Articles, Opinions & Views: Death penalty - who is up for a killing? - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy

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“When you're left wounded on

Afganistan's plains and

the women come out to cut up what remains,

Just roll to your rifle

and blow out your brains,

And go to your God like a soldier”

“We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.”

“It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”

“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.

“The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace,

for he must suffer and be the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

“May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't .”
“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.

“Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.

“Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man."
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather we should thank God that such men lived.

The Soldier stood and faced God

Which must always come to pass

He hoped his shoes were shining

Just as bright as his brass

"Step forward you Soldier,

How shall I deal with you?

Have you always turned the other cheek?

To My Church have you been true?"

"No, Lord, I guess I ain't

Because those of us who carry guns

Can't always be a saint."

I've had to work on Sundays

And at times my talk was tough,

And sometimes I've been violent,

Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny

That wasn't mine to keep.

Though I worked a lot of overtime

When the bills got just too steep,

The Soldier squared his shoulders and said

And I never passed a cry for help

Though at times I shook with fear,

And sometimes, God forgive me,

I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place

Among the people here.

They never wanted me around

Except to calm their fears.

If you've a place for me here,

Lord, It needn't be so grand,

I never expected or had too much,

But if you don't, I'll understand."

There was silence all around the throne

Where the saints had often trod

As the Soldier waited quietly,

For the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, you Soldier,

You've borne your burden well.

Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,

You've done your time in Hell."

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Death penalty - who is up for a killing? - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Wednesday, November 14, 2018
Malaysiakini : “But secondly you say ‘society must exact vengeance, and society must punish’. Wrong on both counts. Vengeance comes from the individual and punishment from God.” ― Victor Hugo, ‘The Last Day of a Condemned Man’
COMMENT | I have never had a problem with the idea of killing but I am one of those people who is against the death penalty. When Pakatan Harapan promised to abolish the death penalty, I was all for it. I still am. With the cabinet decision of abolishing the death penalty for 32 offences including murder, the Harapan government is on its way of removing the death penalty from our judicial system.
The recent case of a toddler who died because of a sexual assault, however, has brought forth the revenge fantasies of those who are for the death penalty and, of course, political operatives who are ever ready to pander to angry mobs. The horrific death of an infant offers the opportunity for some to put forward the idea that the death penalty be retained for certain cases. This is morally and intellectually reprehensible but predictable.
Does everyone who kills an infant deserve death? Would it matter if that person were mentally ill or in drug-induced fugue? What of people who intentionally kill babies? I once had an interesting conversation with a police officer. She was part of a team attempting to find a young teen who had thrown her new-born baby into a storm drain. The baby’s body was smashed to a bloody pulp when it hit the pavement. I do not know why but what I kept imagining was the baby gurgling with laughter or wailing in frustration as the infant dropped to the pavement.
Does this girl deserve the death penalty, I asked this middle-aged Muslim police officer. “Unlike many in my religion who believe otherwise, I know only God can punish with death, Thaya” and added, “but I hope this young girl feels so guilty that she kills herself before we find her.”
I thought that was an honest reply, especially in the context of divine punishment as the only form of “justice” in the Victor Hugo (photo) quote that opens this piece. One sin leads to another and some sort of divine justice is achieved. Or so the godly think. Do you have a problem with killing a child because he or she killed an infant?
Do it yourself
Any discussion of the death penalty devolves into an emotional argument which I find hypocritical.  Self-righteousness is always easy. Some people when arguing about the death penalty attempt rhetorical challenges like, “imagine if your family member was raped or killed, would you not want the death penalty then?” or some variant of this line of argumentation. This is silly for two reasons.
The first is what about those people who have lost loved one through violence but who are against the death penalty? Is it so hard to believe that people could possibly not want the state to execute people on their behalf? Is it so hard to believe that for some the bereavement process does not include or end with the death of the perpetrator? This is not only a failure of imagination but also ignorance of the nuance of death penalty debates. Don't the voices of compassion carry as much weight as those of retribution?
Yes, you will never really know how you will react until it happens to you. You may want to kill the person who did this your loved one or you may see no reason or comfort in the vengeance by proxy of the state. And this is where the first component of Hugo’s quote about individual vengeance comes into play. An honest hypothetical when it comes to the death penalty is this. If someone you knew wanted to kill the perpetrator of a heinous crime visited on his or her family, what would you say if there was no death penalty? Would you say let the law handle it instead of your friend committing a crime?
Or would your friend’s grief outweigh the consequences by the state, especially if the state does not have the death penalty and you really did believe that some people deserved death? I know what I would say. As I said, I never had a problem with the idea of killing.
You can’t imagine how it feels when someone you loved is violently taken for you. You cannot understand the desire for vengeance. Some people want the perpetrator to die and want the state to kill them. Some people have no such interest and believe that the state cannot make such decisions. If it sounds as if I am saying that immediate family members should be able to kill the perpetrators of violent crimes, then this is exactly what I am saying.
I loved to see the day when a political operative says that we do not have the death penalty but when it comes to crimes like murder and rape, then the exception is that the family members themselves can kill the perpetrators to avenge their loved ones but the state will not do it for them. Wouldn’t that be something?
Which crime deserves death?
I suppose there are statistics for and against the efficacy of the death penalty but do those statistics matter when it comes to the grief and vengeance that we are told is paramount by people who advocate the death penalty. While I do not have an issue with individual vengeance, I do have a problem with the state dealing in death. I do have a problem with how the state defines crimes that necessitate the death penalty. I do have a problem with the legal process which differentiates between classes of people and the consequences of the crimes they commit. When it comes to different types of crimes, the idea that some crimes are deserving of death is always debatable. This is the most important reason why the state should not have the power to kill people.
I think rape is probably the most heinous crime a person could commit. Nearly every survivor I have spoken to says the crime has changed them. Each of them in their own way has articulated the same theme, which is the constant struggle to connect to normalcy, the struggle to connect with other people. In worse cases, they are estranged from the rest of humanity. Think about how rape is viewed in patriarchy, which is why there will never be a death penalty for such cases unless the victim dies, even though surviving rape often seems like living with a death sentence.
Drug offences? Most people who are hung for this offence are so low down the criminal food chain, their effects on society are minimal at best. The real drug entrepreneurs are living in luxury. Most of them are politically connected. Most of them laundering their money through institutions that good god-fearing people use.
When not busy corrupting the state security apparatus, they are corrupting the political process. Does the death penalty really seem appropriate for those people who are so low down the food chain while the real masterminds are probably propping up the banking institutions and the economy of the country?
China shoots people for corruption. If there should be an exception to the death penalty, is this it? Or maybe not. Maybe hard labour the length of which is determined by the amount stolen. When it comes to the death penalty, the state is not an honest actor. How could it be? The legal process is flawed, weighted to specific racial and class biases – my personal favourite is that retired judge who said that Muslims are more trustworthy than non-Muslims - there is enough evidence to support this.
The system defines crimes worthy of the death penalty is flawed and open to debate, which makes it a tragedy that the state has the power of life and death over its citizens. The security apparatus is corrupt and open to interference. Our penal system is a breeding ground for criminals and indeed perpetuates a cycle of violence and corruption. Let us not even talk about the ridiculous religious justifications for the death penalty.
We hand over too much power to the state even though we know the system is compromised. You do not have to believe in god to understand what Chekhov means - “The State is not God. It has not the right to take away what it cannot restore when it wants to.”
posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 11:16 AM  
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