PETALING JAYA: Lawyers have voiced their support for the proposal for the government to conduct a referendum before deciding on abolishing the death penalty, which started a debate among Malaysians in recent months.
Lawyer Christina Teng said a referendum is the only way to find out whether the majority of Malaysians wanted the death penalty to remain in the legislative system.
She added that it is flawed for the government to use the example of Western countries in its argument to do away with the death penalty, as even developed Asian countries such as China, Japan and Singapore chose to maintain capital punishment.
“In Singapore, the government asked the people for their opinion and the majority wanted to keep the death penalty. Not to mention that Singapore has a thriving economy.
“These Asian countries are way ahead of us and we share the same values. As Asians, we believe in punishment. The more serious the crime is, the more serious the punishment will be,” she said.
“We can’t adopt the Western concept on the pretext of human rights. It’s just not justifiable.”
Lawyer and DAP MP Ramkarpal Singh also agreed with the referendum proposal.
“Of course, the people’s view must be taken into account.
“But I think all the necessary stakeholders must come to an agreement on the best way to hold the referendum so that a comprehensive view of the entire public can be collected. This will be challenging,” he noted.
Ramkarpal maintained that he is still advocating the abolishment of the death penalty.
On Tuesday, former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Noor disagreed with the government’s decision to abolish the death penalty, saying that public opinion should have been sought first via a referendum.
He also questioned whether human rights groups who opposed the death penalty conducted a study on the families of crime victims.
Wong Hie Huong, the sister of HSBC branch manager Wong Jing Kui who was stabbed multiple times to death in 2012, spoke out against the government’s decision to do away with the death penalty, saying that everyone must be responsible for their actions.
“My brother was stabbed 23 times when he was sleeping. The worst injury is six inches deep. Try to imagine this, it is very cruel.
“It is also very unfair to us. We cannot accept this (death penalty abolishment) at all. You must understand,” she said.
“Everyone must be accountable for their actions. By abolishing the death penalty, it will encourage people not to be responsible for their actions.”
In 2017, the High Court handed down the death sentence to Ling Hang Tsyr, the wife of Wong, after finding her and her boyfriend Tiong King Guan guilty of abetting Ling Hoe Ing in committing the murder.
Hoe Ing was jailed 16 years but Tiong still remains at large.
Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy agreed that a referendum on the matter is a healthy process.
“But you (authorities) already drive public opinion to your direction, while the argument has always been that the death sentence will reduce crime, which was not supported by any research at all.
“This justification can mislead the public. If you ask the public to make a decision based on your misunderstanding, of course, it’s not going to help,” he said.
Last October, de facto Law Minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong said the Cabinet decided to abolish the death penalty, with a moratorium for those on death row.
The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department announced that the Cabinet has decided the death penalty for 33 offences under eight acts of law would be abolished, including Section 302 of the Penal Code (murder).
A proposed Bill to abolish the death penalty is expected to be tabled at the next Parliament sitting in March.
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