Left goes against its grain, wants noose for killer
A day after the Supreme Court commuted the death penalty of Govindachami, the
sole convict in the Soumya murder case, the Left in Kerala has found itself
caught in an ideological war of its own making.
On one hand, the CPM-led state government announced its plans to seek a review
or revision of the Supreme Court verdict and seek the death sentence for the
convict. However, this is contrary to the Left's pre-declared stand against
capital punishment, which had them pitching for legislation to remove the death
penalty from the Constitution.
CPM Politburo member M A Baby, a staunch opponent of capital punishment, stated
that the Left was against the death penalty. "In general, the Left is opposed
to capital punishment and we feel it should be removed from our system and
Constitution through legislation.
"The Left believes that capital punishment is highly primitive and should be
done away with," said Baby. "This is not a specific stance for Govindachami
alone. We would have held the same view even if Nathuram Vinayak Godse, who
killed Mahatma Gandhi, was on trial today."
Rejecting Baby's view, Kerala's Law Minister and CPM Central Committee member A
K Balan said: "We will approach the court seeking maximum punishment under
Section 302 (murder). There is no point in going for life imprisonment for
Govindachami, as he has already been sentenced for a life term once," said
Balan. Despite their opposite views, both Baby and Balan reiterated that there
was no contradiction in the stance of the party and the Kerala government on
the issue. Balan added that the party and the government are seeking death for
Govindachami considering the grave crime he committed. Balan, who is in Delhi
to attend a 3-day CPM Central Committee meet, will meet legal experts on what
the immediate and best mode of approach in the court will be - to finalise
whether the government should file a review petition or a revision petition.
Since capital punishment is only for rarest of rare offences, the government's
attempt will be to ensure the court awards punishment to Govindachami for
As if sensing the dilemma within Left parties, BJP state chief Kummanam
Rajsekharan lambasted the government, accusing it of foul play. Meanwhile, CPM
state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan tried to downplay the controversy,
insisting that there was no irony in the matter.
"The CPM has demanded that Govindachami be given maximum punishment as per the
existing law. As of now, there is capital punishment in the law. Hence, the
government will demand the same," he said. "The Left's stance is not specific
to this particular case. There is no need to link the 2."
The CPM had finalised its stance on doing away with capital punishment after
earlier discussions within its Politburo and Central Committee.
Tragic story of death-row maid caught up in Asia's war on drugs ---- Mary Jane
Veloso says she was duped into smuggling heroin into Indonesia as she fled an
attempted rape in Dubai
She has become a cause celebre in both the country of her detention and that of
her birth. Condemned to death on drug-smuggling charges, she was temporarily
reprieved hours before her execution, but still languishes on death row in an
Indonesian prison. And last week the skies darkened again over Mary Jane
Veloso, a Filipino maid whose plight has captured the imagination of 2
populations that know all about the vulnerability of migrant workers.
After the Philippines' president, the newly installed Rodrigo Duterte, visited
Jakarta, it was reported that he had given his Indonesian counterpart, Joko
Widodo, the go-ahead to execute her. Duterte has begun a ferocious and bloody
war on drugs in the Philippines. That change of political direction has, it
seems, led to yet another twist in the tortured tale of a woman who lost
control of her life from the moment she entered Indonesia in 2010, hoping, she
has said, to take up a job in domestic service.
Born to an impoverished family in the northern city of Cabanatuan, Veloso
married at 17 but later separated from her husband. She moved to the United
Arab Emirates in 2009 to earn money for her 2 young sons in the Philippines.
Veloso says that she had to flee Dubai after an attempted rape and was then
duped into smuggling drugs into Indonesia. Her case has become the focus of
sympathy in both the Philippines and Indonesia, where many families have loved
ones working abroad, often in poor conditions with abusive employers. Before
the original date set for her execution last April, more than 200,000
signatures from 127 countries were collected for a #SaveMaryJane petition.
Veloso says that a woman called Maria Kristina Sergio, the daughter of one of
her godparents, told her to move to Indonesia for a maid's job in 2010. In an
account that Sergio disputes, Veloso says the woman gave her new clothes and a
bag that she says she was unaware had 2.6kg (5.7lb) of heroin sewn into it.
"We're poor and I wanted to change our life, but I could never commit the crime
they have accused me of," Veloso wrote last year in a letter to the then
president, Benigno Aquino.
Her legal team launched 2 appeals in Indonesia, 1 that argued she did not have
a competent translator, and a 2nd saying she was scammed. Both were rejected.
As her April 2015 execution date approached, protesters in the Philippines and
Indonesia rallied to save her and hundreds of people held vigils outside the
Indonesian embassy in Manila. Even world boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao made a
public plea for her life.
2 days before Veloso's execution date, her family was allowed a visit. She
explained to her sons that she would not be coming home. Her youngest child,
6-year-old Mark Darren, said he would try to think that "Mama is in heaven".
Then Indonesia shot dead 8 people, including 2 Australians, part of the Bali 9
heroin-smuggling ring, four Nigerians, a Brazilian and an Indonesian. But not
Veloso, although several newspapers in the Philippines reported she was dead.
The hashtag "maryjanelives" trended on Twitter across the Philippines and
The reprieve was down to an unexpected turn of events in her homeland.
Veloso???s alleged trafficker, Sergio, had handed herself in to police hours
before the execution. And Aquino, invoking a regional treaty that compels
nations to co-operate on transnational crime, asked Indonesia to keep Veloso
alive. He said she was needed to testify in the case against Sergio and another
man, now accused of trafficking, illegal recruitment and fraud.
Indonesia's president insisted that the execution was merely postponed, but the
campaign for clemency had new grounds for hope.
A year on, the accession of Duterte to the presidency has again changed the
dynamics of Veloso's case. Duterte's first 3 months in office have been
dominated by a bloody crackdown that has left 3,526 drug dealers and addicts
dead, most of them in extrajudicial killings by vigilante groups, actions that
were publicly encouraged by Duterte before he was elected.
Senator Leila de Lima, who has been leading a senate hearing into the killings
and is 1 of the main domestic critics of Duterte, said that she was "sad and
heartbroken that the president will throw away all our efforts to save a life
just like that, when it is still in his power to request the holding off of the
execution". But it was no surprise, she added, that Veloso's life might seem of
no worth to an administration that had adopted judicial or extrajudicial
executions as "government policy".
Even Duterte has said that fighting for Veloso's life would sit badly with his
drugs crackdown. "It would have left a bad taste in the mouth to be talking
about having a strong posture against drugs and here you are begging for
something," he told reporters, adding that he told Widodo he supported the
death penalty in Indonesia. Capital punishment was outlawed in the Philippines
Veloso's legal team told the Observer it was very concerned. "Mary Jane is a
victim of dire poverty, of lack of real opportunities for a decent job, of
pernicious drug and human trafficking. The law may be the law, but it should
not be blind or deaf to reality," lawyer Edre Olalia wrote in an email. "As the
leader of this nation and as the pater familias of all Filipinos, President
Duterte is expected to rise to his bounden duty and fight for her, and fight
hard as he does for all victims of this transnational infection."
Widodo's reported conversation with Duterte has reinvigorated public interest
in Veloso's case and the office of Indonesia's attorney general said last week
that she would not be killed in the next wave of executions. The judge in the
case involving Sergio said that she would fly to Indonesia this month to get a
deposition from Veloso in her prison cell. Veloso's supporters believe that a
trial can vindicate her, if it can prove she was used as a pawn.
"Winning the case will codify Mary Jane's innocence and erase all doubts that
she should be spared from execution," said Garry Martinez, chair of Migrante
Ruperto Santos, a prominent Roman Catholic bishop in the Philippines, said that
"conflicting reports regarding the actions of President Duterte" on the Veloso
case were regrettable. "Let us continue to pray for her, that her life be
(source: The Guardian)
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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