Saturday, April 23, 2011
Singapore and the Death Penalty
1. Seth Mydans’ article, “Briton appeals sentence over book on Singapore’s use of death penalty” (IHT, April 12), contains several factual inaccuracies.
2. Mr. Shadrake is not being sued for defamation. He was charged with contempt of court for alleging, quite baselessly, that the Singapore courts conspired with State agencies to suppress material evidence, and convict the accused thereafter. Such a statement would be in contempt of court in many common law jurisdictions, including England, Australia, Ireland, Canada and Hong Kong. Nor has criminal defamation been used as a tool to stifle political opposition.
3. Newspapers and others have been sued for civil defamation, a cause of action common in many jurisdictions. Political discourse in a healthy democracy does not call for lies, smears and scurrilous allegations. Singapore holds public officials to the highest standards of probity and integrity. Accusers are required to prove their allegations. Ministers who are defamed will sue to clear their name and take the stand to be cross-examined, while those who have committed offenses will be charged and jailed.
4. The death penalty is openly and vigorously debated in Singapore, while the number of executions is published by the Singapore Prisons. The death penalty is a criminal justice issue for Singaporeans to decide, not outsiders. The majority of Singaporeans support it. Were this not so, it would have become an election issue in Singapore.
5. Every society strikes its own balance between the rights of the individual and the society. The WEF Global Competitiveness Report (2009 — 2010) rated Singapore first out of 133 countries for public trust of politicians and transparency of government policymaking, and 19th out of 133 countries on judicial independence, ahead of Japan, France, Belgium and the U.S. One reason is the rigorous rules which keep our public debate honest, and maintain the standing of our Courts.
Published in the International Herald Tribune By Ms. Chong Wan Yieng Press Secretary to Singapore’s Minister for Law