The Singapore experience

By Rey O. Arcilla
Malaya

Duterte and Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Duterte and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard who was in town recently claimed that the “war on drugs”, obviously referring to the one being waged by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte aka Digong, doesn’t work and that it only worsens the problem.
She also made the sweeping statement that “world governments do not see the death penalty as an appropriate response to drug trafficking and drug use”. Has she made a count of how many countries that still have the death penalty? I doubt it. In the ten-member Asean alone, eight still have it.
Quite by chance, I came across a statement made by former Singaporean Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam (he is now Minister for Home Affairs and Law) before the High-Level Side Event at the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly “Moving Away from the Death Penalty: National Leadership”, on 25 September 2014.
I don’t think anyone can contest Shanmugam’s claim that “Singapore is probably either the only country, or one of the few countries in the world, which has successfully fought this drug problem” and that “one of the reasons our society is probably one of the safest in the world is that we take a very tough approach on drugs”.
Shanmugam highlighted the following in his statement:
= We see a lot of focus on people who face the death penalty but you don’t see enough focus on their victims.
= Drug traffickers impose immense penalties, including the death penalty, on their victims. Thousands of people die. We have stopped that in Singapore. We want to protect our people from becoming victims, and to protect our society.
= You can send your 10-year old child on public transport at any time of the day and night and not have to worry whether your child will return.
= This debate often proceeds on generalised statements and ideology. If we want to make progress, I suggest we engage in a discussion that looks at facts; focusing, among other things, on the victims of the drug trade. And the nexus between the drug trafficker and his thousands of victims.
= Let’s move away from rhetoric and let’s focus on facts. To portray the debate as one of taking lives versus not taking lives is a straw man argument.
***
Shanmugam’s statement reflects in more ways than one Digong’s own approach to and sentiments on the illegal drug problem that now threatens the very future of the nation.
I would, therefore, urge all those who still cannot see the reason, if not the logic, in Digong’s campaign against illegal drugs, to read the following statement of Minister Shanmugam which I got from the Singapore Foreign Ministry website.
I would also recommend that the authorities concerned read it, especially the police and the judicial branch of the government.
Quote:

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies,

We agree with the sentiments that you have expressed. However, I think there needs to be a more careful assessment of the facts and the different situations in different countries. The approach of a sweeping statement that can apply to all is counterproductive.
Let me share with you, in this context, Singapore’s experience, where the death penalty is targeted at drug traffickers.
There are major drug trafficking centres in the region: Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, amongst others. Drug production and transportation is now a major sophisticated multi-national corporation activity run by cold, calculating, ruthless operators who trade the lives of their victims for profit. Millions of drug victims in our region. We would be a natural front for drugs to come in on a large scale, because we are a wealthy city-state with lots of young people and a major logistics hub, from where drugs can be easily distributed throughout the world, from Singapore. If you look at major cities in developed countries, you will find entire neighbourhoods that have been destroyed by drugs and drug-related activities, including theft. Entire lives and generations, destroyed. Young people born in such slums have no access to education and the drug culture completely prevents them from having meaningful human existence.
Globally, drug use kills between 100,000-250,000 people, mostly young people. Singapore is probably either the only country, or one of the few countries in the world, which has successfully fought this drug problem. For those who ask for whom the death penalty can be a deterrent, I say to them, come and see for yourself in Singapore, and compare the region and the rest of the world.
Death penalty for traffickers, in our experience, has been an effective deterrent, as part of a framework of laws, coupled with effective enforcement based on rule of law. Drug traffickers stay out of Singapore now, largely, because of the knowledge: first, that there is a highly professional and incorruptible police force and there is a high probability that they will get caught; and second, there is rule of law, an independent judiciary and a high probability that, based on the laws, they will face the death penalty. So we do not have slums, ghettoes, no-go zones for the police, or syringes in our playgrounds.
People know the story of Singapore – a story based on rule of law, human development, quality of life – that can be compared to the experience of any country around this table or any other table. You can send your 10-year old child on public transport at any time of the day and night and not have to worry whether your child will return.
One of the main reasons that our society is probably one of the safest in the world is that we take a very tough approach on drugs. If a drug trafficker traffics in a quantity which can supply 300 drug abusers for a week, he could face the death penalty. This is not revenge; this is not vengeance. This is based on the principle of deterrence and clear rule of law.
We see a lot of focus on people who face the death penalty but you don’t see enough focus on their victims.
Drug traffickers impose immense penalties, including the death penalty, on their victims. Thousands of people die. We have stopped that in Singapore. We want to protect our people from becoming victims, and to protect our society.
This debate often proceeds on generalised statements and ideology. If we want to make progress, I suggest we engage in a discussion that looks at facts; focusing, among other things, on the victims of the drug trade. And the nexus between the drug trafficker and his thousands of victims.
Let’s move away from rhetoric and let’s focus on facts. To portray the debate as one of taking lives versus not taking lives is a straw man argument.
No civilised society can glorify in the taking of life. The question is whether, in very limited circumstances, it is legitimate to have the death penalty so that the larger interest of society is served. We imposed the death penalty in relation to drug trafficking and our laws provide for the death penalty in a limited number of other offences.
Endquote.
***
THE GOOD NEWS

= The probinsiyano Digong, belittled by his detractors (the elite and oligarchs who mostly belong to the Yellowtards) as an uncouth, foul-mouthed upstart in the national and international scenes received telephone calls from the leaders of the two most powerful nations in the world – Chinese President Xi Jinping and American President Donald Trump who also invited him to visit Washington. Can you imagine that?! Ha? Yellowtards?
I have some ideas but I’d rather not speculate on the reasons the two leaders called Digong, what they told him or asked him to do.
Suffice it to say that both Trump and Xi consider Digong important enough to talk with or consult on whatever it was they had in mind.
= The Asian Development Bank chief economist Yasuyuki Sawada said the Bank found domestic consumption and “very active” domestic investments in both the public and private sectors “quite sound to support robust growth” in the Philippines.
= The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reported that the country’s Gross International Reserve (GIR) reached its highest level in six months – from $80.88 billion in March to $81.8 billion in April.
= The Singapore-based Asean + 3 Macroeconomic Research Office reported that the Philippines is “the top economic performer” in the region and that the Duterte administration does not pose political risks that might make the country less attractive for investments.
***
Today is the 11th day of the eleventh year of the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos, son of the late press icon and founder of this newspaper.
The family and friends of Jonas hope that the Duterte administration will exert serious efforts to find and haul the perpetrators of Jonas’ disappearance to justice.
***
From an internet friend:
A blonde notices that her coworker has a thermos, so she asks him what it’s for.
He responds, “It keeps hot things hot and cold things cold.”
The blonde immediately buys one for herself. The next day, she goes to work and proudly displays it.
Her coworker asks, “What do you have in it?”
She replies, “Soup and ice cream.”
***
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One Response. Have your say.

  1. Roy says:

    Singapore is right, focus on the victims not on the illegal drug supplier. CHR are screaming against EJK but the culprit are the people on drug trades. Killing their competitors, not paying business partners and customers. Some corrupt cops are involved on illegal drug dealing too!

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