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Second chances for death row prisoners

Film director Mohammad Alshatri speaks about his upcoming movie, 'Peluang Kedua', and the role of capital punishment in society.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
2 minute read
Film director Mohammad Alshatri speaks at the screening of 'Peluang Kedua' at the Freedom Film Festival on Sept 11. Photo: Twitter
Film director Mohammad Alshatri speaks at the screening of 'Peluang Kedua' at the Freedom Film Festival on Sept 11. Photo: Twitter

For years, film director Mohammad Alshatri has pondered the consequences of sentencing a person to death, only to find that a mistake had been made and that the person was actually innocent. 

"What if the person actually didn't commit the crime, and new evidence emerged?

"How would the courts retract the sentence? Even worse, what if the person had already been hanged?"

Such questions eventually formed the basis of his latest film, "Peluang Kedua" or "Second Chance".

The movie tells the story of two prisoners sentenced to hang, one in Singapore and the other in Malaysia. 

The first relates the emotional challenges and difficulties for the prisoner's family in travelling back and forth from the island republic to visit their loved one in jail. 

The other shows the perspective of a former death row prisoner named Rizwan, who was sentenced to hang for murder. 

Rizwan was pardoned by the sultan after spending more than a decade in jail.

"I also wanted to provide a perspective of the judicial system, whether in Malaysia or Singapore, which is too punitive," Alshatri said. 

"There is no space given for rehabilitation."

There is also the stress of uncertainty for the families of prisoners who have been sentenced to death but not yet hanged. 

"There's a lot of emotional pressure," Alshatri said. "They do everything they can, not just to secure a release, but to keep them safe even in jail." 

This was the case for Rizwan, who agreed to be featured in the film in order to show that those who are given a second chance and who have the right support can change their lives. 

"Peluang Kedua", published by the Freedom Film Network, was screened at the Freedom Film Fest on Sept 11. 

It comes amid international criticism of the Singapore government for its use of the death penalty for drug-related offences, even as Malaysia moved to abolish the mandatory death sentence.

Alshatri said he had conducted research to obtain information about the death sentence, including through interviews with lawyers and activists, and discussions with NGOs such as the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network.

For him, the death penalty should be abolished as a symbolic rejection of violence. 

"Only then can Malaysia become a society that does not resort to violence," he said. 

"There are still people who kill and sell drugs in Malaysia, even with the death sentence. 

"There are other factors involved, like the economy. It's not all just about punishment." 

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