Aussie envoy: Death penalty makes it hard to help Malaysia

(From left) Asia Pacific Forum Project on Death Penalty adviser Mah Weng Kwai and Batu Kawan MP Kasthuriaani Patto with Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia Andrew Lech Goledzinowski at the Suhakam conference.

KUALA LUMPUR: Australian High Commissioner to Malaysia Andrew Lech Goledzinowski has reminded the Malaysian government that his country is against the death penalty and would not be able to help the Malaysian police in cases which would result in the capital punishment.

He said even if Australia had evidence that could help the Malaysian police bring about a conviction in a serious crime, it could not provide that assistance if it might lead to the application of the death penalty.

“I raise this issue here because I’ve mentioned this to your political leaders.

“We have very strong cooperation with Malaysia’s law enforcement authorities.

“But as soon as the death penalty becomes a possible outcome in a particular case, our cooperation stops,” he said at Suhakam’s National Conference on Death Penalty here today.

Recently, Australia had refused to extradite former policeman Sirul Azhar Umar, who was convicted of killing Mongolian interpreter Altantuya Shaariibuu.

In 2015, the Federal Court had upheld the death sentence on Sirul and his partner, Azilah Hadri.

Sirul had fled to Australia by then and had since been detained at a Sydney immigration centre.

Under Australian laws, he cannot be deported to Malaysia if he has to face the death sentence.

Sirul has requested for a pardon, offering to reveal “additional information” that could assist in the murder case.

Goledzinowski said there were other “very important countries” which were even stricter in this matter and would also not cooperate with Malaysia on any matter due to the death penalty.

“Increasingly, Malaysia will become isolated within the community of law enforcement when cooperation is needed because of the death penalty,” he said.

Goledzinowski said he had raised this matter with some of the country’s new leaders, including Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, in recent weeks. He will also raise it with Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin next week.

The ambassador said he also raised this matter with PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, who acknowledged it was important for Malaysia to make some significant changes.

Goledzinowski paid tribute to civil societies which had been battling the death penalty for so long.

“In 1990, Australia signed the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“We’ve worked with a lot of countries towards the abolition of the death penalty. We understand this is a politically sensitive issue, and it’s an issue where strong views are held by many sides, and all views have to be respected.

“So, we’ve worked with countries to determine how the application of the death penalty can be limited and how mandatory sentencing can be removed to allow more discretion by judges.”

Goledzinowski said there was no evidence that the death sentence has had a deterrent effect on crime.

“It robs people of the opportunity for redemption and rehabilitation. We are humans and we make mistakes.”

He cited the example of a US state which suspended the death penalty two years ago when the number of people on death row being released due to errors in their convictions exceeded the number executed.

The envoy said the death penalty is in the Pakatan Harapan manifesto, together with the ratification of human rights conventions, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

“I think this really is the dawning of a new era of human rights in Southeast Asia. I think Malaysia has a role there as a leader.”