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Complicity in the senseless murder of a young boy

Posted by theonlinecitizen on January 27, 2007

By Zyberzitizen

Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi.

Will we remember him – or even his name? Will it matter to us? Does it matter to us? Why should we care about a Nigerian who is convicted of trafficking drugs? Why should we care about him who is now dead – sentenced to die and hung by our esteemed courts of well-trained, experienced judges?

Indeed, why care at all when he is not the only or first person to die by the noose for drugs trafficking?


Because we are complicit in his death.

Who are ‘we’?

The government , the elected MPs, the media, the courts, the local lawyers who kept quiet, the opposition parties who kept quiet, the public who kept quiet.

The society which turned a blind eye.

Yes, we.

The points of the case has been well articulated by some bloggers, especially Alex Au or Yawning Bread as he is popularly known (here and here). Thus, I will not go into that. I would, however, like to focus on the way our whole society turned a blind eye – and how easy it was for us to do so.

And yes, we are guilty of complicity in the death of this young man.


The government:

So many ministers, so many MPs – both of the ruling party and the opposition. Yet, as far as I know, not a single one of them raised this issue/case in parliament. Not that they did not have a chance to. Indeed, they were all in parliament just days before the execution of Tochi took place.

There are many lawyers among the MPs, yet not a single one found it necessary to question the doubts raised by the case of this Nigerian boy.

Perhaps the thought is that once Tochi is executed, people will forget about it soon enough. Or perhaps, that Tochi is from a country which is insignificant to Singapore economically and politically.

Or even perhaps our MPs feel that our courts are so absolutely perfect that there is no need to question but only trust. Indeed, the government has trumpeted the standing of the Singapore judicial system by citing certain international reports and ratings.

When the government itself has publicly and proudly declared that we should strive to be a ‘compassionate society’, but none of the MPs in government finds it necessary to raise the case of Tochi, I find the words ‘compassionate society’ hollow, empty and yes, even hypocritical.

The media

No one is more complicit in the death of this young boy than the Singapore mass media. This is my opinion.

The mass media reaches the masses, that’s why it’s called the ‘mass media’. Thus, it is through the mass media that issues can be raised effectively and generate discussions, debates, even heated ones. This is how alternative views are opened up, orthodox ones questioned, new ideas flow and society progresses.

Yet, in a case such as Tochi’s, the mass media was woefully silent, quiet, nonchalant. Seems to me that the taking of a life deserves nothing more than a blip on their radar screen, if indeed there was even a blip.

Valid, probing questions were raised by Alex Au and particularly the Singapore Democratic Party. Yet, the media must have deemed these questions insignificant. They would rather pick up the Wee Shu Min issue rather than question the law or the application of the law in this case. They would rather devote pages upon pages to useless, inane, senseless, completely irrelevant topics than to ask substantial questions about this case.

When a judge says there is no proof that an accused knows he was carrying drugs, but yet sentence the same accused to death, a responsible media will pick it up and asks questions.

Yet, our media elected to adopt deafening silence.

The courts

How does a judge go to sleep knowing full well that he is complicit in the death of a young boy whom the judge himself pronounce publicly that there is doubt about his knowledge that what he was carrying was drugs?

This, perhaps, is the lingering question that is in the minds of many who read about the case.

Local Lawyers

Woefullt inept, completely cowed, pathetically irresponsible. I apologise for these harsh words but they are my true feelings.

These are the people who are in the business of seeking justice, fairness and sense. Indeed, they can be termed ‘the conscience of society’, a noble profession. But what we have just seen is nothing conscionable, nothing noble.

On the contrary, what we’ve seen from our local lawyers, particularly the Law Society, is shameful avoidance. Convenient shrug of the shoulders, as it were.

Surely, if even a layman can see the inconsistency and the unfairness (to say the least) of the sentence, an expert who is trained in the law for years can see it too?

What made our lawyers turn a blind eye to Tochi?

The opposition parties

So very often we have heard opposition parties declare themselves wanting to be the ‘check and balance’ to the government. So, where were they in this case of potential miscarriage of justice?

Where was the ‘check’ on the courts of government and the ‘balance’ brought to a senseless sentence?

I am particularly disappointed with the opposition parties. Perhaps they feel such a case is irrelevant to Singaporeans (and thus, will not win them any votes – especially when it involves the taboo subject of drug trafficking), or they preferred to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that it will go away soon enough.

Check and balance means check and balance in matters which matter. And if how a young boy is put to death does not matter to the opposition, then perhaps the opposition should quit talking about being a ‘check and balance’ to the government. For in not exercising what they preach, they are not less complicit than those whom they oppose.

*Appreciation goes to the Singapore Democratic Party for being the only opposition party which consistently and regularly posted updates about Tochi’s case on their website.

The public who kept quiet

I would like to qualify my criticism of the public by saying that they are only partly responsible – because of the mass media which, as explained, kept the news from them.

But even so, those of us who knew about the case did not do enough. Some of us attended the vigil for Tochi and were there in the early morning of Jan 26 when they tied a noose around his neck and dropped him through the trapdoor, sending him to his death.

We could have done more – much more.


This is a very very solemn time for me personally. Sad, for sure. But more than sad, it is disturbing, disconcerting and even frightening.

It is frightening to know how callously our state metes out the death sentence. How cavalier the attitude afterwards. “We must protect society”, says the prime minister after the death.

But who protects the innocent abused by the state?

Not the elected MPs, not the opposition parties, not the courts, not the lawyers, not the public and certainly not the mass media.

That much has been determined by this case.

Complicity only requires a turning of a blind eye. A shrug of the shoulders. A nonchalant attitude.

And make no mistake, we are guilty.

Thus, in sentencing Tochi to his death, we have sentenced ourselves to a lower level among civilized societies.

Without compassion, that is what we are – uncivilized – no matter the glamourous and glitzy trappings we see all around us.

Welcome to “First World Singapore”.


Disneyland with the death penalty – senselessly meted out.

Where a nation turned a blind eye.

Even to the sanctity of life.


Read an account of Tochi’s journey from Africa to Singapore here.

The series of events leading to Tochi’s execution here.




101 Responses to “Complicity in the senseless murder of a young boy”

  1. article19 said

    My heartfelt thank you to zyberzitizen for writing this piece. What you wrote pretty much reflected what I feel. I couldn’t have done a better job at it.

    My heartfelt thanks also to TOC for posting it on their blog as well as for the other post “Bloggers question tochi’s execution”.

    Regards, article19 aka Pseudonymity

  2. William said

    Your wonderful article is very helpful to all of us, the drug dealers who need to find people to carry our dope to kids around the world.

    I know the people of Singapore live in peace, have a low crime rate and no serious drug problem. Could that have anything to do with the fact that they come down hard on drugs? Naaaaahh… right?

    I mean, serious, have YOU ever met a heroin addict? Have YOU ever seen a family destroyed by that stuff? I guess not. You’re much too busy thinking up ways to blame everyone else.

    Listen, all us traffickers hope that people like you keep trying to reduce the punishment for drugs. I know the Singapore courts, the Singapore media, the Singapore legal community, Singapore families and ALL Singaporeans think that they have to come down hard on drugs in order to protect their society. Thank God you know better. I’m dying to have more from your wisdom.

  3. article19 said

    Dear William,

    I think what you have said is grossly unfair to zyberzitizen and those who have spoken out or written about it.

    I believe all of us know about drug abuse and those who traffick in them. Those who traffick in drugs need to be punished.

    But you, and many like you, seem to miss the point: The possibility of miscarriage of justice in cases which has the mandatory death penalty as its ultimate punishment. In such cases, when the death penalty is carried out, it cannot be undone.

    If totally getting rid of the death penalty in Singapore is too much for certain quarters, at least the law should be changed so that its not mandatory. Thus freeing up the judges to determine the appropriate sentence based on each case. This first step is at least a start instead of the routine business of state sponsored murder.

    I would like to present here excerpts from a recent statement by Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions of the United Nations Human Rights Council:

    “It is a fundamental human right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Alston said. “The standard accepted by the international community is that capital punishment may be imposed only when the guilt of the person charged is based upon clear and convincing evidence leaving no room for an alternative explanation of the facts.”

    “Singapore cannot reverse the burden and require a defendant to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he didn’t know that he was carrying drugs,” Alston said.

    The trial judge appears to have accepted that Mr Tochi might not have realized that the capsules he was carrying contained heroin, stating that “[t]here was no direct evidence that he knew the capsules contained diamorphine, or that he had found that out on his own” but that “ignorance did not exculpate him”. He was convicted and sentenced to death.

    The appeal court rejected the trial court’s suggestion that it was irrelevant whether Mr Tochi had knowledge of what he was carrying. Nevertheless, it upheld his conviction.

    “In the case of Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi, the Government of Singapore has failed to ensure respect for the relevant legal safeguards. Under the circumstances, the execution should not proceed.”

    “Singapore’s decision to make the death penalty mandatory keeps judges from considering all of the factors relevant to determining whether a death sentence would be permissible in a capital case,” Alston said.

  4. William said

    Dear Article19

    I think what you have said is grossly unfair to me and the millions of Singaporeans who are in favour of the system.

    Please don’t bother quoting some foreigner telling us what to do in our country, and his opinion on what is fair and not fair. That foreigner, and other foreigners, are not the people who have a stake here. Singaporeans have a stake here and they have a right to decide on what punishments to give.

    That is why this little blog makes me laugh so much. The blogger is basically blaming everyone for “complicity”. Get real. Everyone is just fine with what happened. That is the truth. It is only the blogger and you who think that you know something that the rest of Singapore doesn’t.

    If you are not in favour of the death penalty, then where was your protest when Took Leng How was sentenced and hanged?

    If you are in favour of the death penalty, but just think that it should not be mandatory, or that it was wrongly applied in this case, then that’s a different story. So please make up your mind: are you against the death penalty in principle (which is what your post suggests, and what the vast majority of Singaporeans and people are in favour of) or are you just not happy with this particular drug case?

    And if you really are interested in what the trial judge said, and what the appeal court said, then read the grounds of decision. Both judgments are public documents and have been quoted out of context by a few bloggers (who all sound suspiciously the same). Forget the stories about how this poor Nigerian liked to play football and had a mother who loved him. That’s just confusing the issue and appealing to sentiment. Use some logic and statistics. The only statistics that matter are that Singapore is relatively drug-free, and Singaporeans are satisfied with the system. Please don’t quote any more unknown foreigners with long self-created titles from the UN.

  5. article19 said

    So “the possibility of miscarriage of justice in cases which has the mandatory death penalty as its ultimate punishment” doesn’t bother you, not only for such cases but in general?

  6. zyberzitizen said

    Dear William,

    You said: “millions of Singaporeans who are in favour of the system.”

    How do you know that – especially when the local mainstream media gave it only scant attention?

    Do these ‘millions of singaporeans’ know about the case, in the first place? And if they don’t, how are they ‘in favour of the system’?

    Singaporeans may have voted for the PAP but that does not mean they ‘are in favour’ of any one specific policy or all policies.

    Example, there are those who voted for the PAP and their policies in general but are against some policies in particular. It is not blanket approval, although granted that elections only brings up a few issues, and not all issues.

    The problem is that claims of the death penalty is not supported conclusively or even convincingly. In fact, there is no study whatsoever in singapore on this claim.

    On the other hand, other countries and international organisations have studied it and the consensus is that, at the very least, there is no substantiation or conclusive proof that the death penalty deters criminals.

    What some studies have shown, on the other hand, is that the death penalty is not a deterrent – as in this report by Amnesty International.

    I apologise for citing a foreign report but this is because there are no such studies or reports from singapore. If you should know of any such reports done locally, please do share it with us.

    And lastly, you seem to have ignored the trial judge, the very same judge who convicted Tochi, saying that he (the judge) “accepted that he might not have realised that the substance he was carrying was heroin”.

    If even the judge admitted, accepted and recognised that Tochi may not even have known what he was carrying was heroin, how then do you convict him of trafficking?

    Can you traffick something you do not know exist?


  7. i was wondering why there was much more attention accorded to shanmugam and nguyen, but almost non-existent for tochi.

    i received word that the singapore anti-death penalty campaign apparently declined to pursue tochi’s case.

    and zyberzitizen, i belive the judge found tochi guilty still despite acknowledging his lack of knowledge because he believed tochi’s suspicions should have been raised when offered a substantial sum of money to courier the package. which does not make the punishment any more right, nevertheless.

  8. Teck Soon said

    To William –

    You requested that people stop quoting foreigners. Of course! Because foreigners are stupid and we don’t need them. We live on an island and get by just fine without them. Any job that could be done by a foreigner could be done by a Singaporean a lot better. And our country is better than all the others. We are drug free and safe because of the mandatory hangings. Denmark is drug free and safe because of something else I guess. Because they manage to do it without the death penalty. How can they do that if they are such dumb foreigners cannot teach us anything? Quite obviously the stupid foreigners just don’t realize that killing all these people in Singapore is the ONLY way to achieve safety and drug-free society, except for their own method. If they have a non-death way, then it’s just not going to be as good as ours. Because we are the best. Singapore is the best. At everything. And just let’s kick out all the stupid foreigners who don’t know anything and we Singaporeans can sit here on our island and gloat about are safety and boast about our highest execution rate in the world. I do, in fact, take every opportunity I can to inform foreigners of our love of hanging foreigners. Maybe they won’t come here. I hope they don’t.

    Teck Soon

  9. William said

    Dear zyberzitizen

    If you have a choice between quoting a Singaporean view, and a foreigner’s view, why choose the latter?

    Why ignore what the Singapore trial judge and the Singapore Court of Appeal said, in favour of what ONE foreigner said? Is it because you don’t happen to agree with the Singaporeans?

    And do quote the trial judge and the court of appeal in full. The trial judge’s point was that even if the accused said that he did not know for a fact that what he was carrying was heroin, that excuse just won’t wash. It’s so easy for drug traffickers to say that they were paid to carry to another country, and they know what the packet looks like and how it weighs, but they did not know for a fact that it was heroin. Because, you know, it could have been sugar, right? Or flour? Get real. Read the entire grounds of decision.

    Frankly, I love it that you guys keep side-stepping the issue. Are you against the death penalty in principle, or just in this particular case?

    If you are against the death penalty in principle, then what deterrent do you offer in return? Life sentence for this boy? The mandatory death penalty message is the one clear message that the drug traffickers understand.

    Teck Soon makes me laugh. Denmark is drug-free? Have you ever been to Denmark? Try looking at some facts for a change. 65% of the Danish public recently said that they are concerned about the drug problem in their country. The culture is not what you believe, Teck Soon.

    And by the way, while we are on the subject of facts, please don’t distort them by claiming that Singapore has the highest execution rate in the world. That is something put out by the SDP (of course they are always so truthful and objective and they have no agenda right). The fact is that the Singapore rate of execution is lower than that of our neighbours, and that of the United States.

    Now, if you want a proper debate, then go for the facts. Not emotion and sentiment.

    By the way, not too many protests when Took Leng How was hanged right? No one talking about “state-sponsored murder”? Seems like double standards.

  10. Steve said

    Well, let me take the Netherlands as a case: it has legalized a great number of drugs and they have reduced the drug problem by removing the problem part. Drugs are bad, alcohol is bad, cigarettes are bad, but people who take them, take them because they choose so. We can and should tell them the risks and the consequences. But if we decriminalize them, the market value of drugs declines and their is less need to pay top dollars to secret couriers.

    Countries like Myanmar, North Korea, etc. draw a great deal of their profit out of the drug trade. The Singapore government has only executed the little drug couriers but never caught the big guy behind these operations. There has been no action against the drug lords, not even a public statement. This is a war against small fish, of which we know there are thousands.

    I mourn for Tochi, Ngyuen, etc. because they were young and gullible. They were people that could have been saved and reformed. The execution of these people just is a waste. I fully agree with Zyberzitizen!

  11. […] Complicity in the senseless murder of a young boy Posted by H-SPHERE on January 27th, 2007 By Zyberzitizen Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi. Will we remember him – or even his name? Will it matter to us? Does it matter to us? Why should we care about a Nigerian who is convicted of trafficking drugs? Why should we care about him who is now dead – sentenced to die and hung by our esteemed courts of well-trained, experienced judges? Indeed, why care at all when he is not the only or first person to die by the noose for drugs trafficking? […]

  12. William said

    Dear Steve

    You say “if we decriminalise them, then the market value of drugs declines” and that will fight drugs.

    At least you are attempting to make a logical point. The problem with what you say is that the drugs which Tochi was carrying are NOT legal, even in the Netherlands. It was heroin. Such drugs are ‘hard’ drugs and are universally recognised as being extremely dangerous. You will not find any society which will decriminalise heroin. So your suggestion really doesn’t work here.

    Second, it’s not true that Singapore executes only the small fish. What’s conveniently forgotten is that there were two people executed that day. The first was Tochi. Guess who was the other person? 35-year-old Okeke Nelson Malachy. Yes, the “big fish” who ordered the drugs. Now, we don’t hear any complaint about him, right? Because everyone can see that Nelson deserved it. Is it a case of double standards?

    Third, you say that Tochi was young and gullible. I can accept that he is young (21 years old), but I don’t know why you say he is gullible. Just because someone is young, he should be treated differently? Is that really justice? All that will happen is that the drug lords will ask younger couriers to do the work.

    Let’s face it, there is no easy and nice way to fight drugs. We have to send a clear message and that message is that everyone who trafficks in heroin gets the mandatory death penalty. Otherwise everyone who gets caught will say “I’m young”, “I am just the small fish”, “save me and reform me please”, etc.

    Anyway, if you really want to think about young and gullible people and mourn for them, spare a thought for the real victims: the young and gullible kids in Singapore who become drug addicts. What do you say to them and to their families? Spare a thought for the rest of society who has to clean up the messes that people like Tochi, Nguyen and Nelson bring over. I’ve asked for an alternative plan, and so far no one has even dared to suggest one.

    Of course I agree that we should educate the young and tell everyone about the risks, etc. I think that much more has to be done. But that’s a problem world wide, not just in Singapore. And it’s a false dichotomy to suggest that if we rely on education, we can do away with the death penalty for heroin trafficking. We have to do both.

    (As for Teck Soon’s Denmark example, I am not surprised that he has dropped it since it suddenly doesn’t support his view at all. It’s easy to make an argument until you have to deal with facts and logic.)

    No one else wants to dispute the fact that the myth about Singapore having the highest execution rate is unsubstantiated? Anyway, Amnesty International themselves say otherwise:
    China Leads Death List as Number of Executions Around the World Soars
    by Anne Penketh, Diplomatic Editor

    Executions around the world are nearing record levels, and the Unites States is among the four countries which account for 97 per cent of the total, a report has found.

    At least 3,797 people were executed in 25 countries in 2004, according to a report released today by Amnesty International.

    The report says China easily operates the most stringent capital punishment regime, with an estimated 3,400 executions last year. In second place, Iran executed at least 159, Vietnam at least 64, and 59 prisoners were put to death in the US.


    Total in 2004

    1 China 3,400*

    2 Iran 159*

    3 Vietnam 64*

    4 United States 59*

    5 Saudi Arabia 33*

    If you are interested in the figure for Singapore, it is 6. Like I said, people have to use facts if they want to make a convincing argument.

  13. Aaron said

    Does waging war on drugs necessarily mean that it is necessarily to execute people who possess drugs? Does the war on drugs justify the presumption that carrying than 15 grams is trafficking? Does the war on drugs mean that supply of drugs is the problem, rather than the demand for drugs?

    Of course, it is natural to blame the problem on the supply of drugs because it’s easier to deal with the problem through executing people who carry drugs (whether they are innocent or not) than to deal with the problem through understanding why people are turning to drugs.

  14. William said

    Dear Aaron

    Like I said earlier, it is so easy for people to criticise rather than to come up with solutions. I haven’t heard any so far, only a lot of moaning.

    To answer your first question, NO. Waging war on drugs does not mean it is necessary to execute people who possess drugs. And I never said that, so be honest when you make an argument. It is necessary to execute drug TRAFFICKERS.

    Does the war on drugs justify the presumption that carrying 15 grams is trafficking? Of course. Listen, Singapore is not the only country that uses presumptions. Guess where we adopted it from? England. Presumptions are a fundamental part of Western jurisprudence. Of course, not everyone agrees about it. There is hardly anything that anyone agrees on absolutely. But Singapore is not a rogue state just because it has presumptions.

    You ask whether the supply of drugs is the problem, rather than the demand. Please don’t use false dichotomies. The supply of drugs and the demand of drugs are both part of the problem. That is exactly why I said, so why try to misquote me? Read what I said. We have to do both. Do you mean to say the supply of drugs is NOT the problem?

    And I certainly don’t agree that we should execute innocent people. But that’s the fundamental problem right? You think he’s innocent, and I (and the trial judge who heard him, and the Court of Appeal who heard the appeal) don’t agree with you.

    Please don’t confuse the issues. If you are against capital punishment, then say so. Then explain why there is no outcry when Took Leng How was hanged. If you against the application of capital punishment in this particular case then say so. We can talk about this particular case. We can argue whether he is or is not guilty. But don’t confuse the two issues.

    And please, for goodness sake, don’t ever reduce any argument into “either-or”. We must tackle the supply AND the demand, and if you bother to read what I wrote, and argue logically, you will save a lot of time for people who are interested in a serious discussion, and not emotion.

    By the way Aaron, please don’t forget you owe me a solution. You don’t like capital punishment. You know what? I don’t like it too. It is a terrible thing. But we are dealing with a terrible problem. You want to get rid of capital punishment for drug traffickers? I will be the first one to support you. But please, take a stand and propose an alternative. Until then, plesae go easy on criticising. Any idiot can criticise anything, especially when talking about a complex problem.

  15. zyberzitizen said

    Dear William,

    Your claim that China is the state with the highest execution rate in the world is only partly correct. This is because you are looking at absolute numbers – some 3,400 executions in the year you cited, which is 2004.

    Singapore is the state with the highest rate of execution per capita. And this rate is three times higher than the second placed country, Saudi Arabia – according to this Amnesty report.

    You can also confirm this with these reports:

    Singapore has the highest execution rate in the world relative to its population

    Singapore, with a population of just over four million, is believed to have the highest per capita execution rate in the world.

    Singapore has the world’s highest per capita execution rate

    As such, it is not quite fair to see it in absolute numbers – as other countries have much higher population compared to Singapore. Thus, it is reasonable to say that with much higher populations, these countries would have a higher execution rate in absolute numbers.

    Hence, it is more accurate to use the per capita rate. And in this, there is consensus among researchers and reports that Singapore has indeed the highest execution rate in the world – per capita.

    I hope that clears things up.

    You asked: “If you have a choice between quoting a Singaporean view, and a foreigner’s view, why choose the latter?”

    Why do I have to choose, in the first place? Why would I not take both into account? But to answer your point, I quoted the trial judge himself, a singaporean. So, I am not sure what you are saying.

    As I said before, if you have reports of studies done by singapore on our death penalty, please let us know and I will be more than happy to take a look. If you do not, then please do not fault me in using other well-researched studies from other countries.

    You said: “The trial judge’s point was that even if the accused said that he did not know for a fact that what he was carrying was heroin, that excuse just won’t wash.”

    You are not quite right here. Even though Tochi said he did not know what he was carrying was drugs, I am not using his words as defence. On the contrary, I am using the words of the trial judge himself who said that there was no proof to show that Tochi knew what he was carrying was drugs or that there was any proof that he had found that out by himself.

    Remember that the burden of proof in this case (as in all drug trafficking cases) is on the accused. He had to prove that he wasn’t trafficking.

    Thus, if even the trial judge acknowledged, recognised and accepted that he did not even know what he was carrying was drug, how then do you convict hiim of trafficking?

    Remember again that it is the trail judge who said all this after at the close of the trial. It wasn’t just Tochi’s claims.

    The trial judge agreed with Tochi.

    But yet sentenced him to death.

    This is what upsets me – and others.

    As for your question whether I am against the death penalty, on principle I am not – but I would like to see that the application of capital punishment, the procedure engaged in its application, and certain police procedures be corrected before I would give it my whole support.

    Having said that, I am against the death penalty for drug trafficking in particular.

    Please note that my saying I am not against capital punishment is on principle, not on particular crimes.

    This is just my personal view.


  16. William said

    Dear ZZ

    Now the numbers are obviously incorrect. You have cited one Amnesty article which has numbers from 1994 to 1999. And then you have cited 3 articles, but if you read them, each of them cite the same Amnesty article you cited in the first place. That Amnesty article is long superceded by Amnesty’s own article which I have quoted to show that there were 6 executions in 2004. Your source is long outdated.

    Six executions. Even on a per capita basis, there is NO WAY you can argue that our rate is the highest. It is not the highest at all, even per capita. Do the maths. China is 2.83 per million, USA is 2.36 per million. Singapore is a long, long way from that, not even half.

    The fact is that when Teck Soon claimed that Singapore has the highest execution rate in the world, that statement is false. Teck Soon had no source and no basis to say that, and I suspect that he was simply mouthing off some outdated propaganda that he heard from somewhere else. Facts count.

    Now, I turn to your second point. You may be surprised to know I happen to agree with you. The application and procedure for capital offences cases are not perfect. And even if they are perfect, we must not be complacent and we must keep reviewing them. So the discussion is important, even if we do not agree.

    Where we don’t agree is this: I think that in drug cases it is especially effective to use capital punishment. Drug trafficking is a matter of economics. The drug dealer weighs risk and benefit. If there is a risk of mandatory capital punishment then that will be a difficult risk for him to accept. The drug dealer is less likely to take a risk and move his drugs to Singapore.

    Now the third point: Tochi’s case. You have to read what the court said, not just bits which are quoted out of context. Sure, everyone can agree that Tochi did not know that what he was carrying was heroin. His story was that he was carrying magic herbs. Now, before you start thinking that it was leaves or something, let me tell you that the magic herbs were in fact pills, and Tochi knew that. He knew he was carrying pills, because when he was caught, he swallowed one.

    Let me put it this way: if someone you don’t know (his name, laughably, was “Mr Smith”) promised you money to carry some pills across the border, you wouldn’t have to know that the pills are heroin, ecstacy or something else. The point is that you knew that you were carrying pills which you are not going to declare to customers, which are worth a lot of money, and which are probably drugs right? Otherwise why would you do it? This seems really obvious to me. I can accept that you may not personally believe him, but let’s face it, it is really very easy for anybody caught carrying something to say that actually, it’s not his, it’s someone else’s, and he didn’t know what it was. But that kind of defence is like the Nuremberg defence. It is like saying, “I didn’t know that there were jews being sent to the concentration camp, no one told me, I was just doing what I was asked to do…” It’s not good enough.

  17. zyberzitizen said

    Dear William,

    You said: “That Amnesty article is long superceded by Amnesty’s own article which I have quoted to show that there were 6 executions in 2004. Your source is long outdated.”

    I am afraid I am not sure what you are saying or referring to. Going back to the articles I quoted, this one by CNN clearly was not referring to the Amnesty Report:

    Singapore has the highest execution rate in the world relative to its population, according to the 2005 U.N. report.

    As you can see, it refers to a United Nations report. And also, the report is in 2005 – which in fact superceded your quoted report of 2004.

    I am afraid that you have got it wrong.

    So, it is clear that it was not just Amnesty which reported that singapore has the highest execution rate but also the United Nations.

    I am guessing that you did not read the reports I quoted – or else you would not have mistaken them.


  18. William said


    Not correct. I have read the CNN report, and just to make it very clear to anyone, I will reproduce an excertp:

    “In an effort to stop Singapore from becoming a narcotics hub, more than 420 prisoners have been hanged in Singapore since 1991, most of them for drug trafficking, according to Amnesty International. That figure is “shocking,” Amnesty said.

    Singapore has the highest execution rate in the world relative to its population, according to the 2005 U.N. report. An average of 6.9 people were executed per 1 million over 1999 to 2003, the report states.”

    There are 2 sources for the CNN report, both of which cover an outdated period (i.e. up to 2003). The most recent figures which I cited from Amnesty are from 2004. The Amnesty report is published in 2005 and covers executions in 2004.

    And by the way, the actual quote from Amnesty is that

    “in 2004 that about 420 people had been hanged in Singapore since 1991, mostly for drug smuggling, giving the country of 4.4 million people “possibly” the highest execution rate in the world relative to its population.”

    I have added the emphasis on “possibly” to show you that even Amnesty is not sure about making that statement. But anyway, don’t make me disprove Teck Soon’s point. Since he makes that claim, let HIM back it up. If he has any accurate source, I will accept it. I am interested only in the facts.

  19. Aaron said


    Your art-thou-so-high-and-mighty attitude pisses me. You have your cases; so does everyone else. Don’t go around demanding that people owe you an answer because I don’t need to answer you if I choose not to. In anycase, if I choose not to answer you, it’s not because you have the stronger argument, but I dislike dealing with people who think they are always right.

    First off the bat, did I explicitly refer to you in my reply? I only asked some questions which I think are relevant things to think about. To be brutally frank, the way you jumped to your own defence so quickly appears to me that you are so egoistical about your argument that you take any reply that is not in line with yours to be an attack on you. I wonder who is the one who’s operating on the dichotomy that non-agreement equates disagreement? Therefore, I will NOT respond to anything that you claim that to be a “misquote” of you.

    Regarding presumptions, can you please explain why is it more correct to presume that a person carrying 15 grams of heroin is engaging in trafficking than to presume otherwise? On what kind of basis can we make that presumption? Listen, I never said anything about throwing presumptions out of the window. I am merely questioning the validity of the current presumption.

    Next, with regards to the issue of demand and supply, my point was quite simply that the focus seem to be more on dealing with supply, and I stated the basis for my conclusion. I did not attempt a false dichotomy by ruling out one in favour of the other. I only stated that it seems easier to deal with supply rather than demand, but I NEVER stated that demand is the problem and supply isn’t. If you are unsure of what I said, I think you should clarify before jumping the gun.

    I have stated on my own blog that I oppose capital punishment in Singapore because it has been applied so mechanically. Even if there are grounds for doubt, there are no means of recourse for the accused. Just today in the papers was a huge coverage of a Singaporean convicted of murder in New Jersey. He could have been given capital punishment since New Jersey has capital punishment laws, but the judge decided against it. If I were living in New Jersey, it is probable that I would support the death penalty because at least there are some restraints to prevent miscarriage of justice. If at least the presumption of guilty unless proven innocent turned the other way round, even though I might not support the death penalty, I will be ambivalent about it.

    I’m sorry if you feel offended by my reply but I’m merely reflecting back to you what other people feel when reading your replies. I don’t mind a robust argument, but I dislike the attitude you portray in your replies.

  20. Aaron said


    I forgot to state that I was against Took’s hanging for the very same reason that I’m against Tochi’s. I did not blog about it then, although I did discuss with some of the people around me. This time round, I am motivated enough to write about it because I cannot believe it is happening a second time that doubts have been raised but ignored. If you wish to engage in a discussion along this line, I’m happy to oblige. As for other discussions, depending on your reply, I might or might not choose to engage you in a discussion.

  21. Just to contribute a fact that Amnesty International probably didn’t know (or take into account). Something happened in 1990 – CJ Yung Pung How was appointed. One of the man’s major accomplishments was the clearing up of backlog in the courts.

    Apparently, there were people who had been on the death row (waiting to be hanged) for more than 10 years in 1990, and the backlog of death row prisoners “was being cleared” in the early 90s. For this reason, if you simply take the number of people executed during the early 90s, you will get a huge jump. 😛

    The “backlog” has apparently been cleared up by year 2000 and so in recent years, you wouldn’t see such a high number of executions annually. Today, you will not find a man who is on the death row for more than 2 years (We might have become overly efficient in our administration of executions though). So, William is actually correct to claim that our execution rate isn’t highest in the world. In fact, we’re probably about average.

    The KTM has his piece to say about his whole issue, but that’s for another time. For now, he’s just contributing a fact on the execution numbers to help explain the apparent anormaly.

  22. Steve said

    Now I would like to add a moral argument to the debate:

    who gives a human the right to kill another human? I am not a Christian but I think Jesus was right when he recommended to turn the other cheek. Thou shalt not kill, sounds like good words to me.

    I once was convinced that the death penalty would be the right thing for heinous murder and rape. Today, however, I am not so sure anymore. What if we execute an innocent? What if Tochi said the truth and he didn’t know that these were drugs? Then that was state sanctioned murder!

    And that in my humble opinion is immoral!

  23. William said

    Dear Steve

    Thanks for adding something new to the debate: the moral issue. Like you, I do not wish to bring religion into the picture. Christians themselves are divided about the death penalty, for the same reason that all of us here today are. But if you quote the Bible, you must be accurate. You have quoted two parts. “Thou shalt not kill” is not what the Old Testament says. It says “Thou shalt not murder”. And by the way, the Old Testmanent also advocates the death penalty, as well as a number of other things which I won’t go into. Christ did say that one must turn the other cheek. But if we adopt His example, we would not have any armies to defend ourselves.

    Is war an exception to killing? Is self-defence?

    Today we are facing a war on drugs and drug traffickers, and we are defending our society against that threat. We are using whatever measures we know of to fight it. If there are better measures, I would be the first to abandon the death penalty. I have asked for good alternatives and so far no one has given any. All they have done is to attack me. It’s easy to criticise and destroy when you do not want to take responsibility for putting forward something positive.

    The next problem you highlighted was the possibility of error. Again, a very good point. It is possible that the courts will get it wrong. It is possible that the government will get it wrong. That is a problem about implementation of the idea, and not about the idea itself. So the question really is this: “Assuming I agree in principle with the death penalty, I have concerns that it will not be implemented properly. There will be mistakes.” But my answer to that is if there is any possibility of a mistake, then the system must stop it and acquit the accused. There are three levels of checks: the trial judge, the appeal court and the President (for clemency).

    Now, you may very well be cynical and say that the courts are biased and the President will not do anything, but again, that is a problem of implementation. I don’t believe the courts are biased (why should they be? it is not a political matter? who is Tochi or Took Leng How?). They have acquitted people before. If you have a more sceptical view about the courts then you are entitled to it. But it is a problem of implementation. That problem does not mean that the principle of mandatory capital punishment for drug traffickers is wrong. For the record, I don’t think that the court was wrong to sentence Tochi. I don’t think that the court was wrong to sentence Took. I think that some decisions were wrong: I am thinking in particular about the maids who were tried for murder. But that is a discussion for another day.

    Killing is a nasty, immoral thing. I agree. But so is drugs. So is rape. So is murder. Fight fire with fire. It’s the only message that works.

    To Mr Kuay Teow Man: you are absolutely right. I believe you must be connected to the legal community. Because of the reason you have outlined (backlog in cases now cleared up), I think your prediction that our execution rate is now average will be proven right over the years. I am interested to hear your views on mandatory capital punishment for drug traffickers, as well as for Took. I will look out for your blog.

    To Aaron: I am certainly no longer interested in your views. All you have done is to call me names (which I don’t mind) without any logic or facts (which I do mind). Since you made a statement, that Singapore has the highest execution rate, I demand that you justify it. Otherwise, your statement will lack credibility. And that will tend to make the rest of your opinion valueless.

    The other thing that is bad about Aaron’s post is dishonesty. He said, “Did I explicitly refer to you in my post?” Just to remind everyone what his post was, he said “Does waging war on drugs necessarily mean that it is necessarily to execute people who possess drugs… Does the war on drugs mean that supply of drugs is the problem, rather than the demand for drugs?” etc. etc.

    Now Aaron tell everyone honestly who you were referring to. My post appeared just before yours. Mine is the only one which talks about the war on drugs, and attacking the supply. I have searched the entire page for anyone else who has talked about that topic. No one has. So you were obviously, certainly, definitely, without a doubt referring to me. Have the guts to stand up for your own post. If you are dishonest, it affects the quality of the debate.

  24. William said

    Sorry Aaron: My statement that you said that Singapore has the highest execution rate is wrong! It was Teck Soon who said it. Very very sorry for misquoting you.

  25. zyberzitizen said

    Dear william,

    I take your point anf thank you for clearing it up. Having said that, however, we have to keep in mind that the reason why AI is ‘unsure’ about the exact figure is because executions in singapore are shrouded in mystery, and the mainstream media gives it scant attention, if any.

    In the same vein, figures from China are also not exact.

    Be that as it may, there is no doubt that singapore’s rate is high. Of course this is open to debate as what constitutes ‘high’ would be a personal opinion or based on certain criterias which could be seen as arbitrary.

    Thanks also to KTM for clarifying the rate of execution – even though it would better if KTM could give some substantiation to what he says.

    Having said all that, I am still very concerned about the way the death penalty is carried out. If we recall, some of the words of our people in govt are quite troubling.

    For example, PM Goh (as he was still PM at that time) said that “I’ve got more important things to worry about.”(BBC HARDtalk interview with Goh Chok Tong, televised on 23 September 2003.) when asked about the death penalty.

    And the then chief justice Yong Pung How was reported as having told the lawyer of an accused “You can say he is an innocent man, but as far as the law is concerned, he has been found guilty and convicted. You better say goodbye to him, that’s all you can do.”. (Straits Times, 26 September 2003.)

    Such is the cavalier attitude we have at the highest level of government towards the use of the death peanalty.

    And there have also been instances where doubts were raised and questions unanswered or issues not debated. Such as this one:

    “Rozman Jusoh, a 24-year-old labourer from Malaysia, was arrested allegedly after trying to sell 1.04 kg of cannabis to an undercover officer of the Central Narcotics Bureau. In March 1995 he was acquitted of the capital offence of drug trafficking after the trial judge found him to have “sub-normal intelligence, with an IQ of 74.” Instead he was found guilty of the lesser offence of drug possession and sentenced to a prison term. After the prosecution filed an appeal, the appeal judge sentenced him to death, stating, “He was educationally sub-normal but that does not absolve him from his criminal deeds.” (New Paper, 15 August 1995.)

    I think we can all agree that the implementation of the death penalty leaves much to be desired. This is perhaps why the Law Society is submitting a paper to the Law Ministry to relook the application of capital punishment. So, clearly, even lawyers feel there is more to be done.

    On that we can agree – and on that note, I shall leave this discussion. I shall not go into the moral debate as it is an endless one, dependent upon a whole slew of particularities, including emotional, religious, philosophical issues.

    I will leave with this question regarding Tochi’s case:

    Can you traffick something you do not know exist?


  26. William said


    You say that: “…executions in singapore are shrouded in mystery.” But that is not true. The figures have been given by the Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs in

    Every time someone is sentenced to death, it is a public decision and the world knows about it. No one is condemned to death in secrecy. So it’s just Amnesty propaganda that popularised the myth that executions are shrouded in mystery. The figures are easy to find. If they wanted to hire me to do it, I could do it in 2 hours. It’s all in the Court of Appeal decisions.

    You mentioned something which our former PM Goh said on a BBC Interview. Frankly, I don’t know why he said that and I definitely will not justify it. It seems a very odd thing to say. The death penalty is indeed important and he should think about it. I’m very sure our new PM would not have said the same thing.

    Next, to CJ Yong Pung How. I do happen to think that he had the right idea, and was not being cavalier. Believe or not, not all lawyers are honest and reasonable. Some of them may even claim that their client is innocent when that is not so. CJ Yong was basically saying to the lawyer, “You say that he is innocent, but I find him guilty.” It doesn’t mean that CJ Yong convicted an innocent man.

    Rozman’s case is definitely fair. If you read the newspaper’s version, then of course you would be alarmed. But believe it or not, the Singapore press is not always accurate in what they print. In Rozman’s case, Rozman’s point is that he has a low IQ. The Court of Appeal’s finding was:

    “Rozman was not of unsound mind; neither was he mentally retarded at all material times. While he might be a person of low intellect, he was not so intellectually disabled as to be incapable of knowing the nature of his act or of discerning that the act was wrong and contrary to law. His ‘low intellect’ and disposition to being easily susceptible to manipulation by others were not be a defence to a criminal charge. Neither did these factors diminish or eradicate the presence of mens rea. He was guilty of trafficking in the drugs in the first bundle.”

    Basically, the court said that just because you have a low IQ doesn’t mean you do not know what you are doing. The test is whether you know if what you are doing is wrong and against the law. Rozman knew that.

    Rozman’s main defence was that since he had a low IQ, he was easily manipulated by others. The court said that being easily manipulated was not a good defence. It’s what I call a Nuremberg defence: I am not responsible since someone else asked me to do it.

    Your final question: Can you traffic something you do not know exists?

    My answer: No! Of course not.

    But that’s not what happened in Tochi’s case. I can accept that if Tochi was walking into the airport and someone put the heroin in his bag without Tochi knowing, then Tochi would be innocent, and I would be the first to protest against his death sentence. Tochi’s story is different. This is what the trial judge said:

    “While he was at the terminal, he opened his bag and the capsules spilled out, and he placed them in his gloves, socks, and the chocolate box where the police found them later. When the police questioned him about the capsules he swallowed one of them.”

    The Court of Appeal said:

    “…Each of the 100 capsules containing diamorphine was found wrapped in layers of aluminium foil, plastic, and adhesive tape. When questioned by the police, the first appellant at first said that the capsules were chocolate, but when the question was repeated he said that they were African herbs

    …the true principle is that, ultimately, a failure to inspect may strongly disincline a court from believing an “absence of knowledge” defence. Therefore, to say, as in this case, that the first appellant thought it was chocolates was another way of saying he did not know that he was carrying drugs.

    …In the present instance, the first appellant testified that he thought that he was carrying chocolates, later correcting his evidence to African herbs (that tasted like chocolate). This brought his case within the kind discussed in Shan Kai Weng v PP [2004] 1 SLR 57, Tan Ah Tee v PP [1978-1979] SLR 211, and the statement from Ubaka v PP cited in all the cases above as well as by the trial judge in the present case: “[I]gnorance is a defence only when there is no reason for suspicion and no right and opportunity of examination …”. It was sufficiently clear to us, from the trial judge’s grounds of decision, that the court did not believe the explanation of the first appellant…”

    So the story is this. When Tochi was caught, he first said that what he was carrying was chocolates. Then he changed his story and said that it was herbs. Then he said that it was pills which were safe, and he swallowed one.

    Clearly, Tochi was lying. He changed his story. He said he was carrying chocolates, then he said herbs. He also cooked up this weird tale about being given the drugs by a stranger called “Mr Smith”. It is just unbelievable.

    I am prepared to believe that he did not know it was heroin – to Tochi, it could have been ecstacy, PCP or any designer drug. It didn’t matter to him. He knew he was carrying something illegal.

    Let me give you a hypothetical example. If a man is asked to drive a container truck across a border, and he hears some movement inside and some voices, can he say that he didn’t know the container had illegal immigrants inside? What if he said that he knew there were people, but he thought he did not know that they were illegals? Would that excuse the driver? Clearly not. So Tochi was given pills to carry for money, the capsules were wrapped up in foil, and Tochi did not put them in a box, but stuffed them all over his clothes. Is that how an innocent man behaves? The money given to him for carrying the pills was US$2000. That’s a lot of money for some herbs, right? I’m not surprised that the court thought his story was doubtful. I would go further and say he is obviously lying. He did not know that the pills were actually heroin, but he knew the pills were illegal. That’s guilt, in any country.

  27. zyberzitizen said

    Dear William,

    Then it’s pretty amazing to me that the trial judge could conclude that Tochi did not know what he was carrying was drug or that he had found that out by himself.


  28. William said


    Why is it amazing? The judge never made that conclusion. He never said that Tochi did not know he was carrying drugs. What is frequently misquoted is paragraph 42 of the judgment:

    “42 There was no direct evidence that he knew the capsules contained diamorphine. There was nothing to suggest that Smith had told him they contained diamorphine, or that he had found that out on his own.

    43 On the other hand, the first accused did not have a consistent belief in the contents of the capsules. When he was first asked if the capsules were chocolate he affirmed that they were, and then said that they were herbs which tasted like chocolate, and then that they were African herbs for stomach problems, when by his own evidence Smith had not informed him of the origin of the herbs, their taste or use.

    44 His position on the payment he was to receive for making the delivery was also unsatisfactory. When Sgt Tan interviewed him, Sgt Tan made a contemporaneous note of the promised US$2000. In his signed statement taken by ASP Goh, express reference was made to the US$2000. SSgt Yap also gave evidence that the sum of US$2000 was mentioned although SSgt Yap did not make a record of it in writing.

    45 The first accused, however, denied in his defence that he had mentioned the figure and maintained that although he was promised a payment, no amount was mentioned. He had no plausible explanations for Sgt Tan’s note and his own signed statement which made specific reference to US$2000. On the evidence before me, I accepted the Prosecution’s assertion that the first accused was promised US$2000.

    46 Why was the US$2000 an issue? It was because the large sum promised should have raised suspicion. The first accused’s evidence was that Smith was not a rich man. He did not have enough money to buy an air ticket for himself to go from Dubai to Indonesia to visit his sick friend. There must be a reason for Smith to offer him the large sum of US$2000 to deliver the capsules of herbs when he was already funding his passages to Dubai and to Singapore. The first accused knew that Smith was a man who would break the law as Smith had arranged for false visas and endorsements to be entered into the first accused’s passport to facilitate his travels. He must have realised that Smith was offering him much more than was reasonable for putting him through the minor inconvenience of meeting up with Marshal at the airport terminal and handing the capsules to him. He should have asked to be shown and be assured of the contents before agreeing to deliver them, and he could have used the ample opportunities he had when he was in possession of the capsules to check them himself, but he did nothing.

    47 Counsel made much of the first accused’s youth. The first accused was 18 years old at that time of arrest, but he was not a simple sheltered boy fresh out of his village. He had left school at the age of 14, and played football for a living in Nigeria and in Senegal. After returning home from Senegal, he was confident enough to go abroad again, and decided that he would not go back to Senegal, but would seek better prospects in Dubai instead. He was able to fend for himself when he was stranded in Pakistan and unable to travel on to Dubai. He was rich in life experiences for someone of 18 years.

    48 I found that he had wilfully turned a blind eye on the contents of the capsules because he was tempted by the US$2000, which was a large sum to him. When Smith, who had befriended him and had appeared to help him get out of Pakistan, also offered him the US$2000, he did not want to ask any questions or check the capsules himself. Consequently, even if he may not have actual knowledge that he was carrying diamorphine, his ignorance did not exculpate him because it is well established that:

    [I]gnorance is a defence only when there is no reason for suspicion and no right and opportunity of examination …

    – Yeo Choon Huat v PP [1998] 1 SLR 217 at [22] and his defence cannot stand. He was therefore found guilty and convicted on the charge he faced.”

    The judge’s point is that there was no “direct” evidence that Tochi knew he was carrying “diamorphine”. But the judge did not say that Tochi did not know he was carrying drugs. He said that Tochi knew, or “wilfully turned a blind eye” to the fact. The judge’s reasons were as follows:

    (1) Tochi said Mr Smith is not a rich man. But Mr Smith was able to promise US$2000 to Tochi – definitely a large sum of money. So what Tochi was carrying was definitely important.

    (2) Tochi said that Mr Smith could not have carried the drugs because Mr Smith said he did not have money to buy an air ticket. What about the US$2000? Couldn’t that have been used? The judge said, “There must be a reason for Smith to offer him the large sum of US$2000 to deliver the capsules of herbs when he was already funding his passages to Dubai and to Singapore.”

    (3) Tochi knew that Mr Smith was a man who would break the law as Mr Smith had arranged for false visas and endorsements to be entered into Tochi’s passport to facilitate his travels. How many of us can arrange for false visas, etc? Only the criminals. Mr Smith was a criminal, and Tochi knew that.

    The judge felt that if a criminal offers you a large sum of money to carry pills into another country, you actually know what he is asking you to do. He is asking you to do something illegal for him. You may not know that the pills you are carrying are actually heroin, but so what? You know you are carrying pills on behalf of a criminal who has paid you a lot of money. Why is the criminal (Mr Smith) doing it? Obviously he is asking you to smuggle drugs.

    All that the trial judge said (which has often been misquoted) is that there was no “direct” evidence that Tochi knew he had “diamorphine”. The trial judge did not say that there Tochi did not know he was carrying drugs.

  29. […] Interesting discussion going on at “theonlinecitizen” (29/01/07). […]

  30. Aaron said


    Omg, just because your post appeared before mine doesn’t mean that I was referring to you. You are making ridiculous assumptions here. If you insist on thinking that some general food for thought that I raised did not explicitly name you or even remotely refer to you is targetted at you, I have nothing else to say. Just because you have raised a topic and that I raise a similar topic doesn’t necessarily mean I am responding to you. The most a person can infer is that both people brought up the same topic, but there is no basis for a causal explanation unless there was a specific mention to any particular person.

    If I want to engage in a debate with you, I will name you. I am not afraid of debating with anyone, least of all some anonymous entity on the Internet. I have explained earlier, and I will say it one last time that there are some questions that we should be asking ourselves in case of the war on drugs, which is what underpins everything in Tochi’s case. Please don’t give yourself too much credit in thinking that you are the one who brought the drug issue to the discussion. Everyone knows why Tochi was hanged and why we have such stiff penalties for drug trafficking.

    You are pretty intelligent, but please don’t dig your own grave any further by taking things personally. I have explained that I did not target you. You are assuming that I am. If you do not wish to believe, what I say will be pointless because you start with a bias, which is unhealthy for a debate. *Sigh*

  31. Aaron said


    I didn’t realise the clearing up of the backlog could have contributed to the anomaly in execution rates. Makes sense now that you raise it up. 🙂

  32. Hello everyone. I would like to thank William and KTM to point us to alternate sources and opinions on the stats with relation the executions in Singapore. If they are indeed true, then the issue with executions in Singapore might become less sensationalistic, but no less important.

    I do not believe that it is right to take another person’s life whatever the term we use – ‘murder’ or ‘kill’ – if there is alternatives because I believe life is sacred. I think this answers the question about killing someone in a war. There is no other alternative to killing enemy combatants if they invade your country and are bent on imposing their authority on you and worse killing you because it is self defense. Is hanging a drug trafficker an act of self-defense? Maybe as a deterrent it is, because it protects you from possible would-be traffickers but it is not an act of self defense in context to the relationship between the caught drug trafficker and society – instead it is a punitive action.

    Yet while I believe life is sacred and whenever possible, we should look for alternatives, I have grown up in an environment where the death penalty seems to be an effective deterrent against drug trafficking and I cannot fathom if there could be any other deterrent although I remember in one of my sociology lectures my prof made a statement that it is hard to prove if it is a more effective one while it is given that it is an effective one.

    Life imprisonment could also be a effective deterrent as well as a (fair?) punishment. In any case, life is sacred, and we need to fight drugs to protect the lives of other people who may not be at a position to make a decision for themselves like children who may not be matured enough to recognise the dangers of using drugs. These lives are also sacred.

    So is it justifiable to take one life to protect countless others? It has been argued that it is. And sadly I agree. It is sad that it seems to be the only recourse we have to protect the lives of others that we need to use capital punishment. And because it is such, we should always use it as a measure of last resort and be careful with how we wield it as a tool to protect our society.

    The thing about this case is that it seems we didn’t leave ourselves any room that he could be innocent because we started with the presumption he was guilty. If you think about it, if we had started out with the presumption he was innocent, would it be possible for us to prove his guilt? I have been reading some comments on the law with regards to this and it seems that while we can be sure of the guilty act, we cannot be sure of the guilty mind. I think it is always hard to prove guilt as well as innocence, so the presumption (that I have recently learnt about) that he is first guilty then needs to be proved innocent is to me an expedient choice of presumption.

    And that scares me. Because I think proving of innocence is sometimes not as easy as we might believe. If one of the flaws of certain legal systems is that the guilty can walk free, I think ours is that the innocent will be punished. Some have argued that these are collateral damage we need to accept against the war on drugs and for the protection of our society, but while collateral damage is arguably inevitable, it should be minimised if not considered unacceptable at all. And it seems in Singapore, we do not leave ourself room for error.

    With regards why the blogosphere did not have such intense discussion with regards to other hangings, I cannot speak for everyone but for myself. It is only recently when I stumbled onto blogs like Alex and started blogging myself that I have begun to seriously start thinking about issues such as these, questioning my assumptions and become clearer on my own stand about them. We should maybe not hold it against the blogosphere for seemingly double standards by not talking about earlier cases. Maybe we should take encouragement in the blogosphere’s awakening.

    Anyway, I think the point about this case is it magnifies an attitude that is found in Singapore which is a combination of two things: ‘no choice what, what else can we do’ and ‘it will never happen to me so why bother’. So however we may feel about Tochi with regards to his guilt or innocence, the key is to realise that the process that determined his guilt/innocent should be a worrying one and the fact that little was done to check this process and few even concern it an issue worth considering should also concern us.

    Take care guys. I just hope none of us will be in a position where we have to prove our innocence when we know we are indeed innocent.

  33. zyberzitizen said

    Hi Ian,

    Well put. Thank you.

    Personally, I would only support the death penalty for child crimes – especially sexual crimes committed on children. But this is just my personal view, and I admit it could be an emotional one. But still, I will support death for paedophiles.

    The case of Tochi, as most of us here and in other blogs discussions, has brought to focus the flaws in our system. And it is not only the trial itself or what the judge said which casts doubts on its integrity.

    I am concerned about three things:

    1. The presumption of guilt. As long as you’re found with drugs on your person and as long as it’s over a certain limit prescribed by the law, you are presumed to be trafficking in the drug.

    2. Having been presumed guilty, the onus is then on you to prove his innocence. This bothers me for several reasons:

    – Not all accused have access to high-powered or good lawyers. It could be due to finances or plain ignorance on the part of the accused.

    – State-assigned lawyers handle many cases and it is questionable if they would be able to devote as much time to capital cases as they should.

    – Being caught in a foreign country, accused persons may not know how to go about defending themselves.

    3. Access to lawyers after being detained. Accused persons are not allowed contact with their lawyers (or in fact anyone else) unless and until the police have ‘completed their investigation’ – which can take anywhere from a day to months. The police alone has the perogative and decides when the accused can see his lawyer.

    Any right-thinking person would question this last point.

    But as every cloud has a silver lining, I am hopeful that the Law Society’s submission to the Law Ministry on certain changes to the implementation of the death penalty will be accepted.

    I would urge the Law Society to publish their recommendations and allow us to discuss it and debate it.

    That is how we can truly become a participative society.

    I would hate it if the Ministry does not accept the recommendations (even though I am not sure what they are) without a public debate.

    I would also urge the mainstream media to get into the act and allow extensive publicity for the issue.

    For did not our own government once declared that ‘every singaporean counts’? And if so, then before we put another singaporean to death, let us act like we mean what we say.

    “Every Singaporean counts”.

    I would add that every life counts too – whether Singaporean or foreign.


  34. zyberzitizen said

    To add, another thing I am concerned about is whether we have lawyers who specialise in death penalty cases. And even if we do, how well-versed are they in it? And how many actually specialise in it?

  35. zyberzitizen said

    Dear William,

    There is no direct evidence either that Tochi knew what he was carrying was drugs.


  36. zyberzitizen said

    Dear William,

    One point.

    You said: “You may not know that the pills you are carrying are actually heroin, but so what? … Obviously he is asking you to smuggle drugs.”

    I am not sure what you are talking about. As far as I can see, you are presuming that he should have known. If we send a man to die based on what we presume, then it is indeed sad.


  37. Steve said

    About that government report. It sounds similarly skewed as those in response to other criticism (such as those to the SDP):

    Just an example:
    AI alleges:”Official information about the use of the death penalty in Singapore is shrouded in secrecy” (1)

    Fact: For good reasons, Singapore of course does not conduct executions in public. But it is absurd for AI to allege that the “death penalty in Singapore is shrouded in secrecy”. Singapore has one of the most fair and transparent legal systems in the world. All judicial decisions involving the death penalty are open to public scrutiny. All trials and appeals (including capital cases) are conducted in public. Indeed, the more newsworthy trials are routinely reported in the local and even international media. AI has, from time to time, sent observers to attend trials in Singapore.

    This statement has many serious problems. That Singapore has one of “the most fair and transparent legal system” has been questioned. It is true that in business matters, the legal system is fair. But in other criminal matters and also in civil cases, the legal system is used as an educational tool by the elite. Jury trials, for instance, were abolished. Just one judge rules in a case. The law has also been used extensively against members of the opposition (high ratings come from perception indexes, not from objective legal studies! I recommend reading: Franci Seow’s book “Beyond Suspicion”)

    When does the local media report about the “newsworthy” cases? This sounds as if Singapore’s media was free to report openly about the cases, which it is not.

    AI has also often been blocked from entering Singapore such as in a recent case to speak on an anti-death penalty forum.

    This statement has many half-truths and is typical of the shrewd use of words.

  38. William said

    Greetings people – for some reason my posts did not seem to appear, so you may see some multiple postings from me.

    Ian Timothy: welcome to what has become a surprisingly burgeoning debate. I have to take issue with you when you make the statement that there is a presumption of guilt. Why do you say that? There is no presumption of guilt (that is another myth that has been propagated). Normally I would have asked you to prove what you say, but I won’t since I know you can’t.

    The presumption which is frequently misquoted is that any person against whom it is proved to have a controlled drug in his possession shall, until the contrary is proved, be presumed to have known the nature of that drug.

    In other words, if you have heroin on you, then it is for you to say that you did not know it was heroin, but you thought it was chocolate. It is not a presumption of guilt by any means. There is no such thing.

    Now in case you think that it is a special Singapore invention to have a presumption that someone knows the nature of something he carries, then think again. We borrowed it from the British.

    In a famous 1969 case, Lord Pearce (a respected British judge) described a presumption as “an improvement of a difficult position”: see Warner v Metropolitan Police Commissioner [1969] 2 AC 256 at 307. Rebutting the statutory presumption is a matter of fact, and is no different from any other fact-finding exercise save that the law requires that a person rebutting a statutory presumption does so on a balance of probabilities.

    In other words, the starting point is this: since you have been caught with controlled drugs, we assume that you know what they are. But if you can give an explanation to show why you don’t know, then you win. And it is not an explanation “beyond reasonable doubt” but only “on a balance of probabilities”. So all you have to do is to provide some probable explanation, and you are home free. Tochi was not home free because, as I have quoted, his explanation was highly improbable, and in fact ridiculous.

    Now, you have actually gone further than most people here, because you have actually proposed an alternative: Life imprisonment. I actually think it is a much worse fate than death. In addition, while they are kept in prison, they are a cost to society (I know it is not fashionable to talk about cost but then I really would like to be practical for once, someone has to pay for prisoners). The worst flaw, I believe, is that prisons are not perfect. In other societies, there are reports of “lifers” killing other prisoners and wardens because they know that there is no worse punishment for them.

    But I want to look at the flip side. If we are talking about fighting drugs, it’s essentially an economics argument for the drug dealer. If we send a clear message “mandatory death penalty” it will factor into the drug dealer’s risk assessment. He will choose other routes and avoid us. It works. It scares the hell out of people – just ask any tourist who comes here. They all know that in Singapore, drugs mean death. It’s gruesome but then it’s a gruesome topic to deal with. There is no nice and neat way to fight drugs.

    Steve: you say that in criminal cases the system is “an educational tool for the elite”. I can’t understand why you would say that. What possible motive would there be for the criminal justice system to be used as an educational tool for the elite? I can understand it if you are talking about political cases. But criminal cases? What possible motive could Parliament, or the trial judge, have to “fix” Tochi? Tochi is not a political opponent, or anything like that. He was just a guy who took a crazy risk and was caught. I have read the case report over and over again and I can’t see how you can complain that Tochi didn’t get a fair hearing. He was given every chance to explain. All he needed to do was to come up with a probable story. Others have been acquitted before. Tochi lost because he was lying and he got caught.

  39. William said


    You said, “Another thing I am concerned about is whether we have lawyers who specialise in death penalty cases. And even if we do, how well-versed are they in it? And how many actually specialise in it?”

    Thankfully, there are a number of lawyers who do capital offence cases. There are not many such cases because (unlike what Amnesty says) there are only a few people charged with such offences each year.

    The law requires anyone charged with a capital offence case to be given a lawyer, if he does not have the money to pay for one. The state will pay for him. AND the accused doesn’t get any green lawyer straight from law school. The accused gets one, and sometimes two lawyers, and the lead counsel is usually a very senior lawyer. Lawyers such as the late Law Society President Palakrishnan, and senior counsel such as Alvin Yeo, Jimmy Him and Harpreet Singh have all fought such cases and won. Believe me, they are well-versed.

    You also said, “There is no direct evidence either that Tochi knew what he was carrying was drugs.” There is no “direct” evidence doesn’t mean there is no evidence. In law there is “direct” and “circumstantial” evidence. Direct evidence is an eyewitness, circumstantial evidence is everything else. So if I am accused of stabbing a man to death, then “direct” evidence would be evidence of a person who saw or heard me do it. Circumstantial evidence would be blood on my clothes, fingerprints on the knife, evidence that I had been quarrelling with the deceased, etc.

    Circumstantial evidence may lead to convictions. In Singapore, Sunny Ang was one of the most famous men to be convicted of murder through circumstantial evidence. In Britain and in the United States, many convictions are secured through circumtantial evidence.

    So when the judge said that there was no “direct” evidence that Tochi knew he had heroin, all that the judge meant is that technically no one heard or saw any evidence that Tochi was told that the pills were heroin. The judge was being fair to say that there was no direct evidence. But the judge also had to look at circumstantial evidence to see if Tochi knew.

  40. Hello William.

    I’m confused now. If you assumed that someone knew he was carrying heroin, doesn’t that now mean you presume he is guilty of drug trafficking under Singapore law, and that he has to prove he is innocent by showing that he did not know it was heroin and thus not trafficking.

    And I do not need to prove to you that we started out with the presumption he was guilty of drug trafficking. You quoted the law that Singapore has which shows that we start out with that presumption of guilt. But I am no law student so maybe I am indeed misunderstanding that passage.

    But it does seem like it is very different from the doctrine of ‘innocent till proven guilty’. I am unfamiliar with the specifics of the case so I am unsure if the prosecution showed evidence that proved he was guilty or rebutted whatever evidence the defense used to show his innocence. I think there is a difference between the two actions.

    Thanks for reminding me, but I never did think that ‘presumption’ was a Singapore invention. But just because other people are using something like it does not make it right and I think the issue now is whether it is a right one to have and that is what people are discussing.

  41. William said

    Dear Ian Timothy

    The confusion occurs because when we watch TV and read legal thrillers, we come across phrases like “presumed innocent”, etc. That is a different thing entirely. It is a fundamental principle of justice that every person is presumed innocent until he is proven guilty. In that case, a presumption of innocence is overturned when the prosecution proves it “beyond all reasonable doubt”. That presumption relates to the final decision which the court makes: whether someone is guilty or not guilty. If there is reasonable doubt over the final decision, then the accused is NOT guilty.

    Before reaching the last and final decision, the court has to make a number of subsidiary decisions, or steps. Did this happen? Did that happen? Let’s say that one of the questions the Court had to decide was whether “Mr Smith” really existed. Who has to prove that? The answer is Tochi, because it is part of Tochi’s case. Does he have to prove it “beyond reasonable doubt”? No, only “on the balance of probabilities”.

    Out of the many subsidiary decisions the court has to make is whether Tochi knew that what he was carrying was heroin. Now, here is the problem. Anyone would say that they did not know what they were carrying was heroin. And it is impossible for the authorities to prove that he knew. Not “difficult” but “impossible”. When it comes to knowledge, not just in Singapore but in any jurisdiction, knowledge cannot be proven. So the law does the next best thing: inference. It infers knowledge from the surrounding circumstances. It splits up the burden like this: the police have to prove that you were “in possession” (sometimes that is difficult, in this case it was not) and you have to prove that you did not “know” what you were carrying was heroin. After that, there are still steps to go before the judge can say “guilty”. For example, Tochi could have argued duress, etc. So presumption of knowledge does NOT mean presumption of guilt. It is still some distance away from that.

    In all common law jurisdictions (such as UK and USA) criminal knowledge is often inferred through presumptions. Why? Because it’s logical. Let’s say you are carrying something. It is common sense to assume that you would know what you are carrying. It is possible that you do not know, and if so all you have to do is provide a “probable” explanation. The judge doesn’t even have to buy it, he just has to say it is probable.

    Otherwise, it would be virtually impossible for any authorities to show that anyone “knew” anything.

    Presumptions are used in many jurisdictions and they are generally accepted as a fair legislative device. I know you are concerned because the consequences are so severe. But the reasoning process should not change just because something is trivial or severe. The reasoning remains the same.

    By the way, the test is not whether Tochi knew that he was carrying heroin, the test is actually whether Tochi knew that he was carrying something illegal. Did he?

    Let’s take another situation. What if Tochi was told that what he was carrying was cocaine? And later it is proven that it is heroin? Can Tochi escape because he thought that he was doing something wrong (cocaine), but not so wrong (heroin)? No. The principle is that if you intend to do something wrong, but something more seriously wrong happens, then you are also responsible. Again, that is fair.

    In Tochi’s case, he clearly knew that he was being asked to do something illegal. He was given false visas, he didn’t declare the “chocolates” through customs, and he stored the pills all over his body. The judge said that there was no evidence that he knew the pills were heroin (that is the part that is often misquoted) but the judge also went on to ask whether Tochi knew what he was doing was wrong anyway.

    The prosecution’s case seemed quite clear, in my opinion. They went ahead and caught the drug dealer, Nelson (another fact that is often overlooked) and established that Tochi was delivering the pills to Nelson. There was evidence which, to me, looked like Tochi knew Nelson before. Basically it was not the story that Tochi painted. And all that was established by the prosecution. Tochi, for his part, could not prove anything he said. His story was not even “probable”. I encourage you to read it for yourself, I have reproduced the gist of it in an earlier post. Tochi’s story is not really convincing. In fact, it shows that Tochi was lying.

    To sum it up:

    1. a presumption as to a fact is not the same as the presumption of innocence.

    2. when knowledge is an issue, a presumption is often used because there is no other way to prove if someone knows or does not know anything.

    3. in this case, I think it is right to ask people who are carrying heroin to explain themselves, and tell what happened. If a “probable” story is given, then the verdict will be “not guilty”. If the story is that a stranger called “Mr Smith” gave you pills and a forged visa to travel, and paid you US$2000 to deliver the pills instead of flying there himself, and you stuff the pills in your socks and in your clothes, and when you are caught you say that the pills are chocolate, then it sounds like you knew what you were doing and you were just making things up.

  42. Aaron said

    I note with very great interest on what William has said.

    “The presumption which is frequently misquoted is that any person against whom it is proved to have a controlled drug in his possession shall, until the contrary is proved, be presumed to have known the nature of that drug.

    In other words, if you have heroin on you, then it is for you to say that you did not know it was heroin, but you thought it was chocolate. It is not a presumption of guilt by any means. There is no such thing.”

    Let me cut and paste the relevant section under the Misuse of Drugs Act showing the presumptions of guilt.

    Presumption concerning trafficking
    17. Any person who is proved to have had in his possession more than —

    (a) 100 grammes of opium;

    (b) 3 grammes of morphine;

    (c) 2 grammes of diamorphine;

    (d) 15 grammes of cannabis;

    (e) 30 grammes of cannabis mixture;

    (f) 10 grammes of cannabis resin;

    (g) 3 grammes of cocaine;

    (h) 25 grammes of methamphetamine;

    (ha) 113 grammes of ketamine; or

    (i) 10 grammes of any or any combination of the following:

    [note this part is missing because it’s an image file]

    whether or not contained in any substance, extract, preparation or mixture shall be presumed to have had that drug in possession for the purpose of trafficking unless it is proved that his possession of that drug was not for that purpose.

    Now, the Act clearly states that once you possess more than a certain amount, you are presumed to be trafficking the drug. And trafficking of drugs is an offence, right? So, before one steps into the court of law, you are already guilty unless you can prove your innocence. Consider the reverse, where you are not presumed to be guilty unless proven beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecution cannot prove that all the facts point to the possession of the drug with the intent to traffick and there can be no reasonable alternative explanation, the accused is a free man.

    In which case is the odds stacked against the accused? Should it be the business of the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, or for the defendant to prove innocence on a balance of probabilities? Why the former has been applied in many countries is because it’s all so easy to accuse someone. By applying the guilty unless proven innocent presumption, as long as there’s a “balance of probability” that a person is guilty, any Tom, Dick or Harry can just be sued, and the prosecution/plaintiff just have to sit there to shake leg. Is it fair to only be probably sure (the standard of balance of probabilities), or is it fairer to be very sure (the standard of beyond reasonable doubt)?

    On a side note, William wrote:

    “Now, you have actually gone further than most people here, because you have actually proposed an alternative: Life imprisonment.”

    Sounds very typical of Singapore styled politics. If one wishes to comment on politics, one should be a politician. If one wishes to comment on a policy, one should have an alternative solution. So, what’s the business of encouraging Singaporeans to speak up if people who speak their mind without a proposed solution are deemed to be somewhat of less worth than those who have a solution?

  43. William said

    Dear Aaron

    I’m afraid you have quoted the wrong section. The Tochi case was concerned with Section 18(2) (which I have already quoted) not Section 17.

    And please don’t accuse me of being a Singapore politician! 🙂 That is the last thing I am and the last thing I want to be. Neither do I want to defend SM Goh’s statements. Just because I happen to support capital punishment doesn’t mean that I am a PAP man. But equally, not ALL of PAP’s ideas are sad (just most of them). It is fair for people to say that if you want to criticise, you should also suggest a solution. I accept ALL the criticisms of the death penalty (harsh, demeaning, unethical, etc). We are at the point where I am asking: what else can we do? Can we as a society think of something better? If not then I’m afraid it’s a necessary evil.

    Winston Churchill (who was also not a PAP man) said “democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried”. Basically it’s easy to criticise democracy… and it’s pointless because we know all the arguments. So can we find something better?

  44. zyberzitizen said

    Dear William,

    You said: “It is a fundamental principle of justice that every person is presumed innocent until he is proven guilty.”

    And before that, you said:

    “The confusion occurs because when we watch TV and read legal thrillers, we come across phrases like “presumed innocent”.”

    I am not sure what you are saying. You are using the same term which you well, derided. I do not think the phrase is derived from just tv dramas. You yourself says it is a ‘fundamental principle of justice’.

    In any case, drug-related cases in singapore are different. Although you said it is a ‘fundamental principle of justice’ to be presumed innocent, clearly the Drugs Act says differently.

    Thus, from the very start, the onus is on the accused to prove his innocence and not on the prosecution to prove the accused’s guilt.

    Which is very questionable, especially if you consider other factors – which include the accused not having access to lawyers at the time he is detained, unless the police allows him to.

    To conclude, there are many things which need a re-look. And I hope that some things will be changed with regards to how we implement the death penalty.

    As for Tochi, any lawyer well-versed enough can split hairs. I am just speaking as a layman. And to my mind, the death peanlty meted out to Tochi and other drug traffickers are not justified.


  45. zyberzitizen said

    Dear William,

    By the way, you asked for alternatives to capital punishment. I would suggest that before we look at that, we should conduct studies on how we have implemented capital punishment and the effects and results of it, none of which is presently available. (Perhaps we should also focus or question its effects on the wider society – for example, creating a climate of fear not only for drugs trafficking but also on society in general.)

    Only when we know where we have gone wrong (or right) will alternatives be viable. If we can’t even agree that we need alternatives, then any debate will, in my opinion, be a hopeless and useless one.

    Alternatives to the death penalty are several. We can google it and read and study them. Perhaps it will be good to do that another day – when emotions have subsided.

    Having said that, and correct me if I am wrong, most countries have abolished capital punishment.


  46. William said

    Dear ZZ

    There are two types of presumptions in law.

    The first is the more popularly-known one, i.e. the presumption of innocence. That is the one on TV, movies, etc. and that is the one which people always quote in daily conversation. I am not deriding the term, I am just deriding the usage. I am a big fan of the presumption of innocence. All of us should be. It was established in England many centuries ago and it has been adopted as a universal standard.

    There is a second type (also established in England and adopted by other countries like Singapore). The second type of presumption is found in legislation such as the Misuse of Drugs Act. These are called “legislative presumptions” and are common in many jurisdictions. So it is wrong to say that a “legislative presumption” means that someone is presumed guilty. There are many small steps in the process before the final decision. The “legislative presumption” is for one of the small steps. That will lead to the final decision, where the presumption of innocence comes into play. The judge will sit back and ask himself, “Has the prosecution proved its case beyond all reasonable doubt?” The judge will look at the big picture and if he has any reasonable doubt, he must acquit, because of the presumption of innocence.

  47. Aaron said


    Aiyoh, I never said you belong to the PAP! 🙂 It’s just that I cannot help but see somewhat similar trains of thought running through your line of argument and the statements issued by the government during the Catharine Lim issue a few years ago.

    Anyway, I know you are talking about s18(2). I’m just trying to point out that even before consideration of whether you know what is it that you are carrying, you are already presumed guilty of trafficking. The presumption of guilt is not afforded by s18(2), but by s17.

    Ultimately, this exchange reminds me of a conservation I had with another blogger, Heavenly-Sword on why people blog and exchange views online. I remarked to him that perhaps underlying all the differences, everyone has the same intention for the greater good of society. It’s when it comes to specifics that people disagree. 🙂

    As the Chinese saying goes: 不打不相识 (if you don’t fight, you won’t get to know each other). I fully respect your views and I do accept most of your arguments, although I might not necessarily agree on all of them. I think that’s perhaps part of being human, because if we can all agree on everything, who needs the courts anyway? 🙂

  48. William said


    I agree that capital punishment is, in general, not a good thing. I would even say that Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler and Took Leng How should not have been hanged, for various reasons. I am against capital punishment for crimes of passion, because there is no deterrent effect. When someone is in a rage and kills another, he will not stop to think about the consequences.

    For crimes based on economics, such as drug trafficking, armed robbery, assassination, the story is different. The criminals commit crimes because of economics. They weigh the benefits and the risks. The risk of a mandatory death penalty is a huge deterrent.

  49. William said

    Dear Aaron

    There is only one thing worse than being called a PAP supporter. And that is being called an SDP supporter. 🙂

    PS If we could agree on everything, we would not need to have Singapore Pools… everyone would bet on the same team.

  50. So let me try to understand this. Section 18(2) presumes you know you are carrying an illegal drug (in this case heroin). Section 17 presumes that you are carrying it for drug trafficking. From what William says this is the concept of ‘legislative presumption’. And all this presumptions doesn’t mean anyone presumes you are guilty yet. But if all the small steps in the process that leads to the final decision is already starting in the default state of guilty, how can the supposed final decision not be starting with the state of guilty?

    Hmm..thanks for introducing this concept of ‘legislative presumption’. If you google it, apparently the first link is to an article on a case also reading to drug smuggling in the US.

    I’m trying to understand what it says here. It seems to defend the concept of ‘legislative presumption’.

    All this very cheem. Got to digest. Should have taken a law course for General Electives.

  51. William said

    Dear Ian Timothy

    Yes, you got it! Section 18(2) says IF the cops can prove that you were carrying an illegal drug, then you have to prove that you didn’t know it was an illegal drug. Let us say that you were given a Panadol box with panadol pills in blister packs by your own mother to give to your aunt. Police search you and prove that the pills are actually heroin, although they look just like panadol. Then you will easily be able to rebut the presumption and show that no reasonable person would have known that those pills were not panadol, but actually heroin.

    If all the small steps have presumptions which are unfair, then you are right, the final step will unevitably be unfair. So we must take care to challenge any legislative presumptions which are unfair. So far, in the Misuse of Drugs Act, the presumptions have to do with “intention” and “knowledge”, two things which exist in people’s mind. They are hard to prove, but easy to disprove, most of the time. I know we can all sit around and dream up impossible situations where “what if…” this and “what if… that” but in practice most of the cases seem to be properly decided. (I didn’t like the one involving the German girl and her boyfriend, I thought it was an unsafe decision, but that’s another discussion for another day.)

    Law is a bit cheem, but if you can understand MS Office 97, the offside law in football and the plot of Ocean’s Twelve, you will have no problem at all.

  52. William said

    Ian Timothy, that case you found was very relevant. If you are interested, I am going to try my best to explain it in a not cheem way:

    In Yee Hem’s case, Yee challenged a United States statute which went like this. It is an offence to import opium. if anyone is caught with possession of opium, then he is presumed to have imported it, unless he can prove otherwise.

    Yee said that such a law was unconstitutional as it went against the principle of presumption of guilt.

    The US Supreme Court disagreed and threw out Yee’s case.

    The US Supreme Court said: ‘The law of evidence is full of presumptions either of fact or law. The former are, of course, disputable, and the strength of any inference of one fact from proof of another depends upon the generality of the experience upon which it is founded.”

    (Basically they are saying that it is common to have such legislative presumptions.)

    The US Supreme Court then said, “Every accused person, of course, enters upon his trial clothed with the presumption of innocence. But that presumption may be overcome, not only by direct proof, but, in many cases, when the facts standing alone are not enough, by the additional weight of a countervailing legislative presumption…. The point that the practical effect of the statute creating the presumption is to compel the accused person to be a witness against himself may be put aside with slight discussion. The statute compels nothing. It does no more than to make possession of the prohibited article prima facie evidence of guilt. It leaves the accused entirely free to testify or not as he chooses. If the accused happens to be the only repository of the facts necessary to negative the presumption arising from his possession, that is a misfortune which the statute under review does not create but which is inherent in the case. The same situation might present itself if there were no statutory presumption and a prima facie case of concealment with knowledge of unlawful importation were made by the evidence. The necessity of an explanation by the accused would be quite as compelling in that case as in this; but the constraint upon him to give testimony would arise there, as it arises here, simply from the force of circumstances and not from any form of compulsion forbidden by the Constitution.”

    (Basically, they are saying that the accused is free to testify or not, it is up to him. Even if there was no such presumption, it would not really change anything. The accused still has to give a convincing explanation.)

    The US Supreme Court’s approach is the same as the approach taken in UK and by our Court of Appeal in Tochi. They are saying to accused people who are found with drugs, “You have to explain what you are doing with this.”

    It is just as if you walked into a room and found your wife naked in the bedroom with your best friend in the shower. You will ask, “what happened?” If she doesn’t say anything, then you can be pretty sure that what you suspected is true.

    The legislative presumption does not contradict the presumption of innocence. They are different things.

  53. TC said

    thanks everyone. I am against the death sentence. But it exists here in singapore. Assuming that Tochi was found innocent – what happens next? Every other convicted chap will insist that he does not *know* the white pills were drugs or heroine. Personally I am not sure if I would be happy with that defence. Yes, I detest the taking of another human life, but I am not sure if his defence hold either. If the govt can be persuaded to change all capital cases to life imprisonment, then great. But if not, let us give to Ceasar blah blah blah….

  54. Steve said

    I think we should agree that there should not be any law that makes the death penalty mandatory.

    Not all cases are the same. Not all warrant the same punishment. The judge clearly was forced to choose between the death penalty and finding the accussed innocent. That should not be the choice! The first thing should be to find someone guiilty or innocent and then, in a second step, decide on the appropriate punishment.

    So what’s fundamentally wrong is the law!

    And if innocent people die, it is clearly the primary fault of the lawmakers. The gist of the article is therefore correct!

  55. William said

    Dear Steve

    Well, I can’t agree with that. The judge was free to reduce Tochi’s charge to possession for consumption, or a number of other less serious ones which did not carry the death penalty.

    The basic principle of a mandatory sentence is equality. If a person is a drug trafficker, it is mandatory that he is sentenced to the same punishment as all other drug traffickers, whether he be black or white, rich or poor, smart or simple-minded, young or old, foreigner or citizen, man or woman. Otherwise there would be no end of excuses put forward in mitigation. With a mandatory penalty, you know exactly that if you are caught, you WILL get death. No doubt about it.

    The entire point of the mandatory death penalty is that it sends a clear message to drug dealers, and leaves no room for doubt at all. They know that they will be hanged. That is something they have to factor into their consideration.

    Of course it makes everyone nervous. The criminals, the police, the courts all have to be super extra careful not to make a mistake. If there is room for doubt, the judge can reduce the charge or throw out the case entirely. But if there is no doubt, then the judge must, as a matter of fairness and equality, impose the same punishment.

    You are right to say not all cases are the same. But within limits, all drug trafficking cases are the same. Someone imports drugs for a profit. There is very little that can be said in mitigation (he was young, he was trying to help his sick brother, it was his first time… etc.) and so I think it is right that all sentences for drug traffickers are equal and uniform.

  56. Hmmm…So the question is if the legislative presumptions in a drug trafficking case is unfair. Is it an unfair assumption to say that if a person is caught with illegal drugs, he must know it is illegal drugs? But I guess it would also be hard to prove if he knew it was illegal drugs. But is it really impossible? Has there been any cases where the state has to prove a person knew he possessed drugs instead of presuming he did know.

  57. Steve said

    Some more arguments:

    Deterrent should deter. Yet many still come. The methods get more shrewd. The market price for drugs increases as the risk increases. The death pendalty is not a good deterrent, which is plain when you compare murder rates of America with that of Europe (which is opposed to the death pendalty)

    A comparison of two city states:

    Hong Kong
    Drug offences: 34 per 100,000 people
    Executions: 0

    Drug offences: 46.8 per 100,000 people
    Executions: 110 (last 5 years according to Government statistics)


  58. NoName said

    If death sentence for drug mules so effective, why do we still have drug addicts?

    Is dear William so strong in his conviction that he is willing to personally pull the lever or was that just a lot of self-righteous farting?

  59. Steve said

    To William:

    What possible motive would there be for the criminal justice system to be used as an educational tool for the elite?

    The criminal system is used to teach Singaporeans to abide by the law (which no doubt every country does). It has the task to teach the people not to smuggle drugs. How better to do it than to use the stick (well sort of a rope in this case!) The legal system punishes people for the possession of porn (instead of merely the distribution). It does the same for drugs. Well, ven the possession of a political magazine can be criminalized (see: The Far Eastern Economic Review!)

  60. William said

    Dear NoName

    What a strange question you ask: am I willing to pull the lever or am I just being self righteous? If I am in favour of our air force bombing another nation in self defence, would I be willing to do it myself? Yes, although I would not like it at all. What has it got to do with anything? And “farting” is a dangerous word to use when you are talking about me, as my wife will tell you. I fart frequently, especially after dinner.

    You also ask if the death sentence for drug mules is so effective, why do we still have drug addicts. I never said that the death sentence is 100% effective, only that it is the most effective tool we know of. In any case, I think most people, including the anti-Singapore media) agree that we have much less of a drug problem than many, many other countries. My point is that the death sentence has contributed to that result.

    Steve, the problem is that the definition of a drug offence in Hong Kong is different from the Singapore one. As you know, in Singapore we like to ban a lot more stuff than Hong Kong. Things which you can do in Hong Kong are illegal in Singapore. Plus, I am pretty sure that Hong Kong, being part of PRC, has carried out a number of executions. But I haven’t found my source yet. So I grant you this point.

    Ian Timothy, you are absolutely right again. The question is whether the presumption of knowledge is unfair. Most states I know use it. I don’t know of any case where the state had the burden of showing knowledge, precisely because, as you recognise correctly, it is almost impossible. How would you prove that I knew something, if I said that I didn’t? It’s a tough one. So what most governments do is that they say that IF they can prove a certain factual situation (e.g. heroin in your socks, naked wife in bedroom with another man) then the ball is in the other person’s court to explain. It still makes it easy for the criminals to think up a good explanation. I wonder sometimes why they don’t do it. Hopefully they are not reading this blogsite.

  61. William said


    Good point, I understand what you mean. Criminal theorists call it “educative deterrence”. It is legitimate to use punishment as a lesson to others. Nothing wrong with that, I believe. However the same task can be accomplished even by acquitting Tochi and other accused. In other words, there is no motive for Singapore to be unfair to Tochi and other people just to get the message across. The courts have acquitted on capital drug cases before. Tochi was simply guilty.

    PS why for the elite? You got something against RJC daughters of MPs?

  62. TC said

    I thank William for giving an eloquent counter point to all the other views. If Tochi was found innocent, I believe all future drug traffickers will use the same defense – Forgive me, I did not know what I was carrying. What next for the Singapore police, Sigapore judiciary? I do not support the taking of another life, but we are in Singapore and until we reach a point where all capital punishment is cancelled – we just have to live with this system. Personally I am not convinced that many Singaporeans are unhappy with the sentencing.

  63. Steve said

    Actually I quoted your sentence. I think it should read “educational tool of the elite” 😉

    I like to point to the argument of “innocent until proven guilty”

    In cases of defamation, Singapore and Britain also consider a person guilty unless he/she proves that he/she is innocent. This is different in the US.

    You should first prove that a statement was really defamatory, i.e. that the statement really hurt someone’s reputation and that the allegations are really wrong.

    In my opinion, this should apply to any case in court.
    About mandatory death penalty:

    I think that there should be a lighter punishment if you cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt that the person had any criminal intent. The burden of proof in this case has to be on the government who must produce clear evidence that the person carrying the drugs had the interest of selling the drugs in Singapore (I think people in transfer like Ngyuen should be handed over to authorities in the respective countries) and that he knew that what he was carrying was drugs. This latter part would require hard evidence, such as a witness. Unless this is the case, you cannot rule without reasonable doubt.

    About the death penalty per se:

    What happens when at some later point someone reveals evidence that the defendent was framed? If the person is dead, you cannot do anything.

    Why not imprison him for life without parole? That would have the same effect as detterent, or perhaps even greater potential, because life in prison is much harder than a quick death) Furthermore, the person can be saved once there is evidence.

    So why use the death penalty? To save money?

  64. William,

    Oooi, dun anyhow say hor. Who says that the KTM is connected to the Courts? You which eye see one?? 🙂 The KTM is only a kay poh blabber mouth and people dun have to take him too seriously. Zz ask KTM to produce proof? Sorry KTM haven’t install CCTV cambera and dun have proof. Does it thereby mean that the KTM got no integrity and is lying? 😛

    In any case, the KTM would like to commend you on being able to stand your ground despite the onslaught. 🙂 You give the KTM hope that there is still some hope in the young Singaporeans. If you are not already an wannabe lawyer, you should consider taking up law. You will make a fine lawyer. 😛

    In any case, the KTM finally managed to say his piece if you’re interested ->

  65. ben said

    I am two minds about the death penalty, but I think William is wrong about a couple of points.

    “I’m not surprised that the court thought his story was doubtful. I would go further and say he is obviously lying. He did not know that the pills were actually heroin, but he knew the pills were illegal. That’s guilt, in any country.”

    The very assurance that Tochi is guilty – guilty of knowingly smuggling drugs by some is surprising. Without the reliance on the presumptions in the Misuse of Drugs Act, it has not been proven that Tochi intended to smuggle drugs beyond a reasonable doubt. While Judges and prosecutors required the presumptions to make a case, there appears to be little doubt in William mind’s of Tochi’s guilt. I find this assumptions smug and fails an ordinary standard of proof – a serious question especially when the ultimate punishment is not only criminal – but death.

    “That’s just confusing the issue and appealing to sentiment. Use some logic and statistics. The only statistics that matter are that Singapore is relatively drug-free, and Singaporeans are satisfied with the system.”

    There is also a sense of democracy at work, it appears, like a self satisfied mob. The ‘only statistics that matter are’ 1) Singapore is drug-free, 2) Singaporeans are satisfied? If this is not an appeal to emotion, what is? Other statistics matter. Singapore is relatively drug free and there are various reasons, surely. How much the death penalty figure in the deterrent debate requires more study. Just to assert it plays a big role is not an appeal to ‘logic and statistics’ – to say it has ‘some’ effect is no different from saying a butterfly flapping it wings has ‘some’ effect on the Tsunami. Surely the language of logic and statistics are not that of ‘some’ and generalities?

    “In all common law jurisdictions (such as UK and USA) criminal knowledge is often inferred through presumptions. Why? Because it’s logical. Let’s say you are carrying something. It is common sense to assume that you would know what you are carrying. It is possible that you do not know, and if so all you have to do is provide a “probable” explanation. The judge doesn’t even have to buy it, he just has to say it is probable.”

    Presumptions was common in 1980 (Ong Ah Chuan per Lord Diplock heavily criticized by Hor) but the tide is turning against such presumptions ever since 1986 (Oakes – Canada case; significant because Ong Ah Chuan approved that provision in Oakes which was in question). Canada case followed US jurisprudence (Ulster County Court v. Allen). Presumptions said to violate the presumption of innocence because the accused bears the burden of disproving on a Bop an essential element of the offence, there was possibility of conviction despite reasonable doubt (see above). Human rights in UK will change their position (See Kebilene [1999]. Besides Canada and UK have no death penalty. US depends on state. Many states – very general.

  66. William said

    Dear Steve

    You started on defamation??? This is going to take all night!

    First, it’s not correct to say “innocent until proven guilty” for defamation, since it’s a civil offence. There is no guilt or innocence. It’s also a myth propagated by some quarters who are unhappy with certain political defamation cases.

    Second, in a defamation case, the burden is on the plaintiff (i.e. the one who is suing) to prove that the statement defames him. If I am the plaintiff and you are the defendant, I have to prove that you published a statement which tended to lower my reputation in the eyes of reasonable people.

    The burden then shifts to the defendant. In Singapore, UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and many other Commonwealth countries (including India, Malaysia, etc.) the defendant has the burden of establishing his defence. Typically he has 3 choices.

    First, he can say that what he said is true (justification). Since it is his statement, then he has to prove that it is true. Otherwise, he shouldn’t have made the statement in the first place. That’s fair, right? Anyway, it’s accepted as the law of many, many countries.

    Second, he can say that what he said is not true, but it doesn’t matter because it is your personal opinion on a matter of public interest (fair comment). This is easy. Let’s imagine you say, “David Beckham is a lousy footballer.” It is a defamatory statement, and it is not true (depends on which team you support, I guess). But even though it is not true, guess what, you will still successfully defend yourself. That’s because Beckham’s football is a matter of public interest and you are entitled to hold opinions on such matters, even where they are wrong opinions. Remember: this only applies to matters of public interest, and not your neighbour’s bad habits or your colleague’s love life.

    Third, he can say that he had a duty to speak up and the listeners had a duty to hear what he had to say (qualified privilege). Let’s say you saw your colleague, KTM, taking some money from your boss’s desk. You tell your boss, “KTM stole your money.” Your boss says, “Aiyah, where got? I borrowed money from KTM and I asked him to take it back from my desk.” KTM sues you (I’m sure he won’t, really, but this is hypothetical). Guess what? He will lose and you will win. All you have to show is that you have a duty to speak up, and the person you spoke to had a duty to hear. Even though what you said was wrong, you are not liable.

    Defamation cases are very, very difficult to win unless the defence is (a) screwed up, (b) liars or (c) all of the above (i.e. T T Durai).

    Mandatory death penalty: there is really a lesser offence. If the judge has any doubt, he has a duty to acquit and reduce the charge. The accused will not be hanged. The word “mandatory” simply means that the punishment for that offence is mandatory, but it is not mandatory to charge the accused with that offence. So if an accused can prove that he had no intent to traffic, then he will not be convicted of that charge, and hanged.

    The possibility of error: this is, in my opinion, the strongest argument against capital punishment. If there is a reasonable possibility of error, then there must be an acquittal. I also think that there must be an avenue for appeal in order to overturn the error. Both features are present in our system. That being the case, I think the system is relatively safe and there is very little chance of error.

    You will say: so what if there is a little chance – there should be NO chance of error because you are talking about someone’s life. In an ideal world, yes. But in the real world, facing a war on drugs, it’s a much harder decision. We have to balance two things. On the one hand, we want to keep Singapore relatively drug-free, and a mandatory death penalty seems like a good way to do it. On the other hand, we might just kill someone accidentally. Because we are balancing, we have to see how likely it is that we will hang someone accidentally. So far I am not convinced that there has been any wrong conviction for death, when it comes to drug dealers. In fact, I think one or two may have been wrongly acquitted.

    You said that life imprisonment has the same deterrent effect. I seriously doubt it. It’s all about sending a message. Singapore has to have the reputation of being the meanest, most unsympathetic, most assholic country in terms of drugs. If you traffic drugs, it’s mandatory death. No excuses, no second chances, 100% certain death. That is the ultimate message to put across. We are the worst. Go someplace else.

    I’m not saying the system is perfect. It is seriously not perfect. Yawning Bread said that if we want to send that kind of message, we should do it properly. I think we do it quite clearly (e.g. most foreigners make fun of the fact that we hang people for drugs and cane people for vandalising with chewing gum). It is one of Singapore’s trademarks, like the Esplanade, SIA and Annabelle Chong. It puts us on the map. But we can always do better, I suppose.

    Additionally I do think that the alternative of life imprisonment is not humane. It is a deadening, de-humanising process. And then there is the cost factor which you pointed out. Why should society continue to support criminals for the rest of their lives? It sounds heartless but we could use the money for other, much better, purposes.

    Phew… I need a rest. I think I will go and read KTM’s blog. At first glance it reminds me of my dick: long and quite hard. 🙂

  67. William said

    Dear Ben

    If you have to quote Michael Hor to criticise Lord Diplock, I think you have a serious problem.

    PS You say I am “smug” because the majority agrees with my position. I know it’s no longer fashionable to believe in democracy, but sometimes the majority does indeed have a right to decide what standards to apply. You may think that 66.6% of Singapore are ignorant, complacent, apathetic or just scared, but you can’t argue with the principle that a country has the right to establish its own norms. Otherwise we will just debate endlessly and pointlessly(present company excepted).

    PPS You say the “tide is turning” against presumptions. We shall see. All you have so far is one Canadian case and one US case, both of which have also been (to use your term) “criticised” by a number of academics. The fact remains that legislative presumptions are a well-established part of the legal system, and your prediction that they will die out doesn’t change the fact that they currently represent the law.

    What I am more concerned about is the general perception that, somehow, in Singapore, we have become a rogue nation because we have reversed the burden of proof and hanged people because they couldn’t prove their innocence. That is not the case but that is one of the many myths that have been put out by certain quarters, as well as the following myths which are popular but false:

    *Singapore has the highest rate of execution.

    *The trial judge found that Tochi did not know he was carrying drugs but convicted him anyway.

    *Borat is a funny movie.

  68. William,

    What do you have against the KTM huh? First you cast him as a thief and then you compare his article to your dick?? 🙂

  69. William said


    It’s just that you write such looooong articles. I can’t understand people who write on, and on, and on… er… except for me of course. I have a good reason to go on and on and on. I am educating the blogosphere. The vast majority of them are against capital punishment. It’s so lonely being right.

  70. William,

    The KTM has a bad stomach and needs to let out a lot of gas also. You need to excuse him. 🙂

  71. ben said

    I do apologize for the brief answer. You are difficult to explain to.

    “If you have to quote Michael Hor to criticise Lord Diplock, I think you have a serious problem. ?”

    No, I am suggesting you read him if you so decide. Please check context. Our current position of the constitutionality of presumptions is Ong Ah Chuan and Yuvuraj. Both has lost favor in UK. In fact we did a U-turn but its legal history.

    “You say I am “smug” because the majority agrees with my position.”

    Wrong. I said you assumption that Tochi is guilty (as in he intended to smuggle) is smug because the judge and prosecution did not say that – they said the presumptions applied.

    “The fact remains that legislative presumptions are a well-established part of the legal system, and your prediction that they will die out doesn’t change the fact that they currently represent the law.”

    Yes presumptions but what types? There is tactical and there is evidential. What is losing favor across the developed nations is the shifting to the accused the need to prove away presumptions on a BOP (balance of probabilities). If you don’t get that, sorry.

    And yes, regarding defamation – malice removes qualified privilege.

    Ps. On democracy. We can establish our norms. I never did argue against democracy except it is subject to constitutional limits (see discussion on presumptions against) suggest that democracy, as we know it,must be checked. You don’t agree? Strange. No wonder you are lonely.

  72. William,

    I have a good reason to go on and on and on. I am educating the blogosphere.

    Forgot to ask: what makes you qualified to educate the blogosphere? The KTM once thought of teaching bloggers to fry KT, but he later realized that his KT was quite lau pok and so he gave up on that idea. 🙂

    Also, what makes you think that bloggers want to be educated?

  73. NoName said

    Dear William

    In that case then you are indeed having a bad case of indigestion. To use example of “bombing nations” so casually is not only out of context but reveals your lack of moral values. Tochi was most likely guilty of a crime but whether he knew it was a capital offence, only God knows. Are you God?

    Drug mules are by definition either desperate or stupid and would not be deterred. Are desperation and stupidity capital offences. Maybe by your values.

    The truth is that the folks who profit most from this “economic crime” are the drug lords and the local distributors. How often do we execute those? Should a rich brat be caught, we then check for the “chemical weight”. No, we go after the “weak” link. Weak as in defenceless. So that justice can be more easily served. As in making the life of our courts and police force easier. That is your twisted logic. and so it has very much to do with pulling the lever. If you were given the opportunity to be the hangman, would you be able to look into the eyes of the parents of Tochi and tell them, as you pull the lever, that “true justice has been served” and that you are sending their boy “to a better place than this”?

    This gist of this article is about the punishment. sorry, but I personally despise hypocrites who hide behind the letter of law. justice must be tempered with mercy and common sense.

  74. Kelvin Tan said

    No discussion on drug enforcement would be complete without Milton Friedman’s economic perspective on this issue. I think reading this interview would rebutt many of the arguments listed here.

    He is for the legalizing of drugs in case you want to know. Now before you scream, read his views with an open mind. He has this gift of making it so simple.

  75. Hi William,

    Just wondering.. You have made some good points with regards to the Tochi case. Would you like to write an article for us on it? It would be good to let our readers to see another point of view.

    You did say that you are “educating the blogosphere” 😉

    Just a thought.

    Thanks for sharing your views and visiting theonlinecitizen.


  76. William said

    Dear Ben

    You mentioned that malice removes qualified privilege. Actually, some people think that malice is a defence to QP and fair comment. In fact, if you are interested, there is actually a controversy as to whether malice is a defence or an ingredient… but then again that is far too much depth to go into over the internet. That applies to the other stuff about presumptions as well – we can discuss that stuff forever. Some people even make a career out of it. I started off just trying to rant about ZZ’s blog, and I seem have got myself a bit too deep into the discussion.

    Dear NoName

    I was asked whether I would “pull the lever” to execute Tochi… isn’t that a distasteful question? I answered it by using the analogy of an air force pilot having to drop bombs on another country. You call me immoral? I don’t mind you making personal remarks but at least justify it.

    You asked me whether I am God. What a strange question. If I answer it, you will say that I am immoral again. Basically you are saying “No one knows whehter Tochi knew it was a capital offence” and only God knows. Actually, ignorance is really not relevant at all. If you rape someone, can you escape caning because you honestly believed that you would not have to be caned for it? No one told me? Seriously, dude, you gotta think about what you are saying.

    Just because I am in the unfortunate position of having to defend a distasteful activity (capital punishment) does not mean I am myself an immoral and unethical person. I have prefaced many of my remarks with the observation that in the extreme situation of a war on drugs, extreme solutions have to be used. I have also invited many people to put up alternatives. I am well aware that capital punishment is nasty and barbaric. But then again, fighting the drug problem involves getting our hands dirty. You may well despise me as a hypocrite (?) who hides behind the letter of the law… I doubt if that is going to cause me any sleepless night. I would suggest you are nothing more than an armchair critic, given to attacking ideas and individuals without distinction, and offering no coherent solution in return.

    Dear Kelvin Tan
    I am still reading that Friedman article. I am not sure if he is seriously suggesting legalising cocaine and other hard drugs. I suppose he makes a good intellectual argument based on economics, but many people (especially the people here) would regard the issue as having an ethical and moral one. I can’t comment further as I am still trying to digest the thing.

    Dear theonlinecitizen
    Well, can I email you privately? I didn’t intend to clog up your site with my thoughts but I blame everyone else for disagreeing with me when it is so obvious that my view is correct and everyone else is wrong 🙂

  77. Hi William,

    Sure, you can email me privately. The email is

    I just thought you have some valid points which might be better if put into an article.

    I look forward to your mail.


  78. Steve said

    Hi, I think this opinion is worth reading. The author writes about Singapore:

    However, there are ample reasons for the Nigerian government, the Ministry of Information and National Orientation Agency (NOA) to educate Nigerian citizens about countries that operate primitive laws and generally ask them to avoid such countries like plagues no matter the economic benefits therein and technological advancement.

  79. Coin said

    Other than that, I too wonder about the life imprisonment issue. Honestly, i see no sense in that. Sure, you live. But unless someone can tell me that people can find meaning in living behind bars for the rest of their life, that is a life worth living, then ok. If you ask me, I would rather die than live the rest of my life behind bars.

    But we’re talking about the death penalty here. While ‘shoot the messenger’ sounds harsh, it does appear to work. If I am a drug lord, and 5 out of 10 of my men get hanged in Singapore, its probably more of a hassle to send drugs to Singapore than say, another country. Not because I care about the lvies of my men, but because its easier to do it elsewhere. Which, of course, serves the government’s purposes. Which is keep your drugs the hell out of my country.

    Drugs destroy lives, we all know that. So if you traffick drugs, in my opinion that makes YOU a murderer. Because your drugs are going to kill the kids on the streets. Whether you are paid $2,000 to do it, or making a profit of $1mil doesn’t matter. You’re killing kids on the streets.

    I could be wrong, but only one person has given statistics on a country without the death penalty for drugs that is doing better than Singapore, and that’s Hong Kong. It could just be me that’s skeptical, but does it mean that the drug problem in Hong Kong is not as bad as Singapore, or that the Hong Kong police just aren’t catching them as well as we in Singapore are? Just thinking out loud, no facts to back that one up.

    I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell am staying away from drugs as long as I’m in singapore!

    And in closing, I strongly disagree with William on one point :

    Borat is indeed an extremely funny movie.

  80. William said

    dear Steve

    Many thanks for the article, which contains the usual myths about the Tochi case. As you can tell by now, there is nothing I like better than to go through statements and articles, so here i go:

    The article said that, “Infact, the judge in the trial court was said to have expressed doubt on the boy’s guilt.” One can read the grounds of decision to see that the judge never did anything like that.

    Here’s another, “a school of thought believes strongly that the ordeal and subsequent execution of the Nigerian was racially inclined.” Quite an explosive point which is completely unsubstantiated. Indeed, I understand the popular opinion to be that we hang foreigners of all colours.

    What about this: “The United Nations and other human rights bodies have frowned at the use of death penalty.” Quite misleading. The UN has not passed any resolution abolishing the death penalty. I am not sure what are “other human rights bodies” but most existing international treaties categorically exempt the death penalty from prohibition in case of serious crime, most notably, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

    This statement: Singapore “should also have treated him with dignity and rights that are enshrined in international law, and civilized norms.” But we certainly did. He had a fair trial, in public, and an appeal. He had competent counsel.

    Guys, here’s the kicker: the article says that the death penalty is “primitive” and Nigerians should avoid Singapore because of it. BUT Nigeria itself has the death penalty and has applied it many times, according to Amnesty International:

    The second report, in particular, suggests that women who face charges carrying the death penalty are unfairly discriminated against and do not access to legal representation for long periods of incaceration. So much for international norms.

    If there’s one thing I hate, it’s hypocrisy and dishonest argument. That article is a good example of such a tactic. It’s meant to rile up hatred by accusing others of racism, barbaric behaviour, etc. on the basis of false and misleading statements.


  81. William said

    dear coin

    It is sad that you enjoy Borat. Next you will be telling me that “Babel” is deep and profound.

    ps. ok, the part with the japanese girl was moderately interesting.

  82. […] Teow Man, SingaporeAngle The Death Penalty: Questioning Ourselves – Speranza Nuova, Singapore Angle Complicity in the senseless murder of a young boy – Zyberzitizen, […]

  83. Steve said

    I think the European Union is a good role model:

    The 10 December, we commemorate the 57th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights. In the United States, the 1000th person to be condemned to death since the re-establishment of the death penalty in 1976 has just been reached. In Singapore, on the same day, 2 December, there was also an execution. These events have once again put the death penalty high on the agenda. The European Parliament will fight it. It goes against the values of the Union. Its abolition is a sine qua none for accession to the Union. Fortunately, progress towards abolition in the world is increasing quickly. In 1977, 16 countries had abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Today, there are 84 countries. But in 76 countries, the death penalty is still in use. Moreover, 24 countries have abolished the death penalty de facto as they have not executed anyone for at least 10 years. Although the number of countries using the death penalty is reducing, the number of executions is particularly concerning.–false/default_en.htm


    On the occasion of the second World Day Against the Death Penalty, the EU reiterates its
    longstanding principled position against the death penalty.
    The EU considers that the abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of
    human dignity and the progressive development of human rights. The European Union
    finds this form of punishment cruel and inhuman. The death penalty provides no added
    value in terms of deterrence and any miscarriage of justice would be irreversible.
    Consequently, the death penalty is abolished in all European Union countries. But the
    reasons for doing away with this form of penalty apply to every person in any part of the
    world. Universal abolition of the death penalty, in times of peace and war, is thus a
    strongly held policy view agreed by all EU members.

  84. zyberzitizen said

    Hi guys,

    As Aaron says in his blog, there are many issues to consider. And with Aaron, I too am glad that the blogosphere is debating the issue of the death penalty.

    Thanks to William, I have taken the last few days to think about some of the issues.

    What is clear to me are:

    1. The mainstream media should do more by way of creating dialogue on the topic.

    2. The reason why there are misunderstandings of not only Tochi’s case (if we accept some of the points brought up by William) but capital punishment in general shows the lack of information being disseminated to the public. (William will say this is available on the net but I feel the mainstream media could do more.)

    3. Perhaps we are moving towards a more “compassionate” way of thinking, from the comments on various blogs? Personally I hope so.

    While we ponder on the issues, I am glad that the possibility of alternatives to the death penalty is not rejected off hand, even by proponents of capital punishment.

    And perhaps that is where we can start and take the debate to the next level. Although it is not rejected off-hand, whether we agree that alternatives should be implemented is another issue.

    According to some reports, capital punishment has been abolished in most countries. And as part of a “global village” which constantly pegs itself to international standards, Singapore should now look to doing the same for capital punishment. That is, see if abolishment is what we should do.

    Thanks guys, for an interesting debate. I am tempted – very much so – to answer KTM’s post on Singapore Angle point for point. But I’m kinda tired mentally. Maybe I’ll do so on my own blog some day.


  85. William the Con said

    Dear Steve

    Views on capital punishment have changed back and forth throughout history, and the trends usually correlate to the level of violent crime, drug abuse, etc. experienced or perceived by societies in general. I do not see the United States and other non EU countries jumping on the EU bandwagon, at least not based on current popular opinion. The US public is extremely pro-capital punishment. Must be all those Steven Seagal movies.

    ZZ – I can’t wait to read more on your own blog. If you need the court’s grounds of decision/statutes, etc. just give me a shout. I will go to your blog now to send you my email address (I don’t have a blog).

  86. […] defense of capital punishment: Where we don’t agree is this: I think that in drug cases it is especially […]

  87. William the Con said

    Rajan said, in reply to my post:
    “If I supplied a knife to you and watch as you kill someone and help you dump the body, I wouldn’t be facing a capital charge. But carry over a bunch of heroin pills and you would be held responsible for the entire deed. And the onus of proof regarding your guilt (mens rea and all that) would be all yours.”

    Definitely wrong. If you supplied the knife and watched as I killed someone and helped me dumped the body, you will 100% be charged with conspiracy to murder, and that IS a capital charge. I am not sure you should be using examples you don’t really understand, Rajan.

    Rajan also said: “Drug trafficking is not murder, not even close–in fact, it is a ‘no harm’ crime–the only parties tangibly hurt in drug trafficking are the consensual.”

    Are you serious, Rajan? Drug trafficking is a “no harm” crime? Drug-related crime accounts for 40% of all jail sentences in the United States. People rob to feed their habits – there are certainly victims there.

    Finally, Rajan said: “Solving social ills by killing those who go against the law should have a stronger defense than economics”. Not true, especially when the social ills are caused by economics.

    Drug trafficking is essentially a business. The drug barons are in the trade because of the vast profits they think they can reap. If we interrupt their supply by promising all traffickers a mandatory death penalty, the drug dealers will avoid our route and go somewhere else. Ultimately life is economics.

    There are a number of other things that Rajan has said which I would love to reply to, because I realise that I have now become the magnet for all anti-death penalty advocates, but I really have to stop somewhere. It’s time for the nurse to give me my medication, you see. They only let us lunatics use the PC a couple of hours a day.

  88. Steve said

    About public opinion on the death penalty in the US:

    While you are right that around 66% favor the death penalty for murder, 62% also think it does not work as a deterrent. 37% support the death penalty because they think the penalty fits the crime (an eye for an eye). 11% think it saves tax payer money (which it doesn’t, due to the lenghty process) the same as those who think it works as a detterent. (different surveys)

    Considering this data, I think that Americans would oppose the death penalty for drug related cases, especially with the extraordinary severeity as it is the case in Singapore.

  89. Rajan R said

    William: I must admit my aiding and abetting example is flawed, but nonetheless it is the onus of the prosecution to prove that such a person is principal to the crime in the case of murder. However, in the case of drug trafficking, the assumption that anyone carrying illegal narcotics above a prescribed limit is a trafficker subject to a mandatory death penalty.

    As for “no harm” – for someone who makes such a fuss about the source of statistics, you gave me none. And I would make an educated guess if that number isn’t pulled out from your ass, it includes drug trafficking in itself – its circular to say that drugs causes crime when most of the crime shown are drug crimes. In other words, if you say, drugs cause crime, and then arrest people for trafficking, you cannot go around and say, “Ah hah! See, drugs do cause crimes”.

    And crimes by junkies trying to fund their habit – there isn’t a direct causation. If I killed you, you’re dead – there’s the harm. If I raped you, you’re raped – there’s the harm. If I sell you drugs, and you go out and rob a 7-Eleven – there is no direct causation. Because I could very well sell to a billionaire too, who wouldn’t commit any crimes to fund their habit.

    More so, the actual prohibition are actually creating this crimes. A ban increases the prices of narcotics, means it is harder for junkies to fund their habit. Also, because dealers are operating outside the law, they are given the opportunity to abuse their customers in ways no legitimate business can.

    As for crimes caused by junkies under the influence – the same applies for alcohol, no? Why isn’t alcohol banned?

    As for the argument that a mandatory death penalty forces drug barons to move their ‘supply chain’ of sorts elsewhere, what exactly is the social good here? If Singapore is merely a conduit of drugs, not the consumer or exporter of drugs, what social harm caused by trafficking warrants mandatory death?

    And again, you refuse to answer how is drug trafficking as bad, if not worse, than murder. If it isn’t as bad as murder, why should the mandatory punishment be death? Why should the presumption of innocence be altered? Why shouldn’t guilty sentences be made only beyond reasonable doubt? If it is as bad as murder – why? Certainly, 40% of American inmates being in there because of drugs is a lousy, unrelated reason.

    As for life is economics – I’m sorry if I beg to differ. It is fundamentally wrong and inhumane to kill for the purpose of keeping drug prices high. Life is not an expendable commodity you can snuff out for some supposedly higher social gain.

    And lastly, I’m not anti-death penalty; no where did I say that. I’m against mandatory death penalties for crimes such as kidnapping and especially drug trafficking because the crime does not warrant the punishment. Especially in the case of drugs, where you lose the right to be presume innocent until proven otherwise.

  90. William the Con said

    Dear Steve

    Thanks for the stats. Yes, the majority favour capital punishment, and I think we have established in Singapore that 66.6% is a convincing margin 🙂 Oops I know you said 66% but you know what I mean.

    There are a number of aspects of punishment which I haven’t even got into, and “an eye for an eye” (or what lawyers call “retribution”) is certainly one important area. There are many aims and theories of punishment, and deterrence is just one. The other common ones are: reform or rehabilitation, education, incapacitation and restoration.

    They are found at

    You quoted a figure of 37% who support the death penalty because the penalty fits the crime. That usually happens in cases of unlawful killing, e.g. in the Took Leng How case, I imagine many Singaporeans would consider it fair and just to hang someone who sexually assaulted and murdered a young child. That is probably also why women support caning for rapists, because it is something that women feel that rapists deserve. There is no question of deterrence, since in such “crimes of passion” the criminal act is committed without regard to consequences.

    What happened in the debate here is that there are two completely different views on punishment. I support capital punishment for drug traffickers because of deterrence. I argue that the economic nature of the offence must be met by an economic answer which deters the offence. So if Singapore says that drug traffickers face the mandatory death penalty, then the drug traffickers will feel that the profit they might obtain is outweighed by the risk and cost of the death penalty on their couriers. So they avoid Singapore.

    Although the anti-capital punishment bloggers use the word “deterrence”, actually they have a different philosophy of punishment. They feel that punishment is for rehabilitation (to convince the drug trafficker of the error of his ways), or incapacitation (to keep the drug trafficker in jail for life so that he does not traffic any more). Since they hold such philosophies, they are unable to see why capital punishment is necessary. On the other hand, since I believe that the aim of punishment is deterrence (i.e. to convince others that it is “not worth” it to traffic in drugs) then I do not see any value in imprisonment, etc.

    So it’s thanks to your post that the debate has become focused again!

  91. William the Con said

    Dear Rajan

    You said, “…in the case of drugs, where you lose the right to be presume innocent until proven otherwise.” As I have explained at great length in earlier posts, you do NOT lose the right to be presumed innocent. It is a complete myth. Anyone charged with drug trafficking is presumed innocent, and the prosecution has the burden of proving guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

    Where there has been a lot of confusion is the concept of “statutory presumption” or “legislative presumption”. This is a presumption, common throughout civilised countries, that if a certain state of facts exist, then a certain situation is presumed. If one were to find one’s spouse in bed naked with another person, one would presume that there has been an illicit affair. You cannot equate the legislative presumption with the presumption of innocence.

    You say, “the actual prohibition are actually creating this crimes”. But that is a tautological statement. Any prohibition necessarily creates a crime. If we prohibit vandalism, then vandalism becomes a crime. If we stop prohibiting murder, then murder ceases to be a crime. Let us say tomorrow that we no longer prohibit rape. Then the crime of rape no longer exists, and overnight our crime statistics drop. Is society any better off because rape is no longer a crime? Obviously not. The answer is not in legalising or not legalising things. The answer is to analyse the problem (drug trafficking), why it is attractive (economics) and the best way to stop it (make it economically unattractive). That is why a mandatory death penalty works. It is a tremendous economic disincentive to drug dealers, and it works.

    You say, “It is wrong and inhumane to kill for the purpose of keeping drug prices high”. But no one has said that the purpose of capital punishment is to “keep drug prices high”. You are the only one who said that. Mandatory capital punishment is a deterrent to drug trafficking because their couriers tend to get hanged. It has nothing to do with the price of drugs.

    You say, “And again, you refuse to answer how is drug trafficking as bad, if not worse, than murder.” But I never said that at all. Drug trafficking does not have to be as bad or worse than murder. Drug trafficking is a serious problem, and it deserves the mandatory death penalty. Why do you insist on comparing it to murder? Is that the only offence you know which carries a mandatory death penalty? There are many many others.

    You say, “As for crimes caused by junkies under the influence – the same applies for alcohol, no? Why isn’t alcohol banned?” I really have to ask you to stop thinking about alcohol. It’s not healthy 🙂 Listen, I don’t understand why you want to make me compare this and that. You don’t even know my views on alcohol at all. Quite dangerous to make any assumptions, really. And please try to avoid mentioning my “ass” in posts (someone earlier talked about farting as well)… it gets me too aroused and I can’t focus on intelligent discussions. 🙂

  92. Sarek said

    Hi William,

    Is it possible for you to provide us the list of the date and the name of people who received death penalty judgment in the past 10 years?

    This is related to the high capital punishment rate due to clearing backlog view. I hope the list may give us some insight into whether this view is valid.


  93. Sarek said

    William said “Every time someone is sentenced to death, it is a public decision and the world knows about it. No one is condemned to death in secrecy. So it’s just Amnesty propaganda that popularised the myth that executions are shrouded in mystery”

    While it is true that the death sentence is a public decision, executions are shrouded in mystery with little to no publicity (the sentencing and the execution are two different matters). If President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria did not appeal to Singapore, local newspapers might never mention the execution.

    It is interesting to note that the ST report “Nigeria appeals to S’pore to spare trafficker’s life” said:

    “Iwuchukwu, 19, is to be hanged in Singapore tomorrow, according to Ms Chee Siok Chin, who is part of a team campaigning against the death penalty.”

    Does it mean there was no official public announcement of the execution? It seems to be the case as no one was aware that Malachy was scheduled to be executed at the same time.

    CNB issued a statement:


    after the execution but it was quickly removed.

    Why the Changi Prison and the CNB are not keeping a permanent online record of all executions in their news archives?

    Why the Istana is not keeping a public record of President’s turning down clemency requests in its news archive?

    The impression is that they want to have as little public records on capital punishment as possible. It may not be valid to say executions shrouded in mystery, but these government agencies are surely shy from openly keeping a record of the executions.

  94. William the Con said

    Dear Sarek

    You ask: “Is it possible for you to provide us the list of the date and the name of people who received death penalty judgment in the past 10 years?” Yes, it is. But it will take me considerable time, and as I said earlier, it is tedious work and not something I am willing to do unless I am paid. I also mentioned how it can be done, i.e. reviewing the public records of the Court of Criminal Appeal. I also said that those people who claim that Singapore has the highest execution rate in Singapore should really be the ones justifying their claim by providing up to date figures.

    You said: “If President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria did not appeal to Singapore, local newspapers might never mention the execution.” I am not sure if I agree with your prediction, as the local press has always reported on various hangings, etc. The press reports what people are interested in. I don’t think there is any grand plan to keep Singaporeans in the dark. It is just that, in general, Singaporeans have not shown themselves to be extremely concerned about capital punishment. The amount of time spent on such issues is far outweighed by the amount of time spent on (a) football, (b) Singapore Idol or (c) the property market. You know what Singaporeans are like, and so do the press. Sadly, what they publish is a reflection of our own tastes and priorities.

    You said: “It seems to be the case as no one was aware that Malachy was scheduled to be executed at the same time.”

    You will find the reason in Section 216 of the Criminal Procedure Code:

    “Judgment of death.
    216. When any person is sentenced to death, the sentence shall direct that he shall be hanged by the neck till he is dead but shall not state the place where nor the time when the sentence is to be carried out.”

    This rule originated from the British. The thinking at the time was that it was considered insensitive to the accused to announce the place and time publicly. Today, the rule remains on our statute books, but the authorities have gotten around it by giving out the information subsequently, upon request. In any case, it cannot possibly be true that no one was aware of Nelson Malachy’s scheduled execution. People are able to find out from the same source which told them that Tochi was to be executed. If people were able to find out when Tochi was to be executed, there would be no reason for Malachy’s to be kept secret.

    (By the way, Wikipedia incorrectly reports our statute as being the “Singapore Criminal Code” which is wrong. There is either the Penal Code or the Criminal Procedure Code, often called the “CPC”.)

    You said: “The impression is that they want to have as little public records on capital punishment as possible. It may not be valid to say executions shrouded in mystery, but these government agencies are surely shy from openly keeping a record of the executions.” I understand why you have that impression, but can you think of any government in the world which keeps such records on the internet? I certainly wish they would, it would make my life easier, but what is true is that:

    (1) each time a person is sentenced to death, it is reported publicly

    (2) each time a person loses his appeal against a death sentence, it is reported publicly

    (3) each time a person is executed, it is reported publicly.

    Obviously, all the basic facts are publicly available. Certain political opponents have complained that the statistics are not nicely compiled and gift-wrapped so that they can use them to argue against the government.

    By the way, I invite bloggers who wish to comment on the law to read it in its original form first at the following site:

  95. Rajan R said

    William: It would be hard to say your side of the conversation is intelligent, but I’ll humour you:

    “Where there has been a lot of confusion is the concept of “statutory presumption” or “legislative presumption”. This is a presumption, common throughout civilised countries, that if a certain state of facts exist, then a certain situation is presumed. If one were to find one’s spouse in bed naked with another person, one would presume that there has been an illicit affair. You cannot equate the legislative presumption with the presumption of innocence.”

    The problem is, if you actually read the case or read up about Singaporean laws, is that this ‘legislative presumption’ actually erodes the presumption of innocent.

    Lets go back to murder – if you’re found with a bloodied knife and later a body is found; would you be automatically charged with murder and then face mandatory death if you cannot prove that you did not use that knife? No, instead, it is the prosecution’s task to prove beyond reasonable doubt you did use the knife to kill that person.

    Now, going back to this case, the prosecution need not do any such thing – Tochi had to *prove* his innocence against the presumption, not defend himself against it. You, echoing the judge, said earlier that Tochi should had assumed that he may be carrying drugs: but should a person be put to death because they were daft?

    In fact, should judges assume – especially when it involves life – that Tochi would have know that he was carrying drugs? He came from Africa, where many countries have extremely high tariffs and most smuggling done for tax-avoidance – he could very well had assumed that whoever who hired him wanted to avoid tax. Or those pills could be chewing gum. Or something – the point it Tochi’s life was ended because he should have known not because he had guilty intentions.

    “You say, “It is wrong and inhumane to kill for the purpose of keeping drug prices high”. But no one has said that the purpose of capital punishment is to “keep drug prices high”. You are the only one who said that.”

    You keep on saying ‘life is economics’ – this is the law of supply and demand. Supply drops, prices increases: demand drops. That’s the entire idea of hunting down traffickers and dealers. If that’s not the idea of mandatory death for trafficking, may I ask, why do you keep mentioning economics?

    Perhaps you don’t understand it?

    “Why do you insist on comparing it to murder? Is that the only offence you know which carries a mandatory death penalty? There are many many others.”

    Because murder is the only crime where I feel capital punishment is justified. And I’m drawing a point here – is the Singaporean government *and* you claiming that drugs is necessarily as bad as murder victims?

    “You say, “the actual prohibition are actually creating this crimes”. But that is a tautological statement. Any prohibition necessarily creates a crime. If we prohibit vandalism, then vandalism becomes a crime. If we stop prohibiting murder, then murder ceases to be a crime. Let us say tomorrow that we no longer prohibit rape. Then the crime of rape no longer exists, and overnight our crime statistics drop.”

    The point I was trying to put out is that 1) for the same reason you have stated, you cannot point to crime made by drugs prohibition as proof that drugs cause crime and 2) most of the crime that was the result of drug consumption or trafficking may not exist if not for the prohibition.

    In other words, how many stores would be robbed if drugs were cheaper due to legalization and junkies not abused by their dealers? How many junkies would become prostitutes if drugs can be bought in a drug store, instead from a nefarious dealer?

    “Drug trafficking is a serious problem, and it deserves the mandatory death penalty.”

    If drug trafficking is such a serious problem, please explain clearly and extensively why does it deserve a death penalty.

    It is first and foremost a ‘public order crime’ – a no-harm crime: there is no direct victim to trafficking. You have to prove here that drug trafficking is such an aberration to public order that those involved in it deserves the death penalty – not me proving the other way around.

    You have failed to show why the punishment fits the crime, showed the lack of understanding for basic economic principles despite going behind the cloak of “life is economics”, failed to understand why laws against trafficking was instituted on an economic level and fail to show why drug trafficking or even drugs in itself is so bad that it requires a prohibition. One with mandatory death in fact.

    Instead, you choose to ignore how drug trafficking is treated as bad, if not worse than, murder in Singapore’s criminal justice system and to ignore the philosophical and humanistic side of the debate. If indeed putting people like Tochi to death solves the problem of drugs – is that still justified? Is life that significant that it can be sacrificed in the name of some social good?

  96. Sarek said

    Hi William,

    Thanks for the info on Section 216 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

    I am guessing that people knew about Tochi’s execution because Mr Ravi was representing him and Mr Ravi had raised public awareness of the case. Do you happen to know who represented Malachy?

    I don’t quite get what you means by “reported publicly” in the following statements:

    (1) each time a person is sentenced to death, it is reported publicly
    (2) each time a person loses his appeal against a death sentence, it is reported publicly
    (3) each time a person is executed, it is reported publicly.

    Are you referring to the public records of the Court of Criminal Appeal etc which you said is a tedious work to review? Are we talking about public records which are surrounded by unnecessary inconveniences in this information age?

    Thanks for your informative reply.


  97. William the Con said

    Greetings Sarek.

    You said: “Are you referring to the public records of the Court of Criminal Appeal etc which you said is a tedious work to review? Are we talking about public records which are surrounded by unnecessary inconveniences in this information age?”

    Yes I am certainly talking about those public records. I am happy to review one or two if you wish, but you asked me “to provide us the list of the date and the name of people who received death penalty judgment in the past 10 years?” I find that tedious since I have better things to do with my time. I am not going to go back the past 10 years to compile statistics for you. Why should I? It is tedious.

    Your point is whether the records are publicly available. Yes they are. But please do not confuse something which is public with something which is convenient.

    Just because the information is not conveniently available to you over the internet at the touch of a button does not mean that it is a not a public record. The vast majority of public information (company data, real estate data, births, deaths, marriages, divorces) are public but not available over the internet. Not convenient does not mean not public. If the press wanted it, they know where to find it. So, if you want data on “the past 10 years” please do not ask me to do it. Go do it yourself. Honestly, I don’t know what kind of debate this is. Go and find your material, and then make up your argument. You can’t expect me to do your work for you as well.

    My dear Rajan

    You said: “The problem is, if you actually read the case or read up about Singaporean laws, is that this ‘legislative presumption’ actually erodes the presumption of innocent. (sic)”

    Why do you assume that I haven’t thoroughly read the grounds of decision (not “case” as you call it) or Singapore laws? I certainly have and you obviously haven’t. From your writing, it’s quite obvious that you haven’t the faintest clue about the distinction between the presumption of innocence and the legislative presumption. Many, many bloggers have grasped it, but you insist on confusing the two. It’s getting tiring. Try and keep up with the others.

    You said Tochi “he could very well had assumed that whoever who hired him wanted to avoid tax. Or those pills could be chewing gum.” Why don’t you just do what you have been telling others to do, and read the grounds of decision? You will know exactly what Tochi’s story was. His story had nothing to do with tax or chewing gum. His story is very clear. Stick to the facts, please.

    You said, “And I’m drawing a point here – is the Singaporean government *and* you claiming that drugs is necessarily as bad as murder victims?” Now where have I claimed anything like that? That is extremely dishonest of you. If you want to quote me, at least do it accurately. Everyone can see you are making things up now.

    You said, “Because murder is the only crime where I feel capital punishment is justified.” Now this is where I fundmentally disagree with you. Despite you professed respect for life, your true colours have been shown. You actually think that it is right to put people to death for murder? What is your justification? Deterrence? Do you really think that capital punishment is the right solution for crimes of passion? If the victim’s life is taken, is it justice to take the killer’s life as well? Will that bring the victim back to life? Will that deter other murders? Let’s see you try and defend your position for once, instead of attacking others.

  98. Sarek said

    Hi William,

    You said: “Honestly, I don’t know what kind of debate this is. Go and find your material, and then make up your argument. You can’t expect me to do your work for you as well.”

    Well, I don’t see our exchange as a debate. I am just trying to see how much information we can get out from this exchange to serve the public interest on this topic. There is no intention to impose on you to provide information you are not willing to offer. Once again, I appreciate the information and views you have provided so far.

    It is not about confusing “something which is public with something which is convenient.” It is about what is the spirit behind making some records public but making it inconvenient for the public to access.


  99. Kitana said

    Hello William.

    It’s nice to meet you. I don’t often talk to law students who are studying the law overseas in the blogosphere. It’s refreshing to see someone argue the law with so much candour, but I figured tt as a Singapore law student, I have to tell you that some aspects of Singapore law are different from what you study elsewhere.

    Firstly, the statutory presumption is more commonly referred to as a legal presumption. That’s just it. And while when implementing the legal presumptions of 1) possession and knowledge and 2) trafficking into ss 18 and 17 respectively of our Misuse of Drugs Act, there was no mention of a presumption of innocence (or of its erosion), it has been generally accepted (well, at least all the academics at law school who teach us our basic Evidence course) that such legal presumptions do have the effect of eroding the presumption of innocence.

    You said in Comment 91: “As I have explained at great length in earlier posts, you do NOT lose the right to be presumed innocent. It is a complete myth. Anyone charged with drug trafficking is presumed innocent, and the prosecution has the burden of proving guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”

    Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. No one is charged with drug trafficking outright. What happens is that when you are found with let’s say 20 g of heroin on your person, ss 17 and 18 of the MDA kick in immediately. This means that you will be presumed to a) be in possession of the drugs; b) have knowledge that you are in possession of the drugs in question; and c) be trafficking in those drugs. You are right that these are presumptions of fact (as imposed by the law), but the prosecution has no burden to prove any of these facts beyond a reasonable doubt. Because the fact that they are already presumed means that if the accused offers no defence, then the prosecution has proved their case.

    What this means, is that the legal burden of proof shifts to the accused, such that he has the burden of disproving all the above presumptions on the balance of probabilities. In Tochi’s case, the Court of Appeal (pardon me, I don’t agree with Kan J’s judgment in the High Court case, so I prefer to cite the CA) held that his defence that he did not know that what he was carrying was heroin, failed to discharge his burden on this balance of probabilities.

    Interestingly, if you had been right and the burden had instead been on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, then perhaps Tochi would not have been found guilty of trafficking, because Kan J did admit that he did not know for sure if Tochi was aware that he was carrying heroin, and I think that this would have been sufficient to raise a reasonable doubt.

    But that’s all I have to say. I might not agree with you on your stand about the deterrent effect of the death penalty, and I might think that your arguments, though well-written do present some logical fallacies to me, but I’m not interested in discussing them. So have a nice day! Maybe we’ll see more of you when you come back to Singapore! =)

  100. ben said


    May I interject somewhat on your ‘educating’ the blogosphere? I don’t know where you learn your Law. Is it somewhere atropical?

    What do we you mean by Presumption of Innocence? If you think it is the requirement of the Prosecutor to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt, then for the relevant provisions when certain facts (MDA, s 17 – possession of more than stated amount of said drugs), there is no Presumption of Innocence.

    The burden the accused has to discharge in drug trafficking cases is not a tactical or evidential one.

    The meaning of such terms might be appreciated:
    The accused has to discharge the burden on a balance of probabilities.

    Okay, I shall quote you Pinsler, Evidence, Advocacy and the Litigation Process, 2nd Edition, at 254

    “Rebuttable presumptions may be found in a variety of statutes and their effect in general is to presume certain facts indicating the guilt of the accused. [FN 83] The presumption is characterised by phrases such as …. The rebuttable presumption of law is a legal presumption which imposes the legal burden of proof on the party against whom the presumption operates so that he must rebut the presumption on a balance of probabilities.”

    {fn 83 provides a list of example which include ss 17 and 18 of the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185) which we are concerned about)

    Okay, say you don’t think it is the requirement to prove things beyond a reasonable doubt and all the defences. Perhaps you agree with the current CJ in his article ‘The Criminal Process – The Singapore Model’? But since you seems so aware of the local flavor, will you not read ‘Michael Hor, The Burden of Proof in Criminal Justice, [1992] 4 SAcLJ 267’, and perhaps you might see where some people are coming from.

  101. […] talking point not too long ago; most recent being the instance where Tochi was hanged. This led to a big debate in the blogosphere whereby several issues became so interwined that it became confusing after […]

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