7 Apr 2006
Film Review: Deadline
Screened on 5 April, 2006, The Substation, 8 pm by the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Committee (SAPDC)
After 3 inmates on death row are discovered to be innocent in Illinois, Governor George Ryan, troubled by the findings, decided to set up special clemency hearings for those sentenced to capital punishment. By the end of the hearings, 3 days before he left his office, the elected representative made the difficult decision of pardoning four men and granted blanket clemency to the remaining 167 on death row, virtually unheard of in the country.
It is that period that Deadline has captured unabashedly: interviews with inmates in death row, anti-death penalty activists, academics, and journalists as well as historical footage on the death penalty in the country. It balances precariously among opinions, facts and emotions from different camps not shying away from the sentiments of the victims of the families who insist on the death penalty and those whose son or husband sentenced to death; during the hearing.
Deadline reveals multiple perspectives and doubts on the death penalty including the accuracy and fairness of the policing system and the judiciary when it comes to such controversial cases. Many a times, there is intense pressure on the police to find the murderer and as such, resulting in torture on the suspect during interrogation. Those on death row also happen to be the poor or coloured as one activist puts it bluntly.
What has that got to with with the situation in Singapore ? One might ask.
Plenty I would argue.
In US, only those who committed homicide are sentenced to death. In Singapore, the majority on death row are those sentenced for possessing drugs. Singapore's situation, I would argue, is more disturbing.
This huge difference reveals what the society or at least the government feels strongly against. Are we a society that believes possessing illegal drugs a greater evil than murdering someone? To the extent, we believe the state has the right to kill them? Another disturbing fact revolves around the mandatory death penalty for possession of drugs simply meant the judges do not have any discretion even if mitigating factors are involved.
Many more arguments can and has been made on abolishing the death penalty which is available on the internet (and even within this blog) from the moral, human rights and even economic perspectives.
For those who have seen the film and undecided on the death penalty, the question, they might ask is, “ what has this film got to do with the situation in Singapore” given most of us have always assumed that we are run by an efficient police and judiciary system. Yet, I could not help but suspect this as the most difficult thing to prove.
Instead of asking if there exists differences between the death penalty in Singapore and US (or any other parts of the world), what we should really be aware of are the similarities, what it does in and to society; and most importantly, why it should be abolished.