SINGAPORE - Information from drug couriers have helped nab almost 90 traffickers, thanks to an amendment in Singapore's mandatory death penalty regime since 2012, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam in Parliament on Tuesday (April 4).
The change in 2012 - that gave the courts here discretion in handing out custodial sentences, instead of death penalty, to drug couriers who provide substantive assistance in disrupting drug trafficking - has been helpful, he said.
"Trafficking is a cold, calculated offence," said Mr Shanmugam, who called the death penalty an "an important part in our comprehensive anti-drug regime".
He was responding to a parliamentary motion tabled by Christopher De Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) on strengthening Singapore's fight against drugs.
Responding to nominated MP Kok Heng Leun, who spoke against the death penalty, Mr Shanmugam said: "See what happens in countries which have poor enforcement or have legalised drugs...They will lead to the loss of many more lives, and more tragedy."
Speaking on the domestic and international challenges in the fight against drugs, Mr Shanmugam said that Singapore is in a vulnerable position, being close to drug-producing countries.
But a tough regime that includes the death penalty has helped prevent drugs from entering the country.
This comes as internationally, countries want to take a softer stance against drugs, using arguments backed by "pseudo-science" and glamourising the use of drugs.
There is also pressure to adopt a harm reduction approach, said Mr Shanmugam. Such an approach is designed to minimise the harms associated with drug use.
He added that this was because countries have lost the fight against drugs and cannot control the situation. Many who push for such an approach are also driven by commercial interests.
Among the 11 MPs who spoke in support of the motion was Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC), who said that Singapore can learn from the experience of other countries that have adopted a light-touch approach on drugs.
In the United States, where drugs have become entrenched, he said, deaths from drug overdose more than doubled from 2002 to 2015.
In Colorado, drug abuse has worsened since recreational cannabis was legalised in 2014 for adults, said Mr De Souza, who also called for a regular review of the Misuse of Drugs Act to ensure it has the "legal muscle it needs" to deter the demand and supply of drug offences.