Public Consultation on Proposed Changes to the MDP

Posted by Think Centre under Breaking News on 9 November 2012

Summary of Feedback from the Public Consultation on the Proposed Changes to the Mandatory Death Penalty held on 27 August 2012 at Bayview Hotel, Singapore

NSP-TC Public Consultation on Changes to the Mandatory Death Penalty
27 August 2012, at Bayview Hotel
Summary by Think Centre

8 November 2012

Summary of Feedback from the Public Consultation on the Proposed Changes to the Mandatory Death Penalty held on 27 August 2012 at Bayview Hotel, Singapore

1. On 9 July 2012, the Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister of Law both respectively announced in Parliament that there would be changes to the mandatory death penalty regime. However, since the landmark announcements, with the exception of some civil society groups and individuals working on the death penalty issues, there were relatively few discussions taking place in the public.

2. To better promote and catalyse public discourse on this very important issue, the THINK CENTRE collaborated with the NATIONAL SOLIDARITY PARTY to organise a public consultation on the proposed changes to the mandatory death penalty regime, with the aim to gather and present feedback to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Law for consideration.

3. The event was held at Bayview Hotel on 27 August 2012 with close to a hundred participants in attendance. A panel of speakers comprising a former Attorney-General, a practising lawyer, a human rights activist and an anti-death penalty activist presented diverse perspectives on the use of the mandatory death penalty in Singapore.

4. The following is a compilation of views presented by those in the audience during the consultation session, including opinions sent in via email and the social media after the event.

Views from the public

5. Many participants expressed appreciation of the efforts of the organizers to raise awareness of the death penalty but all said more needed to be done to educate the public on this topic, especially the rights of citizens and human beings in general.

6. They felt that most in the audience still did not quite know the issues involved to be able to comment or contribute to the discussion. More basic awareness of the issues could have been provided before engaging the audience in a discussion. This did not stop some from expressing abhorrence at such an archaic punishment and that they could not see it being applied in any circumstance in today's civilized and modern world.

7. Many proposed more humane forms of punishments and explained that the same rationale was used to explain why we do not stone people to death today. Even then, issues like life imprisonment without parole, corporeal punishments also needed to be given more thought.

8. They also noted the limited discretion given to the courts to decide on punishments that involves the mandatory death penalty. Even while they acquiesce that Singapore might not be ready for the complete abolition, the hands of the judges cannot be tied with legislation that allows no leeway for them to calibrate punishment.

9. Another aspect of the unique situation in Singapore is the conflation of the duties of the Attorney General as both the government's public prosecutor and in-house legal adviser. This may lead to a conflict of interest in the office and the independence of the AG being questioned.

Sources and Relevant Links:

NSP Website Think Centre's Summary of the Public Consultation on 27 August 2012

NSP Website NSP's Position Statement

NSP Website Think Centre's Position Paper

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