Singapore—In an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald on July 22, Monday, one writer called Singapore’s capital punishment laws “both ineffective and inhumane.”
The writer, identified as James Arokiasamy at the beginning of the piece, was later revealed to be anonymous since at the end of the article it says that the name given is a pseudonym for a writer based in Singapore.
“James Arokiasamy’s” main point is that despite capital punishment laws, the drug trade has continued to prosper in South East Asia.
The author used the impending death sentence of 10 convicts in Changi Prison before the end of July as an example. He believes that this will occur on Friday morning, at 6:00 am on July 26, since Singapore usually schedules executions “when most of the city-state is still asleep.”
Furthermore, the executions have not had much media coverage. “Because of the sensitive nature of the executions, Singapore’s newspapers have made only scant mention of the impending deaths.”
Usually as well, the date when convicts are executed is a fortnight after the President turns down clemency appeals that have been made to her by the convicts.
This is by no means the first time that a large group of men have been scheduled to be executed together. In 1966, 18 men were hung because of their part in the murder of a jailed superintendent and some of his assistants. In 1975, seven men convicted of murder were hanged. Two of those men were brothers.
However, this time, all of the men facing execution are drug dealers. Of the 10, four are Malaysian nationals who have been convicted of drug smuggling.
Since last year, Malaysia has been re-thinking whether or not to abolish the death penalty, particularly for drug dealers, since it has not seemed to successfully prevent the spread of drugs.
However, the anonymous author points out, Singapore does not seem to plan on reconsidering capital punishment.
Though reprieves are sometimes granted, they are few and far between. A few years ago, four convicted drug dealers were granted clemency and had their execution order commuted due to mental illness or because they had played a big role in assisting law enforcement agents in their fight against drug operations in the region.
However, for “Mr Arokiasamy” this is not the crux of the matter. He writes,
“But what, perhaps, is on trial here is not just the fate of the condemned men but the judicial system itself and how it administers mercy pleas. The large number of rejections of amnesty pleas is shocking.”
He points out that while the President has the power to reverse execution orders, this is done only upon the advice of the cabinet, which consults the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC), the agency responsible for bringing the defendants to justice.
Therefore, “It seems unlikely that the AGC would contradict itself when presenting its findings to the cabinet and later to the state president.”
To solidify his argument, the writer further points out that “A recent report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime stated that the drug trade continues to flourish in south-east Asia.”
He also wrote that lawyers, who spoke anonymously, said that this is true of Singapore as well.
He continues, “This says either that Asia’s drug cartel is a well-oiled machine that is able to outfox everybody, or that judicial methods aimed at eradicating the menace have proven to be inadequate. Malaysia appears to have come to this conclusion already.
But none of that has yet dawned on Singapore.”
“Mr Arokiasamy” ends by writing, “As it stands, the hapless men in Cluster A of Singapore’s maximum-security prison in Changi have little less than a week to live.
Theirs appears to be a lost cause. We can only wonder how they will pass the time until they face their end./ TISG