Tag Archive | death penalty

Consider rotating presidency?

From no contest in the past two presidential elections to four candidates qualifying for the upcoming PE on Aug 27! What a windfall for those Singaporeans rooting for competition, even when it is (or is it especially?) for the highest post in the land.

Tony Tan, Tan Jee Say, Tan Cheng Bock, Tan Kin Lian. All are eligible to contest!

The committee certifying the elegibility of candidates has certainly dealt voters a tricky hand. More choice needn’t end up with the right or better choice for the country or the next six years.

So let me suggest a daft — perhaps deft? — solution?

If the Constitution could somehow be tweaked, why not rotate all the four Tans? 18 months’ tenure each.

As each potential President Tan has his staunch followers, rotation means that all Singaporeans would see their fav serving as their president, even if for a shorter term than expected.

Because of the shorter term, each president would earn just $6 million (if that, if what rumours doing their rounds re what the salary review committee would do 🙄 ), instead of the $24 million that everyone and his pet poodle have been barking about.

Less take home pay for the president should also take the wind out of those who jeer that the job attracts money-minded candidates, even though for some of the hopefuls, it’s not about money at all, as they already have plenty, thank you!

Another good reason for rotation is to allow the execution orders on people condemned to hang to be shared out — even if like Pontius Pilate, the president could always argue that it’s the decision of the Cabinet and the law of the land which he has to uphold.

I believe execution orders lie heavily on the minds of anyone who has to sign them. I’ve asked the son of a late presidents how his father dealt with what I consider the most unpleasant and conscience-wrecking task. His reply was that his father tried to be out of the country when he knew such papers were coming his way. I don’t know if that’s true or possible, but that’s what I was told!

In any case, at least one presidential hopeful, Tan Jee Say, (we are both members of the “Lunch Party”) is against the death penalty and in response to my query how he would respond when handed execution orders to sign, he replied:

“I will have a full debate and make sure that every MP and Minister understands fully all the arguments and have a clear conscience. As a student of moral philosophy, I am aware of all the arguments and can hold my own in an intellectual debate with anyone. Reminds me of a similar conversation I had with lawyer and ex High Court judge years ago when we were discussing this particular issue; he too had a similar stand with me and also mentioned that he was a law student in UK when the death penalty was debated at length and finally abolished. I have great intellectuals as allies.”

When I pointed out to JS that the president can’t summon Parliament to have such a debate, he retorted: “I can start a debate in public on matters of conscience if the Government refuses a debate even an internal one with me.”

Now if the four Tans serve just 18 months each, perhaps there won’t be time for such a confrontation to materialise between JS and the government.

Doubtless my idea of rotation is daft. But then, if the ultimate winner of this four-horse race should garner say 40% of the votes or even less, won’t that be equally daft? A minority president wanting to unify the nation?


So the best outcome is for there to be one clear and unambiguous winner who should have as strong a mandate as what the PAP government got. Otherwise what hope is there for the president to stand up to the government which can always say: “Eh prez, more Singaporeans voted for us than you 😛 “


Law enforcers must write better English

I don’t know what the Ministries of Home Affairs and Law need to or will do re the prosecutors and police investigators now that everyone knows what lay behind the prosecution, conviction and subsequent acquittal of Mr Ismil Kadar in the killing of an elderly woman in Boon Lay several years ago.

What I do know is that the writer behind the letter to The Straits Times yesterday — to set the record straight vis-a-vis the newspaper’s articles on the developments relating to the case — could do with some tuition in English and writing.

Let me take you through the letter reproduced below, with the troublesome words highlighted in bold and my comment in italic.

In the reporting of the case involving the Kadar brothers, The Straits Times has unfortunately continued to give the quite inaccurate impression that Ismil Kadar was facing a capital charge of murder in the Court of Appeal, and that he was acquitted of such a charge by the court. (Why ‘quite’ inaccurate? The impression is either inaccurate or it isn’t. Ismil Kadar either had a capital charge on his head when he appeared in the Court of Appeal or he hadn’t? By giving a qualifier, the writer in fact sowed new doubts!)

The High Court did convict Ismil of murder. But before the Court of Appeal, the prosecution had reviewed the position and informed the court that it was dropping the murder charge. (The word ‘before’ has several meanings. It could mean ‘in front of” — as in appearing ‘before’ a judge. Or it could mean ‘prior to’. So was the murder charge dropped before the Court of Appeal’s hearing or was it dropped during/at the start of the Court of Appeal’s hearing?)

Instead, the prosecution pursued against Ismil a charge of committing robbery with hurt, while maintaining the murder charge against his brother, Muhammad.

Muhammad’s DNA had been found on a purse belonging to the deceased victim. In statements that he had given to the police, Muhammad had implicated his brother Ismil in the incident. Ismil had also given confessions admitting his involvement. (My complaint here isn’t so much against the English but the writer’s parsimony with the truth at this juncture. After all, didn’t the Court of Appeal rubbish those confessions?)

On appeal, the Court of Appeal acquitted Ismil on the robbery charge because it considered that the statements which had been recorded from Ismil had not been recorded following proper procedure. The Court of Appeal also took the view that certain evidence had been provided by the prosecution to the defence later than it should have been. (‘Following’? ‘In accordance with’ would have been better! As for the adjective ‘proper’, it’s redundant, unless the police do have procedures that aren’t proper? 🙄 )

It is, therefore, highly misleading to give the impression that Ismil was cleared by the Court of Appeal of a charge of murder, and that Ismil was still facing the death penalty. (Hello, why has ‘quite inaccurate’ in the opening paragraph escalated to ‘highly misleading’? As for ‘that Ismail was still facing the death penalty — more confusion here; if Ismil was acquitted of the murder charge, how could the newspaper have given the impression — highly misleading or otherwise– that he was still facing the death penalty. Methinks the writer has his syntax all wrong! )

The police have clarified the reasons why the recording of Ismil’s statements did not conform with procedure. (The writer should have reiterated what these reasons were, because if the intention is to set the record straight, then it’s useful to remind the public who can’t be expected to remember all the finer points, all the time!)

As for the evidence that was provided by the prosecution to the defence, this relates to a statement by the husband of the deceased woman who was immobile and in one of the rooms at the time of the attack. This evidence was given to the defence in September 2007 before the close of the prosecution’s case, and was before the trial judge before he rendered his decision. (Three ‘befores’ in one short sentence confuse more than shed light! Moreover, two ‘befores’ here have a different meaning from the other ‘before’! As for ‘rendered’, did the writer intend it to be a synonym for ‘gave’ or ‘made’?)

The judge rejected this evidence as unreliable, among other things, because of the husband’s poor state of mind and health at the time of the incident.

Further, as confirmed by defence counsel R. Thrumurgan in his interview published in The Sunday Times yesterday, he had been aware by March 2007 that the police had heard from a witness that there had been one intruder.

Sure, one gets the drift of the official complaint but won’t it be better  if a complaint about a newspaper’s sloppiness in not understanding the nub of Ismil’s acquittal were made in less obfuscating prose? 🙄

Oh yes, in case the letter writer’s bosses are wondering where to send their English-challenged colleagues, here is a suggestion (and a plug 😀  ) for an acquaintance who offers small group coaching to non-English speakers and writers.

speak & write better English

2 reasons why Mr George Yeo shouldn’t

… join the race to become Singapore’s next president.

First, like he said, he is not “temperamentally suited for such a job”, which carries one responsibility that I think no one should be asked to do — and that is to sign the execution order for those condemned* to die by our courts.

How would Mr Yeo, a self-confessed “free spirit”, react when families of death row prisoners send petition after petition asking for their loved ones to be spared?

Sure, the president has no power to gainsay a death sentence and must abide by the advice of the Cabinet.

But in his private moments, in his secret conscience, would he not be forced to recall the story of Pontius Pilate? Could he sleep well on the night be4 the execution or wake up feeling good on the morning when he gets up knowing that someone, somewhere in Singapore has been hanged on his orders?

The second reason why Mr Yeo shouldn’t attempt the presidential election is that he might well lose, whether in a two or three-horse race. How would he feel to lose two elections in a row, not having lost one till this year in his decades long political career? Could his self-confidence survive such bruising within the span of a few months?

If he really needs to have something to do apres Aljunied, he should look no further than the forever urbane Tommy Koh as a template. Professor Koh has reinvented himself many times over and seems to have the secret to being forever relevant whatever the year, the season or the reason.

* I’m no Alan Shadrake and I’m not against capital punishment as such for heinous crimes. Indeed, when i was robbed at gun-n-knife point several years ago — one of 18 victims in a hair dressing salon in Katong Shopping Centre that was hit by 3 armed robbers — my first thought was that all the bastards should be hanged! Alas, none of the culprits were ever caught! In calmer moments though, I feel terribly for the burden we impose on fellow citizens when we task them to carry out the country’s death penalty!