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

The Value Of Life


I wish I could keep talking about light hearted things on this blog, but sometimes, certain stories grab your attention, that it would seem unjust to not speak up or at least have an opinion on, and pretend that everything in life was just strawberries and cream.

I follow the Yong Vui Kong case whenever i can, perhaps because there is something inherently wrong I see in the current system.

I come from a generation of youths that grew up with strong anti-drug abuse messages. We know that consumption of drugs is a serious offense, and the trafficking of drugs results in the death penalty, so much so that we usually do not bat an eyelid whenever we read about another drug mule being sent to the gallows. Another statistic, another idiot who brought this upon himself.

But when I had my own run-in with the law last year because of a fairly serious traffic offense (:read), I think I’ve become a bit more empathetic to the circumstances Yong Vui Kong found himself in.

Manipulated by the drug barons to traffic drugs into Singapore, found himself of the wrong side of the system and now faces the mandatory death penalty. I know too well how the law does not show mercy. It cannot, if it does, it becomes a mockery of what justice is supposed to stand for. Like I said in my story, did I intend to break the law? No. Did I break the law? Yes. Yet, ultimately, I was a first time offender, and not given the maximum punishable fine, of which I am thankful for the leniency and always make sure to check my off-peak coupons from now on.

I think as we follow Yong Vui Kong’s story, we know that he’s realised he’s not innocent, we also learn the enormous spirit that he has that he seems to have accepted his fate, yet, he fights for his life not just for himself, but for the sakes of his family and loved ones. And the people representing and supporting, they are all also fighting for something more than just one individual’s life.

The issue at hand, is not whether the law should show mercy to one’s man predicament, but rather, what options does the presiding judge have when he ultimately convicts Yong Vui Kong. He has only one option, and that is death. It’s based in our constituency, and the judicial system is bound to uphold those policies despite any mitigating factors.

I think this is wrong, in that we are talking about one man’s life. We are not talking about letting this man off the hook once he’s been convicted, all we’re asking is that people who are convicted of crime, are allowed to turn over a new leaf. Justice is always seen as an eye for an eye, and what’s been ingrained into us is that putting one drug trafficker to death saves ten lives. It’s a nice statistic to quote, but to justify.. it’s one man’s first mistake, and he pays the ultimate price. It’s like we’re convicting him of a crime he has yet to commit, and that is harm someone.

I understand we’re arguing the ethics of the constituency, and ethics are often overlooked as a minor speed bump toward the goal. The journey of how we get there isn’t as important reaching the goal itself. And that scares me, it makes me scared that cold-heartedly getting rid of the deviancy within our society kills a certain part of us that makes us human, that allows us to respect other humans.

I usually think that the law is fair, that we reap what we sow, or it’s there for a reason. But this time, when the only option is the option of the death penalty, somehow it just seems to be a one-size-fits-all solution to realise our plastic paradise. I just wished that a judge, or people within the law were given more room to deliver a more appropriate punishment to the crime at hand.