SINGAPORE: The death penalty for drug traffickers is “not the solution that solves all the problems”, it is part of Singapore’s total anti-drug framework that also includes rehabilitating abusers, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam on Thursday (Oct 26).
“You have to focus on reducing supply and the death penalty comes within the context of trying to reduce the supply by making it clear to traffickers that if they get caught, they will face the death penalty,” said Mr Shanmugam at the opening of the second Asia-Pacific Forum Against Drugs.
“I have said repeatedly, (we) do not take any joy or comfort in having the death penalty, and nobody hopes or wants to have it imposed,” he added. “We do it reluctantly, on the basis that it is for the greater good of society … it saves more lives. That is the rationale on which we have it.”
Mr Shanmugam said traffickers know that the likelihood of being caught and prosecuted is “quite high”.
“So the stakes are made very clear upfront. And that I think has a very powerful influence on those who seek to traffic drugs into Singapore.”
CALL FOR RESPONSIBLE ADVOCACY
Mr Shanmugam noted that there have been growing calls from activists and “well-funded campaigns” around the world, including in Singapore, for a softer stance against drugs. These activists present the argument that it is medically acceptable to use drugs or propose policies to decriminalise drug use.
“In our view that is reckless, irresponsible, it’s a cop-out and it’s a step backward,” said Mr Shanmugam. “It will worsen the problem, it has worsened the problem in the countries that have taken these steps.”
Speaking to an audience of more than 200 local and foreign delegates from government, non-governmental organisations and civil society groups, Mr Shanmugam cited Colorado in the United States as an example of where legalisation of drugs has “gone wrong”.
“They had found that there were suddenly a lot of drivers who were driving under the influence of drugs, and a lot of them were dying in accidents … nobody counts these costs,” said the minister.
“So I would ask the death penalty abolitionists to go and study the places where laws have been relaxed, places where drugs have been legalised, find out what has happened and look at the number of deaths that have taken place in society, and then come back and let’s talk.”
"ROMANTICISING" THOSE IN DRUG TRADE
In Singapore, Mr Shanmugam pointed out that some have been trying to sway public opinion of the death penalty by “romanticising individuals who have been involved in the drug trade”.
“What they do not focus on are the thousands of people whose lives are ruined, whose families are ruined,” he said, adding that the Singapore Government and agencies are “happy and prepared” to debate the issue with the death penalty abolitionists at any forum.
Mr Shanmugam also cited figures to show that the drug problem in East Asia and Southeast Asia is worsening.
"The proportion of ketamine seized in this region as a proportion of what was seized in the world, in 2010 it was 65 per cent, in 2015 it was 97 per cent," he said.
Seizures of heroin have also increased while hundreds of new psychoactive substances were produced between 2009 and 2016, he added.