The Malaysian Bar is extremely troubled over the reports of the imminent carrying out of the death sentence upon Gunasegar s/o Pitchaymuthu, J Ramesh s/o Jayakumar, and Sasivarnam s/o Jayakumar.
Their next-of-kin have been informed to schedule their final visit with them today, and to discuss the arrangements for burial. The executions could be carried out as early as tomorrow, possibly at Taiping Prison. This appears to be consistent with the practice of executing death row inmates early on a Friday morning.
All three of these death row prisoners were convicted under section 302, read with section 34, of the Penal Code, and their convictions were upheld by the Federal Court on 19 February 2014. At the time of writing, we have no information as to whether applications for pardon were made for them or on their behalf.
Since 2010, the Malaysian government has announced its willingness to review the mandatory death penalty, with a view to its possible abolition or the reintroduction of a discretionary death penalty.
More recently, in 2015, both the minister in the prime minister’s department in charge of law and the attorney general have spoken of the government’s intention to introduce legislation in Parliament to cease the use of the mandatory death penalty.
While this laudable initiative appears to have been in the context of the mandatory death sentence for those convicted of drug-related offences, the Malaysian Bar is of the view that the death penalty should be abolished irrespective of the crime that may have been committed.
The decision on the punishment for offences should be left to the discretion of the judiciary. The death penalty has no place in a society that values human life, justice and mercy. Persons sentenced with the mandatory death penalty should be resentenced to imprisonment.
In light of the impending review of the mandatory death penalty, the government should, in the interest of justice, declare and implement an immediate official moratorium on any and all executions. All death sentences should be stayed pending the results of the review. It is unfair and unjust to carry out the death sentence when there is currently a possibility of reform which, if put into effect, should apply retrospectively.
The Malaysian Bar therefore calls on the Malaysian government to immediately halt the impending execution of Gunasegar s/o Pitchaymuthu, J Ramesh s/o Jayakumar, and Sasivarnam s/o Jayakumar.
Steven Thiru is president of the Malaysian Bar.
24 March 2016