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On Singapore's Death Penalty

by Aik ThengChong, Singapore, The Buddhist Channel, Sept 1, 2010

I refer to your article ‘Malaysian in Singapore death row spends time reading Buddhist scriptures

Yong Vui Kong was sentenced to death in January 2009 for trafficking 47 grams of heroin. He committed the crime when he was 19 years old then. Under Singapore's Misuse of Drugs Act the death penalty is mandatory when someone is caught trafficking more than 30 grams of heroin, leaving the judge with no discretion to consider issues such as mitigating circumstances or to hand down alternative sentences.

Due to the relentless and tireless effort of his defends lawyer who appeal all the way to the Malaysian Government to save his life from the gallows, it has drawn considerable attention to his case and also the issue of the Death Penalty which is still retained by 58 countries around the world.

The main rational on why the death penalty is necessary are usually given on the ground of public safety or as a deterrent measure to prevent others from committing the same crime.

-But does Vui Kong deserve to die on whichever ground the crime he has committed falls on?

- Does he need to die for the perceived number of lives he would have destroy with the 47 grams of heroin he has in his possession?

- Are we not infringing on the ‘right of life’ by taking away another?

- The law in Singapore says it is a crime for individual to take his/her own life, yet in the same breath, the State is allow to do so under its laws. Is this called justice?

- Will his death put a stop to other traffickers from bring in more heroin into Singapore?

Far from it, when there is demand, there will always be supply available.

One problem with the legal system is that, once words have been put into writing and become laws, it is already casted in ‘stone’, it is without mercy, sympathy or compassion as in the case of Vui Kong. No doubt as a last resort, he can appeal for clemency to higher authority, but it is hardly ever successful, as the authority does want to be seem to be setting precedence by granting clemency in such cases.

Vui Kong needs to be punished for his crime, but we certainly need not be that vengeful in our laws as to want to take his life.

May the Buddha be with you and may you be successful in your recent second plea of clemency with the Singapore President.


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