Exceptions must not be made for death penalty

It's easy for Malaysia to ask Singapore to make exceptions for Malaysians on death row (No exceptions for Malaysians on death row: Shanmugam, May 25) without understanding the history of Singapore's drug problem.

In the 1970s, a surge in estimated heroin users from 13,000 to 20,000 led to stricter laws. The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) was set up in 1971, and the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association was set up in 1972 to work with the CNB to educate the public on the harms of drugs. In 1973, the Misuse of Drugs Act was enacted to tackle the use, possession and trafficking of drugs, and was amended in 1975 to impose the mandatory death penalty for those who traffic in heroin and morphine above certain quantities.

It took decades for the CNB to eliminate the drug menace, and if Singapore were to accede to Malaysia's request, these resources and effort would go to waste. Malaysia should respect Singapore's law just as Singapore would respect Malaysia's in a similar scenario.

Our tough laws on drugs are well documented and even printed boldly on the arrival cards that greet travellers. The death penalty is an effective deterrent that is a necessary part of our criminal justice system.

The harm must be tackled at the source. Drug traffickers take advantage of people's weakness, and leave them addicted while the traffickers enjoy the proceeds.

The only way to solve the drug menace is through the law. Therefore, no exceptions must be made for the death penalty.

Cheng Choon Fei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2019, with the headline 'Exceptions must not be made for death penalty'. Print Edition | Subscribe