Malaysian parliament approves bill to scrap mandatory death penalty

While the new bill does not completely remove capital punishment, it allows judges the discretion to pass alternatives. (AFP)
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Updated 04 April 2023
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Malaysian parliament approves bill to scrap mandatory death penalty

  • Landmark bill will now move to upper house of Malaysia’s Parliament
  • Monday’s vote was ‘long time in the making,’ says Amnesty International

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian lawmakers voted on Monday in favor of abolishing the mandatory death penalty, paving the way for landmark legal reforms the government said are aimed at respecting each individual’s right to life. 

The lower house of Malaysia’s Parliament passed the bill, which will now be brought to the government-controlled Senate, or upper house, for approval, before it is presented to the king and passed into law. 

Under the revised law, which applies retroactively, 11 offenses that previously carried a mandatory death penalty will instead have alternative punishments, including whipping and imprisonment between 30 and 40 years. 

The new measures will also remove capital punishment as an option for some serious crimes that do not cause death, such as the discharging and trafficking of firearms and kidnapping. 

“The abolition of the mandatory death penalty aims to respect the right to life for every individual in Malaysia while ensuring justice for all parties,” Deputy Law Minister Ramkarpal Singh said during a wrap-up of parliamentary debates on the bill. 

“The basic principle for every sentence in Malaysia is rehabilitation so that they can return to society and become individuals who can serve the family, community and country after completing their sentence.” 

A moratorium on the death penalty has been in effect since 2018 in Malaysia, where over 1,300 prisoners are on death row, representing a disproportionately high number compared to other countries in the region. 

While the new bill does not completely remove capital punishment, which remains for offenses ranging from drug trafficking and terrorism to murder, it allows judges the discretion to pass alternatives. 

“We commend the government, which has shown political will and determination to reform. The abolition is a move toward the advancement of Malaysia’s human rights,” Ngeow Chow Ying, an executive committee member of the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, told Arab News. 

However, Ying said officials could do more in their efforts to reform Malaysia’s criminal justice system, as the use of caning in the law is “barbaric” and an “ultimately cruel and inhuman punishment.” 

Though Monday’s vote was “a long time in the making,” Amnesty International Malaysia’s Executive Director Katrina Jorene Maliamauv said that “there is still more to be done.” 

“All eyes are now on Malaysia’s Senate to take the next steps and make these reforms a reality.”


Ukraine peace summit says ‘dialogue between all parties’ needed to end war

Updated 10 sec ago
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Ukraine peace summit says ‘dialogue between all parties’ needed to end war

  • More than 90 countries had gathered in the Swiss resort of Burgenstock for the summit
  • Moscow was not invited and has rejected the summit as ‘absurd’ and pointless

BURGENSTOCK, Switzerland: Dozens of countries said Sunday that Ukraine’s “territorial integrity” should be respected in any peace deal to end the war, as they said “dialogue between all parties” would be necessary for a lasting settlement.
In a final communique issued at the end of a major two-day diplomatic summit in Switzerland, the vast majority of countries also backed a call for the full exchange of captured soldiers and return of deported Ukrainian children.
But not all attendees backed the document, with India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates among those not included in a list of supporting states displayed on screens at the summit.
“We believe that reaching peace requires the involvement of and dialogue between all parties,” the document stated.
It added: “We reaffirm our commitment to ... the principles of sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of all states, including Ukraine, within their internationally recognized borders.”
More than 90 countries had gathered in the Swiss resort of Burgenstock for the summit, dedicated to discussing Kyiv’s proposals for a route out of the conflict.
Moscow was not invited and has rejected the summit as “absurd” and pointless.
Kyiv had worked hard to secure attendance from countries that maintain warm relations with Russia.
The final document also called for all prisoners of war to be released in a “complete exchange” and for all Ukrainian children who had been “deported and unlawfully displaced” to be returned to Ukraine.
Kyiv accuses Russia of abducting almost 20,000 children from parts of the east and south of the country that its forces took control of.
Working groups at the summit also addressed the issues of global food security and nuclear safety.
“Food security must not be weaponized in any way,” the declaration stated, adding that access to ports in the Black and Azov Seas was “critical” for global food supply.
And the countries also called for Ukraine to have “full sovereign control” over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
Located in the south of Ukraine, the facility is Europe’s largest nuclear energy site and has been controlled by Russian forces since early in the war.


On Bhasan Char, Rohingya refugees observe Eid without family festivities

Updated 17 min 34 sec ago
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On Bhasan Char, Rohingya refugees observe Eid without family festivities

  • More than 35,000 Rohingya have been relocated to Bhasan Char since end of 2020
  • It is illegal for refugees to leave the remote Bangladeshi island

DHAKA: Sebon Bahar’s fondest memories of Eid Al-Adha are the hug she would share with her mother to celebrate the occasion, an experience that has grown distant now that she is living on a remote Bangladeshi island.

For the last three years, the Islamic holiday that is synonymous with family gatherings has not felt the same for Bahar following her move to Bhasan Char.

“My Eid celebrations remain incomplete without this precious hug with my mother … Here on this island, I miss this most during Eid as my mom is living at Cox’s Bazar,” she told Arab News on Sunday.

“Without my family members, especially my mother … I feel like it’s not a special day … I haven’t seen my relatives who live in Cox’s Bazar for over three years.” 

Bahar is among more than 35,000 Rohingya who since the end of 2020 have been moved to Bhasan Char as authorities seek to ease pressure on the congested camps at Cox’s Bazar, which is home to more than 1 million refugees who fled violence and persecution in Myanmar.

Located in the Bay of Bengal, the island settlement is several hours by boat away from the mainland.

The fourth Eid Al-Adha on Bhasan Char has not eased the feeling of isolation for its residents, many of whom are missing their extended family even more during the Feast of Sacrifice as leaving the facility is illegal for refugees on the island.

On Eid, Bahar said she makes calls to relatives in an attempt to “feel the special day,” trying to replicate the time she was still living in Cox’s Bazar, when the holiday meant friends and families visiting each other and gossiping over shared food.

While the 30-year-old is grateful for the improved parts of her life in Bhasan Char, where there is more safety, access to fresh seafood and good housing, refugees still struggle with a lack of access to quality education, high cost of goods and also inability to leave the island.

“There is no hope in this island life, and also Cox’s Bazar camp life. I am living life with only one hope nowadays, that one day I will be able to return to Myanmar with citizenship rights,” Bahar said.

Eid celebrations are not the same for Mohammed Abdul Jalil either, as he celebrates his third such holiday on the island.

“Eid celebrations without relatives and family members here at Bhasan Char are boring to me,” Jalil told Arab News.

“Yes, we are in touch with each other through mobile phones, but having chit-chat sitting face to face can’t be compared with two to three minutes of mobile phone conversation. Visiting each other is the most special thing we usually practice as part of Eid.”

He is hoping that the day comes soon when he can return to Myanmar.

“On this island, I just want to reside until our dignified repatriation to our motherland with full rights. As a refugee on this island, I have no other dream or expectations,” Jalil said.

In spite of the hardships and uncertainties, many refugees try their best to make a festive occasion such as Eid as special as possible.

“My Eid celebrations center around the joy of my children, and I always try to do my best to make the day special for my children,” Monira Begum said.

Like Bahar and Jalil, Eid for Begum was also about spending time and sharing food with her extended family — an experience she has not been able to have for the last four years in Bhasan Char.

As she prepares for Eid Al-Adha, which will be observed on Monday in Bangladesh, Begum plans to make traditional snacks for her family.

“I have powdered rice grain to make our traditional snacks, sweet sticky rice cake. I bought some clothes for my children, cosmetics for my daughters, though I am unable to offer a sacrificial animal … This is how I am going to celebrate Eid this year,” Begum said.


Kremlin says Kyiv should ‘reflect’ on troop withdrawal

Updated 16 June 2024
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Kremlin says Kyiv should ‘reflect’ on troop withdrawal

  • Kremlin: The current dynamic of the situation at the front shows us clearly that it’s continuing to worsen for the Ukrainians

MOSCOW: Ukraine should “reflect” on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call to withdraw its troops from the east and south of the country to open peace talks as its military situation is worsening, the Kremlin said Sunday.
“The current dynamic of the situation at the front shows us clearly that it’s continuing to worsen for the Ukrainians,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, as Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and world leaders met in Switzerland to discuss how to end the conflict.
“It’s probable that a politician who puts the interests of his country above his own and those of his masters would reflect on such a proposal,” Peskov said.
Zelensky and other leaders have rejected Putin’s demand that Ukraine pull its troops out of the east and south of the country and drop its bid for NATO membership, in order for Moscow to halt its offensive.
Peskov said it was not an “ultimatum” but “a peace initiative that takes into account the realities on the ground.”
Zelensky has pledged to make peace proposals once they have the backing of the international community at the talks in Burgenstock, Switzerland, to which Putin was not invited.


Daesh linked-hostage takers at Russian detention center killed, guards freed

Updated 16 June 2024
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Daesh linked-hostage takers at Russian detention center killed, guards freed

  • Daesh members who are due to appear in court on terrorism charges are among the hostage takers

MOSCOW: Russian special forces freed two guards and killed several men linked to Daesh who had taken them hostage at a detention center in the southern city of Rostov on Sunday, the prison service said.

Intense automatic gunfire could be heard in footage published on Russian Telegram channels.

“The criminals were eliminated,” Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service said in a statement, which said a “special operation” had taken place to free the hostages.

“The employees who were being held hostage were released. They are uninjured,” the prison service said.

The hostage takers, who included some already convicted of terrorism offenses, had knocked out the bars of a window in their cell and entered a guard room where they took at least two prison officers hostage, Russian media said.

State media said that some of the men were accused of affiliation with the Daesh militant group, which claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on a Moscow concert hall in March.

Before special forces stormed the detention center, one of the hostage takers was shown by the 112 Telegram channel brandishing a knife beside one of the bound guards.

The hostage taker wore a headband with the flag used by the Daesh that bears an Arabic inscription.


China Premier Li starts Australia trip with Adelaide panda announcement, winery visit

Updated 16 June 2024
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China Premier Li starts Australia trip with Adelaide panda announcement, winery visit

  • Li Qiang, China’s second-highest ranked official and the first Chinese premier to visit Australia in seven years
  • The pandas at Adelaide’s zoo would return to China in November and it would get to select two new giant pandas

China Premier Li Qiang made a low-key start on Sunday to a four-day trip to Australia with visits to a South Australian winery and Adelaide Zoo, where he announced Beijing would provide two new pandas after the current pair go home later this year.
Li, China’s second-highest ranked official and the first Chinese premier to visit Australia in seven years, is due to meet Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Monday. He arrived in the South Australia state capital late on Saturday, saying bilateral relations were “back on track.”
China, Australia’s largest trade partner, imposed restrictions on a raft of Australian agricultural and mineral exports in 2020 during a diplomatic dispute that has now largely eased.
On Sunday, Li’s first official stop was to visit a pair of pandas on loan from China to Adelaide’s zoo, where Australian Broadcasting Corp. television showed crowds gathered, some waving Chinese flags, while others held signs that read “No more panda propaganda.”
At the zoo, Li announced the pandas would return to China in November and the zoo would get to select two new giant pandas, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.
The pandas had “become envoys of friendship between China and Australia, and a symbol of the profound friendship between the two peoples,” Li said, according to a statement from the Chinese embassy.
“China is ready to continue with the cooperative research with Australia on the conservation of giant pandas, and hopes that Australia will continue to be an amicable home for giant pandas,” Li added.
The pandas, Fu Ni and Wang Wang, have been at the zoo since 2009 but have not successfully bred, the ABC reported.
Li later attended an event with South Australia wine exporters, who until recently have been shut out of the Chinese market in a dispute that suspended A$20 billion ($13 billion) in Australian agriculture and mineral exports last year.
Speaking at the winery in the Adelaide suburb of Magill, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the venue was chosen “because of course one of the impediments that has been removed is the export of Australian wine and we welcome that.”
Earlier on Sunday, Wong said Li’s visit was “really important” in showing stabilized ties between the two major trading partners.
“It comes after two years of very deliberate, very patient work by this government to bring about a stabilization of the relationship,” Wong told the ABC.
On the pandas, Wong, who lives in Adelaide, said the animals “have been a great part of the lives of many Adelaide families.”
On Monday, Li will visit the capital Canberra for a meeting with Albanese.
During the talks, the prime minister is expected to bring up the case of Australian writer Yang Hengjun who was given a suspended death sentence on espionage charges in February, as well as an incident last month where a Chinese military jet dropped flares near an Australian defense helicopter.
Li’s final stop on Tuesday will be in resource-rich mining state Western Australia. Australia is the biggest supplier of iron ore to China, which has been an investor in Australian mining projects, though some recent Chinese investment in critical minerals has been blocked by Australia on national interest grounds.
Li arrived from New Zealand, where he highlighted Chinese demand for its agricultural products.
Canberra and Wellington are seeking to balance trade with regional security concerns over China’s ambitions in the Pacific Islands and on issues including human rights the contested South China Sea.