Horror crimes in our midst

HAVE you ever heard or read of a criminal being sentenced to a total of 480 years in jail? With an average lifespan of 78 years, that's about six lifetimes.

I have not taken a leaf from stories about history's most brutal crimes. And this almost five-century-long jail sentence did not come from the courts in a crime-ridden city in Latin America or Africa but Malaysia.

At face value, this jail sentence is the longest recorded in world history and could even shock the publishers of Guinness World Records.

Last Monday, in the relatively quiet town of Sarikei in Sarawak, a father of four was sentenced by the sessions court to this total number of years plus 18 strokes of the cane after he admitted to having raped his 13-year-old daughter from January last year up to this month.

But as the court ordered the sentences to run concurrently, the 38-year-old rapist is required to serve only 30 years.

Three days earlier at the newly established Special Court for sexual crimes in Putrajaya, another father was sentenced to 48 years in jail and ordered to be whipped 24 times after he pleaded guilty to a total of 623 charges of sexually assaulting his 15-year-old daughter this year.

The sheer number of the sexual assaults, including sodomy, committed by the 36-year-old man, described as "monster dad", is sadistic to say the least.
In this case, because the sentences for the various charges were ordered to run consecutively, he would remain in jail for 48 years and might deservingly spend the rest of his life behind bars.

In some countries, including the Philippines, child rape is punishable by a mandatory death sentence.

Will we see a wave of support for capital punishment for child rape in this country?

Do the existing sentences fit the severity of the crime? Is it time to revisit our laws on child rape?

September is indeed a black month for horror crimes in our midst.

The entire country has not stopped mourning for the 21 young boys and two wardens who died in an early morning fire at a Tahfiz religious school in Kuala Lumpur last Thursday.

Police investigations found that seven teenagers, who were quickly detained following this heart-wrenching tragedy, were the suspected perpetrators.

The police had enough evidence that pointed to the bizarre case of arson for Kuala Lumpur Police Chief Comm Datuk Amar Singh to declare the case as closed.
He said insults exchanged between the teenagers earlier in the week were believed to have triggered the fire.

Closed-circuit TV showed the boys had intruded into the school building and two gas tanks were placed outside the room where the victims were sleeping.

Details later emerged of the suspects' involvement in drug-taking and that they were expelled from school at least a year ago due to truancy or frequent absence from classes.

Whatever the hatred generated between them and some of the victims following the heckling incident, it was inhuman for anyone to have burnt others alive in what was akin to first degree murder.

It also raises the question of whether expelling young students from their schools for playing truant landed them in a completely hopeless situation thus they thought nothing about resorting to extreme acts?

Should such students, who are from primary and secondary schools, be given a second or even third chance to reform?

It goes without saying that the loved ones especially parents of the victims are devastated and no words could lighten their grief and trauma after having lost their children in such a cruel manner.

What of the parents of the suspects?

Is this a case of grave parenting failure in sections of our society?

Everyone, including the authorities, must learn lessons from the tragedy and enforce strictly preventive measures as we have had far too many such fires involving residential school buildings, especially religious schools.

Comments: letters@thesundaily.com