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“My policies save more lives than they take away,” K Shanmugam defends capital punishment

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam asserts that capital punishment aligns with the state’s responsibility to maintain safety, security, and save lives in Singapore.

Since resuming executions in March 2022, Singapore has executed 16 individuals for drug trafficking. While the government upholds the death penalty as a deterrent, human rights groups advocate for more humane and evidence-driven approaches to combat drug-related crime.



SINGAPORE: Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam has once again articulated his belief that a state’s obligation is to “ensure safety and security within Singapore and to save lives” while defending the controversial use of capital punishment.

According to the Straits Times, Minister Shanmugam made these remarks during a recent engagement session with the National Youth Council on Wednesday (20 Sep) night, where he defended the death penalty as a deterrent against drug trafficking.

A participant raised the question regarding how Singapore can address the moral and ethical implications of capital punishment, and how the city-state can grapple with the irreversible act of the state taking a human life.

In response, Minister Shanmugam remarked, “That’s what my entire speech is about,” said the minister, noted the similarity between this question and the perspectives of anti-death penalty activists.”

“I can argue or I can put forward discussion points based on evidence, which I have,” he replied.

“But if you start from the position that it’s just wrong for a state to have the death penalty regardless of the facts, that means even if I show you that 10,000 lives have been saved, while 16 have been hanged, and if you say ‘Well, that’s irrelevant, the state just shouldn’t execute’, I respect that position.”

“You say, ‘You shouldn’t execute’. I respect that position. I’m not saying it’s wrong,” he said.

“But it’s a position based on ideology…  I have slightly different values, which are (that) a state’s obligation is to ensure safety and security within Singapore and to save lives. ”

“And my policies save more lives than they take away,” he said, emphasising that the lives saved by his policies were “lives which actually would be lost”.

Mr Shanmugam added: “Once we discuss it along the lines of ideology, then you just have to agree to disagree.”

Shanmugam’s “soft heart, hard head” approach to drug policies and the death penalty

The death penalty is not a measure any government would willingly embrace from the outset. Rather, it’s a decision that requires absolute certainty regarding its role in saving lives, said the Minister.

Speaking to an audience of 80 youth leaders during the dialogue, Mr Shanmugam stressed that if a government cannot establish with certainty that the death penalty is crucial for preserving more lives, then it should not implement it.

This included an examination of how other countries and regions suffered negative consequences after decriminalizing drugs.

Additionally, he cited a survey revealing that 66 per cent of polled Singaporeans considered the mandatory death penalty appropriate for drug trafficking.

Another survey conducted by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) among individuals originating from places where many of the drug traffickers arrested in Singapore had their roots showed that 87 per cent of respondents believed that capital punishment served as a deterrent against large-scale drug trafficking into Singapore.

“For public policymaking, you need compassion, a soft heart, but you need a hard head,” Mr Shanmugam explained.

He emphasized the importance of blending analytical thinking with empathy when crafting policies, and how to strike a balance between the two.

Shanmugam asserts strong public support for current drug policies

Mr Shanmugam expressed his belief that a substantial majority of Singaporeans support the current drug policies.

Addressing the young audience, he stated if a majority of Singaporeans were to believe that the death penalty policy should change, and if they feel strongly enough that the Government should change it, they have the power to make that change.

After recommencing executions in March 2022, Singapore has carried out the death penalty on 16 individuals convicted of drug trafficking offences.

The United Nations in July denounced the hangings and called for Singapore to impose a moratorium on the death penalty.

Despite growing international pressure on the issue, Singapore insists that the death penalty is an effective deterrent against drug trafficking.

The wealthy financial centre has some of the world’s toughest anti-drug laws — trafficking more than 500 grams of cannabis or over 15 grams of heroin can result in the death penalty.

The country maintains that such measures have contributed to making it one of Asia’s safest countries. However, human rights advocates like Amnesty International remain vehemently opposed to capital punishment and assert that the government’s reliance on executions for drug control is deeply concerning.

Chiara Sangiorgio, an expert on the death penalty from Amnesty International, expressed her condemnation, stating, “It is unconscionable that authorities in Singapore continue to cruelly pursue more executions in the name of drug control.”

One of the executions that caused international outrage was that of Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, who was deemed to have a mental disability.

His execution drew condemnation from the United Nations and British tycoon Richard Branson, shedding light on the controversial practice of carrying out capital punishment on individuals with mental health issues.

While the government insists on the efficacy of the death penalty as a deterrent, human rights groups argue for more humane and evidence-based solutions to tackle drug trafficking and crime.

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As a matured, intelligent society, we cannot mix up issues…Ministers pay, their ability to rent expensive bungalows, their defence of other Government policies, etc. We will not and need not agree with the Government on every issue. What other countries do on death sentences need not influence what a tiny nation like Singapore decide. Capital punishment has to be meted out as appropriate. Drugs is cancer. Murders deserving the Death Penalty are very few. Sympathies to be reserved for victims of the crime.

Very few are sentenced to death for murder. Singapore is compassionate. If there is even the slightest reason to reduce the charge to manslaughter it will do so. Majullah Singapura.

I fully support the Death Penalty. Drugs are a menace. Over 100,000 die each year in USA from drug overdose. Drugs ruin families, lead to violence and even more deaths via crime. Hang the smugglers but given them due legal defence plus every opportunity to cooperate with the government. No one coming to Singapore can claim they were innocently carrying drugs for someone. Enter Singapore, then make extra sure you know what you are bringing in. If you drive or ride a motorbike, do an extra check of the vehicle. No excuse.

You champion your policies like a knight in shining armour but the use of statistics against moral compass doesn’t justify anything. Numbers will be numbers but the very fact that You cannot give life means You should not take it. Collateral damage is the game you play saying you’ve saved a thousand more lives but you put yourself in the category of a bigot.
So does this mean the war in Ukraine and Russia are in that category of saving lives by taking them?

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Wang Yi’s tie came close to VB. 😂

Hahaha, he saves lives. Have you heard of a toddler named Umaisyah? Both her parents were on Meths. and they killed her and incinerated her body in a van. How did they get access to Meths. when they are from the lower end of the social divide? Who is the supplier to those who live in Public Housing? The nos. of addicts are increasing not decreasing. So either you are delusional or a serial liar like your neighbour. These hangings are a cover-up to mislead the Public using a Law that is decades old and legislated in the last century.… Read more »

“For public policymaking, you need compassion, a soft heart, but you need a hard head,” Mr Shanmugam explained. But those executed were mainly mules, carrier of drugs, not the drug lords! Don’t you think the target should be the drug lords. These people make all the money, where someone else dies for it! Singapore already executed so many traffickers, is there any reduction in drug user? Our police force only go for easy targets. That about it! Let’s see how “hard head” is our police force; There was a report in South China Morning Post; “A careless smoker who threw… Read more »

haha more than 30 years of whacking mules. still cannot find a single druglord or commie drug boss issit? CIA was right. sillypore pappies are probably in bed with illegal drug gangsters. dun FICA me hor! CIA say one!! FICA Prez Joe Brandon!!!

Snake is shameless

I am still waiting for the ruling government to publicly announce the execution of a local Drug Lord / Drug Cartel leader. Why is it always the “small fry?”

Who are the actual bosses of Singapore’s drug syndicates? Do the authorities turn a blind eye to them because they are related to those in power?

Or perhaps they have so much dirt on the ruling elite (The son of the sitting MP for “Coughing Hill” SMC reportedly a druggie) that letting them be is the better option.

Our laws have been in place even longer than Shanmi had been sucking his boss balls. Just like his boss, now trying to claim credit for something achieved by our earlier generations. His laws (i.e. in his era) allow 5 policemen to go arrest a 14YO kid in school.

Shameless Boss begets Shameless Subordinates, indeed.

My friend and his relatives died of cancer due to smoking. There are many others too. It is a loss of family member and income. It destroys lives and ruin families. Non smokers are also afflicted with cancer due to 2nd hand smoke. In a year on average there are about 360 or more who died of cancer due to accidental inhaling of 2nd hand smoke. Why is it not illegal to possess cigarrettes since it is also harmful ? Why are sellers of cigarrettes not arrested and executed ? If your policy is to save thousands of lives with… Read more »

Without doubt this individual takes the biscuit, … and all of the coffee, cream and cakes too !!!

Superciliously self~opinionated and self~conceited, he proclaims to be the nations “arbiter of truth”, and now, … announcing that his policies act~tually saves lives, he has assumed the mantle of “god” too !!!

This man must be an absolute blessing , … and godsend to SillyPore and it’s inhabitants !!!

6 Malay, 3 Indians(2 most likely M’sian) & 1 Chinese on Death Row.
There are a high number of Chinese on Drug Charges but few get executed. I guess their Legal Eagle must be Power.
These are stats. Now, I hope the Malay Community will send their kids to become better Lawyers.
Looks like the Death Sentence is not really a deterrent anyway, with such high numbers.

Hear! hear! the snake speaks!

Sir Richard Branson must be thinking he was wise in NOT ENGAGING with political fools of Sheegapore. Reason provably he felt engaging debates with Millionaire Fools degrade his character.

Ownself Praise Ownself BUT Dare not do a public or even international broadcast with live questions … does not do justice to the Pay allocated. Higher than a lecturer but audience 80. Please lah. Show your capability by having a live broadcast audience to challenge you.

Cost of Living, Cost of Food Prices very high leh. Can save our lives? thank you

His argument fails, as if he is saying hanging 16 drug mules saves 10,000 people, then hanging all the money mules or launderers will safe millions of lives in their respective countries. So the PAP should legislate hanging money mules and launderers. The first on the list should be NR whose money laundering using Singapore banks has affected millions of Malaysians depriving them of medication, proper schools, funds to reduce flooding etc How many Malaysians have died by this theft? Malaysia has been set backwards by about 20 years. It is the same with the recent money launderers.Please hang them… Read more »

See if you’ll say the same thing if your son gets caught. Easy to say. They are sons and daughters of other human beings just like you. If they were not in any dire situations, they wouldn’t do such things, especially when you out first timers to get hang.