theonlinecitizen

a community of singaporeans

After the hanging…. some reflection….

Posted by theonlinecitizen on February 2, 2007

 

By zyberzitizen

The hanging of Nigerian Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi has, no doubt, thrown up many issues which we should be looking at. This article is not about the merits or demerits of Tochi’s hanging. Sadly, his hanging is already done and there is nothing we can do about it.

However, his death brings up many issues which I will address briefly here. Among them are:

1. Bloggers, and by extension perhaps singaporeans as a whole, do care. The debate on the blogosphere and forums has shown that Singaporeans (and bloggers, in particular) do care about non-bread and butter issues.

2. The mainstream media’s silence on the subject. Despite the active debate on the internet, our mainstream media seems to have ignored it. One can only wonder why they dedicated much publicity to the Wee Shu Min saga but not this one.

3. The lack of information on the subject. As have been pointed out by pro-death for Tochi posters, there is a lack of understanding of certain legal principles and terms by anti-death for Tochi posters. (This includes me).

As I have stated before, I am against the death penalty for drug trafficking. My reasons are:

1. The current system is too flawed to justify taking a man’s (or a woman’s) life. For example, early and immediate access to lawyers for the accused at the point of detention is left to the prosecutors or the police and not firmly and unequivocally stated down in law.

2. Mistakes in judgement can never be adequately reversed.

3. Deterrence, which is cited as the main (or one of the main) reasons for implementing the death sentence, is not and has not been conclusively proved to be effective or that the death penalty is mainly responsible for the relatively low number of cases of trafficking in Singapore. Indeed, if the death penalty deters would-be traffickers from trafficking, perhaps we should also introduce the death penalty for cigarette smugglers (which according to yesterday’s news report has jumped some 46% in 2006), alcohol abusers who drink and drive, child molesters, and so on – crimes which we would want to eradicate from our society.

4. Many countries in the world, including ‘first-world’ countries which Singapore claims to be, have abolished the death penalty.

5. There is no concrete, detailed and exhaustive independent study on Singapore’s implementation and results of the death penalty for drug trafficking.

6. The swiftness of the execution of the death sentence in Singapore, ie the actual hanging itself, leaves no room or time enough for potential new evidence to be presented, especially with regards to the area of new technology in the sciences. (There have been cases in the US where new evidence were presented after many years which resulted in innocent convicts being freed.)

7. The argument that tax payers should not be footing the bill for convicted traffickers to stay in prison for life is, in my opinion, a flawed one based on nothing but a cold-hearted economical justification devoid of any humane consideration. While I do agree that the victims of drug consumption pays a heavy price, one must also not forget that those who take drugs do so by their own choice – just as those who traffick drugs do so by their own choice, ultimately. The state must rise above these vengeful inclinations and adopt more humane treatment – especially on those the state considers most heinous.

8. The possibility of rehabilitation is not explored fully with regards to small-time ‘runners’ or ‘mules’ .

9. There is no explicit initiatives, as far as I am aware, among ASEAN nations (which includes S’pore) to eradicate the production and source of most drugs in the region – especially from Burma (or Myanmar).

So far, what I have read by pro-death penalty advocates are blurry suggestions that the death penalty does work. There is no substantial evidence put forth to prop up their case.

While it is true that there can never be a perfect legal system, it does not mean that we do not try and make it as perfect as we can.

International standards

For a country which frequently pegs and benchmarks itself to international standards in anything from education to business, from sports to the arts, perhaps it is time Singapore looked into this issue and see if it can subscribe to international consensus on the death penalty as well.

Personally, the main (but not ‘the only’) objection I have is one of justification. That while we hang the small-time runners, we have not done enough as a member of ASEAN to effect the eradication of the source of drugs from Burma.

I stand corrected but Singapore is the biggest investor in Burma – according to this report.

So, while we hang the runners, we are doing business with the military junta in Burma which is closely-linked to the drug producers?

Perhaps this is the biggest irony.

That while we declare a “War On Drugs”, we continue to do business with a regime which is well-known for being closely-linked to the drug lords.

“With US$1.57 billion for 72 projects, Singapore tops the list of the 25 foreign investor countries in Myanmar. According to official data from Myanmar, Singapore is the largest exporter to Myanmar, and its second-largest trading partner after Thailand.”

Advertisements

18 Responses to “After the hanging…. some reflection….”

  1. Sarek said

    That while we declare a “War On Drugs”, we continue to do business with a regime which is well-known for being closely-linked to the drug lords.

    The Americans also have their “War On Drugs”, but it never worked:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_on_Drugs

    So, what kind of “War On Drugs” policy should we try? The decade long of economic sanctions imposed against Saddam did not work and only managed to hurt the people, not the regime.

    Given that drug lords and the regime are controlling the country’s economy, any investment will unavoidably linked to them. If foreigners stop making business investment in Myanmar, the Myanmar general public will have no choice but to get involved in the drug trade to make a living.

  2. zyberzitizen said

    Hi Sarek,

    I would prefer that we use our invested money in Burma on beefing up our border and custom controls. Whether the Burmese people wants to take up poppy farming is, ultimately, their perogative.

    All these years of ‘constructive engagement’ with Burma has not produced any discernible results – vis a vis the drug trade.

    Investing so much money in a country which is recognised as being the main producer of drugs in this region, and at the same time declaring a war on drugs, is well, rather hypocritical.

    I would like to see ASEAN being more firm with Burma but I am not holding my breath. Thus, if we are not able to influence them with regards to this issue, then perhaps we should try something else – for our own sake.

    The problem I have is one of justification. I cannot reconcile the hanging of small-time runners while doing business with those who produce the drugs in the first place.

    Regards,
    Zz

  3. Sarek said

    “The problem I have is one of justification. I cannot reconcile the hanging of small-time runners while doing business with those who produce the drugs in the first place.”

    There are limitations on what one can do. When it is not possible or very difficult to take down the drug lords, catching the runners are the only option one may have. One may be able to take down the drug lords, but others will take over. Not even the Americans can win this “War On Drugs” and they deployed much, much more resources and power in their war. While we may have problem with the justification, we can’t ignore the reality of what can be done and what can’t.

  4. Kitana said

    Hello!

    This is a nice wrap up, and I just thought I’d add on some more to some of your points. =)

    1. The current system is too flawed to justify taking a man’s (or a woman’s) life. For example, early and immediate access to lawyers for the accused at the point of detention is left to the prosecutors or the police and not firmly and unequivocally stated down in law.

    I did a paper on this. In Singapore, the accused has a right of access to counsel, but only once investigations are finished. It’s been set by law at a “reasonable time frame” of 2 weeks. I (and probably all the criminal defence lawyers in Singapore) don’t agree to this, but this is how it stands.

    3. Deterrence, which is cited as the main (or one of the main) reasons for implementing the death sentence, is not and has not been conclusively proved to be effective or that the death penalty is mainly responsible for the relatively low number of cases of trafficking in Singapore. Indeed, if the death penalty deters would-be traffickers from trafficking, perhaps we should also introduce the death penalty for cigarette smugglers (which according to yesterday’s news report has jumped some 46% in 2006), alcohol abusers who drink and drive, child molesters, and so on – crimes which we would want to eradicate from our society.

    5. There is no concrete, detailed and exhaustive independent study on Singapore’s implementation and results of the death penalty for drug trafficking.

    This is true. We have a dearth of statistics linking the death penalty’s effectiveness with the rise (or fall) of drugs in Singapore. The only study of the death penalty is the US one linking it and murder rates (which showed it wasn’t all too effective), but we don’t conclusively know in Singapore.

    6. The swiftness of the execution of the death sentence in Singapore, ie the actual hanging itself, leaves no room or time enough for potential new evidence to be presented, especially with regards to the area of new technology in the sciences. (There have been cases in the US where new evidence were presented after many years which resulted in innocent convicts being freed.)

    This is true. But Singapore believes that it has safeguards against the wrongful implementation of the death penalty because all such cases go up to the Court of Appeal, and after tt there is still the avenue of the Presidential Pardon. But once the pardon has been rejected, you hang within two weeks. I suppose this is because Singapore thinks that it is expensive and inefficient to keep a person on death row for a long time (it’s more expensive to keep someone on death row than to imprison him for life in the US). In any case, the US also has independent NGOs such as The Innocence Project (http://www.innocenceproject.org/) that actively take steps to exonerate the wrongfully-accused. We don’t have such groups in Singapore; the possibility that our legal system may be fallible has never once arisen.

    8. The possibility of rehabilitation is not explored fully with regards to small-time ‘runners’ or ‘mules’ .

    I don’t think that runners or mules can be rehabilitated, unless they are addicts as well. In any case, our country has no policy of rehabilitating non-citizens. But mules of the nature of Tochi and Nguyen are relatively recent.

    9. There is no explicit initiatives, as far as I am aware, among ASEAN nations (which includes S’pore) to eradicate the production and source of most drugs in the region – especially from Burma (or Myanmar).

    I’m not too sure about this. I believe tt there should at least be intelligence. But fact remains tt Singapore is still part of the ASEAN “Golden Triangle” for drugs, and I assume tt trans-national efforts aren’t yet tt integrated, so until they are… Well.

  5. zyberzitizen said

    Hi Sarek,

    I am not against fighting the war on drugs. Please don’t be mistaken. I support the arrest of drug traffickers. I am against the death penalty for them.

    There are limitations to what we can do with regards to Burma itself, I agree. But I don’t think there are many limitations to deciding whether we invest in Burma and do business with Burma.

    Regards,
    Zz

  6. zyberzitizen said

    Hi Kitana,

    I’ve read your write-up in Singapore Angle regarding Tochi’s case. Very well articulated.

    I am hopeful that someday we will have non-governmental groups who will look out for those prosecuted for trafficking – like the Innoncence Project you mentioned.

    On another note, Tochi has been laid to rest – in Singapore. The SDP website is the only site that reported it – as far as I know.

    Regards,
    Zz

  7. Kitana said

    Wow. That was a really fast response. I just started eating my curry puff when I posted the comment, and you’ve replied just as I’ve finished (okay, this also means I am a very slow curry puff eater). Thank you. =) Unfortunately there wasn’t very much for me to say that Parliament didn’t already say in the first place.

    I mentioned The Innocence Project because I got acquainted with them when I was doing a law and psychology course in Vancouver (which introduced me to wrongful convictions, false confessions, and basically instances where the justice system would fail and convict an innocent instead), and I really admire what it does. But the thing about Singapore is that right now, the general and oft-held view is that our justice system is infallible. No one ever questions it (okay, the legal academics do, but a number of them are fairly conservative in their criticism), and I think that more can be and has to be done. However, I think that as long as we remain in this political climate, our justice system will remain the same. Unless we are able to show that we are hanging more scape goats than we should (which isn’t very easy because unlike in the US or Canada, there isn’t very much publicity or public awareness).

    Tochi has been laid to rest in Singapore? I didn’t know that. I thought they would have at least sent his body home to his family. That’s sad. =( But thank you for telling me.

  8. zyberzitizen said

    Hi Kitana,

    Hahaha. Sorry to shock you.. 🙂 Just logging in for a while to see what goes on. I see that Mr Wang has finally commented on the discussion/debate going on in the blogosphere. He’s presented a brief but a quite thought-provoking account of what lawyers go through as well. No one really wins in sending someone to death, does it?

    Hey, perhaps you’ll be the one to start our very own Innocence Project right here in singapore? That’d be great… 🙂

    Yea, Tochi’s been laid to rest here in singapore. I wonder why they didn’t fly his body back to Nigeria. I also wonder what his family is going through right now. Sigh..

    The next thing to look out for is the Law Society’s recommendations to the Law Ministry about the death penalty. I’ll be watching for news of that.

    *Hope your curry puff was good. Haha..

    Regards,
    Zz

  9. Kitana said

    Hi Zz,

    Now *I* feel like the stalker. Went for a shower, then came back. Life is good. Lol.

    I read Mr Wang’s post. Interestingly, I was interning for a criminal defence lawyer in July last year, and he dealt with many capital cases, including the Lim Ah Seng (the guy who strangled his wife after she abused him) and the Leong Siew Chor (the Kallang body parts murder) case (and the Constance Chee one also). I never got to see things from the perspective of the DPP, but I definitely got to see things from the part of the defence lawyer when your client can’t escape the death penalty, and even when you try everything that you can, you still feel sad. And you can only tell yourself that you’ve done the best you could.

    I don’t know if we will be able to start up anything like the Innocence Project in Singapore – it needs a lot of funding, a lot of support, and a lot of transparency, and I don’t know if we are ready. But I think that a lot of institutional safeguards and more protection of an accused’s right (like that of his right to counsel) will help somewhat.

    I’m not sure either… Sigh.

    Oh, and on another note, one of my good friends was personally involved in helping to draft tt Law Soc death penalty review paper. Wahaha (I helped her proofread her draft. Shh). Actually if she will know so much more about this than I do because she was extensively involved in the research. But her conclusion was that the death penalty ought to be discretionary (although if she had her way, we wouldn’t have one at all). So I can’t wait for it to come out as well. I don’t know how positively it will be receieved, but I think that it will result in even more soul-searching, and I think that is a good thing.

  10. Sarek said

    Yes, there is no “limitations to deciding whether we invest in Burma and do business with Burma.” But to what end you want to achieve by not investing in Myanmar? Make some people here feel some sense of justice and drive more people in Myanmar into poverty and drug trade?

    I believe most people will support some kind of reform and abolishing mandatory sentencing. This is an objective that is achievable. But completely abolishing death penalty is a different story. There is a long way to go for the public to see and accept your view.

  11. Ekaanem said

    The death of tochi though is very sad for us here in nigeria, alot has been said about it, thats was he guilty or not, especially after a same case in nigeria where a movies actress was trying to export half of what tochi was caught with into london from lagos. she was sentence to three years of a fine of one million naira around 11,000usd. so i believe a country that wants is laws to be felt around the world should not look back when some one broke the law
    http://www.naijacampus.com

  12. zyberzitizen said

    Dear Sarek,

    We should do what is necessary. Ultimately, how Burmese make a living is up to them to decide.

    But what I am saying is that Singapore and ASEAN should do more and do so more firmly. If that does not work (as is the present case), then we should withdraw and use the money we invest in Burma to beef up our own customs infrastructure.

    On the contrary to what you said, I do not think we are that far away from abolishing the death penalty. We may be some ways away but I do not think it is impossible in the foreseeable future.

    This is because I feel that singapore will have to subscribe to international consensus sooner rather than later, especially if the number of countries abolishing it gains greater momentum.

    This is of course, just my own view.

    Regards,
    Zz

  13. elizabeth said

    I’d like to add that if we really want to progress to a more gracious society, we should abolish barbaric means of dealing with the convicted. For how can we call ourselves gracious when we do not even blink an eye when we sentence someone to hang?

    I’ve seen the hanging of Saddam Hussein and it is indeed very cruel.

  14. The problem here is that we are adopting a zero-sum game in our domestic legal code. Refusing to see beyond the technical aspects and merits of such a legislation that is inherently immoral because it removes the power and authority of discretion from our judiciary. over matters of capital nature.

  15. ashwin said

    hello,i know i am sending this really late but i just only came across it. and i am thrilled to know that there are people with such strong views against the death penalty. let me share mine as well.

    my main beef with the death penalty is not if it deters crime (which we all know it does not) or the economics behind it. it is, can an innocent man be put to death due to judicial flaws? the answer is YES ( it was also agreed by the very ‘kind’ mr yong pung how in the case of vignes murthi v pp).

    the death penalty alone imposes an irrevocable sentence. once an inmate is executed, nothing can be done to make amends if a mistake has been made. there is considerable evidence that many mistakes have been made in sentencing people to death.( i will show you the article by Times, remind me to bring it)

    many of the releases of innocent defendants from death row came about as a result of factors outside of the justice system. recently, journalism students in Illinois ( once again, it is an article from the Times magazine) were assigned to investigate the case of a man who was scheduled to be executed, after the system of appeals had rejected his legal claims. the students discovered that one witness had lied at the original trial, and they were able to find the true killer, who confessed to the crime on videotape. the innocent man who was released was very fortunate, but he was spared because of the informal efforts of concerned citizens, not because of the justice system.

    society takes many risks in which innocent lives can be lost. we build bridges, knowing that statistically some workers will be killed during construction; we take great precautions to reduce the number of unintended fatalities. but wrongful executions are a preventable risk. by substituting a sentence of life , we meet society’s needs of punishment and protection without running the risk of an erroneous and irrevocable punishment

    lastly, i would just like to say that death penalty does not serve any social purpose or advance any Constitutional value and is totally arbitrary and unreasonable . whether the State can take the life of an individual under the cover of judicial process, and whether such an act of killing by the State is in accord with the Constitutional norms and values and if, on an issue like this, the learned judge feels strongly that it is not competent to the State to extinguish the flame of life in an individual by employing the instrumentality of the judicial process, it should be his bounden duty, in all conscience, to express his dissent, even if such a killing by the State is legitimised by a previous decision of the court or if it permissible by law. …judicial conclusions should emanate from the judicial philosophy of those who sit in judgement and not from the language of the Constitution. death penalty is irrevocable; it cannot be recalled! It is destructive of the right to life. howsoever careful may be the procedural safeguards erected by the law before the penalty is imposed. it is impossible to eliminate the chance of judicial error. we must inaugurate the Age of Enlightenment and invincibility of society against crime pathology by creating the integrated man(something which is not really taking place). all else, including death penalty, is criminological quackery and jurisprudential philistinism. law must outlaw the delusive drug of the condemned cell.one innocent man being hanged should be enough to wipe out the value of capital punishment for ever. but sadly and most unfortunately, history has shown us that that is not the case.

  16. Girish said

    I know its a bit late to post on this topic but its an important subject for all civilized countries so I will share my views. The hangings of Tochi and Nguyen are two of the most heart breaking international incidents that I have come across in recent times. These punishments have several consequences not the least among them being the terrible toll they would have taken on the victims’ families. Two years after her son’s execution, Nguyen’s mother remains a heart broken, depressed wreck in Australia. In effect, as the Australian PM noted at the time, Mrs Nguyen was the one person who bore the maximum brunt of this sad episode. How can any civilized country subject a poor, struggling refugee woman from Vietnam to such a terrible punishment?
    There are a couple of other implications of the death penalty that are often overlooked by death penalty supporters:
    1) Given that the death penalty is applied so rigidly on drug traffickers in Singapore, all this does is to drive up the price of drugs and the new drug mules are likely to be unsuspecting, naive and immature teenagers like Tochi or desperate individuals like Nguyen. Unfortunately, there is an infinite supply of the Nguyens and Tochis in the world and hanging them will solve nothing.
    2) Its truly sad that Islamic terrorists are considered reformable by the Singapore government but not innocent drug mules like Tochi. Everybody deserves a second chance and if Singapore absolutely must have the death penalty for drug traffickers, it needs to consider giving one last opportunity to traffickers to give up their drugs once they are inside Changi. Maybe a channel where you declare your goods if you are carrying “African herbs” as Tochi was and not sure if they are indeed herbs. If you go through this channel because you are not sure of what you are carrying and it turns out you were carrying banned substances, you will still be free to go. If however, you choose to not go through this channel and are caught with drugs, you are considered a drug trafficker eligible for punishment (death in Singapore’s case).

    This would be a fair system and the Singapore justice system will have no reason to execute unsuspecting mules like Tochi. Neither will this additional filter encourage traffickers since the penalty still remains death with an additional check to protect mules like Tochi and perhaps Nguyen.

  17. I wish they would see as you do.

    One huge hindrance to this , like I’ve said time and time again, is the inability to re-look their ideological foundations for such legislation.

  18. Criinco said

    They do not see it like us because most Singaporeans blindly support the death penalty and couldn’t care less about the tragic hanging of Tochi or Nguyen. After living in Singapore for a while and interacting with ordinary Singaporeans, its clear that, sadly, it is a first world country with third world people. There are exceptions but not nearly enough.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: