Death Penalty Book Banned In Singapore

Once A Jolly Hangman
credit: yawning bread

If you’re looking for a little insight on the archaic death penalty still in use in Singapore, and how the judicial system wields this weapon to maintain law and order in Singapore, you can probably find some insights in Alan Shadrake’s new book, Once A Jolly Hangman. The flipside is, you won’t be able to find it in your local bookstore, because it’s been banned.

In the Information age of the Internet, there are many ways to bypass local censorship laws that would seek to control its populace by making certain reading material, unavailable. Yet, the act of censorship takes away a certain liberty we have as a populace, to think for ourselves. And if we’re not allowed to think for ourselves, how are we going to maintain a fair democracy that’s based on making balanced, rationale decisions?

I’m not too sure why the book got banned, but I can only guess that the content was rather seditious, and sedition is such a blanket term for anything that calls into question what the government has done. And according to Yawning Bread’s review of the book, Shadrake calls into question many discrepancies with regards to how the death penalty has been metted out.

Glaring at the reader, is the alleged trend that people in a position of wealth, power and influence, can seemingly bend the law to their will and get out of legal loopholes that would otherwise have doomed them to the gallows. What could possibly be seditious or slanderous, are these accusations, that point fingers are various public figures who see themselves as above the law.

If true, you don’t need a degree in philosophy to recognise the moral hypocrisy seen in this form of control. Whatever the case, our government has once again made the decision for us, and we are not encouraged to read this book. Hell, they’ve gone one step further and said that it would be illegal to purchase or own this book.

And because investigative journalism is so controlled in this country, people cannot intelligently decide for themselves, what is fact and what is fiction, and our sham democracy continues to exist in the subjugated ignorance of our populace.

It’s just one book, I don’t even know whether the claims made in the book have been properly referenced or how biased it is. But a government with nothing to hide should not be hiding behind a veil of censorship, distancing itself from the questions people are asking. You put the constant fear of the future in our lives, ration our choices to make it glaringly obvious that unless we are willing to sacrifice our material comforts for the greater societal good, we should just shuffle along, because there ain’t nothing to see here.

If you sow the wind, be prepared to reap the whirlwind.

Affairs, Opinion

Death In Your Name And Mine

yvkYong Vui Keng, twenty one years of age, arrested for trafficking 47g of heroin in June 2007 and sentenced to death in November 2007. He was supposed to have been hanged last Friday, 4 December 2009, but was granted a rare stay on execution pending an appeal. The Court of Appeal is scheduled for tomorrow, 8 December 2009 at 10 am.

These are just facts, and the law looks at all cases in black and white. I know the feeling of standing before a judge when I was in the Subordinate Courts recently regarding a traffic offence, it is a belittling experience and one of awful resignation as you wait for justice to be meted out.

What’s at stake here however, is not a fine or a jail term, but Vui Kong’s life, as the penalty for drug trafficking in Singapore is death. It is a well known fact, so why should this particular individual be worthy of your time in debating whether or not the death penalty is proper justice?

Honestly? I have no compelling intellectual argument, various online debate have made them. You can read them here and here. What I do know of, is compassion and grace, both of which I am familiar with because we’ve all done things that deserve the full brunt of justice and punishment, but we’ve gotten away with much less.

As I read Vui Kong’s story, my heart is not even in knots, and quite honestly, I don’t even know this person. But when I look at him, and examine my own life, the opportunities I had verses the trials that he had to go through, that ultimately led him going down the path of crime that culminates in him paying for it with his life, I realise, we all have the capacity to make the same mistake as he did. And if I do believe that he has repented, where then is there room in the law for things such as compassion and grace?

I’m not angry with the state, I recognise the law is the law and maybe one day it will change, or maybe it will never. I’m gladdened that Vui Kong seems to have found some sort of peace, though who am I to speak for him and what he and his family are going through. But.. I wish that there was another way out of this, as opposed to the swift justice of death. Don’t we all deserve a second chance? Are some mistakes really that grievous that the State cannot forgive, or as one of the Online Citizen’s posts pointed out:

When the State brings its criminal jurisdiction to bear, it acts on behalf of you and me. If Vui Kong is hanged, he will be hanged in your name and mine.

There don’t seem to be any petitions to sign, but even then.. that seems somewhat futile considering the time frame of all that’s happening. Vui Kong isn’t a one-off case, this is what goes on every day, people break the law and pay the price. I just hope by reading this, we can improve the system if it is indeed faulty.

In closing, there is a video to understand the circumstances in which Vui Kong grew up in and walked down the path he walked.

Vui Kong’s story from Lianain Films on Vimeo.