Bouquets, Questions, Doubts and Hopes regarding the Amendments to the MDP
October 16, 2012, 3:01 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign

During the First Reading at the Parliamentary Sitting on 15 October 2012, a set of amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) was announced. Details surrounding the changes to be made towards the mandatory death penalty for drug traffickers were also release.

The following is an excerpt of the press release issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on 15 October 2012, explaining the changes:

…  two specific conditions are provided for under which the death penalty will no longer be mandatory for drug trafficking. First, the trafficker must have only played the role of courier, and must not have been involved in any other activity related to the supply or distribution of drugs. Second, discretion will only apply if, having satisfied this first requirement, either the trafficker has cooperated with the CNB in a substantive way, or he has a mental disability which substantially impairs his appreciation of the gravity of the act.

“Substantive cooperation” is defined as “Substantively assisting in CNB’s operations to disrupt drug trafficking activities within or outside of Singapore”, which may include, for example, the provision of information leading to the arrest or detention or prosecution of any person involved in any drug trafficking activity. The law will provide for the Public Prosecutor to issue a “Certificate of Cooperation” where this condition is met. The courts will then have the discretion to sentence the defendant to either the death penalty or life imprisonment. Those sentenced to life imprisonment will also be liable to caning of at least 15 strokes.

In relation to “mental disability”, the language of the current diminished responsibility provision applicable to murder will be adopted. The defendant will need to establish to the courts that he suffers from an abnormality of mind as substantially impaired his responsibility for his actions. Persons who are determined to have been acting under a “mental disability” will be sentenced to life imprisonment.

The Bill will also enact transitional provisions which provide that all accused persons who meet the conditions pertaining to the mandatory death penalty can elect to be considered for re-sentencing under the new law.  Procedurally, the accused will be able to apply to the court to admit further evidence if it is unclear from the record of proceedings of his trial and/or appeal as to whether he was a courier, or whether he satisfies one of the conditions. Where applicable, the re-sentencing will take place at the first instance in the High Court, with an appeal to the Court of Appeal. Further, existing cases will also be re-considered for clemency.

Indeed the “partial lift” to the mandatory death penalty is appreciated along with the moratorium on executions since July 2011, further clarifications are needed. However, breaking the usual style of simply pointing out the problematic areas, I will briefly list down the bouquets, followed by questions, doubts and lastly, personal hopes. Please note that the following lists are non-conclusive and I might make further comments after upcoming discussions with fellow activists, lawyers as well as further research.


1. Current death row inmates who are eligible will be given a chance for re-sentencing.

2. Mitigating factors will be considered in future cases if offenders satisfy the two conditions stipulated.

3. Chances of offenders with mental disabilities being sentenced to death will be lessen.

Questions and Doubts:

1. Who makes the decision on whether an accused has “substantially cooperated”?

2. What happens if the accused cooperates by providing information that are within his/ her scope of knowledge, but the information given do not lead the CNB to the syndicates behind such sophisticated drug operations?

3. If an accused with an IQ that falls below the average satisfy the first condition, will his/ her IQ level be considered as a factor that impairs his/ her judgment on the gravity of the act (in the event he/ she is unable to provide information regarding the people who had recruited him/ her)?

4. Given the fact that life imprisonment in Singapore is indefinite (do correct me if I am wrong), I do not think that anyone with a mental disability should be given such a sentence because from the accounts of former prisoners I have spoken to, the environment and conditions in our prisons are far from rehabilitative. This might worsen the mental condition of such offenders.

5. Sentencing any person to life imprisonment without parole also highly contradicts the Singapore Prison Service’s motto of “Rehab, Renew, Restart”.


As a campaigner against the death penalty and mandatory death penalty, I definitely hope to see Singapore going towards the path of abolishing the death penalty. More efforts should be spent looking into alternative methods of legal punishment that seek to rehabilitate offenders rather than using the short cut method of eliminating them from existence forever or to lock them up indefinitely.


3 Comments so far
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Real activism is not really about blogging. You’d get a lot of trashy attention online. You should gather people around you, and form a team called organization, then do themes. Otherwise, you need to raise matters at centralized sites such as TR Emeritus.
Blog… is only useful when you move offline. If you stand for election, people will read your blog. If you are looking for like-minded people, it’s merely an online banner, forever so remote.
Anyway, internet is virtual reality.

Comment by Scope

Hi Scope,

We have been doing offline work since 2009. This is my personal blog which is a place I share my personal opinions and reflections on certain issues.
Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC), the group I am in, which has joined Think Centre and We Believe in Second Chances in the formation of a working group on the death penalty, also has its own blog with updates of cases and our work, and that blog serves as our own media. We do have a regular, and increasing readership.

Online media are always informed about our activities and they are always invited to attend and write about our activities. They also receive our statements and media releases but we cannot always rely on them to publish it for us. TOC and often do that as soon as they have received our statements. It is really up to them, not the campaigners, whether they want to write about our cause/ events or publish our statements.

Indeed the internet is virtual reality, and anyone living in reality as real as ours should know it very well… because our cause is about life, and death. 😉


Comment by rachelabsinthe

Rachel darling, hi!

So you joined Think Centre, may I know how many PAP office holders were involved? May I know which minister or MP were involved?

Timing-wise… is any of the ministers’ sons or Obama’s son is facing death sentence in Singapore?

To be honest, Death Sentence is a law in the hands of the law-makers, law-makers base themselves on power (incumbent), without the stance or channel to communicate with who is in charge, do you expect change? Do you think you should join Think Centre if you want the knife to be spared? Is Think Centre not an opposition related entity?

In a game of chess, if your opponent says ‘go left’ will you listen?

Think Centre and TOC and even govt machinery and ministers, they should all be Tools, not part of your group. When I said that, what I meant was, form a group and secure power, then you won’t be worried about trolls blogging.

Since you are interested in activism, I do have some cases… related to state interests, and one at hand to illustrate how things have been done. I might end up… also appreciating your help or concern, if you are interested. 🙂

Honorable cause, my dear… but a cause without strategy, armed force, legitimate status and timing is really just that… forever a cause.

Do you wish to establish private contact with my humble self?

Comment by Scope

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