Malaysia moves to abolish mandatory death penalties

Special Malaysia moves to abolish mandatory death penalties
A lawmaker addresses the Malaysian parliament, March 17, 2023. (Parliament of Malaysia)
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Updated 27 March 2023

Malaysia moves to abolish mandatory death penalties

Malaysia moves to abolish mandatory death penalties
  • New bill to also replace life sentences with 30 to 40-year prison terms 
  • Activists hail reforms as timely and progressive

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s government has taken its first step to abolish the mandatory death penalty for 11 offenses including drug trafficking, illegal firearms possession and kidnap.

Its parliamentary bill, introduced on Monday, will also replace life sentences with prison terms between 30 and 40 years and whipping of more than 12 lashes.

“The abolition of the mandatory death penalty aims to value and respect the life of every individual … The policies proposed through this bill are a middle ground to ensure justice is preserved for all,” Law Minister Azalina Othman S, who tabled the bill, said in a statement.

“I am very grateful that the unity government has taken concrete steps in abolishing the mandatory death penalty.”

The move championed by the unity government of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who took office in November, is expected to affect hundreds of prisoners who have yet to complete their appeals in court.  Those cases will instead be reviewed by the Federal Court.

While the new bill does not completely remove capital punishment, it allows judges the discretion to pass alternatives.

“The effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent is questionable at best,” Dobby Chew, executive director of the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, said in a statement.

“There are significant indicators that demonstrate that the death penalty is counterproductive in that it supports or enables crime syndicates, especially for drug offenses,” he said.

He called Malaysia’s move “a progressive step towards significant reform of the criminal justice system.”

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

“It is timely and I am pleased with the decision by the government,” Malaysian politician and anti-death penalty activist Kasthuri Patto told Arab News.

“Let’s not forget that the death penalty is a colonial law but even colonial masters have removed them from their country, take for example the UK,” Patto said.

“This alternative is worth exploring now. I hope with this announcement, the government will seriously look into prison reforms as well.”

Southern India makes history with first women-only Hajj flight 

Pilots, crew members and passengers of a women-only Hajj flight pose for a photo before departing from Kozhikode on June 8.
Pilots, crew members and passengers of a women-only Hajj flight pose for a photo before departing from Kozhikode on June 8.
Updated 15 sec ago

Southern India makes history with first women-only Hajj flight 

Pilots, crew members and passengers of a women-only Hajj flight pose for a photo before departing from Kozhikode on June 8.
  • Air India Express flight from Kozhikode carried 145 female pilgrims and six crew 
  • Kerala has the highest percentage of women pilgrims traveling without a mahram

NEW DELHI: An Indian Hajj flight run exclusively by women and carrying only female pilgrims has made history, authorities said on Friday, after it reached Saudi Arabia from the southern state of Kerala. 

The Air India Express flight from Kozhikode arrived in Jeddah on Thursday night carrying 145 pilgrims. 

It was operated by Capt. Kanika Mehra, First Officer Garima Passi, and four cabin crew members. 

At the airport, the women were accompanied by Minority Affairs State Minister John Barla, who distributed their boarding passes. 

“I am very proud,” C. Mohammed Faizi, chairman of the Kerala Haj Committee, told Arab News. 

The passengers of the special flight are part of a group of 4,000 Indian female pilgrims who this year will reach the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah on their own. 

India tweaked its Hajj policy following last year’s decision by Saudi Arabia to lift a rule that required female pilgrims to be accompanied by a mahram, or male guardian. 

Most of the Indian pilgrims who applied for Hajj in the Ladies Without Mahram category are from Kerala. 

“Without mahram, there are about 2,000 … The largest number without mahram are from Kerala,” Faizi said, attributing the high number to the level of education in Kerala and the fact that many women in the state are used to traveling to the Middle East to meet their relatives working there. 

Kerala this year also boasts a higher overall percentage of female Hajj pilgrims than other Indian states. 

“Sixty percent are women,” Faizi said. 

Muslims constitute about a fourth of Kerala’s population of 35 million. 

About 11,000 of them will be performing the Hajj pilgrimage this year under India’s quota of 175,000, and approximately 60 percent of them will be women. 

Boris Johnson steps down as MP: BBC reports

Boris Johnson steps down as MP: BBC reports
Updated 2 min 9 sec ago

Boris Johnson steps down as MP: BBC reports

Boris Johnson steps down as MP: BBC reports

LONDON: Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is stepping down as a member of parliament with immediate effect, triggering a by- election in his marginal seat.

Johnson had been fighting for his political future with a parliamentary inquiry investigating whether he misled the House of Commons when he said all COVID-19 rules were followed.

Parliament’s privileges committee had the power to recommend that Johnson be suspended from parliament for more than 10 days if they were to find he did mislead parliament recklessly or deliberately, potentially triggering an election for his seat.

Johnson said he had received a letter from the “privileges committee making it clear — much to my amazement — that they are determined to use the proceedings against me to drive me out of parliament.”

“I am being forced out by a tiny handful of people, with no evidence to back up their assertions, and without approval even of Conservative party members let alone the wider electorate,” Johnson said in a statement.

“It is very sad to be leaving parliament — at least for now — but above all I am bewildered and appalled that I can be forced out.”

Johnson, whose premiership was cut short in part by anger in his own party and across Britain over COVID rule-breaking lockdown parties in his Downing Street office and residence, accused the committee of acting of being the “very definition of a kangaroo court.”

“Most members of the committee — especially the chair — had already expressed deeply prejudicial remarks about my guilt before they had even seen the evidence,” he said.

“In retrospect it was naive and trusting of me to think that these proceedings could be remotely useful or fair.”

Johnson also used his resignation statement to deliver an attack on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s premiership.

“When I left office last year the government was only a handful of points behind in the polls. That gap has now massively widened,” he said.

“Our party needs urgently to recapture its sense of momentum and its belief in what this country can do.”

Saudi Arabia invites Philippine expats, investors to join Vision 2030 projects

Saudi Arabia invites Philippine expats, investors to join Vision 2030 projects
Updated 09 June 2023

Saudi Arabia invites Philippine expats, investors to join Vision 2030 projects

Saudi Arabia invites Philippine expats, investors to join Vision 2030 projects
  • Philippine authorities are also eyeing the Kingdom’s expanding job market
  • Saudi ambassador sees opportunities in tourism, renewable energy, infrastructure

MANILA: Filipino expatriates play a vital role in Saudi-Philippine ties, Riyadh’s ambassador to Manila said on Friday, as he invited professionals and investors to join the Kingdom’s megaprojects under Vision 2030.
More than 800,000 Philippine expats live in Saudi Arabia, which is their preferred work destination abroad.
The overseas Filipino workers, or OFWs, are not only key drivers of the Philippine economy and main contributors to its foreign reserves but also — as officials often say — the country’s “ambassadors” all over the world.
In the context of Saudi Arabia, they are one of the main actors helping the Philippines develop and sustain good ties with the Kingdom.
“Filipino expatriates in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia play a vital role in strengthening the ties between our two nations. They contribute significantly to the Saudi economy and society through their hard work, skills, and dedication,” Saudi Ambassador to the Philippines Hisham S.A. Al-Qahtani told Arab News in an exclusive interview.
“Their presence has helped build bridges of understanding and friendship between our peoples. The Filipino community in Saudi Arabia serves as a strong bond, fostering cultural exchange, and enhancing cooperation in various sectors. Their contributions are highly valued and appreciated.”
Even more opportunities for the Philippines — in terms of work, investment and joint projects — are becoming available under the Saudi Vision 2030 economic diversification plan.
“The Philippines can support this vision by further strengthening bilateral trade and investment ties, exploring opportunities for joint ventures and partnerships, and sharing expertise in sectors of mutual interest,” Al-Qahtani said.
“The Kingdom welcomes Philippine businesses and investors to participate in its diversification efforts, particularly in non-oil sectors such as tourism, renewable energy, infrastructure, and human capital development.”
Human capital development reflects Saudi Arabia’s efforts to improve the professional competence of employees in its labor market and regulate the quality of employment, while ongoing clean energy and sophisticated infrastructure megaprojects aim to help the economy pivot away from its traditional dependency on fossil fuels.
Tourism, also, is currently a booming sector in the Kingdom as the government plans to triple its employment to 1.6 million people and contribution to gross domestic product to 10 percent by 2030.
“Saudi Arabia remains committed to providing opportunities for Filipino expatriates in various fields,” the Saudi ambassador said.
“Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 initiative has opened doors for economic diversification, investment, and innovation, which can create new prospects for Filipino expatriates. The Kingdom welcomes skilled and talented individuals from the Philippines to contribute to its development.”
Philippine officials have also been eyeing the emerging opportunities and last month announced they were in talks with Saudi authorities for a special mass hiring program that could see 1 million jobs for skilled Filipinos.
Philippine Department of Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople announced in late May that a delegation from the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development was expected in Manila in June to develop the program.

Russia has received hundreds of Iranian drones to attack Ukraine: White House

Russia has received hundreds of Iranian drones to attack Ukraine: White House
Updated 09 June 2023

Russia has received hundreds of Iranian drones to attack Ukraine: White House

Russia has received hundreds of Iranian drones to attack Ukraine: White House
  • Washington says drones were built in Iran, shipped across Caspian Sea then used by Russian forces against Ukraine

WASHINGTON D.C.: The White House said on Friday that Russia appeared to be deepening its defense cooperation with Iran and had received hundreds of one-way attack drones that it is using to strike Ukraine.
Citing newly declassified information, the White House said the drones, or Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), were built in Iran, shipped across the Caspian Sea and then used by Russian forces against Ukraine.
“Russia has been using Iranian UAVs in recent weeks to strike Kyiv and terrorize the Ukrainian population, and the Russia-Iran military partnership appears to be deepening,” White House spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
“We are also concerned that Russia is working with Iran to produce Iranian UAVs from inside Russia.”
Kirby said the US had information that Russia was receiving materials from Iran required to build a drone manufacturing plant that could be fully operational early next year.
“We are releasing satellite imagery of the planned location of this UAV manufacturing plant in Russia’s Alabuga Special Economic Zone,” he said.
The US has previously sanctioned Iranian executives at a defense manufacturer over drone supplies to Russia. Iran has acknowledged sending drones to Russia but said in they past they were sent before Russia’s February invasion. Moscow has denied its forces used Iranian drones in Ukraine.
Support between Iran and Russia was flowing both ways, Kirby said, with Iran seeking billions of dollars worth of military equipment from Russia including helicopters and radars.
“Russia has been offering Iran unprecedented defense cooperation, including on missiles, electronics, and air defense,” he said.
“This is a full-scale defense partnership that is harmful to Ukraine, to Iran’s neighbors, and to the international community. We are continuing to use all the tools at our disposal to expose and disrupt these activities including by sharing this with the public – and we are prepared to do more.”
Kirby said the transfers of drones constituted a violation of United Nations rules and the United States would seek to hold the two countries accountable.
Britain, France, Germany, the US and Ukraine say the supply of Iranian-made drones to Russia violates a 2015 UN Security Council resolution enshrining the Iran nuclear deal.
Under the 2015 UN resolution, a conventional arms embargo on Iran was in place until October 2020.
Ukraine and Western powers argue that the resolution includes restrictions on missiles and related technologies until October 2023 and can encompass the export and purchase of advanced military systems such as drones.
The Iranian and Russian missions to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the US accusations.
“We will continue to impose sanctions on the actors involved in the transfer of Iranian military equipment to Russia for use in Ukraine,” Kirby said.
He said a new US advisory issued on Friday aimed “to help businesses and other governments better understand the risks posed by Iran’s UAV program and the illicit practices Iran uses to procure components for it.”
The advisory highlighted key items sought by Iran for its development of drones, including electronics such as processors and controllers.

UK commits to anti-Daesh funding at Saudi meeting

UK commits to anti-Daesh funding at Saudi meeting
Updated 09 June 2023

UK commits to anti-Daesh funding at Saudi meeting

UK commits to anti-Daesh funding at Saudi meeting
  • Global Coalition Against Daesh convenes in Riyadh at invitation of Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan
  • Efforts turn to humanitarian drive across liberated northeast Syria, Iraq

LONDON: The UK’s minister for the Middle East attended the Saudi-hosted Global Coalition Against Daesh ministerial-level meeting in Riyadh on June 8, and pledged funding for anti-terrorism and humanitarian efforts in Iraq and Syria.
Lord Ahmad, minister of state for the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and UN, also highlighted the UK’s commitment to the coalition’s strategy of returning and reintegrating Iraqis displaced by Daesh violence.
The 86-member coalition met in Riyadh at the invitation of Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan.
Following the collapse of Daesh, the coalition’s efforts are now aimed at reintegrating internally displaced people through job training and anti-extremism drives, as well as meeting humanitarian challenges in Syria through direct funding.
Lord Ahmad outlined the UK’s commitment of £87.8 million ($110 million) toward countering Daesh over the next five years in northeast Syria and Iraq. The funding will support counterterrorism, stabilization and socioeconomic development in the region, a press release said.
As part of the UK’s efforts, the International Organization for Migration and the UN Development Program will both be supported in easing barriers to return for internally displaced Iraqis, including those in Syria’s Al-Hol camp.
Over the next two years, the UK will also provide £16 million to address the humanitarian disaster in northeast Syria, providing more than 75,000 people with aid, social support and programs to grant women access to education and jobs.
Lord Ahmad said: “Though territorially defeated, Daesh is a threat that continues to destroy lives — not only in liberated areas of Iraq and Syria, but also in Afghanistan and parts of Africa where its affiliates are active.
“I am proud of the UK’s continuing role in eradicating Daesh, including rebuilding communities affected by its terrorism, and leading global efforts against its poisonous propaganda.”
In a joint statement released by Prince Faisal and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the coalition highlighted its support for a lasting political settlement in Syria.
As part of maintaining stability in areas liberated from Daesh, “durable solutions” for former Daesh fighters detained in the Al-Hol and Roj camps must include humanitarian access and aid, the coalition added.
The UK’s funding commitment is part of a pledge drive launched by ministers targeting a goal of $601 million for liberated areas in Iraq and Syria.
Following the Riyadh meeting, Lord Ahmad will travel to Turkiye for a global diplomacy conference, marking the first UK ministerial visit to the country since the reelection of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on May 28.
The event in Turkiye will be chaired by Lord Ahmad’s counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Burak Akcapar, and will include discussions on Syria, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Ukraine.
Lord Ahmad said: “I look forward to visiting Istanbul to strengthen the UK’s important partnership with Turkiye and to discuss a broad range of foreign-policy issues.”