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.
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