02 September 2010
CCM Youth refers to the Sunday Star special focus feature on the death penalty and the Sunday Star report entitled “Abolish death penalty, it’s incorrect to take someone’s life, says Nazri”, both articles dated 29 August 20101.
We take this opportunity to openly thank our Malaysian Government, in particular, our Law Minister and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz for his frank and open call to abolish the death penalty, as well as our Foreign Minister Dato’ Sri Anifah Hj Aman, in appealing to the Singapore Government for the clemency of fellow Malaysian, Yong Vui Kong against his death penalty conviction for drug trafficking.
We bring to the public’s attention a similar case of Umi Azlim Mohamad Lazim in 2009 who was also sentenced to the death penalty in China for a similar offence. In this case, the Chinese Government subsequently reconvened on the death penalty after having taken into consideration the full background of the case, the circumstances and clemency appeals by our Government. Consequently, the Chinese government commuted her death sentence to life imprisonment in March 2010. We also noted that the Chinese government is the latest country looking into reforming their criminal laws with the view to abolishing death penalties for non-violent related crimes, following a worldwide trend to abolish the death penalty.
We extend our full support on all the points raised by many distinguished parties, such as former High Court and Court of Appeal judge Datuk K.C. Vohrah, Suhakam Chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam, and Bar Council vice-president Lim Chee Wee, among others, which has further strengthened the call to abolish the death penalty by Datuk Seri Nazri2.
In line with this, CCM Youth is appealing to our Government to heed to strong public opinion, and exercise its political will to implement the following constructive steps which are outlined below for consideration:-
1. Announce a Moratorium on the Death Penalty
We urge our Government to duly comply with the Resolution adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on 18 December 2007 calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty and eventual abolishment of such penalty. In reference to this Resolution, we appeal to our Government put into motion a thorough review of the criminal laws pertaining to capital punishment through our Malaysian Law Reform Committee, with the view to “progressively restrict the use of the death penalty and reduce the number of offences for which it may be imposed”.
2. Remove the Mandatory Death Penalty
Following the above, we seek the Government to begin with the cessation of capital punishment as a mandatory sentence, avoiding it as far as possible. We ask that judges be provided with full discretionary authority to look into all aspects of each individual case to ensure that justice is fully served, allowing for the commuting of the death penalty for non violent cases to life imprisonment as a start. We seek for such removal to begin with the current death row inmates for non violent cases to be commuted to life imprisonment with immediate effect.
3. Abolish the Death Penalty from the Judiciary System
We believe that Malaysians of all religions hold on to the sanctity of human life as divinely given by God. As Christians, we also share this same belief that it is God who gives life to human beings (Genesis 1:26-28; Genesis 2:18-23) and it is also He who prohibits human beings from taking another’s life (Genesis 9:6).
We fully agree that the offender is to be held accountable for his or her actions and he or she must accept responsibility for the pain caused. As in the case of David (2 Samuel 12:10-12) and Paul (Acts 9:15-16 c.f. 2 Corinthians 11:30), the requirements of restitution are not abrogated.
There is also the essential requirement for the victim’s loved ones to have their anguish and loss acknowledged, their anger affirmed, and their questions answered to help them deal with what has happened and to allow healing and restoration to happen.3
Retributive justice has its limitations. It has been well documented that bitter, hateful revenge, by contrast, has no real therapeutic value in the treatment of grief, nor does it promote social well-being in the long run.4 Furthermore, we cannot ignore that society too has its share in the social maladies that spawn the crime.5 Neither can we ignore the possibility that capital punishment to-date is still subjected to painful prejudicial discrimination by race, economic class, and gender.6 These are surely harsh realities that appear inconsistent with the Biblical teachings of Jesus in Luke 4:18-19.
Contrary to popular views, the cost of implementing capital punishment is actually no less compared to lifelong incarceration7 but the impact would be far reaching if the money were instead channelled to developing victim-support plans or crime-prevention policies.8
Also we are already all aware of arguments from articles and studies showing that capital punishment works poorly as a deterrent to serious crime9, neither does it protect the innocent10 and demands of justice11 are arguably not met entirely as well.
Undeniably, as Datuk Seri Nazri articulated, the frequency in miscarriage of justice in carrying out capital punishment is extremely troubling because, unlike all other judicial mistakes, it is irrevocable.12 It should never be forgotten that to carry out an execution, it requires deliberate, carefully planned, and premeditated killing of another human being, so much so that those who have had to supervise or carry out these executions often speak of its devastating impact on them.13 This continues to prove that it is against human nature to take lives and God’s prohibition to do so.
In conclusion, CCM Youth reiterates our call for the Government to table this matter urgently as a show of consistent and united action following our country’s appeal to fellow ASEAN counterpart, Singapore, who shares the same capital punishment laws as ours.
We need to urgently set into motion plans to protect the basic human rights of all people made in the image of God and set an example to regional ASEAN leaders in this same call to abolish the death penalty. By doing so, we believe that Malaysia will lead as a moral and compassionate society, promoting peace and justice through reconciliation and rehabilitation rather than retribution.
SOURCE: COUNCIL OF CHURCHES OF MALAYSIA YOUTH
1. YB Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz, Law Minister
2. YB Datuk Liew Vui Keong, Chairman of Malaysian Law Reform Committee
3. YB Dato’ Sri Anifah Hj Aman, Foreign Minister
4. Singapore High Commission
- The Star, Focus Section, Sunday 29 August 2010, Pages F23 – 24
- The Star, Nation Section, Sunday 29 August 2010, Page N2
- Christopher D Marshall, Beyond Retribution: a New Testament vision for justice, crime, and punishment, (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2001), 246. See also Glen Harold Stassen, David P. Gushee, Kingdom Ethics’: following Jesus in contemporary context,(Downers Grove, lll.:InterVarsity, 2003)194-196 where the authors share on the power of the Gospel to heal in a real life case of homicide.
- Marshall, Beyond Retribution,246
- Marshall, Beyond Retribution,247 quotes the 1965 General Synod of the Reformed Church in America “ a society which teaches vice through permitting pornography, glorifies crime and violence through the entertainment industry, permits sub-standard schooling and housing through segregation has a share in the making of the offender…Capital punishment is too cheap and easy a way of absolving the guilty conscience of mankind.”
- Marshall, Beyond Retribution,247-248
- I. Gray and M. Stanley, A Punishment in Search of a Crime: Americans Speak Out against the Death Penalty(for Amnesty International USA),(New York: Avon books, 1989), 43 quoted in Marshall, Beyond Retribution,249. In a 1989 report, it was estimated that each execution costs Ohio RM3.12million, Florida RM9.67million, and Texas RM18.72million.
- Marshall, Beyond Retribution,249. We would push the point further by saying rather than spending all the money, time and effort in seeking retributive justice and, in the process, think of humane ways to take someone’s life, the State is better off directing its energy and resources into addressing the social maladies that gave rise to the committed crime. State should also look into the rehabilitation of the offender and his restoration to society.
- Marshall, Beyond Retribution,243-246. See also Stassen and Gushee, Kingdom Ethics, 196-197 where the authors argues from 4 sets of data that far from acting as a deterrent, capital punishment actually has an imitative effect on society resulting in the cheapening of the value of human life and an increase in murder rates.
- Marshall, Beyond Retribution,248-252
- Marshall, Beyond Retribution,246-248
- According to Marshall, Beyond Retribution,250, to execute someone is to claim a God-like authority over human life without the requisite God-like wisdom. Contra Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave new world, 145-146 who proposes more stringent regulation governing convictions in capital cases as the remedy for errors in conviction. Feinberg seems to have missed the point entirely! It is not about regulations not being stringent enough. Rather it is about the poor execution of the law as a result of our fallen humanity and limited wisdom. Let us also not forget that it was Satan who deceived Adam and Eve to desire God-like wisdom and caused the fall of humanity from glory (Gen 3:1-7)! By extension, carrying out capital punishment would then be compounding the contemptuous sin of coveting God-like wisdom upon the arrogant sin of disregard for the sanctity of human life! The discussion of data on mistaken convictions in the United States, see Stassen and Gushee, Kingdom Ethics,211-212 may provide a indication of what could be possibly happening in this side of the world as well.
- Marshall, Beyond Retribution,251-2 has an excellent discussion on the idea of humane executions being a fantasy, current practices, circumstances of botches and also quotes from prison chaplains on how supervising and carrying out executions affected them. His discussion is balanced with the acknowledgement that such stories could be countered by equally gruesome stories of the suffering mercilessly inflicted by murderers on their victims before concluding that callousness of the crime is in no way altered by the callousness of execution; there is simply an increase in callousness that society suffers. This stands against Biblical counsel to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21; cf 1 Thessalonians 5:15 and 1 Peter 3:9)