People must be given an opportunity to a second chance – to reform, realise, change, says K Haridas.
Aliran supports the cause for the abolition of the death penalty.
We have carried articles in Aliran Monthly and now Aliran online in this regard. As a social justice movement, homegrown and four decades old, we feel that the right to life is a sacred right and that Life itself represents the highest value.
It is interesting to note that most people are executed in the Asia Pacific region when the number of executions worldwide is declining. Also that 95 per cent of the world’s population live in countries that retain the use of the death penalty.
It is also noted that failures of justice in trials that end in a death sentence cannot be reversed. Unfair trials are known, and the majority of the victims are those from the poor and marginalised sectors of society.
We must continue lobbying for Malaysia to join the list of progressive-minded nations that are part of the abolitionist countries that today numbers about 140 nations. It is initiatives such as this that will give momentum to the cause, and Aliran is grateful to be part of this endeavour.
Aliran also believes in the principle of ‘a second chance’. People must be given an opportunity to reform, realise, change. If we believe in these possibilities, then we will create institutions, structures and processes that help those indicted to move forward.
Being just punitive is not enough. Respecting life as valuable calls for more indepth programmes, plans and processes. Many things drive people to be caught within the web of offences that carry a death penalty.
Are there narratives from those countries that have abolished the death penalty that could provide lessons for all? How many have been paroled? Has there been change, reformation and realisation? How has this been a better option than the death penalty? These are important considerations.
Poverty, hatred, revenge and retaliation are but examples. Violence and rage of the moment, a sense of insanity may drive one but on saner reflection many realise their error of judgement.
Greed–drugs– poverty, drug mules – they are often part of a syndicate, and many are lured into activities that they later deeply regret. The drug kingpins get off while those caught unwittingly pay a huge price. The younger the victim, the more disproportionate is the death sentence. Maturity brings with it greater realisation, but the death sentence extinguishes such possibilities.
Many agree that the death penalty is not a deterrent. Despite the death penalty, violence continues and crime that attracts this sentence flourishes. The onus is on governments, NGOs, educational institutions and leaders to help inspire a more progressive mindset.
The ‘truth and reconciliation’ committees that were set up in Northern Ireland and South Africa have seen meetings between victims and perpetrators years after these incidents. People break down, seek forgiveness and move towards reconciliation. We must believe in this sense of hope.
Taking life itself has its consequences. Post-war traumatic syndrome that afflicts many who return from war-torn areas indicates this clearly. Something breaks within an individual when he or she takes the life of another.
We must help everyone to move to seek change and forgiveness. The state cannot continue to justify rationalise and demean life by executing the death sentence.
The above address was delivered at the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network conference at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on 21-22 July 2017.