Forum on death penalty and the rule of law

The Open Singapore Centre will hold a public forum entitled
The Death Penalty and the Rule of Law in Singapore
on 16 April 2005 (Saturday) at 2:00 pm
at Hotel Asia, 37 Scotts Road, Singapore 228229

A Malaysian by the name of Vignes Mourthi was convicted of drug possession and hanged on 26 September 2003. Several questions were raised regarding the conviction. For example, a handwritten note of a conversation between Mourthi and an undercover police officer that was tendered in court as evidence bore no date and was not produced at the preliminary inquiry stage. This raised the possibility that the note could have been written at a later time by the police to secure a conviction. Not only was the note allowed as evidence, the trial judge had apparently relied on it heavily to convict Mourthi. When the defence counsel asked whether the system is such that an innocent person could be hanged, the Chief Justice said: Yes.

Mourthi had also asked the Chief Justice to let him know of the grounds of decision for the dismissal his appeal. The Chief Justice told the condemned prisoner that he can read it in due course. But Mourthi never got to read the reasons for the dismissal because he was executed before they were written.

These issues about our legal system become even more pronounced when one considers that Singapore has hanged more than 400 persons since 1991, the majority for drug possession. This is the highest number of executions per capita in the world!

This forum will also bring up the case of Shanmugam s/o Murugesu, another man who has also been condemned to die under our legal system for possession of cannabis. He is expected to be hanged towards the end of April 2005.

Amnesty International has pointed out that the people who are caught and hanged are the poor in society who are often preyed upon by druglords. While Singapore arrests these smalltime peddlers, drug barons continue to operate untouched. One such druglord is Lo Hsing-han, a Burmese heroin producer whom an Australian TV station has said to have business interests in Singapore. In fact the US State Department has said that over half [of the investments in Burma] from Singapore have been tied to the family of narco-trafficker Lo Hsing-han. Author and expert on drug trafficking in Burma, Bruce Hawke has also written that The entry [of money from drug trafficking] to the legitimate global system is not Burma but Singapore…

On another matter, remisier Boon Suan Ban, has been remanded at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) at Presidents pleasure for harassing the Chief Justice. Again many questions arise from this matter. For example, does the District Court have the power to order the detention of persons at a mental institute? What was the evidence that was used to send Boon to IMH? What rights does the detainee Boon have? What does this say about the rule of law in Singapore?

These and other questions will be tackled by a panel of speakers at the forum:

1. J. B. Jeyaretnam, Chairman, Open Singapore Centre
2. M. Ravi, Lawyer
3. S. Samydorai, Executive Director, Think Centre
4. Chee Soon Juan, Secretary-General, Singapore Democratic Party

The Open Singapore Centre is presently in discussion with Amnesty International to send a speaker to the forum.

It is long overdue that the issue of the death penalty and the rule of law in Singapore be debated and the Government held accountable for its actions. Make it a point to attend the forum on April 16. All are welcome. Bring your family and friends.

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