22 August 2009
Malaysia, Caning, and Beer -- Part III
Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno is set to be contained according to her sentence sometime next week. The sentence was six lashes of the cane and a fine of 5000 ringgit. Her crime, being a Muslim and drinking beer in a nightclub in the eastern state of Pahang. I wrote about it here.
Shukarno has asked for the sentence to be carried out as soon as possible. Her request is based on two simple reasons; the sooner the sentence is carried out, the sooner she can get on with the rest of her life, and secondly, she wants others to learn from her mistakes so that they might avoid a similar caning in the future. Her regret is apparently the driving force for the desire for a public caning.
Although, there seems to be a bit of a caveat on the caning in that Shukarno wants it carried out in public rather than in the confines of a closed prison. This would certainly seem the most likely way of ensuring maximum exposure (pun intended). It is worth noting that Shukarno will be the first woman to be caned under Islamic Law. There must be a sellable story in that somewhere, particularly when one considers she lives in Singapore and not Malaysia.
It must also be noted that caning is not unusual as a form of punishment in Malaysia. There are at least forty crimes that attract a good caning. The criminal punishment statistics compiled by Amnesty International state that almost 35,000 people have been caned in Malaysia between 2002 and 2008. The majority of these canings were for immigration offenses. Simply, a few strokes on the buttocks and on your way back to wherever it is that you came from.
Amnesty International has been vocal in its opposition to caning. According to Amnesty International, caning is a cruel and degrading punishment, and as such must not be used as a form of punishment. Besides, cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishments are expressly prohibited under international law. AI has, in fact, asked the Malaysian government to vacate this sentence and to pass legislation that would prohibit the use of caning under any circumstances in Malaysia.
However, Malaysia in its defense of the soon-to-occur caning is that the cane (rattan / rotan) is smaller than the one used for men, the swing is shorter, and the purpose is to educate rather than punish, therefore Shukarno is not likely to endure too much pain when it is all said and done.
The problem, or perhaps issue, for me is that the idea of concurrent courts, General and Islamic, means that there is a two-tiered justice system where punishments depend on your religious beliefs, and therefore will differ from others who commit a similar offense or in this case where they commit no offense at all. It is not illegal for non-Muslims to drink alcohol in Malaysia.
Maybe there will be a video so that we can all get a public viewing of the manner of a Malaysian caning.