The overwhelming injustice that confronts the poor and the disempowered needs to be urgently tackled before the judiciary hands down further death sentences, says Syerleena Abdul Rashid.
PETALING JAYA, 27 May 2011 — Following the sentencing of Alan Shadrake to a 6-week jail term for criticising the way the death penalty is administered in Singapore through his book Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock (SIRD, 2010), the Strategic Information and Research Development Centre (SIRD) condemns the decision of the Singapore court, stating it as a blatant disregard of the concept of freedom of expression.
Think Centre renews its long standing call on the Singapore Government to impose a moratorium on the death penalty.
The Registrar of the Supreme Court has set for the Court of Appeal to hear Yong Vui Kong’s appeal against the High Court’s decision on his judicial review application for the week commencing 17 January 2011. The extension provides the space for Yong Vui Kong’s lawyer to submit a fresh clemency appeal.
Think Centre also calls on the Singapore President to convene a constitutional tribunal, under Article 100 of the Constitution, to examine his powers to grant pardons under Article 22P.
The recent High Court’s ruling on 13 August regarding the limits on the President’s powers to grant clemency had thrown doubts on the efficacy of current and future appeals to the President. Think Centre therefore supports the call to convene a constitutional tribunal on the grounds that since 1991 the President of Singapore has been directly elected by all eligible citizens of Singapore, and thus represents all Singaporeans in spirit, on the issuance of clemency to those who seek it.
Sinapan Samydorai, TC Director of Asean Affairs and advocacy expert on regional human rights issues, commented, “The death penalty is an inhumane, cruel and degrading punishment. A moratorium on the mandatory death penalty will provide the chance to re-examine both the purpose and effectiveness. Even across the causeway where the mandatory death penalty is currently in place, there are now calls for a re-think.”
Over the weekend, Malaysia’s de facto Law Minister, Nazri Abdul Aziz, was reported widely by regional media to have said that it is time to abolish the death penalty on the basis that just as it is wrong for any individual to take a human life, it is also equally wrong for a government to do so.
Think Centre strongly supports this Malaysian wish to abolish the death penalty and sincerely urges the Singapore Government to similarly reconsider its imposition and institute a moratorium on the death penalty. The death penalty is not the answer to the social problem of drug addiction.
The government needs to shift its punitive approaches and view drug-related problem as a serious public health issue. More investment on preventive measures including widespread public education and public debates against consuming drugs is more important and efficient. The police forces are spending a lot of time and resources on the detention of “small fry” runners and the death penalty as punishment benefits the big traffickers. Unfortunately, often the drug consumers and “small fry” runners are executed, while those who mastermind the crime of drug trafficking evade arrest and punishment. Instead, the police forces should target the detention and prosecution of the big traffickers.
Only then will we forge a caring and sharing society in true Singapore spirit.
Kong Soon Tan is President of Think Centre in Singapore