Death Sentence for drug trafficking has been a thorn on the side of many policy makers around the world – especially having to deal with the protests. How effective is it? As a former rehabilitated alcoholic who had been in the company of recovering drug addicts, the writer finds the need to also weigh in other matters….
The other day I was talking to a colleague who was intrigued to know that I was in Rehab before. No, not for drug addiction, but the other form of addiction – alcoholism. That’s right, from 01 January 2017 till I finished the rehabilitation program two years later — hung on few more months, and worked additional months as a staff — before moving out and moving on. I have been clean for five years and seven months now.
The conversation started especially when discussing the mass protest against the hanging of a Malaysian found trafficking drugs in Singapore few months ago. As we know, many (liberal) voices condemned the death sentence, it’s inhuman, it’s against individual rights and who are they to take away a person’s life.
I caught up with the leader, the caretaker of the Rehab I was in (Breakthru Drugs Rehab Centre) and asked his opinion about the death sentence. Here’s what Pastor Samuel (Sam) Krishnan, who I would say, alongside my family, was instrumental in saving my life (my alcoholism was that bad, trust me), has to say about the issue:
“I have two opinions, bro,” he said over the phone. Yes, he calls us “bro”. “You got to think of the consequences of your action, you cannot go unpunished. Remember what Joko Widowo said? That instead of killing thousands with drugs, you kill a few who delivers those drugs?”
Running A Drug Rehab Centre
Pastor Sam was himself a drug addict, who ended up not only going to rehab, but was later asked to run one, and is now 29 years free from drugs, but 18 years of running a rehab centre exposed him to seeing many come and go his rehab centre sometimes repeatedly. But he accepts them, still wanting them to be saved.
“They can be given second chance instead of death row,” he said. “You can have program for them, where they can reconcile, and rehabilitate themselves, and we walk through the program with them.They need the moral value instilled, and they need to know where they stand in this life, the purpose in the society.”
Speaking from his capacity as a pastor, he pointed out that “the sin will always be there, only we have to turn away and take responsibilities for our action.”
Pastor Sam is currently the leader for the Shalom Community Character Development Centre – a more apt name, as during the program he always insisted on attitude and character development being the key for setting our path straight after the stray.
Well, that would be one way, but that is not what many countries are looking at globally. There are those who are for, and those who are against – and the voices against are getting louder. Each time there is a drug trafficking conviction related death sentence is announced (or found out) especially in our neighbouring little island … there will be a furore of protests, noises, gung-ho calls for ban on anything Singapore, so on and so forth.
But isn’t Malaysia tasting its own medicine?
Here, in Peninsular, drug trafficking is the cream of the cop among crimes punishable by death at 67 per cent, meanwhile in Sabah, 70 per cent of capital punishment meted out was for drug trafficking. Shocking?
This was why when Malaysian citizen Nagenthiran was hanged in Singapore much to protests by quite a number of his fellow citizens, Human Rights Watch legal adviser Linda Lakhdir wrote that the communication between Malaysia and Singapore highlighted a hypocrisy: Nagenthran would have likely faced capital punishment at home.
It is easy to see why, according to Amnesty International again, at least 270 people have been executed in Malaysia since 1980, mostly for drug offenses.
Proliferation of illegal substance abuse is not shocking to me. Back during my “time” at the Rehab, out of 50, only around 15 to 20 were usually in for alcohol or other issues (gambling, gaming…yes, gaming) while the rest were in for drug abuse.
Sadly, increasing number of drug addicts brought in were mostly young, supposedly bright kids. Supposedly. Now, drug abuse has ruined their future, many suffer from one form of mental issues or another – schizophrenia being the most common – when I became a staff, one of my duties was to bring them for their psychiatric appointments. Frankly, there is no medication except one form of weak tranquiliser or another to calm them down. They are done for life.
Other than that, the Pastor would conduct mass prayers weekly hoping that they would be cured and that there will be lesser and lesser students and he has no need to do that job anymore. Hope? Maybe. Fat chance? Most likely. The damage is pretty severe.
As mentioned, the returnees are a regular affair. There was an old guy, then in his 60s, when he came the first time around, was just a regular addict. He left prematurely before his program ended … there would be the usual relapses and the last time he was there was when I walked in myself, he had lost a leg, no thanks to multiple dirty needle jabs that rendered most of the blood vessels useless. He had left again while I was still there, and last I heard – died … in the street.
I have also spoken to some (oh come on, I lived with them) who had peddled/smuggled. They were still giddy with excitement when talking about the amount of money they made. They were not scared at all. And no remorse as to what the drugs would do to the users.
What about the parents and family members, who have lost their children to overdose, or lost their children in a world they don’t understand – that hollow stare, the gibberish words, the parallel dimension where the rest do not exist. What do you want to do with them? Send to the Rehab, deal with tranquilisers the rest of their lives – if they do live on?
Interestingly, the Editor-In-Chief of the New Malaysia Herald, Hasnah Abdul Rahman, when she saw this article shared her personal experience dealing with drug addiction of a family member.
Some 45 years ago, her brother passed away with a needle in his arm at the age of 22. He was a brilliant student, adopted by their uncle who was the Chief Police of Johor before retiring. Her uncle divorced and moved to England with his new wife. He gave her brother the option whether to move with them to England or stay with relatives in Malaysia. He chose the latter and uncle left and sent money to him monthly which were used for his addiction.
Hasnah and her family members brought him to rehab and he was doing very well, but relapsed immediately after he was released, thereafter met his unfortunate and untimely demise in a public toilet.
‘This is the thing, while I do not condone anyone taking drugs for any reason, I think executing the mules is not solving the problem.
“There will still be addicts, mules and traffickers, because the big time importers, producers and those guys with thick gold chains and fat rings are still there to produce and distribute the drugs to their underlings,” says Hasnah.
So, what do you do? Stop the drug dealers? The street runners? What about the leaders of the cartels, who may or not have connection with some really powerful folks in the world? Or in your neighbourhood? That’s a subject for another day.
For now, all I can say is … having seen that dreadful skull and needle banners, posters over several decades now, death Sentence is NOT deterring people from continuing to peddle/smuggle illegal drugs. It is not effective.
I leave the human rights issue aside, because that is, again, an entirely different argument for another day. All I can say is, despite decades of scary tactics and actually delivering the death sentences, it has not scared future dealers off.
On one hand, when the supply stops, the demand doesn’t. We humans are good in finding short cuts and alternative routes. Drug addiction was not born in Woodstock 1969. – New Malaysia Herald
About the writer: Rakesh Kumar is a writer, scriptwriter, and a film aficionado, who is four years and seven months clean and sober. And counting …
The points expressed in this article are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the New Malaysia Herald.