'One death can save the lives of many'
What worries me most now is the seemingly pervasive opinion among Malaysians that only tough measures can deter drug offences, and that the Singapore president must not show compassion on Yong and risk... opening the floodgates. These death penalty advocates are convinced one death can save the lives of many.
It has been nearly three decades since Malaysia first launched its anti-dadah campaign, but the country is confronted with more drug-related social ills today. Dozens, if not hundreds, have been hanged, including foreigners, over the years, and the effectiveness of these deaths is negligible.
Corruption, a cracking education system, uneven economic development, lack of social welfare support, and the appalling and dehumanising institutions such as prisons and rehabilitation centres are the core factors why the anti-dadah campaign has become a futile exercise.
Even in Singapore, drugs continue to flood in. While better managed and under control, the numbers of drug users rose by 600% between 2006 and 2007 according to a Straits Times report in January 2008.
All this brings me to ponder on the question of restorative justice, and I am indebted to a death penalty abolitionist from Taiwan who enlightened me to the practice at a recent forum.
While retributive justice focuses on the offender, with laws and punishment being the core values, restorative justice emphasises on the offender, the victim and the wider community.
In countries like Germany, Australia and New Zealand, mechanisms are already in place to apply restorative justice, encouraging the offender to repent and to seek forgiveness from the victim. In return, the victim and the general public are counselled to forgive and to assist the offender in rehabilitation and reintegration so that he or she may become whole again psychologically.
Not based on vengeance and punishment
This is a justice that reconciles and heals, and is based on the principles of forgiveness, atonement and restitution, rather than vengeance and punishment.
Hannah Arendt, a German political theorist of Jewish origin, said in the aftermath of the Second World War that “the problem of evil will be the fundamental question of postwar intellectual life in Europe. She was right.
Fully aware of their own inertia and failure to prevent the massive killings exacted by the Nazi regime, many European countries went on to introduce laws that would protect future refugees. The death penalty was also abolished in the latter years to minimise miscarriage of justice.
Most importantly, the darkest chapter in the modern European history prompted many to confront self-righteousness, and started to look into ways to ensure the state would safeguard and enhance the interests of even the most insignificant weak minorities in society. Are we surprised that in cities like Munich and Vienna, cases of murders and rapes are rare despite the lack of the death penalty?
One may condemn Yong to one heart's content, but we must be careful not to become so self-righteous, legalistic and overwhelmed by our moral certitudes, and think that the underlying factors that contributed to the misdeeds of people like Thiru Selvam, Rozman and Yong did not matter. Without a holistic approach, both Singapore and Malaysia will only continue to hang the “mules” and let go of the real kingpins.
When meting out punishment, we must bear in mind justice is supposed to be a power that heals, restores and reconciles, rather than just hurts, punishes and kills.
Yong has clearly expressed his remorse, and all that I humbly ask is a chance for him to be spared the ultimate punishment. The Singapore authorities can still keep him in jail and monitor his behaviour for the longest period possible, but I am certain a life-changing process on the part of Yong will touch many more lives, the draconian, degrading and spiritually dark conditions of the prison notwithstanding.
Yong is ready to reconcile with the people of Singapore and his fellow Malaysians, are we willing to show him compassion and restore the broken relationship?
The prison authority in Singapore also says it will not allow the heart sutra written by Yong to see the light of the day even after execution. Why? Is it afraid that these religious writings may awaken more people that an alternative measure to death penalty is possible, as some Singaporeans have been bravely campaigning for?
Unuk keterangan lanjut tentang pementasan dan RSVP sila ke laman facebook ini.
Berikut ialah maklumat lain tentang kempen ke atas Vui Kong: