Saturday, April 20, 2002


Singapore death penalty shrouded in silence

Capital punishment in the tiny island state has long been shrouded in silence, with little public debate about the issue and even less information on how the process is carried out.

"We do have a general policy not to give any information on the death penalty," a prison official told Reuters.

Even the families of those facing the gallows receive scant notice, and any information about the Friday hangings are typically released only after the deed has been done.

The prosperous city-state of four million, ruled by the People's Action Party for four decades, has had capital punishment for murder since its days as a British colony.

Those found guilty of kidnapping, treason and certain firearm offences could face the gallows, although local civil rights group the Think Centre says about 70 percent of hangings are for drug offences.

The government revealed recently, only in reply to a question in parliament, that 340 people were hanged between 1991 and 2000.

Some 110 nations have abolished capital punishment in law or practice as of November 2001, while another 85 retain it.

Western critics point to the "right to life" as a fundamental reason to abolish the death penalty, but Singapore has shrugged off such notions and looks unlikely to scrap it anytime soon.

The basic difference in our approach springs from our traditional Asian value system which places the interests of the community over and above that of the individual," Singapore's Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew said in a speech.

"No government wants to take on Singapore because they are trading here too. They keep quiet except when their own nationals are arrested," Samydorai said.

"Nobody makes noise when a local is being hung."