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In Malaysia it seems common now to read reports of fetuses and newborn babies being dumped or abandoned. According to police reports, since 2005 more than 472 babies were discarded. Some were still alive while others dead with the umbilical cords still attached. Now, what kind of human beings would do that to an innocent baby? Desperation, heartlessness, cold heartedness, denial, fright, fear, ostracism, shamefulness, marginalization and stigma are some of the many related descriptions that come to mind.

The frenetic response to these inhuman acts can be seen when a segment of the public and some politicians in Malaysia have more or less concluded that those who abandon their babies and causing them to die as a result would face the murder charge. In fact a few days ago I joined the online poll run by Malaysia Star which posed a question as follows ” Should a person who dumps a baby, causing the child to die, be tried for murder and sentenced to death?”. One needs to click a “yes” or “no”. Having considered it carefully and without having a legal background, I voted “no”.

I expected the responses would be 50-50 but today, 19 Aug 2010, when I checked the responses at 9.40am, a total of 9424 votes had been registered and an overwhelming 72% (6763) had voted “yes” and only 28% of us (2661) had voted “no”. So you can see how generally angry and vengeful the public is ( the newspaper online readers at least) towards these baby dumpers. This is what is called “herd mentality” which gives rise to public lynching that you sometimes see when anarchy sets in. Very frightening indeed.

But sentencing to death the perpetrators of this heinous act is not really addressing this social problem. What may in fact happen is such unfortunate newborns would be dumped more discreetly as not to be found at all thus sweeping the problem under the carpet and we would all be like an ostrich with its head buried in the sand. Criminalizing baby dumping will lead to more live being lost. Are we not about saving lives?

People need to be more objective when offering measures or solutions to this despicable acts of indiscriminately abandoning these innocent babies and endangering their lives. A retired judge who wrote succinctly in Malaysia Star (Thursday 19 Aug 2010) on the subject, called upon us to look at the bigger picture rather than specifically focussing on the the dumping act. For example, the mental state of the mothers, the facts around the conception and the birth of the babies, marital status, the socio-cultural factors and the environment and the existing legal provisions for dealing with the “crime”. In a nutshell, analyse and be civilised.

By and large, it is the society which inadvertently promotes this culture of secrecy and viciousness by its errant members so as to avoid being stigmatised and labelled as amoral and sinful. The wise former judge concluded by saying, I quote,“We need to remind ourselves that when we point a finger at these women, there are four more pointing back at ourselves!
When we give ourselves and our children the names of saints and prophets who revere a Divinity who is all compassionate and all merciful, surely we can also take that route and only resort to coercion as a last resort”

It is indeed comforting to hear a voice of reason.


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