That's the problem with current coverage of parliamentary sessions, just disjointed clips and cuts of the proceedings with selective quotes and soundbites, to make the speakers look good, and gloss over their speech and delivery impediments. Upon closer scrutiny, it turns out the epic announcement was just a proposed easing of the mandatory death penalty in some drug and murder cases, but not an absolute abolishment of the ultimate punishment that human rights groups worldwide still condemn as barbaric.
To avoid execution by hanging for drug trafficking, two specific conditions must be met, elaborated deputy prime minister Teo Chee Hean. First, the accused must have acted only as a courier, with no other part to play in the supply or distribution. Second, a courier could be spared if he co-operates with the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) "in a substantive way" or can be proved to have a “mental disability” that prevents them from appreciating the full gravity of their action. Commenting, lawyer Hri Kumar wanted to know to what extent can you say someone has "substantively co-operated" with CNB. Needless to say, submissive compliance in a dimly lit carpark is out of the equation.
When it comes to dispensation of the gift of human life, they are as stingy as same tightwads who doled out the GST rebate vouchers. Draft legislation implementing the proposed changes to the application of the death penalty will be introduced in Parliament only later this year. Surely they could expedite this important exercise, since there are currently 35 persons on death row, of which 28 are for drug offences and 7 for murder. Mr Shanmugam stressed that lawyers should "carefully study the legislation when it is enacted and properly understand the precise scope of the changes" before giving legal advice to their clients. In plain English, don't set your hopes up too high.
Alan Shadrake, the British author who was jailed last year for criticisms of Singapore’s judiciary in his book "Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock", is grateful for small mercies, “It’s not the end of the death penalty. But it’s a move in the right direction that no-one really expected.” After all, in 2005, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had personally dismissed Australia’s calls to commute the death sentence for Australian drug smuggler Nguyen Tuong Van.