Solidarity Vigil – No To Death Penalty which took place in Hotel Asia on 7 November attracted approximately 130 people. The forum which started at 7pm and lasted for two and a half hours touched on the various perspectives and issues concerning the death penalty in Singapore.
The first speaker, Alex Au, gay activist and social commentator, spoke about the lack of conclusive evidence on the relationship between death penalty and deterrence. He added that some pro-death penalty Singaporeans reactions’ towards death penalty criticisms leaned towards illogical petty nationalism – the argument that Singapore is unique and that we do not need outsiders to tell us what we should do.
Mr J.B Jeyeratnam, veteran lawyer and Opposition politician, focused on the trial and investigation process in Singapore. He raised the question of the timeframe given to a defendant before given access to legal counsel; as well as the situation in which police statements are being made. He suggested the possibility of returning to jury trials which will make citizens responsible administrators to the justice system.
Opposition Politician and Secretary General of Singapore Democratic Party, Dr Chee Soon Juan, took over the stage by questioning the PAP government’s involvement with the Burmese military drug lords. He urged the local media to investigate stories on the Government Investment Corporation’s (GIC) investments on these Burmese businesses. He ended his speech by motivating the participants to confront their fears, network and build solidarity in the anti-death penalty movement.
Human rights Lawyer, M Ravi, took to the stage and criticized the Singapore and Australia government for serious miscarriage of justice done to Ngyuen under the constitution of both countries. He highlighted the conflict of interest inherent in the plea for clemency system since the President acts on the advice of the attorney general, the prosecutor. He also urged the Howard government to lodge a complaint to the International Court of Justice against the Singapore Judiciary. The results of the International Court has a binding effect on Singapore since it is a signatory to the Declaration of Human Rights.
Anthony Yeo, Clinical Director of Counselling and Care Centre, talked about the harrowing effects it has on close families of those sentenced to death while Brother Michael Broughton, a member of the Council of Interreligious Organization provided an insight on how the Catholic Church is reluctant on speaking out against the death penalty.
The last speaker is Madam Letchumi Murugesu, Mother of Shanmugam. She broke down in the middle of her speech as she related her personal story of the execution of her son, in which a similar forum had been held this year to campaign against his death sentence.
After a robust question and answer section, the forum ended with the Reach Out Campaign and a one minute silence vigil.
Reach Out Campaign encourages its supporters to write words of blessings and encouragement with a tracing of their hand on a piece of paper. They can deliver it directly to Ngyuen by faxing to: Condemned Prisoner C856 Nguyen Tuong Van, Fax: 65469208 or mailing to: Condemned Prisoner C856 Nguyen Tuong Van, Cluster Registry, Changi Prison, 982 Upper Changi Road, Singapore 507709. You can also show your support by signing an online petition at www.stophanging.com
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