Death penalty 'a powerful deterrent'

Information from drug couriers has helped nab almost 90 traffickers since 2012, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday, as he defended the use of the death penalty for drug cases as a powerful deterrent against drug kingpins operating here.

He dismissed arguments by Nominated MP Kok Heng Leun and MP Alex Yam (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) against capital punishment, saying they should focus on the victims instead of "just crying with the people in the death row".

Mr Kok argued that "however much trust we have in our system... mistakes are unavoidable" and once execution takes place, "mistakes made cannot be corrected". Mr Yam said "the ultimate perpetrators... are often not the ones standing frightened at the gallows".

Pointing to the opioid crisis in America, Mr Shanmugam said the scourge causes 33,000 deaths a year. "For those with bleeding hearts... they should think about these 33,000 deaths. What percentage do you want in Singapore?"

He cited the 2006 murder of two- year-old Nurasyura, known as Nonoi, whose stepfather, a drug abuser, dunked her into a pail because he could not stand her crying. In 2009,six-year-old Edy was dumped in the Kallang River by a drug user who was caring for him while his parents were in jail for drugs.

"Those who think we should go soft on drugs... what is your solution to the thousands of Edys and Nonois around the world who are neglected, abused and suffering?"

He added: "In public policymaking, you need a soft heart, you need compassion, and that is what defines a civilised human being, but you can never have a soft head. If the heart alone rules policy, you are done for."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2017, with the headline 'Death penalty 'a powerful deterrent''. Print Edition | Subscribe