Breaking news: MDA tells bookstore to remove death penalty book

Singapore Democrats

The SDP has received information that the Media Development Authority has asked Kinokuniya Bookstore to remove copies of Once A Jolly Hangman written by Mr Alan Shadrake from its shelves. The book describes the work of Mr Darshan Singh who was Singapore’s main executioner.

Mr Shadrake, a freelance writer and journalist, has written a compelling book looking behind the scenes of Singapore’s execution machine. The death penalty, as it is applied in Singapore, hangs on average one person a week, a rate that is one of the highest in the world.


Once A Jolly Hangman has been making its rounds in Singapore and the Singapore Democrats have obtained a copy. It recounts in shocking detail the gruesome hangings that go on in Changi prison.

Although the book has not been officially banned yet, it seems that the authorities are concerned about its contents and has ordered Kinokuniya not to sell it. This is reminiscent of communist type rule in China and erstwhile Eastern Europe. It certainly does not befit a modern First World government that the PAP touts itself to be.

In the past, Mr Francis Seow’s book To Catch A Tartar received similar treatment. Sold at Select Books in the 1990s, Government officials ordered the copies to be removed although the book was not officially banned.

Perhaps nervous about the growing antipathy towards the mandatory death penalty for small-time drug mules who do the bidding of druglords, the Government is trying to restrict information on the subject.

Mr M Ravi, Singapore’s human rights lawyer, has been rigorously campaigning and advocating against the law. His efforts have resulted in the Malaysian Government appealing to its Singaporean counterpart to spare the life of 21-year-old Yong Vui Kong, a Malaysian due to be hanged soon for peddling heroin.

Mr Shadrake has been researching the book for years. He dedicates one chapter to different persons who were hanged or had faced the gallows. His interviews include Dr Chee Soon Juan who was involved in the rudimentary stages of the campaign against the mandatory death penalty. 

He also wrote about how a German lady Ms Julia Bohl got off the death sentence when Germany pressed the PAP Government not to execute her, and compared the case to Nguyen Van Tuong, an Australian of Vietnamese descent, who was hanged because the Australian Government did not pressure Singapore.