Thursday, December 01, 2005

Justice in Singapore: Part II

In what has been called "a most unfortunate barbaric act" by Aussie Attorney General Ruddock, Singaporean PM Lee Hsien Loong has refused to grant clemency for a Australian national convicted of drug trafficking. The convicted, Mr. Nguyen Tuong Van, is to be executed by hanging later today (Thursday, Dec. 1), despite petitions and pleas from particularly the Australian Government, according to AP.

This issue again raises the issue of harsh punishments in the southeast Asian island nation. The first question that comes to mind: Is death penalty justified? Secondly, has Singapore handled death penalty cases with transparency and moderation? Thirdly, is hanging a humane form of death penalty (relatively speaking). Lastly, is it helping?

While Governor Mark Warner of Virginia yesterday granted clemency for a death row inmate, the US is still not in the position of criticism since it has more death penalties than any other Industrialized country (not counting China). According to Amnesty International, only China, Iran and Vietnam saw more executions in 2004 than the United States. Other developed countries, however, have banned the use of death penalty including all members of the European Union. Even the UN is against it. So death penalty a sunset endeavor.

Going back to the specific case in Singapore, the issue of death penalty seems to have taken precedence over the issue of the particular crime. Is it fair to completely forget that Mr. Van broke the law in Singapore, and give him all the support in the world just because he has been granted the death penalty? Perhaps the way we do things ( the means ) are more important than what we actually do ( the ends )? This raises the issue of how death penalty, with its strong opposition, is actually helping criminals as sentiments against this type of penalty clears from our mind the issue we all want to solve: crime. So perhaps we could spend more effort on fighting crime if authorities didn't have to spend so many resources on defending the death penalty. Besides, I'm pretty sure that it's more expensive to have a death row inmate for 5-10-15 years, than to have someone imprisoned for life.

Then again- what about deterrence? Would crime explode in Singapore and the United States if they were to overturn the death penalty overnight? Who thinks Timothy McVeigh (the Oklahoma City Bomber) deserves better than death penalty? Vengeance is one of the oldest feelings, which have prevailed all throughout human history. But does that justify it?

I hope this entry raises more questions than it answers. I hope the debate will live on. And personally, I hope it one day will limit the number of death penalties. As theclichehé goes: an eye for an eye leaves all blind.

More info on Amnesty Intl's website. :
AP Article


Anonymous said...

I hope this entry raises more questions than it answers. I hope the debate will live on.

I don't - I simply hope for the day when we realise that murdering criminals is simply no longer acceptable - no matter the deed. There is no half way with the death penalty you are either for it or against it

cookiesap on-line said...

I agree with you that one needs to make a stand in this issue, but at the same time I find the question be a very difficult one (similar to the abortion and democracy issues) that needs to be thought through before establishing a clear opinion. My hope is that reading about and discussing the issue will allow for us to make a more informed decision.