The silence about death penalty is deafening – and disturbing


Apart from media reports about the case of one Vignes Mourthi who was charged, convicted and hanged for allegedly selling drugs to an undercover officer, there has been not a word from members of the public.

“Why bother?” or “He deserved it!” would probably be the predictable answers from most if not all who have read about the case. But was the general public given enough information to arrive at those answers?

Guilty or not, one has a right to a fair trial and/or even a re-trial an especially in a case where the death penalty is being handed down because you cannot undo death by hanging.

Mr Mourthi, a 23 year old Malaysian, was convicted last September of smuggling 27.65g of heroin into Singapore. His lawyer M. Ravi mounted several court appeals for a re-trial.

The local media had reported that his lawyer “argued that a handwritten police transcript of a conversation between Mourthi and an undercover police officer used as evidence in the original trial should not have been admissible in court.”

Furthermore “Mr Ravi again argued that the prisoner was the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice. He claimed that a document – a record of a conversation between Vignes and a narcotics officer – had not been produced at the preliminary inquiry before the trial. The defence was caught by surprise by this document, he said, which the trial judge had relied on heavily to convict Vignes.”

It is obvious to anyone who bothered to read about the case that the judges and public prosecutors were more concerned about procedures rather then seriously considering a re-trial. For instance, in another media report “When Mr Ravi asked the CJ (Chief Justice Yong Pung How) if the public prosecutor was “still maintaining that an innocent man be hanged because of procedure”, the CJ answered: “Yes, the answer is yes.”

In a statement to the court J B Jeyaretnam, whom Mourthi’s father had approached for help, “said that evidence given by a police officer that allegedly recorded a conversation between the accused and himself bore no date and could have been written later.”

You don’t need to be a lawyer to see that there were doubts and inconsistencies in Mourthi’s case.

A re-trial should have been granted in light of all this but it is too late for Vignes Mourthi as our over-zealous judges and public prosecutors send him to his death very early in the morning of 26 Sept 2003.

The thing that makes this whole thing even more disturbing is the fact that nothing was said by the members of the public. Not even letters to the ST’s Forum or TODAY. Compare this deafening silence to the “noise” that was created by some members of the public when news broke that Robinson’s Department Store was being sold-off. Some have even gone so far as to mount a signature campaign for a petition against the sale of Robinson’s.

One is left to wonder about the kind of pathetic society we’re living in.

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