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27 May 2005
After reading about the late Shanmugam Murugesu’s case recently, one of my friend in Russia, Irina Makarova, decided to write to me about what she thought about the whole episode. Below is what she wrote to me via email:
“I re-read your e-mail that you sent me around two weeks ago. A letter to president about Shanmugam Murugesu’s case. Does your country(Singapore) have a real problem of drugs? And does execution limit the sale of drugs in your country.? I ask it because here we don’t have such law. And there are so many addicts in Russia. this problem is becoming more and more terrible, as a lot of people and even children died because of drugs. And nothing can stop spreading drugs here. As in Russia people who sell drug don’t get enough punishment. They spent some time in prisons and then leave prison, they started to sell drugs again and again. Sometimes I started to think that only execution can solve this problem.”
I think the above letter reflects what some foriegners might think of Singapore. No matter how harsh our legal system might be, there are always some foreigners who wish they had similiar laws back in their own country.
To answer Ms Irina, Singapore doesn’t have a major drug problem or a drug trafficking problem. Singapore does not hang drug abusers, only drug traffickers. As i have mentioned in my letter to the President, the death penalty does not deter people from trafficking drugs. Improving the chances for getting caught will deter future traffickers. For example, if you dont want to deter bank robbers, having a law to hang bank robbers will not work that much. Because every potential crimminal will always think that he won’t get caught. But if the bank installs security cameras and more security guards, bank robbers might think its too risky to rob the bank as the chance of them getting caught is high.
Last year a small group of foriegners here got caught for possessing cocaine. Two of them paid the hefty bail and they ran away to another country and thus they escaped before they could be sentenced. The truth is rich crimminals and big shots can afford to pay the bail and escape punishment while poor and middle class like Shanmugam suffer because they can’t afford the bail and run away to another country.
Shanmugam was hanged for bringing in 1kg of marijuana into Singapore. It is scientifically proven that marijuana has certain health benefits and in countres like Canada, USA and Holland you can even get a doctor’s prescription for it. Tobacco is the number one cause for cancer all over the world. So shouldn’t we hang cigerrates smokers and those who buy cigerrates too?
Drug addicts in singapore have to serve their time in a special prison called “Drug Rehabilation center”. There they will not only spend time in the cell but they will also have the medical and psychological treatment to help them get rid of their addiction. Even after they are released from jail they still have to go for treatment and report for urine tests regularly for about 2 years after their release. Because of such policies, second time offenders are lower. I must note that such a policy is easier to implement in a small country like Singapore and more difficult for a big country like Russia. 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.