Jan 1, 2007

Saddam's Death is Food For Thought for the Singapore Government

Many of you will no doubt recall Shanmugam Murugetsu and Nguyen Tuong Van, two drug traffickers whom the Singapore government hanged in 2005. These two cases received lots of media publicity and briefly put an intense spotlight on capital punishment in Singapore.

Since then nothing has really changed. All our laws on capital punishment remain intact. Amnesty International still believes that Singapore continues to have
"the highest rate of executions per capita in the world". It's a world record that Singapore has held for many years.

And so Singapore remains sharply out of sync with international human rights norms. Many Singaporeans still believe that drugs are such a terrible menace that we should kill their traffickers. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, the governments of civilised countries will protest even against the execution of an undoubted master villain like Saddam Hussein.

    ST Jan 1, 2007
    Hanging revives debate on capital punishment

    LONDON - NOT many would quarrel with the fact that Saddam Hussein has finally paid for his crimes.

    But the method of his execution and its graphic display have rekindled debate on the use of the death penalty, particularly in Europe.

    Some of the strongest criticism has come from the Vatican which went so far as to call the execution 'tragic news...that risks feeding the spirit of revenge and sowing new violence'.

    Several European leaders, across the political spectrum, also questioned whether justice was served in Saddam's execution on Saturday and warned of further spiralling bloodshed.

    Finland, the European Union president, and several senior European Commission officials said the 25-member bloc opposes the death penalty as a matter of principle and that Saddam should not have been hanged despite his crimes.

    'The EU has a very consistent view against using the death penalty and it should not have been used in this instance either, although there is no doubt over Saddam's guilt of very serious crimes against humanity,' Finland's Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja told Finnish television.

    Mr Louis Michel, a member of the EU's executive commission, said he believed capital punishment was at odds with the democracy that Iraqi leaders were trying to build.


moomooman said...

Hi Wang,

You win already. New Year Day and you are blogging about hanging and death.

There are so many happy things to talk about, like Another Warehouse Sales at Expo; The countdown by TCS on Channel 5 is Top Class, I can't get enough of losers from Singing Reality Shows and I feel they make me want to forget 2006 and start the year with a bang; CPF may increase by 1.5% and make our life so much better, I'm like "Yahoo!!!".

Stuffs like that.

Anyway, Happy New Year!!! Wish you the very best in 2007 with blogging! Cheers!

Jimmy Mun said...

Mr Wang,

your view of the death penalty is a little oversimplified - there are weirdos like me who think that Nguyen and Shanmugam should hang, while Saddam shouldn't, not in this way. Saddam is guilty of a myriad of crimes against humanity, but the only crime he was charged with was one that dates back to 1982, and was fairly trivial compared to his subsequent mass-slaughter, most probably because the Americans are fearful of the dirt of American involvement that will be dredged up if he is on trial for his more serious crimes.

The Dujail executions for which Saddam was sentenced to death for, took place in 1982. Ronald Reagen took Iraq off the list of countries sponsoring international terrorism in November 1983, and sent Rumsfeld to meet Saddam in the following month, to discuss establishing full diplomatic ties and economic cooperation. You can have a look at a youtube video of Rumsfeld meeting Saddam at my blog. It was right at the time of Rumsfeld visit that Saddam was using chemical weapons against the Kurds, but Rumsfeld and co didnt have any problem with those "crimes against humanity" until 2002.

The Dujail reprisal in response to an attempted assasination of Saddam resulted in 148 dead Iraqis, Bush incompetence resulted in 109 dead American soldiers and 2186 dead Iraqis in December 2006 ALONE. How many death penalties should that attract?

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

It shouldn't attract ANY. That's what the European Union would tell you, anyway.

WHich is why it looks ridiculous for Singapore to be hanging criminals of the local, common variety.

I'm hopeful that when Darshan Singh (Singapore's chief executioner) retires for good, or becomes too oil & frail to carry on working (he's already in his 70s), executions in Singapore will hit a major snag. Because I hear that for decades, no one has been willing to be trained as his protege.

Anonymous said...

I do not approve of the death penalty, but I do not think Singapore looks ridiculous in enforcing it. Not one bit.

The claim that the "international human rights norm" is against the death penalty is suspect. China has capital punishment. The US has it. India has it. Indonesia has it. Those 4 countries alone comprise almost half the world population. Wikipedia states that 88 countries have abolished it, while 68 retain it, and 41 countries are somewhere in between.

This is really about Saddam's execution being put up on Youtube and Google video and getting lots of publicity. I haven't seen it (and don't intend to), but the description in Glenn Greenwald's blog suggest that it was done in an undignified fashion, with laws being 'bypassed' to get it done ASAP, and Sadr's thugs doing the deed.

Anonymous said...

There is a significant difference: If you watch the uncut video, you'll note that Saddam was hanged by a Shitte mob. If the intention was to serve justice, in the end justice was abused. My heart goes out to the young American soldiers who are dying in Iraq for a bunch of barbarians.

Jimmy Mun said...

I saw the execution video, though I have to say I fast forwarded it along the way. It was unbearable. Supporters of the death penalty ought to watch every single execution in their jurisdiction, and be disgusted. And be reminded that, if there is a shred of injustice, the execution will be too painful to be allowed to happen.

I have to agree with Jason that as far as I can observe, the international norm is not clearly against the death penalty. Europeans were happily hanging the Nazis and Mussolini 60 years ago. It remains to be seen if it is a passing European fad and they will do the U-turn like in many US states, or not. In Asia, if wikipedia is any good, the only Asian territories without the death penalty are the Philippines, Nepal, Bhutan, Cambodia, Timor Leste, Hong Kong and Macau, of which Philippines only joined the club a few months ago. Hardly a significant majority, and I seriously doubt Philippines have the staying power once the kidnapping rates go up again. It is a surprise to many that Japan has the death penalty, although you are more likely to wait to death on the death row.

And while I have little love for the Singapore government, counting the execution per capita is a greatly exaggerated figure that leaves out the massive number of travellers who transit through Singapore, which I believe is roughly twice that of the resident population.

As much as I dont like the idea of firing a bullet into another human's head, I have no fundamental objection against military service. I believe we have the obligation to reserve a lethal response to deter those who wants to do harm to our community.

riverlight said...

Sorry. Got to disagree with you. I think drug crimes can be so bad that it merits the death sentence. You got to understand the destruction that drug addiction does to families.

Anonymous said...

I think politicians who waste public funds on extravagancies like the casinoes should be hanged too. You got to understand the destruction that gambling addiction does to families.

Anonymous said...

You also got to understand the destruction that alcohol addiction does to families.

As Mr Wang has previously pointed out, all the scientific studies show that alcohol is a more dangerous drug than, say, cannabis.

Should we therefore hang pub owners and alcohol distributors?

moomooman said...

And not to mention smoking...

But of course, that's besides the point. And seriously, whether anyone agrees with capital punishment on the International or local level, such debate is as far back as when David Marshall was still young.

Executing Saddam is about Politics. Do you think US spent billions to capture Saddam so that they can execute him for something that take place in 1982 like what Jimmy Mum mentioned?

You just wonder why the same billions are not used to capture Bin Laden. That is because capturing Bin Laden do not carry any economy benefits as compared to executing Saddam.

And I also just realised that is also beside the whole point of this blog posting.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang -- let me put the same question to you, which was put to American Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988:

"If your wife were raped and murdered, would you favour an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?"

What is your answer? I think Singaporeans on both sides of the death penalty debate deserve to know where you stand on this.

Anonymous said...

I note that your title declared "Saddam's Death is Food For Thought for the Singapore Government". Should you not have declared "Saddam's Death is Food For Thought for the People of Singapore"?

Much as I loath the PAP for legislating and enforcing the ghastly policy of hanging, I believe the people of Singapore are just as complicit. Powerful the PAP maybe they would not have been able to get away with such law if not for the explicit or implicit support from the people.

Anonymous said...

I always find hanging as a capital punishment is very barbaric and one of the most cruel and torturing way to execute a criminal. No matter what hideous crimes he or she had committed, by resorting to such uncivilized way to execute someone for their crimes, then we are actually no better from the very monster that we wanted to put an end to.

Even if death penalty as a capital punishment is a must and only way to maintain the law and order of our tiny little red dot, we should at least look for a more civilized alternative or a more humane way to execute death penalty. Humanity is what make us human different from the beasts and monsters.

It would be even more troubling for me if the reason the govt gives for preferring hanging over other alternatives is that this is the ‘cheapest’ way for them to dispose a criminal.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Devil's Advocate:

You may be surprised to know that in Europe and America, there are many cases where family members of murder victims are opposed to the death sentence for the murderer. Just google around and you will see.

Or you can visit my old blog and ask Katherine Horton's mother.

Another distinction that may matter to some people is the nature of the crime committed. In many countries where death penalty is still retained, it is retained essentially for the most serious types of crimes - murder.

In Singapore, it goes well beyond murder. Drug trafficking, for instance. Also, if you carry an arm (ie gun) while attempting to commit, say, housebreaking or extortion, you'll be hanged even if you did not fire the gun at all - Section 4A, Arms Offences Act.

The international trend is clearly to move away from the death penalty. Surprise, surprise - even China wants to move away. Zhang Jun, the deputy Minister of Justice, has said that the key issue in China is to reform the punishment system to set up more long-term prison sentences of 20 to 30 years and thereby to reduce the use of the death penalty.

Anonymous said...

Death penalty should only be for very heinious crimes eg. premeditated murders, mass murders, serial murders, etc.

On the other hand, me thinks the money-minded powers that be rationalise that it is cheaper and cost effective to just hang criminals than to impose such troublesome and non-profit generating penalties as long term imprisonment.

When population increases so does crime and thus demand for more prisons to be build. Now you know why there seems to be such unprecedented leniency of in the justice system since the new CJ was insatlled.

Why build more prison space when you can save up space to build multi million luxurious condo complexes. Life imprisonment? Naahhh! Hanging is cheaper.

Just my two cents worth.

Anonymous said...

I don't really see how the "revived debate" (though there isn't really international outrage over saddam's hanging) implicates that Singapore is out of touch. If anything, Saddam's hanging reveals that for all our lofty talk about how it is a heinous crime for the State to take a human life, the death penalty is still a knee-jerk reaction to people perceived as too dangerous to keep alive.

"And so Singapore remains sharply out of sync with international human rights norms. Many Singaporeans still believe that drugs are such a terrible menace that we should kill their traffickers."

Drugs AREN'T a terrible menace?
It is deeply repugnant to hear someone living in a relatively drug-free country to talk about a heroin addiction as if it were a coffee addiction. You might want to read this rant off craigslist I came across, it might shake your solid belief that we should CONFORM to "human rights norms" (whatever the heck that means), and ignore the devastating effects of addiction on people. My country may be lambasted in the international press for hanging traffickers, but were this situation to exist in present day Singapore, I would be a lot more embarrassed and frustrated.


Cut it out, paste it in your browser, read.


Anonymous said...

Ironically, you are a product of the cocooned environment that our seemingly draconian laws have resulted in. Having never had to witness the full blown effects of hardcore drugs on a family and kids, you drone on and on about how drugs like heroin = gambling = alcohol, citing study after study even though common sense tells us that if it were so easy to replicate the effects of narcotics on our brains, they wouldn't spend so much time in the lab manufacturing newer and deadlier drugs to sell in clubs. Alcohol kills, but do people shit blood when trying to quit alcohol, like when addicts try to quit drugs?

I do not jump in glee when drug addicts are hanged, but I see in all clarity that drugs are deadly, and the vicious cycle has to stop somewhere. Spare us the theory and idealism, take a trip to the places where the "human right norms" are fully adhered to, see for yourself if drugs really = gambling = alcohol, and then give us an enlightened view on your blog.

Anonymous said...

Sinkapore is relatively drug free?!

Oh boy. Someone must had been living in the Ivory tower for too long and never bother to look down at the ground.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

The very simplistic assumption in your thinking is that the death sentence is actualy successful in deterring any kind of crime at all.

This is not borne out by any of the existing studies on the topic. For example, this study of various states in America shows that murder rates are slightly higher in those states which DO actively execute people.

You have assumed that by hanging drug traffickers, drug consumption in SIngapore will go down. Fundamentally, this is the same error demonstrated in history by the Prohibition. Excerpt demonstrating the effects of the ban on alcohol:

"Many social problems have been attributed to the Prohibition era. A profitable, often violent, black market for alcohol flourished. Racketeering happened when powerful gangs corrupted law enforcement agencies. Stronger liquor surged in popularity because its potency made it more profitable to smuggle. The cost of enforcing prohibition was high, and the lack of tax revenues on alcohol (some $500 million annually nationwide) affected government coffers. When repeal of prohibition occurred in 1933, following passage of the Twenty-first Amendment, organized crime lost nearly all of its black market alcohol profits in most states (states still had the right to enforce their own laws concerning alcohol consumption), due to competition with low-priced alcohol sales at legal liquor stores."

Personally I do not believe that death penalty has any superior deterrent effect over life imprisonment. Persons who are not deterred by the idea that they will be locked up for the rest of their lives are unlikely to be deterred by the idea that they will be killed. In either case, what they are banking on is that they simply will not be caught.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Anonymous January 4, 2007 12:29 AM:

A few corrections for you.

1. I did not assert that alcohol is more dangerous than heroin. I asserted that alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana.

2. I have probably met more drug traffickers and addicts than you.

3. On addictive attributes, alcohol is more addictive than marijuana. Simple fact.

4. On death by alcohol and death by marijuana, note Point 2 here. It is impossible to die by marijuana.

5. Once again, do not assume that the imposition of the death penalty does anything to reduce drug abuse rates. As demonstrated during the US Prohibition, what severe legal penalties do create is a lucrative black market for the drug.


Anonymous said...

I'm a proponent of capuital punishment. as the saying goes : an eye for an eye, a tooth for a thooth. humanity is only for those who deserves to be respected like a human in the first place. for those who do not deserve to be one, ie the evil doers, we should not speak humanity with them.

people always equate war and peace as opposite extremes of action. however, peace comes at a price -> war. let's face it, without war, there would be no peace.

the 2 coexist; much like the yin and yang of the taoism belief of opposite natural forces.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

"As the saying goes : an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."

Some states do still subscribe to that kind of philosophy. For example, in Iran, they'll chop off little children's hands for stealing bread.

In other countries, the development of the criminal legal system is based not merely on general deterrence, but also other bases, such as rehabilitation; prevention; restitution; and also specific deterrence (individual-based) etc.

It's somewhat naive & simplistic to assert that tough laws reduce crime. You saw for yourself how violent robberies etc increased sharply in Singapore during the bad economic years like 2003, 2004, when the relevant laws were as tough as they had ever been.

Jimmy Mun said...

Murder is a very special type of crime. Many animals had evolved what we can practically call rituals when settling scores with their own species, and the fights normally stop before serious damage is done. Similarly, school brawls seldom result in death. As one who used to be frequently involved in fights, I do wonder why, even though my desire to hurt was real, I never poked eyeballs or punched necks. We are genetically programmed not to kill, and for murderers, their natural programming had broken down and is questionable, if a rational deterrence can function against a murderer. Therefore, it is understandable that the death penalty would fail as a deterrence against murderers. Therefore, we shouldnt hang murderers. We should let them rot in jail. If I hate someone sufficiently, I would wish them a long and painful life than a swift death.

Drug trafficking, however, is a commercial operation that requires rational planning. For starters, the rewards drug mules demand would increase if the perceived risk they took on is higher. And from a publicity point of view, a long prison term simply doesnt have the "shock and awe" effect to the NEXT drug mule as a brutal barbaric hanging. That's why we should film every hanging and distribute it.

As for the US Prohibition of alcohol, I do not believe the death penalty was imposed. In fact, it firms up my conviction that our relatively drug free status quo shouldnt be given up easily, because the process may not be reversible.

Jimmy Mun said...

An eye for an eye is not about the minimum repayment for an injustice; it's the upper limit in proportion to the loss. You should demand NO MORE than an eye for every eye you lose. Not more than a tooth, than the one you lose.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

"That's why we should film every hanging and distribute it."

I don't think the government would do that. It would sharply accelerate public support for the abolishment of the death penalty.

"For starters, the rewards drug mules demand would increase if the perceived risk they took on is higher.

Actually, what it means is that the drug kingpins will locate ever-more desperate people to be their drug mules. For example, like those born in refugee camps; physically beaten by an abusive stepfather; very, very poor etc. You know, just like Nguyen Tuong Van. Or perhaps the kind that have been chronically unemployed for a long time, struggling to feed two young children and an old mother. Like Shanmugam Murugetsu.

Anonymous said...

Your point is that drug trafficking doesn't warrant death. Please set aside studies that somehow prove that people view being sentenced to jail no differently from losing their lives. I believe that there are also studies out there proving that the death penalty is an effective deterrent.

You say that drug traffickers don't deserve death, and your belief would hold even if it was proven that the penalty is an effective deterrent. My point is that if you truly knew what drugs does to people, you wouldn't think that writing plays and burning candles for traffickers is an appropriate thing to do.

My point is also that even in countries that respect " human rights norms", people are slaves to drugs.

Yes, singapore is relatively drug free. You can't deny this, and I don't think a HDB flat is an ivory tower.

And there are LOTS of people who are as poor and downtrodden as the two you have mentioned! By having the death penalty, at least you greatly reduce the pool of available mules to kingpins. And actually I think these people actively seek out an opportunity to traffick drugs, because they need the money to fuel their drug habit.

Anonymous said...

You have met more drug addicts than me, not a hard thing to do, since I have met zero drug addicts before, but have you been in a community where everyone's brains are addled with drugs? It's one thing to meet ONE drug addict, quite another to be in a ghetto where the desperate addicts huddle everywhere.

If I don't assume that tough laws reduce the risk of drug proliferation, am I to assume that lax laws can do this?

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

Thank you for your reply, where you state the position of Katherine Horton's mother -- in response to my query about your own position on the death penalty if a loved one of yours had been murdered.

Responding to your analysis on this thread:

1. "You have assumed that by hanging drug traffickers, drug consumption in SIngapore will go down. Fundamentally, this is the same error demonstrated in history by the Prohibition..." Your Prohibition rebuttal is an argument against banning any form of drug per se. It is not an argument against the death penalty.

2. "[What the death penalty for trafficking] means is that the drug kingpins will locate ever-more desperate people to be their drug mules" -- In which case, life imprisonment biases towards more desperate drug mules, compared to a long sentence, compared to a short sentence. Your argument for leniency on desperate drug mules is once again not an argument against the death penalty. If is an argument for lighter sentences -- but you have not specified how light.

3. What policy model would you propose to substitute the existing drug control policy with? Which one (or more) of the following would you advocate?

i. Abolition of death penalty for drug trafficking.
ii. Short or minimal sentences for traffickers, if they can demonstrate desperation.
iii. Legalisation of more drugs -- and if so, which ones? And why not others?

le radical galoisien said...

Saddam should have faced a more rigourous trial. Then he could have been hanged like those at Nuremburg.

There were so many problems with the trial that it's not even funny. The Western media (and CNA forwards it) paints a ranting madman in the courts, and despite his heinous crimes, I'm beginning to think from the lack of rights of the accused granted to Saddam that perhaps some thing legitimate was masked.

I'm not vehement about the death penalty. Freedom of speech is more important than whether heroin dealers should be hanged or be put in prison for long life sentences.

Personally my suggestions would be:

Demandatorise the mandatory death penalty: leave the option open, but it should never be mandatory and allow for clemency.

Decriminalise cannabis - since it's actually far less lethal and a better alternative to tobacco and alcohol.

Perhaps if we actually had a jury as a check against a judge's arrogance ...

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

Personally I am against the death penalty for any kind of offence. It is one of several reasons I decided to resign from my previous job as Deputy Public Prosecutor, before I, like my more senior colleagues, had to take on capital cases. Theoretically, I could have stayed on and declined to take on those cases (but there were also other reasons I decided to leave).

From a utilitarian perspective, I do not see any significant benefit in hanging anyone, when he could simply be imprisoned for a long time eg (15 years or more, or for life). The only benefit would be that money need not be spent in feeding him. However, I do not think it is right to kill people for the sake of saving money.

IMHO, many people have excessive faith in the ability of tough laws to actually reduce crime (any crime). Actually, I feel that the role of tough laws is exaggerated. Many other factors contribute to the rise or fall of crime rates, and in fact those factors vary from one type of crime to another. Violent crimes went on an upsurge in 2003 and 2004 (remember for instance the various break-ins robberies at 4D outlets), and those were bad economic years - to me, this suggests that in other years, economic prosperity plays a bigger role than tough laws in reducing offences like robberies, thefts etc.

For drug abuse, I believe for instance that we could improve better detection methods at immigration checkpoints; have more drug education programmes in schools and in SAF camps; create more room for drug addicts to seek professional help without the risk of getting thrown in jail -

and all of these approaches would work better in reducing drug abuse in Singapore, than hanging a dozen people per year and damaging our international reputation as well as diplomatic relations with countries like Australia.

There have been other studies / criminological essays which suggest that a high probability of getting caught is a much better deterrent than the fact that severe punishment await those who ARE caught. In other words, plonking two dozen well-trained sniffer dogs at Changi International Airport and letting them walk around every day is a better deterrent than simply saying, "Oh, we shall hang those whom we DO manage to catch," and then having relatively ineffective ways to catch them.

At a personal level, I am ambivalent about the legalisation of any drugs in Singapore. It does not matter to me personally because I am extremely clean-living. I do not even drink Coca-Cola because I think the extra sugar is bad for my teeth. Furthermore, I no longer drink canned fruit juice; I only drink freshly squeezed fruit juice. I am also a meditator in the Buddhist tradition, and the Buddhist tradition frowns on the consumption of mind-altering substances of any kind, not for "moral" reasons, but because in meditation we strive for deep, sharp clarity of mind and we do not want to do anything that would affect that. In fact, I even avoid coffee if I plan to meditate.

What I do want to point out is the paradox that cannabis is treated as an illegal drug in Singapore, while alcohol is not. And let me say it again, it is absolutely clear that alcohol is a more dangerous drug than cannabis.

In the Buddhist tradition, I am of course against the death penalty.

Jimmy Mun said...

Mr Wang, your crusade against the death penalty is a noble one, but like the Yawning Bread on GLBT issues, you are less brilliant when dealing issues that are too close to heart.

To say the punishment has little deterrent effect is like saying walking a tightrope 3 metres from the ground is no different from walking the same rope with potentially 300 metres to fall. The task may be the same, but once the human mind starts imagining the consequences, the task becomes impossible. You want the traffickers to have butterflies in their stomach every step of the way. In fact, besides sniffer dogs, the best way to catch a trafficker is to seek out signs of distress among the crowds who cross the customs.

Of course the dumb and desperate may still try, but if these are the only ones we can catch, it is a sign that the penalty works. No amount of intrusive enforcement, short of an X-ray on every traveller, can catch the mules with dead facial muscles and does their work by swallowing their stuff packed in little condoms. (Have you ever wondered why neither Nguyen nor Shanmugam used this technique? Have you considered that these two were sent by the drug kingpins to rattle the inconvenient death penalty?)

Lastly, what is seldom pointed out, is that Singapore, by per capita has one of the highest incarceration rate in the world, right up there with the champion Russia. Crowded prisons are breeding ground for deadly diseases. Russian prisons are supposed to be the source of a more virulent strain of TB, for example. And thanks to fantastic PR by the Prison Service, we are supposed to believe that problems that plague prisons elsewhere, like prisoner rape and the role of the prison social network in organised crimes, doesnt exist in Singapore. We ought to be reminded, that whatever the damning influences the death penalty has on society, it has been with us longer than recorded history. Long term imprisonment however, is an idea that is only about a hundred years old. The potential harm long term imprisonment have on the rest of the society is not very well understood. Like I mentioned earlier, for someone I genuinely hate, I would much wish upon him a long life in a crowded cell with all his teeth knocked out to facilitate his role as a sex slave. Death by hanging is such a compassionate letoff.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

"To say the punishment has little deterrent effect is like saying walking a tightrope 3 metres from the ground is no different from walking the same rope with potentially 300 metres to fall."


No. What I am saying is that the death penalty has little deterrent effect compared to life imprisonment.

The latter is like walking a tightrope with potentially 300 metres to fall. The former is like walking a tightrope with potentially 500 metres to fall.

If you can be deterred, 300m would have deterred you. If you cannot be deterred, 500m would not deter you. The point is that the drug trafficker simply aims not to fall at all.

And Jimmy, if it is out of the deep kindness of your heart that you wish traffickers to be hanged rather than imprisoned for life (which you believe to be a worse fate), then surely the logical thing for you to argue is that convicted drug traffickers should have a choice between life or death. After all, not of them may agree with you that having their necks broken is the preferable option.

Jimmy Mun said...

Mr Wang, if you genuinely believe that life or death makes no difference, we wouldnt be having this discussion. I think we both agree that the death penalty is painful and revolting, and so do most people, drug traffickers included. The key difference is whether we believe the state has the right to take lives.

Everyday, the state arms young people in uniform with lethal firearms, and authorise them to take lives, if a life threatening situation occur. No judge, no jury, no due process, just the judgement of a man or woman, younger than any High Court judge. Do you oppose that? Do you feel we should abolish the use of lethal firearms in favour of stunguns and rubber bullets? Do you favour dismantling our military service, because the state has no right to take lives? If the answer is no, then I guess you do believe the state has the right to take lives under threat, and I believe that drug traffickers are a worse threat than terrorists.

And the whole point of a deterrent sentence is to shock the public with the fear of death. I think most people will just go on with their lives if a death sentence is commuted to life. Few will care how someone suffering in prison feel. Every hanging should be loud and prominent so that every Singaporean gets to feel revulsed, or the person dies in vain.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

"Mr Wang, if you genuinely believe that life or death makes no difference, we wouldnt be having this discussion."

Of course there is a great difference. It matters greatly as far as issues such as human rights, spirituality, religion and values are concerned.

As far as deterrent value is concerned, however, I do not think that there is any significant difference.

Anonymous said...

Dear Devil's advocate,

"devil's advocate said...

Mr Wang,

Thank you for your reply, where you state the position of Katherine Horton's mother -- in response to my query about your own position on the death penalty if a loved one of yours had been murdered."

The sarcasm did not provoke a response. Perhaps because it would detract from the argument that the death penalty should be abolished. So the question was dodged.

A possible response (which was not given) would be that it is irrelevant what an individual wishes upon his enemy, for the issue is what is effective punishment in deterrance.

It is interesting how the focus of punishment has centred on deterrance (and rehabilitation, for less serious offences). I imagine that deterrance and rehabilitation would be the last things on an individual's mind if his wife were raped and killed.

Perhaps a mother's reaction would be different from a husband's reaction? I have no doubt that I would wish a painful and slow death, preferably in exactly the same circumstances as was committed, to be carried out upon the rapist/killer of my wife.

But that's just me. Retributive justice is no longer in favour in criminal jurisprudence.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

The question is not dodged. I would not want the criminal to be executed anyway.

It doesn't do anything to restore the real damage. A dead relative cannot come back to life.

You also probably do not know this - but some psychologists have expressed the view that the typical Kubler-Ross grief cycle (denial, anger, bargaining, testing, acceptance) is actually lengthened for the grieving relatives of a murdered victim, in capital cases.

In other words, they grieve more and they take longer to psychologically recover.

The reason is that for months and months, they keep focusing on the murderer's trial instead of dealing with their own personal issues. They keep thinking that they will achieve some kind of closure when the murderer is hanged.

Then the murderer is hanged, and they discover that it doesn't really help anything, because their loved one is still dead. All that has happened is that the grief cycle has been extended.

Eg it takes, say, 12 months for the necessary process to complete and for the offender to hang, what happens is that their psychological recovery has simply been extended for 12 months.

Here is an excerpt which may interest you. Mr Mauser's son was murdered.

There was a time, Mauser said, when he believed execution was the appropriate punishment, even for a juvenile killer such as Malvo, given the seriousness of his crimes. But his views changed after Daniel's slaying.

He said he attended some meetings of the Parents of Murdered Children and was shocked by the anger and anguish felt by some of the parents who were waiting for killers to be executed. "I came to realize that there really isn't closure regardless of whether your loved one's murderer is dead or alive; there is no closure," Mauser said.

"I found much more pain for those people" who had to attend trials and suffer through years of appeals.

Full article here: