By Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign, Chong Kai Xiong, Rachel Zeng
Muhammad bin Kadar, 39, was executed on 17 April 2015. He received the death sentence for killing a 69-year-old woman during a robbery in the victim’s flat that occurred in May 2005.
Muhammad had a low IQ of 76 and was under the influence of Dormicum when he entered the flat of Mdm Tham Weng Kuen and repeatedly attacked her with a knife and later a chopper from her kitchen. The victim later died of blood loss from the profuse wounds she suffered.
In 2009, Muhammad was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by the High Court. His appeal for diminished responsibility rejected by the Appellate Court in 201 1 . After amendments to the mandatory death penalty regime were introduced in late 201 2, Muhammad applied for a re-sentence. The apex court determined that he had caused death with the “intention to kill” and upheld the death penalty. The final appeal for presidential clemency was rejected a week before Muhammad’s execution.
We at the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) believe that Muhammad’s death sentence should have been commuted in view of his low IQ and the influence of Dormicum. The defence psychiatrist had stated that the drug likely led to a “major reduction in self-control and regulation” of Muhammad’s actions and that the intention to silence the victim was likely to have formed under the disinhibitory effects of Dormicum. So while Muhammad had planned to forcefully rob Mdm Tham and consumed Dormicum to embolden himself, the fatal attack was not premeditated and very much an afterthought influenced by the drug.
The death penalty is often and instinctively put forward as an effective deterrent of crime. Yet in the circumstances, we find great difficulty in seeing how this tragedy could have been prevented by the threat of execution given Muhammad’s state of mind. Muhammad was a part-time odd job labourer with a history of substance abuse who was desperate for money to feed his drug habit. With a low IQ and only primary school education, Muhammad was socio- economically vulnerable to substance abuse and attendant problems. Imposing the death penalty in cases like these has the opposite effect of justice by disproportionately punishing the marginalised.
Media reports on the case have highlighted and even headlined the brutal manner of the murder. The SADPC maintains our opposition to the death sentence even for such cases. The death penalty is an ethically questionable choice of punishment as it shares the intentionality and instrumentality of violence with every act of murder. Judicial executions are in effect the most premeditated of all murders, even if they are aimed at achieving peace and security. We reject the death penalty because justice requires the congruence of means and ends.
SADPC continues to call for the abolition of the death penalty. We urge the country to look deeper into the roots of crime and find more humane and holistic ways to rehabilitate and reintegrate people like Muhammad. We strongly believe every person deserves a chance at atonement by contributing back to society.