27 Jul 2019
SINGAPORE HIGH COMMISSION’S REBUTTAL TO AN ARTICLE PUBLISHED BY THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD ON 22 JULY 2019 TITLED “SINGAPORE’S DEATH PENALTY IS BOTH INEFFECTIVE AND INHUMANE”
27 July 2019
Ms Lisa Davies
Sydney Morning Herald
Dear Ms Davies,
I refer to the article “Singapore’s death penalty is both ineffective and inhumane” by an author using the pseudonym James Arokiasamy, published on the Sydney Morning Herald’s website on 22 July 2019. The author has made false assertions regarding Singapore’s death penalty and judicial appeal process.
Contrary to the claims of Mr Arokiasamy’s unnamed sources, Singapore is in fact one of the few countries in the world where the drug menace has been contained even as the regional and global drug situation continues to worsen. This is despite Singapore being a maritime and aviation hub situated in a region where major drug trafficking centres exist, and where both drug production and consumption are growing. The Singapore Government adopts a multi-pronged approach on the war against drugs, comprising measures such as preventive drug education, a structured and evidence-based rehabilitation framework for drug abusers, and tough laws and robust enforcement for traffickers and hardened criminals. The death penalty is an important part of this comprehensive strategy, particularly for the deterrent effect it plays in fighting the scourge of drugs.
Mr Arokiasamy’s suggestion that there is a conflict of interest when the Attorney-General’s Chambers presents its views on clemency decisions to the Cabinet is misplaced. When the Attorney-General (AG) decides whether or not to prosecute an offender, his decision is based on whether there is sufficient evidence that the offender committed the offence. In contrast, when the AG is giving his opinion as part of the clemency process, he is giving an opinion on whether there is a case for granting clemency to the offender. These are two separate matters, regardless of the fact that they deal with the same case.
Significantly, the Cabinet is bound by the Singapore Constitution to consider the views of the trial and appellate courts, as well as the independent opinion of the AG, before it exercises its sole prerogative to advise the President on clemency decisions. The Cabinet makes its own decision on clemency, and does not “confer” with the AG as Mr Arokiasamy has suggested. Singapore’s AG, unlike Australia’s, is not a member of Cabinet and does not attend Cabinet meetings.
Fundamentally, the imposition of capital punishment in Singapore is neither summary or arbitrary. It is applied strictly in accordance with the law and due judicial process. The issue of capital punishment is a question that every state has the sovereign right to decide for itself, taking into account its own circumstances. The rights of the offenders must always be weighed against the harm done to victims and their families, as well as the rights of the larger community and society to live in peace and security. Indeed, Singapore is one of the safest countries in the world. As someone based in Singapore, Mr Arokiasamy should know that residents and visitors in Singapore can move about freely without fear at any time of the day or night. This state of affairs must not be taken for granted, particularly in the milieu of a growing drug menace in the region and globally.
I would appreciate it if you could publish this letter in full for the benefit of your readers.
KWOK FOOK SENG