that person myself,” said Tan, who still cries in the bathroom when she thinks of Kok.
“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.
“I will only have peace when her killer is dead,” she told reporters after the meeting, adding no one could truly understand how the families of murder victims felt until they themselves experienced it.
Tan said she tried handing over a memorandum with 97,000 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 and theft.
The families, in a joint statement said they strongly felt criminals who planned, raped, kidnapped, maliciously and deliberately killed their victims in cold blood deserved to hang.
“We want a life for a life, no less. Take note, the killer(s) took not just one precious life, but also destroyed many others’, including ours.
“We will not accept compensation from the government or killers’ family in order to absolve the criminals from capital punishment. If they have the courage to kill, they must also have the courage to take responsibility for their actions, ie. be hanged. This is our rule of law,” the statement said.
The families added they had seen killers freed more often than hanged.
“The justice system should be getting justice for victims, not to protect criminals.
“We are very sad to see the government working closely with only pro-abolition NGOs to remove the death penalty.
“Some of these NGOs are privately well-funded. Some are even funded by the government. They are equipped with resources to fight for freedom of the criminals. Victims like us have nothing.
“Some of us had to borrow money to bring the cases to civil court,” they said.
The families said they were sad to see that the government seems to be fighting only for the benefit of criminals.
“We feel betrayed and abandoned.”
In removing the mandatory death penalty, they said it would only make “death penalty” be seen on paper, but not in practice.
The family members said they all felt the committee has already made up their mind to abolish the 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, representing the family of 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 Act. We just met them as a formality,” said Alan Ong Yeow Fooi, representing Morais and Sosilawati.
Social Care Foundation Malaysia chairman Tan Sri Robert Phang urged the government not to abolish the mandatory death sentence.
“Don’t ever make Malaysia a paradise for criminals.”
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.