... any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.-- John Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1623), XVII
I'm opposed to the death penalty. My reasons aren't for moral reasons, but economic and jurisprudential. Still, I think it's the right of every state - and particularly every democratic state - to decide how to treat its own people, and based on the few people I've talked to about this, the death penalty against drug traffickers does appear to be popular in Singapore.
The target of several campaigns are the against the Second Schedule of Cap. 185, the Misuse of Drugs Act, which prescribes a mandatory death penalty to certain drug-related offenses. Under this act, judges have no discretion in issuing the death penalty (M. Ravi, 2007): once the prosecution proves that an individual was carrying the minimum prescribed quantity of a particular drug (which is what the Second Schedule lists), the judge has to hand down the death sentence. Unless a Presidential Pardon is granted, the individual will end their life by being hanged at Changi prison, a particularly violent means of execution.
When we say mandatory death sentence means basically judges don’t have discretion. Just close your eyes, and that’s it, and execute. Don’t have to look at the person’s background and all that. You know in a sentencing regime, there’s a plea in mitigation, to mitigate your circumstances, it’s part of the sentencing process, so, it was not only that the death penalty was already harsh, but to impose that, it’s just cruel and unusual punishment.-- M. Ravi, as reported by Asia Calling
Tomorrow, a twenty-two year old Malaysian kid who brought 47 grams of heroin into this country will be in court to hear out his appeal. Unless this is to his benefit, he can expect to be executed by the Singaporean state. As a certain religious leader once said, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. Do read Vui Kong's journey, a description of his life so far.
Last year, the mandatory death penalty was found to be constitutional in Singapore. Thus, the only way for judges to be given the power of discretion in such matters - and the success I hope the We Believe In Second Chances project achieves - will be to convince parliament to change this law. If you are a Singaporean citizen, I hope you will consider this question.
- M. Ravi. 2007. Briefing paper: Death Penalty in Singapore. Published by the policy department of the Directorate-General for External Policies of the Union Directorate B. Reference: EXPO/B/DROI/2007/07, PE 348.620