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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Death penalty: The value of life

Why is it that when a man kills another, we call it murder, but when society kills a man, we call it justice?
COMMENT
Death-penalty_600_1In a few hours, a group of eight individuals will be taken from their cells to a jungle clearing on Nusakambangan Island in Indonesia. Dressed in white and blindfolded, their hands will be tied to a pole. As they are lined up, twelve members of a firing squad will pull the trigger. Only one among them will carry live rounds so no one will know who fired the fatal shots.
Later tonight, there will be young boys who are orphaned; mothers who’ve lost their babies, sisters without their brothers, wives widowed.
This world will lose a few inhabitants.
As their dead bodies are dragged away to be laid into coffins with white satin linings, the firing squad will head back home for the night; the authorities back at the prison centre will get busy clearing now empty cells for someone new; the members of court who sentenced the eight to death will snore in their beds; and the whole world will continue living our lives.
Yes, the chapter on the Bali Nine heroin-trafficking gang, two of who were among the eight executed, will end tonight.
While their case drew huge attention worldwide, it reminded me of our fellow Malaysian brothers and sisters who are on death row now, waiting for their execution, right here in our homeland.
It is my belief that every human being born into this world is equal to the other. No man is born a criminal. It is the life they lived and the society around them that shaped them into the individual they became.
Yet, when one choses the wrong path, we are fast to judge. Who cares if he is a young man? Who cares if he is someone’s child? Who cares? After all, as long as a convict is no relation of ours, we will gladly wash our hands off them.
We have all grown up with a set of rules since childhood. ‘Don’t touch this’. ‘Stop doing that’. ‘Never open this’. And when those rules are broken, punishment ensues. Whether a slap on the face or beatings on the bum, these punishments help us tell wrong from right. Our red cheeks and sore bums remind us never to repeat the same mistake again. It makes us share our experiences with our close ones so they too can learn from our mistakes.
In simple terms, punishments serve three purposes: (1) it makes us repent, (2) it reminds us never to repeat a forbidden act, and (3) it acts as a warning to others.
Clearly (1) and (2) cannot be achieved by capital punishment, which leaves us with (3). In short, capital punishment is our way of warning others never to commit similar acts.
Tell me – does it make sense to kill defenceless people on death row in order to prove that it is morally wrong to hurt other defenceless people?
How can it ever be morally justified to deprive a human being of life?
Instead of mourning a tragedy and finding ways to improve the flaws in our society, we choose to satisfy our bloodlust by killing the offender. Sadly, by punishing the offender, we become one of them.
While I agree that no punishment could ever be equal to the terrible effects of the crimes committed by these offenders against innocent people and their families, there is no point in trying to hurt them in return.
Killing a man is wrong at every level. Death is not for a man to decide.
“When a man kills another man, we call it murder. When society kills a man, we call it justice.”
Come on good people of Malaysia, I plead with you. Please take a moment to think about this. Join me in sending a message to our authorities to reconsider capital punishment in Malaysia.
Remember, you do not have to be among the firing squad to feel guilty. You don’t have to be a hangman who suspends the noose to feel guilty. You do not have to be a member of the court to feel guilty. If you support the death penalty, you ARE guilty.
Do you want blood on your hands?

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