This is one of the topics that most Singaporeans would not bother enough. There are plenty of issues to bother that are closer to their hearts, as pointed out during a correspondence with an online friend. Such issues include the loose immigration policy, high COE prices, high HDB prices etc. But yet in my opinion, such issues are no less important, for such matters affect the image of our society in the eyes of the world, and such matters also determine to what we are as a society and what we believe in.
I always believed that all laws are implemented because they are reflective of majority intent. Or that was what I thought the ideal state was. For example, the act to repeal 377A (The law against homosexual committing unnatural sex acts) was never repealed under the argument that the majority was not able to accept the idea. I can accept that as our society isn’t that liberal, especially when we have an ageing population, which means even though the young are liberal, we have to consider the needs of the older folks, who form the majority. 377A is also hard to repeal because it is also linked to a person’s religious views.
In the past, I would have also agreed that the mandatory death sentence is something that should remain, given the argument that a majority of people in Singapore also accepts the mandatory death sentence. A survey indicates that a “95% margin of support among 425 respondents” for the mandatory death penalty (Taken from TOC).
But yet now I question that statistic. Upon looking at the videos made by TOC, I realized that plenty of people have in fact no idea what mandatory means, even though we claim to be a bilingual country. Given that there exists people who do not understand the word mandatory, how is it possible that their support is valid? There exist a chance that the support might change upon understanding what mandatory truly means. I had always bought the argument that the mandatory death sentence is crucial in ensuring that Singapore remains drug free; that a strong deterrent is required to stop people from delivering drugs into Singapore.
However, each drug case is unique and has to be considered separately. Let’s ignore whether the death sentence is effective for the moment and consider whether making the death sentence mandatory reeks of inhumanity. In most other cases, the court usually looks into a variety of factors before deciding on a sentence. But when it is made mandatory, it means that the death sentence has to be given under all circumstances. The situation in reality is that there might be chances for rehabilitation. There is always compassion even in the arms of justice.
What we want to do is to crush criminal organizations who deal with drugs and cause harm to lives. But what if the drug mule has no link to the drug organization, but is merely forced by circumstances to deliver the package? Such question makes me wonder if mandatory is truly required.
If an individual is young, foolish, does not know that Singapore has a mandatory death penalty and delivers drugs in, I wonder if the mandatory death sentence has played its part in being a deterrent. Would there be cases that another sentencing would be considered fairer?
In addition, is the death sentence truly effective? I would think so, to a certain extent. I do agree that it is a fearful thing, and people would think twice before doing it. As mentioned before, what if the mule has no link to the organization but is merely forced by circumstances? It only prevent people from wanting to make a quick buck by using the fear of a possible death penalty when caught, but it does not deter the organizations from making use of people.
On the other hand, I wonder, if mandatory death sentence is lifted, will there be abuse of the system? Will drug mules all claim to be forced by circumstances? Is there a true way to judge which persons are forced and which are not? What is the proper way to decide?
But after thinking about it, I think the courts should be given the chance to decide what sentencing to be used. I really hope that we could show compassion if possible. Even life imprisonment sounds like a better deal than death sentence. The drug mule, when rehabilitated, could help promote the cause against drugs and educate people about it’s ill effects.
But I think the main issue is this: People need to realize that the argument against the mandatory death sentence isn’t an argument against the death sentence, but in the word mandatory.
What do you all think?