Saturday, September 28, 2013

Look Back: Death penalty change not based on winning votes: Shanmugam

From a news report a year ago.

Aug 04, 2012

THE recent government decision to lift the Mandatory Death Penalty for certain crimes was no populist move.

There is no current widespread support for campaigns against capital punishment, Law Minister K. Shanmugam pointed out.

As such, there is no political mileage to be gained from changing the death penalty law.

"If we went on popular sentiment, our internal surveys show that 70 per cent of Singaporeans favour the death penalty. If it was politics, the death penalty is one area we don't need to touch," he told Insight in an interview on Tuesday.

The PAP stands to win no votes from the change, he added, whether from those for or against the death penalty.

"They are not going to vote for us because we change this. The people who oppose the Government, oppose it for a variety of reasons. How many votes are there on the death penalty issue?

"Any sensible assessment will tell you that it is sheer nonsense to think that this is going to be a move that you have to do because of pressure or that you are going to get a lot of votes because you move. There are no votes in this either way.

"But governance cannot and should not be based only on such political calculations. You need to do what you think is right and we thought it is the right thing to do at this stage."

The proposed changes, announced last month in Parliament, give judges discretion in certain instances of drug trafficking and murder. Some activist groups have hailed it as a victory and attribute the result to their efforts.

Mr Shanmugam disagreed that public pressure had anything to do with it. He said the Government periodically reviews its death penalty laws, such as in 2006, 2009 and again in 2011.

That said, Mr Shanmugam explained that the Government will engage stakeholders before changing the law: "We consulted very widely with academics, with criminal law practitioners and now we intend - before the legislation has been put in place - to consult very widely."


[One year on, 2 convicts may be given a reprieve from the death penalty.]

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