3 Dec 2005

Speakers believe mandatory death penalty is unlikely to become an election issue

Caption (Speakers from Left to Right): Mr JB Jeyaretnam, Mr Steve Chia, Mr Sinapan Samydorai at the Think Centre Human Rights 2005 Forum

The speakers for the Think Centre Human Rights Day Forum 2005, “Election Rights: Is it Right? Make Mandatory Death Penalty an Election Issue?” believed that the mandatory death penalty is unlikely to become an election issue as they believe that Singaporeans are more concerned with bread and butter matters.

The two hour forum at Oxford Hotel on December 3 that started at about 315 pm attracted about 30 audiences with lively debates on the mandatory death penalty and the Singapore elections.

The first speaker, Mr Jeyaretnam, a veteran Opposition politician, focuses on the state of elections.

“In Singapore, elections are programmed to a determined result in ensuring that those in power are returned to office,” he said.

He listed the various measures that the PAP government uses to ensure that the Opposition is stifled, among them: gerrymandering of electoral boundaries, the high election deposits, lawsuits to silence criticism, and instilling fear in the population through various measures such as numbering ballot papers that destroys the secrecy of voting.

He recounted the fear factor that was hyped up during the 1997 Cheng San General Elections when the then Prime Minister, Mr Goh Chok Tong, threatened voters with cutbacks on benefits in healthcare, transport and education if the Opposition was voted into office.

Mr Jeyaretnam also commented on the need for an independent elections commission, the GRC system which violates the equal suffrage of the one man one vote system and the setbacks that potential political candidates face.

NCMP, Steve Chia, believes that death penalty should not be mandatory though it should be reserved for certain crimes, including drug trafficking.

His informal and small sample base research done on heartlanders revealed that Singaporeans are in favour of the death sentence. He also recommended changing the style of execution in Singapore to lethal injection that was swiftly rebutted by an audience on the floor who pointed out that it is equally inhumane. He touched on elections in Singapore and added to the list of barriers stacked against Opposition such as the controlled media.

Think Centre President Mr Samydorai added that the Singapore government is wont to discredit Opposition politicians during elections. He also cited the large numbers of inmates for drug use as a worrying trend.

This was supported by figures in the forum handout revealing Singapore as a country with draconian laws.

Singapore has a high prison rate with 359 people in prison for every 100,000. This is the rate above the sum total of Cambodia (46), Malaysia (121), Brunei (120) and Indonesia (29). The Prison department in Singapore claimed that the high rate is due to the city-state with a dense population. It is complemented with the ranking from the International Centre for Prison Studies which placed Singapore at number 17th in the world for having the highest prison population per capita. The handout also said that the new Changi Prison Complex to be completed by 2008 would house 23,000 inmates.

Figures on the breakdown of persons executed in Singapore the last 5 years by nationality and offences (1999 – 2003) are also interesting to watch. 101 are Singaporeans while the remaining 37 are foreigners. 110 of them are drugs related offences while the other 28 are non-drugs related. 51 % of those sentenced to death were unemployed or working as unskilled workers, labourers or cleaners. 64% of them are either only primary educated or had no schooling.

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During the forum, I raised the possibility of the death penalty as a viable elections issue that the Opposition could leverage upon. Even though Howard has publicly said that there will be no trade sanctions on an official level, increasing international and Australian scrutiny and mounting trade pressure may affect the Singapore economy. In short, political parties can put forward the notion to voters that the PAP’s firm stand on the mandatory death penalty will not only put Singapore in a bad light but also ultimately affect its economic interests.

8 comments:

Think Singaporean said...

".....110 of them are drugs related offences while the other 28 are non-drugs related. 51% of those sentenced to death were unemployed or working as unskilled workers, labourers or cleaners. 64% of them are either only primary educated or had no schooling."

Reported in Today dd 30 Nov 05:
NTU humanities school scores
M'sian patron who donated $1.5M and also called on NTU to conduct research to help find the solutions to "a strange world of contradiction, a world of progress and poverty".

"A web of causation", says Weber. Yes, to find the root of the cause is the solution to the problem. Only then, more appropropriate and suitable solutions to address the issue. In my opinion, I still feel death penalty is NOT a good deterrent and hence, the only and the best solution to the problem; otherwise the crime rate cannot be constantly so high. It should be declining instead eversince the imposition of the death penalty since 1975.

Some of the contributing causes that I could think of are:

1) Mixing with "wrong" friends and duly influenced to engage in negative actions.

2) Lack of social acceptance of ex-drug addicts. But I'm glad that some action is taken in this respect now, hopefully, this will gradually help to provide some support.

3) In view of the poor economy for the past few years but high standard of living in sg, so either diffulty in getting a job or too busy with their work schedules in order to make ends meet.

3) As a result (2)above, less time is spent with their family members and children, thus lacking of parental and familial love, care and concern for each other.

4) children face with much pressure both at home and in school.

Well, perhaps others could come up with more to the list.

Anonymous said...

Charles, that was an interesting and plausible question you raised at the forum. It is a valid proposition but as mentioned earlier during the forum, Singaporeans by and large are living within a bubble where the local media tends to portray a 'softer' stance/ or pro-govt view. This is the environment that they are in.

It is very unlikely that the typical Singapore heartlander would really be quite aware of the true extent or severity of the hoopla that has been effected on the international arena with regards to the Singapore death penalty.

So, it's really not in the Opposition's interest to make this an election issue as the Singapore heartlanders will not be able to identify and connect with this issue. There are still many stumbling blocks to connect to their psyche. Unlike you, me and others who come to websites like these, the majority of Singaporeans are quite blissfully ignorant of the larger picture. And as time goes on, many will move on and forget about Van and the so-called 'uproar' that was created.

Think Singaporean said...

".....Singaporeans are more concerned with bread and butter matters."

No doubt. But if WITHOUT LIFE, what is a job, money, everything, etc to us?

"....Singaporeans by and large are living within a bubble where the local media tends to portray a 'softer' stance/ or pro-govt view. This is the environment that they are in.

What do all these mean?

It purely shows the hectic life-style that we have in sg society. Therefore, people do not have the time to be with their familities, let alone actually reflect upon the MEANINGS OF LIFE.

And it makes it worse as the "local media tends to portray a 'softer' stance/or pro-govt view".

Therefore, majority merely leaving it to the hands of the authoritative government to manipulate our lives. And this is not good. Only until when we become a victim, then we start to plead for clemency - too late!

As a matter of fact, all the more it is important to highlight the death penalty issue as a "thinker" for a start to the people at large. At least, it leaves an imprint on their mind to reflect and think further on the issues because "....the firm stand on the mandatory death penalty will not only put Singapore in a bad light but also ultimately affect its economic interests".

In this instance, GOOD COMMUNICATION is an important factor in order to bring across the message to the people.

locky2ky said...

As most Singaporeans are not too concerned with death penalty, good communication, i suspect, could only make momentary converters.

Anonymous said...

if abolishing the death penalty will make it easier for me to acculumate my 4 Cs I am all for it. Will I make more money out of this ?

Think Singaporean said...

WITHOUT LIFE, I'm afraid you have no wealth, no possession, no monies, etc and then, "bread and butter" issue CERTAINLY DOESN'T EXIST AT ALL!

If it is what Locky2ky thinks, then does it means to say do we accept it "passively and blindly" as it should be?

Well, in my opinion, we're just evading the issue and brushing it aside temporarily only. In actual fact, the thought remains embedded within our mindstream.

Till one day, if anyone of us were become a victim, I believe the debate will rekindle. We might just regret for not pursuing the matter earlier. It may be too late then!

I am, however, of a more optimistic view to give it a try, never know. By just merely debating over the issue will not give fruition to any result.

locky2ky said...

Our oppositions have very limited chance, time and resources to convince Singaporeans to vote for them. They must therefore choose issues that matter most to the majority Singaporeans and death penalty is definitely not one of those issues.

Anonymous said...

WITHOUT LIFE, there will be no wealth, no possession, no monies, etc...

HELL Right! Spot On!

Why not right now, you give up your full-time job and start funding a lobby-group to fight for the noble cause of abolishing death penalty? I am sure it will be an exceptionally well-respected move by people internationally.

And by the way, our opposition does have very limited chance, time and resources to convince Singaporeans! Not when, they have people like Chee and JB who goes around bad-mouthing about Singapore! Goes around condemning how Singaporean are not seeing the light. Not when, they can encourage foreigners to take their own country to international courts for the sake of a drug-trafficker. Theirs may perhaps be high ideals compared to our "butter and bread" concerns, yet I little doubt that they can even survive without these very mundane needs of job, money and possession!

Kid yourself not think singaporean, it is not ignorance that clouded the views of "heartlanders", it is the necessities of living and the rule of economy that does so.

Between a improvished philosopher and rich farmer, I rather the latter than the first. Coz to live you'll need to fill yourself first.

An finally, the plain fact is that our opposition just can't holds its ground! Leave SARS, leave MINDEF, leave economy to people with zero experience in the civil service....I am pretty damn sure they'll perform "exceptionally" compared to our honed bureacrats