I was fairly amused to read the letter by BTH, Gombak, to The Star in support of the death penalty in Malaysia.
He opined that:
"Of course in any man-made judgment there is bound to be an innocent victim or two being wrongly charged and hanged as seen in the movie Shawshank Redempton."
It seems that he—I'm assuming that it's a he—spends too much time at the movies. Even if there is a chance that we might make just one mistake, that should be a very good reason for us not to adopt the attitude of the trigger-happy folks. Perhaps the author of that letter would feel differently if he is the one convicted and sentenced for the death penalty for a crime he did not commit.
And he added:
"I would even go further to suggest that acid throwers should be made to taste their own medicine. Once found guilty, the court should get the victim to splash acid on the perpetrator’s face. That is the only effective deterrent, one the perpetrator will remember for a long time and whenever he looks into the mirror."
When one acts from his heart, and not from his brain, we get stupid suggestions like the above. My idea of crime and its punishment should be for the purpose of, first and foremost, in the best interest of the public at large. If a person is liable to become dangerous to others around him, then he deserves imprisonment. And imprisonment is not on grounds of revenge, i.e. an eye for an eye. Rather, he is locked away, same as we would lock a tiger which could be dangerous to the humans around it in a cage. Beyond that, if it is determined that the criminal is beyond help, that there is no hope of rehabilitation, then, in the best interest of the rest of the population, I can live with the death penalty. I think we would be in serious trouble if we heed the suggestion of "splashing acid on the perpetrator's face". I mean, why would we want to bring ourselves down to the level of a psycho?
"Malaysia is fast becoming a land where criminals think they can do anything to anybody at any time of the day. Hardcore criminals just laugh their way to prison. They will never learn to be good citizens as crime brings them wealth, the good things in life as well as give them an ego boost."
I will admit that we have quite mind-blowing crimes in Malaysia these days, but I'm not too sure that these hardcore criminals are really laughing their way to the prison.
In a recent conversation I had with a friend, the topic of the death penalty came up. In particular, we were discussing about the young lad, Yong Vui Kong, who's apparently living his final days in a Singapore prison. For he was found guilty of drug trafficking and now sentenced to the death penalty. I'm neither for nor against the death penalty, but I am reluctant to sign the petition to free the young lad, who happens to be a fellow Sabahan.
As a side issue, I have been asked to sign (or vote online) before on numerous occasions. For example, I was asked to vote for Sipadan; and I think someone's daughter who was in a beauty contest or something like that. I thought to myself, how was I supposed to vote truthfully if I haven't even been to Sipadan; and I have never seen how that someone's daughter look like?
So likewise, how am I supposed to petition to free a criminal when I don't really know the fellow? I know our papers had a lot of good—and sad—things to say about him, but that is quite natural if you're trying to garner support for your cause. What if it is because of my single vote that this lad is freed, and then later on commits another crime which would cost someone's life? How am I ever gonna forgive myself for that?
But on the other hand, I can't help but wonder if all avenues have been exhausted to rehabilitate Yong. If there is still hope, then perhaps he deserves that chance?
What I'm trying to say is that I can live with the death penalty in our legal system. But that punishment must be reserved for the worst of the worst of the criminals, whom have no more chance of rehabilitation to become productive members of our society. It is in this sense that I'm not sure if Yong truly deserves the death penalty—whether he is beyond rehabilitation, especially when the mastermind(s) behind the scene is(are) still free today.
We ask ourselves if this is justice. The rich and powerful are free, and the poor and small fries become the scapegoats to take the fall. Is there no chance whatsoever to rehabilitate them? Or is this all about showing the might of a government which is bent on picking on the most convenient candidate to proof a point? Maybe I would feel differently if the mastermind(s) behind the scene have also been caught and given the death penalty.
Of all the hardcore criminals, ranging from child rapists to murderers who are bigger threats to the society, is it fair to terminate the life of a drug mule who committed the crime when he was just a teenager? As I said, I can live with the death penalty, but it must be reserved for the worst of the hardcore criminals whom we're satisfied beyond hope for rehabilitation. I really hope for our sake, that Yong is indeed beyond hope for rehabilitation.