Friday, May 06, 2005

Singapore President has rejected death row appeal

Singapore's president has rejected an appeal by the teenage children of a 38-year-old man on death row, saying he would not receive clemency and underlining the country's tough stand on drugs trafficking.
(Source: Reuters, on

This is not entirely unexpected, and means that Shanmugam Murugesu will be hung for trafficking about 1 kg of cannabis.

As noted a few days ago by serialdeviant, in a post which was chronicled on, "Does Singapore needs to reform its policy on the death penalty? Hell yes. Is he the best person to be the poster boy for the ills of the system? No. He is guilty of the crime, there’s no frame-up, there’s no mistaken identity here. He doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on. True, he has young kids who will practically be orphans if he is executed, but he should’ve thought of that before he agreed to smuggle the drugs."

Repeating what I said in the comments section of that post:

I suspect that the reason Shanmugam Murugesu is being used as a "poster boy" is not so much because he has a "legal leg to stand on" (serialdeviant is right; he doesn't) but rather because it gives those who have a vested interest in reform an excuse to trot out all their arguments once again.

So, it's utterly unsurprising that he has been used, because at least in his case there are other factors which make it seem rather inequitable that he is to be executed.

I'm unsure if he should be given a chance. My gut instinct is that he should, but the question is: what sort of 'chance' could this be? Would his children truly be better of with a father in jail (which is, I think, the extent of any possible pardon) rather than one who has been executed?

I disagree with the idea that Singapore's death penalty should be "reformed". Perhaps someone would point me to cogently held opinions which elucidate why Singapore in particular should remove her death penalty?

I suppose that the list posted by Mc Dermott probably constitutes such an opinion. In response:

Fact #1 : Drug abuse is not the only social ill that destroy lives. Addiction to smoking, gambling and alcohol kill as many, if not more, people in Singapore than drug abuse. Should we also prosecute and hang directors of tobaccco companies, casino operators and alcohol maufacturers?
No, for the same reason that gambling is now going to be allowed in Singapore.

Fact #2 : Drug couriers like Shanmugum often take on such jobs because of economic hardship. Syndicates who want to ship drugs into Singapore often use decoys to distract the police. Shanmugum was likely deployed as such a decoy. At the time when Shanmugum was caught at the causeway, there may have been 4 or 5 more other couriers who had escaped the custom. This is one way in which drugs continue to flow into Singapore.

and is your claim, sir, that reducing the penalty will help matters? The fact that there continue to be drug couriers suggests that the penalty actually needs to be increased; but that is hardly possible. Our only option, therefore, is to maintain the penalty.

Economic hardship cannot be a consideration in sentencing; that is discrimination in it's purest form. Each courier makes a personal decision, not based on coercion (otherwise defences would be available to him), to take the risk.

Fact #3 : Despite the use of the death penalty as a deterrent to would-be-criminals, prison population in Singapore is one of the highest in the world. "Singapore locks away more people than over half the nations of the world, a British survey on prison population shows. For every 100,000 people, 359 are in prison - above the sum total of Cambodia (46), Malaysia (121), Brunei (120) and Indonesia (29). It also exceeds those in developed countries such as Japan (48), France (85), Britain (139) and Australia (116).
And again, I must ask, is the logical result of this fact that a reduction in penalty would be salutary? I suppose the alternative argument is that the death penalty is not useful, and the interests of preserving human life are paramount, but that is a policy decision which has been made by our Government.

Fact #4 : While we hang small-time drug couriers, the Singapore Government invests in companies owned by Burma's most notorious druglord, Lo Hsing Han.
Whether this is true, or not, this has nothing to do with the law in question.

Fact #5 : Currently, more than 100 countries have abolished the death penalty either in practice or in law. Singapore is one of 25 countries that are still carrying out executions. Not only that, we have the highest per capita rate of executions in the world.
This is similarly irrelevant. As stated above, this is a policy decision which has been made by our elected Government.

Fact #6 : There is a lack of safeguards in the judicial system to ensure that no innocent men or women should be executed. In an exchange during the final appeal of Malaysian trafficker Vignes Mourthi, when asked by the defence counsel if the public prosecutor was still maintaining that an innocent person be hanged because of legal procedure, Chief Justice Yong Pung How replied, "Yes. The answer is yes."
While it is possible that some reform in this area might be necessary, the response to even an absolute lack of safeguards is not to remove the law, especially where the situation under the law (as highlighted in previous "Facts") is such that there continue to be drug couriers. This claim may be meritorious, but it's conflation with calls for removal is unhelpful, and will probably cause it to be dismissed without consideration. Perhaps a more detailed analysis could be undertaken by interested parties.

Of course, I agree with the suggested response, which is to encourage open debate. I quote:

Think Centre, with the support of concerned members of civil society and the arts community, is organising a candlelight vigil for Shanmugam Murugesu. He is expected to be hanged on the morning of this day. The evening will involve a series of candlelit music, performances and readings by concerned, non-partisan individuals as an expression of our 3C's:"Compassion", "Care", & "Concern" .

Fri 6th May 2005
Time: 7 – 10 pm
Venue: The Substation arts centre garden,
45 Armenian Street
(Back Entrance by old National Library carpark)

Please come and participate. Admission is free.

This event will hopefully be the start of a public awareness campiagn to get Singaporeans to talk openly about the pros and cons of capital punishment in their country.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Sad State of the "Stupid Dumbass Party" (lets googlebomb them)

Wannabe Lawyer claims that the Singapore Democrats are better known as the Stupid Dumbass Party.
The Stupid Dumbass Party

1. consists of opportunists, lunatics and morons

2. is run by clowns (”Show-me-the-money!” Chee!)

3. have no economists (as evidenced by the extremely cock-up policy suggestions)

[Source: Wannabe Lawyer, 3/5/2005]

Reading his post, I remained unsure. Yes, suprious claims were made, yes, they were made without any substantive proof, yes, they are of such nature that would make any logical being very unsure of voting for them. But singabloodypore fulfills the first two of these and I've never felt it necessary to call him Steven McDumbass. I watch That '70s show, and I feel that "dumbass" and "foot up your ass" are overused.

Then I read this. [via Wannabe Lawyer] Gilbert Koh has had his posts copied by the Stupid Dumbass Party, and says: "mysterious-SDP-person-who-has-been-reading-my-blog-&-copying-from-it, please remove my posts from your website immediately."

Stupid Dumbass Party, stop being so freaking imbeclic. Unless copyright is specifically waived, it applies so everything, and copying posts without consent is also really bad manners. (Fair Use exceptions also probably do not apply.) I hope you get the PAP's foot up your ass, you Stupid Dumbass Party.

Now, this is the interesting bit. I don't know if shianux intended it, but I think that we (bloggers) should demonstrate our power. I think this is best achieved through a googlebomb, the seeds of which have already been planted by shianux. Basically, lets make a google "I'm feeling lucky" search for "Stupid Dumbass Party" return the Singapore Democrat website. The method for achieving this madness is simple: Simply link to whenever you say "Stupid Dumbass Party."

:D :D :D

Perhaps not as much of a classic as "french military victories," but still fun. (for the full effect, open a new browser at; type in "french military victories," and click "I'm feeling lucky.")

RSF Annual Report 2005

... Singapore's low ranking was due to the complete absence of independent newspapers, radio stations and TV stations, the application of prison sentences for press offences, media self-censorship and the opposition's lack of access to the state media...

For several decades, the government has had a very sophisticated strategy for silencing Singaporean and foreign journalists who wrote stories that are embarrassing for the political elite. The threat of heavy fines or distribution bans have sufficed to bring press groups to heel. The British news weekly The Economist was punished in this fashion in 2004...
(emphasis mine)
[Source: RSF Annual Report 2005, 2/5/2005, via Singabloodypore]

I had read about this earlier, and was going to comment upon it, but Singabloodypore beat me to the punch. In any case...

The problems cited in the first paragraph and the first section of the second paragraph largely refer to the effect of provisions in the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act. This is the main means through which legitimate publications may be legally censured. This is achieved through two methods, first: Every periodical must be licensed; this license lasts for only 12 months, and may be revoked. Second, every periodical may be subject to a distribution limit. Apart from this, to publish, sell or distribute any periodical is an offence punishable with a fine of up to SGD 50,000 and 2 years imprisonment.

Allegedly, this is the cause of all the other problems; because any publishing business may effectively be rendered illegal, or become severely constricted by circulation limits which will have a negative impact upon advertising and hence render the business unfeasible.

Whether or not this is true, the bolded allegation is erroneous. Mr. Brown links to what really happened. ;) (short version - they were sued for defamation and settled.)

A note of about unemployment rates (3.9% in Q1!)

Singapore workers yesterday celebrated May Day facing the prospect of increased unemployment after the government reported that the jobless rate had unexpectedly risen to 3.9 per cent in the first three months of 2005.
[Source: John Burton, Financial Times, 2/5/2005 via Singabloodypore]

I knew about this as early as April the 28th, but neglected to blog it because the change seemed rather small; the Channel NewsAsia headline was: "Singapore's Q1 jobless rate rises to 3.9% from 3.7% in previous quarter" (plus, I'm a little biased. Can you tell? )

Also, I have no idea how variable wage schemes help employers to fire employees without retrenchment benefits, unless the employee's basic wage is ZERO, which is hardly likely. Variable wage schemes are generally used to reward employees during good times, while allowing employers the ability to reduce wages during hard times without the stigma of a "pay cut."

I will note, however, that because the employment laws (particularly executive employment) in Singapore are so business friendly, it is far easier/cheaper for a company here to fire a worker than, say, in Europe.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Wee Kim Wee, a People's President, dies at 89

Said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong: "Most of all, we will remember him as a true Singaporean, who, in his own life, experienced the many facets of being a Singaporean, having been a worker, a sportsman, a public officer, a corporate leader, a Samaritan, a husband and a father."
Dr Wee, he said, was completely lacking in self-importance or stiff formality.
"He was unassuming, interested in people, and at ease interacting with one and all, from the highest in the land to the humblest," said Mr Lee in a letter to the widow, Mrs Wee Sok Hiong.
Clement Mesenas and Wong Fei Wan, Today, 2/5/2005]

Is the Epoch Times a real news network?

they used the excuse of “assembly without permit” to prosecute these two innocent housewives.
Organizing an assembly without a permit happens to be against the law in Singapore, and it is a rule which has been established according to all Rule of Law principles - it is a just law. Hence, it is not an "excuse", nor can the housewives properly be called "innocent." I doubt there were only two people on the scene, though, which is what is implied.

Later, the judge in the Singapore court used reasons such as “freedom of speech is not absolute” to give an unjust verdict.
There is no absolute freedom of speech, nor can there ever be. It is always bound by other laws, such as defamation. The use of the word "unjust" in this sentence is misleading; it implies that the judgment was not in conformance with the law in Singapore, and this has yet to be determined. (I am assuming that the convicted persons have appealed.)

The unjust verdict against Falun Gong practitioners may be an opportunity for the world and international human rights organizations to review Singapore’s legal system and institutions, especially Singapore’s practice and protection of United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Again, it is not unjust. Fact 1: The "world and international human rights organizations" have no right to review the laws of any sovereign state. Fact 2: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not a treaty, and suggestions that it's provisions constitute binding international law are hilarious in reality. (No matter how convincing the theoretical arguments are, and even theoretically, there is a lack of any broad consensus amongst the academics.)

I am surprised that what purports to be a legitimate news network, "The Epoch Times," has seen fit to publish what can be regarded as nothing more than inflammatory nonsense. I refer only to the portions I quoted; I agree that the fact that the Falun Gong has appealed to a working group in the UN is newsworthy.

The Epoch Times might have been adhering to a press statement issued by the Falun Gong, but that is simply bad journalism. Indeed, this sort of journalism is utterly unconvincing; what is needed for an informed public to make a decision is a rendition of the facts, and the list of charges. This has been lacking from all of the Epoch Times coverage of the matter. Indeed, there is no flaw in coverage which is opinionated, as long as the basic facts are also present.

This was, of course, covered (by quoting) in singabloodypore.

[Source: The Epoch Times, 2/5/2005]

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Singabloodypore.blogspot is leaving!

On the right column of singabloodypore, Steven McDermott writes: "I will be closing down the blogspot site in the near future, but will continue to post on both sites for the time being." (click for larger view)

In case anyone was unaware, this site was created as a deliberate copy of singabloodypore.

This was done for two reasons: to act as a balance and demonstrate the mediocrity of analysis singabloodypore regurgitated, and because of a deep concern for, and a desire to reach out to Steven, to possibly help him obtain a more balanced view of Singapore and perhaps resolve what seems to be unmitigated hate. A secondary reason, of course, was that I found the entire exercise enormously entertaining.

For whatever reason, singabloodypore is now moving to civiblog; and while I suppose I might follow, the default layout of that service is -ahem- rather bland (and singabloodypore.civiblog has not deviated much from it.)

While Steven has definitely read this blog (singasingapore was also graciously linked by singabloodypore), I note with regret that he has never engaged me in any sort of reasoned debate upon any issue. This might be due to the fact that I have not been around for long (and yet he's already leaving!!!) or because the blog "was and is a means for [Steven] to collect articles on Singapore that [he] could not read in the Singaporean national press." (link - search for the words "could not") but surely the standard should be that the articles collected (and presumably endorsed) must be worth reading, and not simply sycophantic. Indeed, that is why I read singabloodypore at all.

I do admit that I have not responded to certain seemingly substantive articles, particularly the Acidflask post, but I plead lack of time. Regarding that post, actually, even if the key fact quoted was true: "In the years 1999-2003, Singapore scored below average in terms of impact factors in 19 out of 21 fields tracked by Thomson ISI;" this does not support many other assertions made; such as "the conclusion is crystal-clear: we are very good at producing unstimulating scientific research" or "Singapore is not a major contributor to the physical sciences, even in per capita and per paper terms" at least in the way the author implicitly asks us to accept them.

They are only true (for these cases) provided we accept that citations-per-paper is the overwhelmingly important factor in deciding contribution to physical sciences, or how stimulating the scientific research Singapore has produced is.

This cannot be the case. Perhaps a better test of academia is peer review; as adopted by the Times World University Rankings (mirrored here) which ranked the NUS 18th worldwide. And remember that 20% of that result was based on citations-per-paper from ISI, and 50% on peer review.

In any case, singabloodypore is leaving blogspot, and it is unlikely I will follow. I could, of course, maintain this blog as it is, and trackback to the civiblog site, but it's just not as fun!

*childish pout*