Hold public referendum before abolishing death penalty, says group

Representatives for the families of murdered victims. (Seated front row, from left) Sew Kok Wee and Alice Tan (parents of Annie Kok), Ummah’s Mansor Ibrahim (representing murdered children Muhd Hafiz Idris and Nurulhanim Idris), Wong Hie Huong (sister of murdered HSBC Banker Stephen Wong Jing Kui), and Allan Ong Yeow Fooi of NGO Protect Malaysia (representing the families of Kevin Morais and businesswoman Sosilawati Lawiya). Standing at the back is Christina Teng, a  lawyer for victims’ families, and Robert Phang.

PUTRAJAYA: A group representing families of murdered victims, including the family of fireman Muhammad Adib Muhammad Kassim and lawyer Kevin Morais, is pushing for a public referendum before the government abolishes the mandatory death penalty.

Robert Phang, from Social Care Foundation Malaysia, said the government should not make Malaysia “a paradise for criminals”.

He said the abolition of the mandatory death penalty for premeditated and heinous killings would encourage rogues from other countries to come to Malaysia to freely commit crimes here.

He was speaking at a press conference with the family members and representatives of several murdered victims after a meeting with the Special Committee on the Study of the Alternative Sentence to the Mandatory Death Sentence chaired by former chief justice Richard Malanjum.

Lawyer Christina Teng, who led the group today, said the mandatory death penalty should be maintained for heinous crimes such as murder and premeditated killings.

She said the current government seemed to be protecting the interests of criminals more than their victims.

Teng said the move would be “cheapening the lives of Malaysians and the victims”.

She said the victims’ families would get no closure or peace if the killers escaped the death penalty.

“We have seen killers going free more often than being hanged. The justice system should be getting justice for victims but it seems to protect criminals.”

She added that there seemed to be leniency or weakness in the judiciary system.

“They cannot scrap laws without making improvements to the judiciary system.

“What happens if someone who is guilty gets released?”

Teng said if the mandatory death sentence was abolished, judges might not sentence a criminal to death, as they would often opt for the lesser sentence. “It (the discretionary death penalty) would only be a death penalty on paper, not in practice.”

“We have seen killers charged with murder under Section 302 yet judges sentence them under a lesser charge under Section 304 (for culpable homicide and accidental killing).”

Teng also pointed to weaknesses in the enforcement and prison system, warning that the killers or rapists might commit the crimes again after getting released.

She said the meeting with the committee today was mere “lip service” and that the government had already made its decision.

“We appeal to them to do research properly. The death penalty is a good deterrent against crime.”

The victims’ families said they could not accept the abolition of the mandatory death penalty or any compensation from the government for the murders of their family members.

Among them was Alice Tan, mother of Annie Kok Yin Cheng, one of the victims of the infamous Rambo Bentong serial killer.

Tan said she would never have peace until her daughter’s killer has been hanged.

“I will only feel peace once the killer has been hanged. If he is not hanged I will kill him myself,” she said.

Rambo Bentong, or Rabidin Satir, 42, was charged in 2013 with murdering and raping Annie, 17 at the time, in March 2009.

He is currently serving a 133-year jail sentence.

Previously, de facto law minister Liew Vui Keong said the government was waiting for a report on the recommended alternatives to the death sentence from the special committee, which he was expecting to receive by January.

It was reported that the review would include the mandatory death penalty for 11 serious offences under the Penal Code, including murder, and the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act.