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'Don't block death penalty abolition' – NGO tells opposition MPs and senators

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The Malaysian Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) has called on the opposition and BN-controlled Dewan Negara to support Putrajaya's plan to abolish the death penalty.

Madpet spokesperson Charles Hector said the cabinet decision to abolish the death penalty yesterday was good news for some 1,267 people facing death row.

"Madpet hopes the MPs and senators from the opposition parties will fully support the just move to abolish the death penalty," he said in a statement today.

Hector added that Madpet hoped Putrajaya will follow through with its decision, pointing out that the previous BN government had also made similar indications which never materialised.

The BN-controlled Dewan Negara had previously blocked the abolition of the Anti-Fake News Act 2018 after the Dewan Rakyat approved its repeal.

Meanwhile, National Human Rights Society (Hakam) president Gurdial Singh Nijar said the decision was "historic" and a fulfilment of Pakatan Harapan government's manifesto.

"A death penalty is irreversible. There have been cases where the wrong people have been sentenced to death for a variety of reasons – including poor quality of defence. Thus, innocent lives are put at risk.

"Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in the US in 1976, 138 innocent men and women have been released from death row, including some who came within minutes of execution. No such research has been conducted in Malaysia," he said in a separate statement.

Gurdial acknowledged that the families of murder victims suffer a great sense of loss and are traumatised but stressed that the execution of another does not help them heal nor does it end their pain.

"Perhaps there are other ways the state can help such families, especially those of murder victims – such as the provision of funds now being used for the costly process of executions," he said.

Meanwhile, Lawyers for Liberty advisor N Surendran lauded Putrajaya's decision as "remarkable".

However, he added that the government should also fight for Malaysian citizens facing the death sentence abroad.

"At this moment, let us also not forget the many hundreds of Malaysians who are languishing on death row in foreign countries, particularly for being drug mules.

"A large number of Malaysians are awaiting execution just across the causeway in Singapore, mainly for drug offences," he said in a statement.

One such example, Surendran said, was the execution of S Prabagaran (photo) in Singapore last year.

"The BN government did nothing to save him... I, myself, as his lawyer was in communication with then deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who personally assured me that he would help save Prabagaran.

"But in the end, Zahid was no help at all. Neither he nor the BN government said or did anything serious to stop the execution.

"We call upon the government to vigorously speak up for our citizens facing death in distant shores. Having rejected the death penalty in this country, we now have the moral authority to fight for the lives of our citizens abroad," he said.

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