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A hangman's noose

Singapore to conduct first-ever survey on death penalty between Oct and Dec this year

Following the series of recent executions by the state - most notably that of Malaysian Prabu N Pathmanathan who was convicted for drug trafficking - and backlash from human rights organisations, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will be carrying out a survey to study the Singaporean consensus regarding the death penalty.

The survey -- which will involve 2,000 Singaporeans and permanent resident selected at random -- will be conducted between Oct and Dec this year by leading local market research consultancy Blackbox Research, commissioned by the MHA itself.

The selected individuals were informed of their participation in letters seen by Channel NewsAsia, in which it was stated that a representative from Blackbox may visit the participants' house to interview them.

To ensure authenticity of the process and to build trust with the participants, the interviewer will be identifiable by the company's identity pass and an authorisation letter from the MHA.

Participants are assured of their privacy and confidentiality in the letter.

"Please be assured that the survey is non-identifiable and your responses will be kept anonymous," the letter stated, adding that the survey will take approximately 15 minutes.

As a small token of appreciation for their participation, each respondent will receive a S$5 NTUC FairPrice voucher upon successful completion of the survey.

A MHA spokesperson said, in response to Channel NewsAsia's queries, that the survey aims to obtain "a better understanding of Singapore residents’ attitudes towards the death penalty," as well as being a part of the Government’s continuous research on the Republic's criminal justice system.

Human rights groups remain sceptical of MHA's aims regarding the survey

Human rights organisations, however, remain sceptical of the Singapore government's willingness to abolish the death penalty, given its track record of executions and its strong retentionist stance, the latter of which has often been repeated in the past by Law Minister K Shanmugam on various occasions.

Deputy director for Asia at Human Rights Watch Phil Robertson said: “There’s been no indication whatsoever that Singapore’s position on use of the death penalty is softening."

Speaking to AFP, Mr Robertson added: “One wonders whether the MHA is counting on a survey of public opinion to back their views and provide justification for their continued defiance of the international trend towards abolishing the death penalty.”

REACH survey in 2016 reveals Singaporeans' and PRs' strong support for death penalty

Findings from a REACH survey -- which was conducted in 2016 -- revealed that the majority of Singaporeans and permanent residents support the death penalty as a form of sentencing in Singapore's criminal justice system, with eight in 10 respondents agreeing with the retention of the death penalty, and 82 per cent of the respondents agreeing that the death penalty remains an effective deterrent against heinous and serious crimes in the Republic. 

Only one in 10 respondents agreed that the death penalty should be abolished.

Singapore Prison Service data reveals worryingly consistent number of executions by the state

Data from the Singapore Prison Service revealed that eight executions had taken place just last year, and all of them were carried out over drug offences.

Four executions were carried out two years ago - two for drug-related offences, and two for murder.

Six years ago, Parliament had passed laws to remove the mandatory death penalty in exceptional cases of drug trafficking, as well as in murder cases where the intention to kill cannot be proved, with life imprisonment among the alternatives for sentencing at the discretion of the judge.

Four men executed by the state within only 48 hours this month; eight executions carried out in total this year so far

This month alone, four individuals were executed under the Singapore death penalty law:

  • Selamat Bin Paki and Ali Bin Mohamad Bahashwan, who were executed on the afternoon of 24 Oct; and
  • Irwan Bin Ali and Prabu N Pathmanathan, who were executed on the morning of 26 Oct.

Eight executions were carried out this year so far.