7 June 2005
While there certainly are valid reasons to abolish mandatory death sentences, I cannot but help sympathise with Irina Makarova over the chaotic situation in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union and rise of criminal gangs, secret societies (“Mafia”) and so on in the anarchic situation of post-socialist Russia.
So severe penalties (not necessarily the death penalty) implemented firmly and fairly are needed to help deter crime.
Warren wrote: “The best way is still to educate the pubic about drug abuse, through schools and community gatherings. And of course increasing the possibility of getting caught.”
However, most importantly, governments should look into the social and economic conditions leading people to commit crimes and try and address the problem at its root.
For example, if motorists often take illegal shortcuts, building more places where they can make legal U-turns certainly reduce much incidence of it, except among a few recalcitrant die-hards who need stronger measures to stop them.
Just come up and see the number of motorists in Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya and rest of the Klang Valley who not only ride motorcycles on the wrong side of the road, but cars as well and they make U-turns where they aren’t supposed to, thus endangering law-abiding motorists like me.
Also, look at how traffic lights mean nothing, especially to motorcyclists who go whether the light is red, amber or green.
Then, let’s not forget the degree of corruption in the civil service up here. Do you want that in Singapore?
That’s why me and many fellow Malaysians admire Singapore for the relative order and little corruption you enjoy there and yes, one of the requirements for achieving that is effective enforcement and severe penalties , which people like myself and Irina yearn for in our respective countries.
Have you ever asked why leftist protestors and demonstrators in Russia carry portraits of Josef Stalin, instead of protraits of “moderate” leaders like Khruschev, Brezhnev, Andropov or Gorbachev?
The people of the former Soviet Union must see something good in Stalin, despite all that the West and his enemies have said to malign him.
Education is the option oftentimes suggested by impotent NGO’s but no amount of education will deter people from committing a crime or beating the system when they stand to gain materially or gain much time or convenience by committing the crime or offence.
Increased chances of getting caught are further deterrents, as Warren rightly said, but if all they get is a slap on the wrist, then getting caught won’t matter much to them, just like the drug traffickers in Russia which Irana speaks about.
Detering crime requires a combination of penal, moral, sociological and other measures and while even the harshest of punishments won’t completely eradicate crime, I’d like to see whether crime will decrease in the absence of adequate punishment.
There’s also good reason to review crime and corresponding punishment based upon scientific and other evidence but the last thing politicians should want to do is to throw the baby out with the bathwater and see their country descend into a crime-infested cesspit due to loony-liberal policies.
SDP: Dear Charles,
You start your letter off very rationally when you say that severe penalties (not necessarily the death penalty) implemented firmly and fairly are needed to help deter crime. Amen to that.
What we find harder to comprehend is why you move from discussing the death penalty for drug smugglers to the chaotic (according to your observations) conditions of Malaysian roads. If the Malaysian traffic police are incompetent in enforcing laws, how does that make executing small-time drug peddlers in Singapore anymore right?
Perhaps you are trying to say that the Singapore Government is much better (define better however you wish) than its Malaysian counterpart. This still does not mean that the death penalty as it is currently employed in Singapore is right. They are completely separate matters. We need to get out of the infantile mode of thinking that society will disintegrate into a crime-infested cesspit just because we want to address injustice in society. In short, a society can be orderly and still not have insane policies like killing people found carrying small amounts of drugs. You say look at Russia, we say think Melbourne, Toronto, or even Boston. Its always problematic when you pick the worst examples to substantiate your point because you tend to sow fear. At SDP we prefer to point to hope.
You then descend into lunacy when you point to Josef Stalin to make your case that (some) Russians want an orderly society and are waxing nostalgic. In case you dont know: approximately 20 million, including up to 14.5 million needlessly starved to death under Stalins reign. Another million were executed for political “offences”. Nearly 10 million more were deported, exiled or imprisoned in work camps, with many of the estimated five million sent to the ‘Gulag Archipelago’ never returning alive. Other estimates place the number of deported at 28 million, including 18 million sent to the ‘Gulag’. No, these are not statistics fabricated by Stalins Western enemies. They are documented evidence with files, ledges, and books that have names of the victims.
Of course, there are people who long for the return of Stalin-type rulers. They are also those who also long for Hitlerian type of politics or the days during Imperial Japan expansion. Should we bring these regimes back or work towards such systems?
You write: I’d like to see whether crime will decrease in the absence of adequate punishment. You have to be silly to think that it will. No one anywhere on this website or anytime in this debate over the death penalty is advocating that we make punishment for criminals inadequate. What we are saying is that the death penalty for small-time drug smugglers is excessive. This much we hope that you can appreciate. If a discussion is not to degenerate into ridiculousness, we must avoid exaggerating the oppositions claims: We seek to end the death penalty for drug peddlers, you say that will bring about the malaise of the Russian society. You have not shown us how the two are connected, much less how one will lead to the other.
You say that politicians should not lean towards loony-liberal policies. Excellent point. At the same time, we caution against the wild-eyed, scare-mongering tactics of right-wing autocrats.