My cousin was murdered, reveals law minister at death penalty forum

Jerry Choong
Datuk Liew Vui Keong speaks during a conference on the death penalty organised by the Malaysian Coalition Against the Death Penalty in Subang Jaya on January 11, 2019. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

SUBANG JAYA, Jan 11 — Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law) Datuk Liew Vui Keong said he can empathise with families of victims of violent crimes, as it strikes a personal note with him.

He said as a student studying law in the United Kingdom almost 40 years ago, one of his cousins was brutally murdered back home in Sabah.

“I received a letter from home three days after it occurred, informing me that his mutilated body was found floating in a river. He was only 17 years old,” said Liew during a conference on the death penalty organised by the Malaysian Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

He acknowledged his inner turmoil in the days following the murder, ranging from feelings of anger, sadness, numbness and emptiness.

“You just do not known what to do. You would demand answers on why your loved one, your son or daughter, was killed.

“But then again no answers can be forthcoming. Bear in mind that even until today my cousin’s killer has never been found,” Liew said.

Yet he said with the passage of time he moved on, even if it still grieved him, eventually returning to Malaysia to practice law.

“I remember meeting my aunt and uncle, who were close to fainting when they saw me since I reminded them so much of their son.

“It is important for the process of forgiveness to take place, even as we are aware it is not easy for those who have lost their loved ones,” Liew said.

Forgiveness is also important for those sentenced to death by hanging, as he said if the death penalty is abolished it will give them a chance to save their lives, even if it means having to spend the rest of it behind bars.

On Tuesday, Liew had said a new law is expected to be tabled sometime this year to abolish the death penalty.

He explained the proposal to abolish the mandatory death penalty would take into account the views of all stakeholders, given the complexity and sensitivity of the issue.

The move to abolish has drawn mixed reaction from the various layers of Malaysian society, with civil rights groups largely welcoming the move but conservatives arguing that it be retained for particularly heinous crimes.

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