For the first time in the nation’s history, Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has been gathering the opinions of citizens and permanent residents concerning the death penalty.
In the wake of the hanging of Prabu N. Pathmanathan, a convicted Malaysian drug trafficker, last week, human rights groups have called for the death penalty to be abolished. Malaysia had appealed to Singapore to halt the execution for humanitarian reasons.
A statement from the MHA read, “The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is conducting the survey to give us a better understanding of Singapore residents’ attitudes towards the death penalty.”
Official data states that last year’s execution of eight persons who had been convicted of drug charges was the highest in the last ten years. Singapore has long maintained that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime, and has retained the implementation of capital punishment since its days as a colony of the United Kingdom.
The statement also said that the survey is included in the government’s “regular research on our criminal justice system,” and that “participants were randomly selected based on age, race, and gender, for a representative sample of the Singapore resident population.”
The MHA commissioned Blackbox Research, a market research consultancy. They are interviewing around 2000 respondents from October to December.
Meanwhile, advocates for human rights do not believe that the surveys are an indication that the death penalty will be abolished any time soon. The deputy director for Asia at Human Rights Watch, Phil Robertson, said, “There’s been no indication whatsoever that Singapore’s position on use of the death penalty is softening. One wonders whether the MHA is counting on a survey of public opinion to back their views and provide justification for their continued defiance of the international trend towards abolishing the death penalty.”
Rachel Chhoa-Howard, a researcher for Amnesty International in Singapore, told the Agence France-Presse, “Opinion polls are a questionable measure of public support for the death penalty. As more and more governments move away from the death penalty, this announcement is completely out of step with the times.
Authorities must resume its moratorium on executions, as a first step to abolishing this cruel punishment once and for all.”
Not only has closest neighbor Malaysia imposed a moratorium on all executions, but it also announced last month that the government is tabling a bill to abolish the death penalty.
Until 2012, crimes such as murder and drug trafficking automatically resulted in the death penalty. However, new legislation was passed that year that took away the mandatory provision for drug trafficking and murder under various conditions.
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