Aug 4, 2007

Britain's Judicial Legacy in Southeast Asia

For many, the use of corporal punishment in Southeast Asia represents a clash of civilizations between Asian values and an ever changing view of what defines human rights that is all too common in liberal western cultures. Ironically though, the use of corporal punishment in Southeast Asia today has it's origins in British Common Law. It's an anachronism alright, it's just not Islamic.

When the Straits Settlements, comprising the three predominantly Chinese-populated port cities of Singapore, Melaka (Malacca) and Penang (George Town), was formed as a British colony in 1826, the criminal law of England was applied. Corporal punishment was imposed for such offenses as begging, pornography, treason, garroting, and robbery with violence.

In 1871, the common law was replaced with the Straits Settlements Penal Code Ordinance IV. It was based on the Indian Penal Code, which had been enacted in 1860 to unify the criminal laws of the various provinces in India.

Offenses punishable by whipping in the Penal Code were robbery, aggravated forms of theft, house trespass or house breaking, assault with intent to outrage modesty, and a second or subsequent offense of rape, or a second or subsequent offense relating to prostitution or living on or trading in prostitution.

This list of "whipping offenses" is broadly similar to that of England and Wales at the time.

Corporal punishment as a judicial penalty was abolished in England, Wales and Scotland in 1948, and in India in 1955. In all parts of Malaya, however, as in Hong Kong, caning has been retained as a primary penal sanction.

The six minute video entitled "Malaysian Caning Judicial Corporal Punishment" along with photos can be seen here.

My rough translation of the video is as follows:

Officer: Your number and full name.

Convict: 93245

Convict: Azman Bin Hassan

Officer: Azman, You are in jail for 10 years (5 years) and 20 strokes. Understand?

Officer: So this morning we are to give you 20 strokes. Do you understand?

Convict: Yes I Understand.

Officer: Turn around

Officer: "Dua Puluh Kali Se Batang!" -- 20 strokes of the cane

The rest is simply counting the strokes and is pretty much self-explanatory

It should be noted though that corporal punishment is carried out every day in the United Kingdom and throughout the United States -- the only difference is that outside of Southeast Asia, it is administered by lawless thugs and yobs to the old, the weak, and those who are helpless to fight back.

And on that note, Malaysia's Deputy Internal Security Minister Fu Ah Kiow was justified in saying:

"Let's not be hypocritical about this. Look at the harm done to victims of drug pushers and drug users, and the increase in violent crime ... We must show more concern to the victims than to the convicts."

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I agree with the canning. Drug pushers destroy people. People need to understand that it is a deterrent. Barbaric it may be, from the view of some "civilised" socities, look at them today, especially Britain, it is decaying from within.


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