“So many people helping me to wipe my tears”

The public forum on the death penalty in Singapore organised by the Open Singapore Centre (OSC) last weekend did more than just bring Singaporeans together to oppose the execution of small-time drug peddlars. It brought a sense of community to our society.

At least that’s how Madam Letchumi, mother of death-row inmate Shanmugam s/o Murugesu, feels following the forum, which had a record turnout. “This is the first time that so many people whom I have not met before came up to hug me,” the distraught mother said. “They have helped me wipe away my tears.” Madam Letchumi has been pining for her son everyday since he was convicted and sentenced to die. Like any mother, her pain and desperation increases each day as Shanmugam’s date with the hangman’s noose approaches.

Madam Letchumi saw her son in prison yesterday and says that the grins on the faces of the prison guards made her feel that Shanmugam is surely going to be hanged. “What joy does one get to see my son struggle in the air and in pain? This is what you want to do to my son. Please, please have mercy and give him back to me.”

Mr Shanmugam has quietly learned to let go of life. “At least,” he told his mother, “I am comforted by the knowledge that my death will bring the public together to show compassion and to debate the death penalty. I hope that it will save lives in the future.”

Mr Shanmugam also talked about the extreme trauma caused to the loved ones of executed prisoners. “I want Singaporeans to know that families suffer deeply,” he added. He is pleasantly surprised that so many Singaporeans have shown so much heart.

The SDP joins in the call for clemency for Mr Shanmugam as well as for a review of current laws that give judges no choice but to sentence small-time drug peddlars to death.

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