By Andrew Loh （15/8/2010）
After having spoken to an ex-drug trafficker, I wonder what profits a nation in hanging boys as young as Vui Kong.
For the life of me, I fail to see how any benefits could be achieved by state-sanctioned murder of the young.
As I sat there yesterday speaking to this ex-offender (which I shan’t name for now), this thought kept going through my head: If he had been hanged, would Singapore be any different? I really do not see how S’pore would be “safer” if this person, who was sitting right in front of me, had been killed by the state.
On the contrary, this ex-offender has turned his life around after being given a second chance. Indeed, he has won so many awards of recognition since his imprisonment and rehabilitation that you can’t help but feel and know that he is now making a difference in the very area where we want to reach – young kids who are potentially future perpetrators and offenders.
And mind you, when he was first arrested, he faced the mandatory death penalty. After the drugs were “washed down to its purest form”, they were found to less than the threshold for the MDP. He was thus charged for the lesser offence of possession which carried life imprisonment and the maximum 24 strokes of the cane. After further assessment of his behaviour in prison, he was finally charged for first-time possession and was sentenced to 6 months jail.
Like Vui Kong, he came from a “bad” family background. He left home for 3 years after being estranged from his parents. Also like Vui Kong, he turned to religion (Christianity) while in prison. Like what Vui Kong aspires to, he now counsels youths and is a mentor to would-be and former offenders.
He has won accolades from ministers, from governments, and even from ASEAN.
So, the obvious question is this (for those who want young persons like Vui Kong killed as a form of “deterrence”): Wouldn’t it be better – and indeed make more sense and be more effective – if young boys like Vui Kong were given a second chance, mentored (while in prison) and later sent out to teach and mentor other young people?
Isn’t it true that most drug addicts and drug traffickers come from poor and dysfunctional family backgrounds?
Doesn’t it make sense then that the better way to fight the war on drugs is to have people who’ve come from such backgrounds lead it?
Or must we take the easy, convenient and ineffective way out and just hang them – even if they’re girls who’re 18 years and 6 months old – as we have done?
We need to give judges discretion in sentencing.
We need to give the President discretion in deciding clemency petitions.
We need to remove the Cabinet as the judge, jury and executioner all at the same time.
And we need to do more for young boys and girls who’re sent to prison.
At the moment, we hang them in our own names.
At the moment, we hang them in the ungodly hour of 6am on Fridays.
It is easy.
Because at that hour, we ourselves are fast asleep.
It is easy because someone else is doing the dirty job.
When Justice Steven Chong declared that it is the Cabinet which has the sole discretion, authority and power to decide clemency appeals, is it not time to ask another question:
Does not the Cabinet hold too much power?
How can it be that the Cabinet is the judge (through the presumption clauses in the Misuse of Drugs Act), jury (through tying the hands of judges by not giving them power to take mitigating factors into account, and to have sole authority in clemency appeals), and executioner (the entire process rests on the dictates of the Cabinet) – all in one?
And we contort, distort and perverts this entire process just so we can kill young boys and girls in the name of “deterrence”?
Where then is mercy in our system of justice?
Are you comfortable with such a system?
I mean, really, are you?
Does it not even prick your conscience?
Even a bit?