Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) is shocked to hear that Malaysia may be executing 34-year-old Gunasegar Pitchaymuthu, possibly on Good Friday (March 25, 2016).
In a letter from the from the Taiping Prison’s Department, received by the family on Wednesday, it was stated that that they should visit him for the last time as he would be executed “soon”.
The family was also advised to discuss arrangements to claim Gunasegar’s body for his funeral. ( The Star , March 24, 2016).
The letter provided no date or time for execution, but it was reported that executions in Malaysia usually happen on Friday morning.
Malaysia is in the process of considering the abolition of the death penalty, starting possibly with the abolition of the mandatory death penalty.
Nancy Shukri, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and also the de facto Law Minister, was reported stating that the proposal to amend laws to abolish the mandatory death sentence may be tabled in Parliament as early as March this year. ( Malay Mail , Nov 17, 2015).
Attorney-general Apandi Ali also did commit to propose to the Cabinet that the mandatory death penalty be scrapped ( The Malaysian Insider , Nov 13, 2015).
Apandi, who is also the public prosecutor, said that ‘…mandatory death sentences were a ‘paradox’, as it robbed judges of their discretion to impose sentences on convicted criminals….’
“If I had my way, I would introduce the option for the judge in cases where it involves capital punishment. Give the option to the judge either to hang him or send him to prison.
“Then we’re working towards a good administration of criminal justice,” Apandi had said.
Victim of mandatory death penalty
As such, Malaysia should not be executing anyone at this time, especially persons who are victims of the mandatory death penalty.
Gunasegar was convicted of murder, and that carries the mandatory death penalty. He was on death row for his role in the murder of B Venukumar on April 4, 2005, which means that he was merely 23 years old when the alleged crime was committed.
It must be noted that ‘…In court documents sighted by The Star , Gunasegar was charged, together with J Ramesh and J Sasivarnam, with murdering Venukumar at a playground in Taman Ria Raya, Sungai Petani, Kedah.
Though the trio claimed during the trial that they had been attacked by a group, which included Venukumar and only defended themselves, the High Court found them guilty in 2011...’ ( The Star , March 24, 2016).
It must be noted that even if one is represented by a lawyer, lawyer errors at the court of first instance can lead to injustice being done, and the possibility that an innocent man be sent to his death. If evidence was not challenged, or not adduced at the court of first instance, it is extremely difficult to introduce relevant evidence later at the appellate stage.
We recall also the case where an innocent man was wrongly executed, whereby in January 2011, Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice admitted that Chiang Kuo-ching, a private in the Air Force, had been executed in error in 1997 for a murder committed 15 years previously.
We recall the words of former Court of Appeal Judge KC Vohrah who said, “The law is the law but I wish Parliament would abolish the death sentence because if a mistake is made, it would be irreversible. There are other ways of dealing with heinous crimes.”
Madpet urges the Sultan of Kedah and/or Sultan of Perak, to intervene and stop this hanging, as was done by Sultan of Johor in 2014 who saved Chandran s/o Paskaran from being hanged. The crime was committed in Kedah, whilst Gunasegar is being imprisoned in Perak, and in all likelihood, execution will be carried out also in Perak.
Madpet also urges Nancy Shukri, the de facto law minister, and the attorney-general, to act and obtain a stay of execution as they did before, in the case of Osariakhi Ernest Obayangbon (aka Philip Michael) in 2014.
On Dec 18, 2014, the UN general assembly reaffirmed for the fifth time since 2007 the urging for a stop to all executions.
In 2014, 117 nation-states voted in favour, 38 against, 34 abstained, with four absentees. Every time the said resolution had been adopted, the number of votes in favour has been increasing. The global trend continues to be for abolition.
The urging for the abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia has been made by many individuals, bodies and civil society organisations, including Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), Malaysian Bar, and Madpet.
Madpet prays the planned execution of Gunasegar Pitchaymuthu be stopped and that his sentence be commuted.
Madpet also urges a moratorium on all executions pending abolition, and also for the commutation of sentence of all persons on death row, whereby in October 2015, the number on death row as disclosed was about 1,022.
Madpet also urges Malaysia to abolish the death penalty.
CHARLES HECTOR is coordinator for Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet).