Malaysians mark I-Day with fervor

Schoolchildren in traditional outfits join a parade in Putrajaya, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 01 September 2018
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Malaysians mark I-Day with fervor

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia celebrated its Independence Day on Friday, with Prime Minister Mahathir Muhamad speaking of a “second independence” for the country after the election of a new government.
“We are celebrating… with a sense of relief and comfort. Indeed, this is our second independence,” he said.
“We are free from the shackles of a ruthless regime. Our lives are more comfortable. This… government guarantees justice for all the people, irrespective of race or religion,” he added.
“It takes time to bring about an administration by the rule of law,” he said, urging Malaysia’s people and government to work together to revive the country and overcome challenges.
The Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition won the election in May and subsequently formed a new government.
This year’s Independence Day theme is Sayangi Malaysiaku (Love My Malaysia). Charity worker Mary Anne Tan said this year’s Independence Day “is a glorious celebration of new hope, new change and a new government.”
Eric Paulsen, legal director of human rights group Fortify Rights, said this year’s Independence Day celebration is much more meaningful given the recent election. But marginalized communities such as the Orang Asli people and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community are still discriminated against, he added.
This view is shared by Azira, a young Malaysian who said the government is not doing enough against human rights abuses. 
“You still have indigenous tribes chased out of their native lands, extreme deforestation, child marriages, religious extremism and conservatism, and hate for the LGBT community. We still have a long way to go, but I remain hopeful,” she added.
Documentary filmmaker Andrew Ng Yew Han said: “I hope Malaysians will be more vocal, open and involved in the development of our country.”
He added: “I hope we don’t go back to giving our trust blindly to politicians. Now that our government has changed, perhaps it’s also time for us to change.”
Zaim Mohzani, co-founder of Malaysian Youth Diplomacy, said the new government will “need to manage the diverse expectations of the electorate.”
He added: “Cabinet ministers may be new and inexperienced, but they need to pick up the pace. The electorate may not be forgiving and understanding as we move into 2019.”


Man who killed newlywed during robbery executed in Texas

Alvin Braziel appears in a booking photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Austin, Texas, US, December 10, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 12 December 2018
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Man who killed newlywed during robbery executed in Texas

  • The Whites, who had only been married 10 days, didn’t have any money on them but told Braziel they could get him some and they started walking back to their truck

HUNTSVILLE, Texas: A Texas inmate was executed Tuesday evening for fatally shooting a newlywed during a robbery more than 25 years ago.
Alvin Braziel Jr., 43, received lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville for the 1993 slaying of 27-year-old Douglas White, who was attacked as he and his wife walked on a jogging trail.
Braziel became the 24th inmate put to death this year in the US and the 13th executed in Texas, the nation’s busiest capital punishment state. He will be the last Texas inmate executed this year.
The execution was delayed about 90 minutes after the six-hour window defined by the warrant began at 6 p.m. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected a last-minute appeal from Braziel’s attorneys.
As Douglas and Lora White walked along a community college jogging trail in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite, Braziel jumped out from behind some bushes with a pistol in his hand and demanded money.
The Whites, who had only been married 10 days, didn’t have any money on them but told Braziel they could get him some and they started walking back to their truck. But Braziel became angry with the couple and ordered them to the ground.
“Doug ... was praying, asked God to forgive him and Lora their sins because they both knew that this was it,” said Michael Bradshaw, the lead detective on the case for Mesquite police. “The last thing Doug said before Braziel fired the first round, he said, ‘Please God, don’t let him hurt Lora.’“
Braziel shot White once in the head and once in his heart.
Bradshaw said he believes Braziel would have also shot then-24-year-old Lora White but his gun malfunctioned. Braziel instead took her to bushy area near the trail and sexually assaulted her.
Douglas White’s murder was featured on the television show “America’s Most Wanted” and a $20,000 reward was raised by the chiropractic college he had worked for as an electrician. Bradshaw said more than 40 potential suspects were interrogated and had their blood drawn for testing.
But White’s murder remained unsolved for over seven years.
“I really didn’t know that I would ever be able to solve it. But I really did not give up hope,” said Bradshaw, 63, who retired from Mesquite police in 2012.
Braziel was eventually tied to the killing in 2001 after he was imprisoned for sexual assault in an unrelated case and his DNA matched evidence from Lora White’s assault.
At his trial, Braziel said he wasn’t near the college during the killing.
Braziel’s attorneys didn’t immediately reply to emails and calls seeking comment on Tuesday.
Last week, his lawyers asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to stop his execution, arguing in part he should not receive lethal injection because he is intellectually disabled.
The Supreme Court held in 2002 that people convicted of murder who are intellectually disabled cannot be executed.
Braziel’s attorneys later withdrew their request.
Courts had previously turned down Braziel’s appeals that have focused on claims of mental illness and that he had suffered a childhood brain injury, saying Braziel refused to be examined by a mental health expert during his trial and that his family declined to help his defense attorneys obtain evidence of any mental health problems in Braziel’s family.
His attorneys also filed a last-minute appeal Tuesday, arguing that an emotional outburst at the 2001 murder trial from Lora White was unfairly elicited by prosecutors when she was shown on the witness stand a photo of her husband’s autopsied body.
Bradshaw said he still keeps in contact with Lora White and that she started a new life and is doing well.
“Lora wants it known that she’s prayed for Alvin Braziel and his family,” Bradshaw said.