Death penalty not a deterrent

Mr Ong Heng Poh's argument that the death penalty has been an effective deterrent among drug offenders is flawed (Death penalty an effective deterrent, May 28).

Empirical evidence has proved this again and again as drug crimes continue to occur in Singapore and in other parts of the world.

More and more countries are abolishing it, the latest being Malaysia.

The Government is to be commended for adopting a softer and humanitarian approach to the enforcement of the death penalty, though the death penalty continues to exist.

In this day and age, the death penalty appears to be not only inhuman and cruel, but also immoral as it conflicts with the criminal justice system's core objectives of reforming and rehabilitating offenders as well as deterring others from committing savage crimes.

The death penalty has decidedly not achieved both these objectives, and has certainly not resulted in society being rid of drug traffickers, murderers and rapists.

It is, therefore, timely that we seriously and vigorously review the need and use of the death penalty. For example, why not put away the offender to a life behind bars without parole?

Of paramount importance is the need for the attitude of vengeance, in which death is seen as a justifiable punishment, to give way to a greater sense of civilised refinement, enlightenment, mercy and compassion in Singapore society.

What is at stake is our faith in justice being above revenge, of the principle that the state cannot take away a person's life, and of our commitment to collective improvement that the Nobel Prize winning French philosopher Albert Camus described as the "great civilising step".

V. Subramaniam (Dr)