Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Anti-Mandatory Death Penalty

I have written about this topic a couple of years ago in some internet forums. I have just realized that I didn't record it down in my blog here.

The issue of Death Penalty arises every now and then whenever there are cases concern drug traffickers being tried and the convicted are due for hanging. I am no expert in law but somehow I find it quite funny that even murder could be lessen to a crime of manslaughter which doesn't necessary warrant a mandatory death penalty but drug traffickers are dealt with a direct mandatory death penalty regardless of age and other circumstances.

The present case involving Yong Vui Kong is worth noting because the judge preceding the case has specifically asked the prosecutor and defendant lawyer into his chamber to ask the prosecutor whether the charge could be lessen in any ways. But the prosecutor refused to lessen the charge and the judge, although apparently he felt that the accused deserve a second chance in life, has no choice but to read out the verdict of death penalty just because it is the MANDATORY sentence.

This is the case whereby a law that stipulated a MANDATORY GRAVE SENTENCE of DEATH PENALTY has robbed the preceding judges of the necessary discretion that he needs. Our legal system should not be diminished into just a de-humanized system of strict and rigid rules because justice is based on two main faculties, one is the cold logic of right and wrong, the other, the consideration of human emotions and circumstances whereby crimes are committed.

Furthermore, there may be circumstances that wrong findings may result in injustice being done. In our system, when you are charged and accused of a serious crime like drug trafficking, the onus of proof lies with you, the accused, rather than the prosecutor. For example, if someone made use of your friendship to carry illegal drugs into Singapore to pass it to someone as a "Christmas Gift" and you were caught at the custom, even if you are unaware that the "gift" is actually a decoy containing illegal drugs, you will be charged as drug trafficker.

There isn't a need for any further proof of any sorts, other than the drug appears in the bag that belongs to you. Even if someone mischievously sabotage you by stuffing it into your bag without you knowing.

There is almost zero chance for you to prove your innocence. The prosecutor does not need to prove that you are a "willing" partner in the trafficking and simply by the fact that these drugs are found in your bags, you will be charged, found guilty and hung. The police and prosecutor are least interested in finding out who gave you the drugs and if you are paid to do so, who are the masterminds behind it.

This is the absurdity of the law. There are also criticisms that while our government is over zealous in hanging every small drug mules but yet they have legitimate business dealings with the biggest drug lord in Burma. If that is true, then that is really the biggest irony.

I always wonder whether there are any FRUITFUL follow up on the capture of these small drug mules, beside sending them to the gallows. I mean, shouldn't the police follow the leads from these drug mules to crack down on the drug ring leaders? Or even cooperate with foreign agencies to crack down on these international drug trafficking organizations? If what these drug mules have provided help to crack down on the bigger ring leaders, shouldn't we show some mercy and clemency over them?

Maybe in Singapore, the mindset of the authorities is that showing mercy or clemency is a sign of "weakness". It is not. It is a sign of social maturity, progress and humility if appropriate clemency is shown to those who deserve it.

Drug Trafficking is a serious offense but so is Death Penalty as a grave sentence. A serious offense like Drug Trafficking would need serious findings of guilt other than physical evidence. Just like the case of killing a person. It could well be a MURDER which is planned intent, or manslaughter in a "freak" incident. Or just basically an accident. The intent of the accused is of paramount importance. Thus I could not understand why the proof for such a serious offense like Drug Trafficking is just so simple.

Death Penalty is a serious grave sentence that could not be rectified later if the judgment is found to wrong. It is an irreversible sentence. Strange enough, such a serious sentence could be belittled and trivialized by the law in making it "Mandatory" in cases like drug trafficking. Law is not at all black and white but has a big patch of gray. There are many instances where the judge could not be conclusive in the findings but just based on what he chose to believe to make his judgment. If this is the case, discretion should be given to the judge to make the necessary moderation in his sentencing.

I admire the persistency of some of the human rights activists and lawyers in continuing their fight against death penalty. I may not agree with them totally in the abolishment of death penalty because there are indeed many people who did evil things in this world who need no lesser punishment than the death penalty. But I would find that have a law that assert Death Penalty as the Mandatory sentence for Drug Trafficking or other crimes is not that appropriate at all. In fact, I do not prefer to have mandatory sentencing embedded in any law of crimes because we are a human society. Discretion should be given to the wise judges to decide on the sentence based on the severity of the case and the various circumstances surrounding it.

While many activists may feel hopeful that Yong Vui Kong may have a chance in his appeal because he has won unprecedented battle to get his execution extended twice, but I feel that as long as the law is not changed to get rid of the Mandatory nature of the Death Penalty, chances are that he will not get his second chance in life. There will be many more Yong Vui Kong in future.

For the mean time, it would be good for his family to treasure whatever time he has left in this world while we shall continue to press for a CHANGE in our law and justice to be done by getting the authorities to get the main culprits, the drug ring leaders, to proper justice.

Goh Meng Seng


Anonymous said...

thank you for this well-written commentary. i'm also not against death penalty per se, but i support the abolishment of mandatory death penalty.

fievel said...

It is because our ruling elites do not give a flying f what happens on the grounds. They do not care. Period.