10 Nov 2005

The Death Penalty is Abhorrent. Full Stop.

Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. Those words could possibly be the state of Singaporeans' action to make the regime discard the death penalty.

All along the focus by those against the death penalty has been on drug traffickers - the late Shanmugam Murugesu and now Nguyen Tuong Van. What they did was ethical on humane grounds. Nobody, even the state, should have the right to take away someone's life. The state's monopoly of violence should certainly not extend to capital punishment. Their obstinance in hanging Shanmugam Murugesu and now Nguyen Tuong Van using vague iffy explanations of deterrence and protection of society is sadly bordering on the comical. Unfortunately, none of us feel like laughing.

However the recent turn of arguments started by Mr Wang, an anti-death penalty advocate himself, has pulled the rug from under the high profile anti-death penalty campaigners like Think Centre, Chee Soon Juan, Ravi and others. In between Shanmugam Murugesu and Nguyen Tuong Van, there was Took Leng How, the murderer-molester of a young girl. But there was silence amongst those same people who want to save Shanmugam Murugesu and Nguyen Tuong Van from the death penalty. Not all people facing the death penalty are worth saving? Or some crimes deserve the death penalty and others don't? Took Leng How deserved to die but not Shanmugam Murugesu and Nguyen Tuong Van? I hope not.

And this is where the timely death penalty poll in Singabloodypore comes in. Are we against the death penalty or not. Or is it a maybe answer. To me, on humane grounds, the death penalty is anachronistic and abhorrent. Thankfully, the tide could slowly be shifting towards an absolute ban on the death penalty as seen in the first ever online petition to save Took Leng How.

But it might all be too late too little. A dying Took Leng How, he is actually dying, would look at both the regime and its draconian leaders who still insist on capital punishment in this time and age, and the campaigners fighting to save Nguyen Tuong Van and not his, and curse

I am hurt.
A plague o' both your houses! I am sped

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

No amount of petition is going to change the Gahmen. Only way is through the ballot box...make them wake up

Charles said...

I am with Eng Chuan on this. Death Penalty should be abolished regardless of the nature of the crime committed.

Anonymous said...

But yes, I agree. Let's stop the double standards.

Let's abolish the ISA too.

But who is going to campaign for the JI detainees to be tried in court?

Or did I hear some people say terrorist-linked detainees are different from political prisoners?

Abolishing death penalty in Singapore needs to be incremental. First, start with drug traffickers. Then, murderers.

It's the same with abolshing detention without trial. First, start with political dissidents. Then, terrorist suspects.

The people who talk and whine (like Wr Wang) generally do just that - talk and whine. They leave it to the 'activists' to do all the work - and then bitch about them. Shameful and typical of armchair critics.

Colin Ang

Anonymous said...

1) The investment is in billions of dollars. If it is utilised to make drugs, wouldn't a very huge amount of drugs be produced?

2) Wouldn't it be very very harmful considering the investment was made since 1990 (principal plus profit)on a snowballing effect?

3) Someone said "ignorance of the law is no excuse". However, we're the one imposing such mandate. Do you think we can be ignorant of what we had imposed considering that drug has such harmful effects?

4) Do you agree that everyone makes mistakes (including you and me) because of our delusions such as greed, hatred, anger and ignorance?

5) From the news we read, we see everyday, which piece of the news isn't derived out of the above delusions?

6) As such, do you agree that we shld be more fair and more justifiable, esp. to the drug convicts? If so, don't you think that we shld amend our mandate to imprisonment only?

Mr Wang Says So said...

Hmmm? Since when are ISA detainees hanged? Or is Colin Ang merely attempting to confuse the issues?

I am happy to discuss the ISA, if someone wishes to initiate a new post. However, I thought the current discussion is about the death penalty.

Anonymous said...

yes, mr wang, we're still on the topic of death penalty. you've yet to answer to the above questions.

strom said...

Colin Ang- you mean you're not an armchair critic yourself? Which constituency are you running in?

Anonymous said...

i suspect strom = mr wang. Am I right?

clyde said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
clyde said...

The complete abolishment of the death penalty versus partial abolishment is an important one. But remember that big changes should start will small steps. Right now shifting the focus on partial supporters will make no progress. It's common ground that we need to stand on if we are to have our strongest voice yet.

Partial supporters believe there is an imbalance in the incremental severity of the punishment meted out when comparing murderers and drug traffickers. And their support for the penalty at the extreme end of the spectrum can be directly attributed to pure punishment with total disregard to the deterrence effect. In other words the deterrence effect will have nothing to do with their reasons for wanting "death" as justice against murderers. Attack their moral grounds on this "eye-for-an-eye" punishment, and maybe you will make headway.

Speaking of Chee Soon Juan and activist politicians alike, can anyone quote their unambiguous stance on the death penalty? Have they said anything that distinguishes them as partial or full supporters of abolishment? Inaction for Took is not substantial enough. If you can provide quotes, that would be much appreciated.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Oh, please. Mr Wang is already an pseudonym. How many do you think I need. Every other week, someone is accused of being Mr Wang; how ... boring.

I don't know very much about this Lo drug baron that Chee Soon Juan often talks about. I have some difficulty telling the fact from the fiction in that one, actually. But it doesn't really matter, because I can't really see how it's relevant to the current discussion on death penalty. Maybe you can spell out the relevance for me.

The only relevant question I see is Question 6. My own personal view is quite simple. I think that the death penalty should be completely abolished. I feel that the death penalty is a violation of human rights. Also it is against my spiritual beliefs; it is certainly inconsistent with most if not all major religions.

And minor religions too, if I might add.

Furthermore, intuitively I do not think that the deterrent effect of the death sentence can be very much greater than life imprisonment. I have commented briefly on that on my own blog as well. If a person cannot be deterred by the prospect of life imprisonment, then he cannot be deterred by the prospect of the death sentence. Especially if death will be quick.

Unfortunate that there seems to be some attempt to politicise the issue - very unfortunate - the REAL issue is about life and death, not puny little things like SDP or PAP or WP - and I urge all those who are truly against capital punishment to stay focused on the REAL issue, and not get distracted.

So what if the Singapore government invests in Myanmar? To me, the death sentence is wrong. And so what if the Singapore government does NOT invest in Myanmar? To me, the death sentence is still wrong. Singapore government's involvement or non-involvement in Myanmar is irrelevant. To me, the death sentence is simply wrong, it is wrong in Singapore, it is wrong in Myanmar, it would be wrong in any country where it exists. Please rise above your petty politics.

Anonymous said...

Here's the the Mr Wang and Colin Ang comparison.

Both feel that death penalty should be abolished - be it for drug traffickers or murderers.

Both are not doing anything concrete to further their beliefs.

Mr Wang whines about Singaporean activists being hypocritical by campaigning for drug traffickers and ignoring murderers.

Colin Ang says activists are doing a great job, given that this is the first time in 40 years that the death penalty issue has been aired.

Mr Wang says death penalty ought to be abolished for all crimes.

Colin Ang agrees but says reforms has to be incremental - abolish it for drug traffickers first, then move on to other crimes.

Mr Wang says Colin Ang is being irrelevant by bring up ISA.

Coiln Ang uses the abolishment of ISA as an analogy to illustrate that S'poreans may not be ready to have terror suspects tried in open court, just as they are not ready to abolish death penalty for murderers.

Again, both are not doing anything concrete to further their beliefs.

At least Colin Ang is not putting down the Singaporean activists. Mr Wang is.

Colin Ang

Somebody said...

Mr Wang says so, I don't understand what you mean by attempts to "politicise the issue". I think it's political to start with.

Also - and please note I'm not commenting on the truth of Dr Chee's assertion - but if a government is investing money in a fund managed by a drug lord, and then hangs the little people on the basis that they are trying to protect their population from drugs, then I think the question is entirely appropriate because their argument for the death penalty is completely discredited. When you say that the real issue is that the death sentence is wrong, and that is the only relevant point, there is nowhere to go with that argument when the people you are challenging think that it is a good thing that benefits society. You would be like a small child stamping his feet.

With regard to comments on the lack of reaction for Took, I think it completely fair to start with a case that most people would easily feel compassion for when you are trying to raise awareness and generate support. I wonder if campaigning for Took might actually be counterproductive, and if you’d be better off just focussing on a general campaign to abolish the death penalty? What do people think?

Mr Wang Says So said...

I don't recall saying that anyone is being hypocritical about the issue. I do recall saying that these activists, some of them at least, are lacking clarity in their thinking.

Come to think of it, way back in August, before you and I even heard of Nguyen Tuong Van, I was already examining the same kind of issue. See my old post which breaks down the thinking points in even greater detail for your easy consumption.

For me, it is very important to be clear on the principles on which you base the cause. If you know your principle, you may not succeed. If you do not know your principle, you will surely fail.

Let us talk about principles then.

If you support Nguyen because you think that drug trafficking does not merit death, then you should say so. But you should not go on to talk about Nguyen's poor sick brother or mother or sister. That is not relevant. How would you justify your stance if the next drug trafficker who comes along has no relatives who are poor or sick?

If you support Nguyen because you think that drug trafficking does not merit death, then you should say so. But you should not go on to talk about Amnesty International and how all death sentences are violations of human rights - UNLESS you are also prepared to support the likes of Took and other murderers.

If you do not get your principles clear, you will flounder when the next cases hit you. For example - a drug trafficker who is not young and innocent-looking; a drug trafficker who did it purely for money for a luxurious lifestyle; or a high-level drug baron, the criminal mastermind. What is your position then?

If you say that Nguyen is a small little pawn and therefore should not be hanged - are you saying that drug barons, the genuine masterminds, should be hanged, if convicted? If so, then clearly your principle is not "drug trafficking does not merit death", so please stop saying so.

What about deterrence? If your guiding principle is that the death sentence should be abolished because it is not really an effective deterrent - then are you saying that you WOULD support the death sentence if indeed new studies were done and they proved that the death sentence is an effective deterrent? If that is the case, then Alex Au is probably the right man for you (no homo jokes intended), but please do not go on to claim the support of Amnesty International. Because AI's position would not be yours.

A further illustration - consider JBJ's stance. It seems from the posts in Singabloodypore that JBJ's position is that the legal system is fallible; it can make mistakes; therefore there is the possibility that innocent people can be convicted; death is a final sentence for which there is no turning back. This is JBJ's reasoning. This is a tenable point of view - except that this reasoning is equally applicable to murderers and drug traffickers. So before you start relying on JBJ's arguments, please ask yourself why you are not also campaigning for murderers. If you are not prepared to support murderers, then please do not cite JBJ as your man.

What if you do not get your own principles in order? What if you do not know what you really stand for? Well, that makes you weak in the head. And susceptible to other people's agendas, agendas which, if you really thought through, might not really be yours. Why, perhaps Mr Wang could even manipulate you into supporting his spiritual beliefs. Which aren't even YOUR own spiritual beliefs.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Would you like to see what I consider a principled course of action? Read about Mrs Cotera.

Her son was murdered. She asked the prosecutors to spare her son's killers from the death sentence. This is a principled position.

This is what I would respect - deeply - even if I thought capital punishment is perfectly ok.

Do YOU know where you stand - and the reason why?

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree with Colin Ang. Mr Wang wasn't at all initially agreed that death penalty should be abolished until those questions were raised and forced to answer. I find that he often tried to distract or to stray us away from our discussion. It's a matter of life and death, therefore, time is an essence!!

Now, someone like Mr Wang still could not see the relevant logic. On one hand, the garmen said that drugs are harmful, therefore stringent punitive law should be enforced. On the other hand, they invested billions of dollars with drug lords that would indirectly helped to produce a huge mass of drugs for trafficking. In turn, this causes more people to come in contact with drugs. See my Q(1) and (2) above.

In other words, they do not follow what they preach. There is no excuse that garmen did not who know these investees were drug pushers. Nobody would invest a huge amount of money (in billions,ok) without identifying their backgrounds first.

And now, we continue to execute convicts with minimal amount of drugs as compared to the invested monies that could be utilised to produce huge mass amount of drugs for trafficking/consumption is, therefore, negligible. So, what is the justification for sg to be so strict and rigid with regards to drug trafficking when sg is such a big investor of the drug lord? Especially so, death penalty is mandatory?? This is not fair and justifiable to convicts? I feel ashamed to be Singaporean to have such a gar...

By the way, agree with Colin Ang: reforms has to be incremental - abolish it for drug traffickers first, then move on to other crimes. So above is my reasoning for the change of mandate to jail terms.

mrdarren said...

There are problems with seeking a total abolishment of the death penalty.

1) Role of morality in laws
Part of SG's legal tradition is the separation of law and morality. A Secular society. Arguing against the death penalty on moral/religious/spiritual grounds could backfire.

2) Inhumane punishment - human rights
Human rights is considered part of the western legal tradition. SG has never been a big fan of an individual's 'rights'. Rights of the community always override rights of the individual. Rights do no exist in vacuum and must be weighed and balanced, etc etc. In the end, we will come back to the debate of the deterrence value of death penalty.

I agree that incremental reform should be the way forward. We need a unified voice in this protest. Let's just focus on a simple point and be clinical about it: Death penalty is not proven to work as a form of public deterrence.

Call for the government to show proof that death penalty as deterrence works, whether for murder or drug trafficking. Because all scientific studies conducted thus far indicates that death penalty does not work as deterrence. We cannot just assume it works here. At least be responsible for the lives executed (420 and counting) and conduct some local studies to the effect! Don't just release a letter to Australia stating your conclusions, without justifying the basis of your reasoning. This is what an honest and intelligent government should do.

Anonymous said...

It is a myth that Colin and Mr Wang are not doing anything.

We dun have to be active politicially by running for election.

What we all should do in the blosphere is that when the General Election comes, we should all blog openly about it. We will then see how many blogs the government can shut down and how many they can arrest.

We have to vote for Change or else all we can do is be armchair critics for the next 4 years and complain about the party we voted for.

Its time for change, ladies and gentlenmen.

Its time for Democracy in the second richest nation in Asia!

Its time for Change!

Let the people voices be heard!

clyde said...

"What we all should do in the blosphere is that when the General Election comes, we should all blog openly about it. We will then see how many blogs the government can shut down and how many they can arrest.

How true... if all we did was sit behind a computer and blogged about it, we'd be branding ourselves armchair critics already, as activists. And what a great idea too. Online civil disobedience... Think about it. If everyone posted the exact SAME article at the same time that discusses the elections, they cannot discriminate and would have to prosecute all if they dared. Hmmm..

Mr Wang Says So said...

Anonymous said:
"Mr Wang wasn't at all initially agreed that death penalty should be abolished until those questions were raised and forced to answer."

If you can be bothered to read my own blog, you will see that even before anyone here raised any questions to me - in fact, even before this post on Singabloodypore was even posted - I had already written on my own blog:

"From the spiritual perspective, I object to the death penalty in every instance."

Okay, you don't read very well. Let me help you further:

"From the spiritual perspective, I object to the death penalty in every instance."

Okay. You still don't get it. Let's try it again.

"From the spiritual perspective, I object to the death penalty in EVERY instance."

There, hope that helps.

Mr Wang Says So said...

I understand the arguments for incremental reform. I think that incremental reform works for some kinds of causes - but not for this one.

The problem is that if you do not really what your guiding principles are, then you will essentially end up with a George Bush type of problem.

You invade Iraq and kill people. You say it's because Saddam has weapons of mass destruction and these must be found and destroyed. Then it turns out that Saddam has no WMDs. So you say that actually you're invading Iraq and killing people because Saddam has terrorist links, and so you continue to stick around in Iraq and kill people. Then it turns out that Saddam has no terrorist links, and that terrorist attacks continue to take place merrily around the world even though Iraq is quite incapacitated. So you then say actually you're attacking Iraq because you want to bring peace, democracy etc to Iraq. Then you're found abusing Iraqi prisoners of war in Abu Gharaib, and you're hand out highly lucrative commercial contracts to your own US companies to rebuild Iraq. And up to today, there is STILL no democracy and freedom and peace in Iraq - although their hospitals and infrastructure and water supply systems are still devastated.

And then you wonder why so much of the world hates the US, and why American students travelling in other countries today sew Canadian flags on their backpacks and pretend to be Canadian. Meanwhile your troops are still stuck in Iraq; you have no graceful way to pull them out; and the costs of the war continue to escalate. And your own US citizens distrust you.

This is an analogy to what I think is likely to happen if you're not clear about what exactly it is about the death penalty you're objecting to. You will muddy everything up and cause problems for yourself. And you won't be able to solve them - because you simply don't even know WHAT you really want.

Mr Wang Says So said...

The point about being armchair critics is again highly misguided in the present context.

If we are talking about some other kinds of causes, then the criticism can ring true. For example, if I talk a lot about earthquake victims and criticise efforts to help them, then one might validly say, "Well, Mr Wang, instead of talking so much, why don't you organise something yourself and collect blankets and food for them."

However, the context here is quite different. There is nothing for Mr Wang to do in the material world. You cannot, for example, seriously expect Mr Wang to plan a rescue mission, break into Changi Prison like James Bond and rescue Nguyen.

All that can be done is that you articulate your arguments, your opinion, your view, and put them out into the universe. In fact, if the death penalty is ever abolished in Singapore, that is exactly how it will happen - MPs will stand up in Parliament, articulate their arguments, their opinions, their views, and then they will vote.

How do you articulate those views, opinions etc? There are different channels, different ways. But please don't tell me that if I stand in the street and wave a flag, then that is definitely a better way. Please don't tell me that if I go to a hotel and give a talk, then that is definitely a better way. As far as I'm concerned, if I write anything on my blog or on Singabloodypore , the message will be delivered to many more people than if I held a talk in a hotel. Furthermore the message is preserved for posterity - it will always be available online for people who care enough to look for it.

You can choose your own channels. To me, it's all talk in the end, whether you talk in a hotel or on your blog or by waving a flag. That is not to say that speech is not important. It is. In fact, it is all you really have, in a case like this. So the point is - your comments about armchair critics, at least in the present context, are quite completely misconceived.

akikonomu said...

It appears the recent turn of arguments by Mr Wang are so sensible that the Straits Times "reporter" Laurel Teo repeated it point for point on page 35 of the ST today. Bravo!

Anonymous said...

So Mr Wang, will you then blog openly about Politics during the General Election or will you use different channels instead?

Mr Wang Says So said...

I have already stated that I cannot see the relevance of all this talk about the government investing money with drug barons in Myanmar. I am not even sure what is true or not true about that particular tale - to me, it has elements of an urban legend. However, since it seems that there are so many anonymous persons interested in hearing Mr Wang's views on the matter, very well, Mr Wang will oblige you.

Let us look at what this Mr Anonymous has to say:

"Now, someone like Mr Wang still could not see the relevant logic. On one hand, the garmen said that drugs are harmful, therefore stringent punitive law should be enforced. On the other hand, they invested billions of dollars with drug lords that would indirectly helped to produce a huge mass of drugs for trafficking. In turn, this causes more people to come in contact with drugs. See my Q(1) and (2) above.

In other words, they do not follow what they preach. There is no excuse that garmen did not who know these investees were drug pushers. Nobody would invest a huge amount of money (in billions,ok) without identifying their backgrounds first."


For the same of discussion, let's make some utterly wild, unsubstantiated suppositions. Suppose there is actually some truth in this Myanmar story. Suppose there is some utterly correct and convincing evidence. Suppose that the government of Singapore actually invested in some secret hedge fund called "Golden Poppy Fields Equities Fund" managed by Myanmar's most famous drug baron.

Then suppose all this became public, a real scandal - and people started saying, "Oh, the terrible Singapore government is so hypocritical, how can they do such things? It is so utterly hypocritical."

You know what would happen, don't you? Let me give you two scenarios - YOU tell me which is more likely:

Scenario 1 --> The Singapore government commissions a high-level investigation into the matter, after which they fire / prosecute a few government officials responsible for this matter. The Prime Minister says: "This is utterly regrettable - we will ensure that this never happens again. It is completely unacceptable for the government of Singapore to do business with persons who are well-known to be involved in organised crime." Within two weeks, they then withdraw all their investment money from Myanmar. They wisely put their money into China and India instead, which everyone with half a brain already knows are much better places to invest your money than a backwater country like Myanmar.

Scenario 2 --> The government of Singapore says: "No, no, we really want to invest our money with drug barons. Okay, fine, we will stop being hypocritical about this matter - our money will stay in the "Golden Poppy Fields Equities Fund", but we will abolish the death sentence for drug traffickers and also legalise the use of heroin and other poppy products in Singapore."

Use your brain, lah. Which do you think is the much likelier scenario. Of course, scenario 1. And what does it do for your anti-capital punishment cause? Nothing, nada, zip, zilch, zero.

And so once again, Mr Wang demonstrates why all this talk about Myanmar investments is utterly irrelevant to our discussion about capital punishment.

Anonymous said...

Pls use your brain too! But the point I'm trying to drive at is they "don't seem to practice what they preach". Why engage with drug lord in the first place? Then, they shld not execute others if trafficked a small amt as compared to a huge mass of drugs produced out of the invested fund! Scenario 1 but it observely shows that either the top executives must be "sleeping" without knowing the onus of harmful effects of drugs. The investments would be carried on so long as no one knew it, is it? Is this what they call "transparency". To me, it is obsolute "cheating" and "dishonesty" with their citizens. Don't you think the execution all the "legging" drug traffickers is unjust and unfair act of deterrence!

Another point to highlight is "It appears the recent turn of arguments by Mr Wang are so sensible that the Straits Times "reporter" Laurel Teo repeated it point for point on page 35 of the ST today." Well, don't applaud yet - who knows this reporter is P** supporter!

Anonymous said...

I find Mr Wang objective in his observations. I therefore find the attacks on him shameful. They only demean those who engage in such things.