An open letter written anonymously was posted by Facebook user Brittanie Bartlett on behalf of her ‘really good friend’. The letter is an appeal to President Halimah Yacob to grant clemency to those facing the death penalty, specifically drug traffickers.
The letter opens with the writer drawing a comparison between President Halimah and former President Wee Kim Wee, calling them both “down to earth” and describing them as "deeply respected by many Singaporeans" for their willingness to listen to what the average Singaporean has to say.
The author gdoes on to say, “It is with that hope that you are someone who would listen that I write to you about something many Singaporeans feel we could do better; our death penalty for drug traffickers.”
The writer proceeded to talk about Djawani Bte Saradewi who is currently on death-row for trafficking drugs.
“She who was not receiving financial support for from her ex-husband to care for their schooling son and her ailing mother, while struggling with drug addiction and unemployment. I am not arguing that she is not responsible for her choices and is a victim of her circumstances, but that the role of the situation not be overlooked, and that the punishment be proportionate to the crime.”
The writer also pointed out that death penalty as a deterrence isn’t always successful in preventing crime. Specifically, the writer pointed out Switzerland’s lowest rate of homicide in the world even though the punishment for that crime is life in prison and community service instead of capital punishment.
The writer appealed to President Halimah, “I am not saying others are better than us, but that it is possible to reach the same level of deterrence with more constructive means.” They continued to point out that instead of ending the life of a mother was simply trying to support her own family, the nation should instead try to help her recover and fine a better way to care for her loved ones.
The writer urged President Halimah to be more like her predecessor Wee Kim Wee who “signed all requests for clemency for drug traffickers sentenced to death during his terms without altering the rates of drug trafficking in Singapore significantly.”
They added, “He was courageous enough to let the ultimate human value of compassion guide his decision, showing an understanding of what it is like to be poor, desperate and to make mistakes; to be human. His realisation that perhaps laws of the past need to be reviewed, and above all his kindness, won the hearts of many Singaporeans.”
The author ended with a plea to President Halimah, “I have faith that you too are a leader of such quality, and would consider deeply the clemency requests for drug traffickers like Madam Saradewi.”
Singapore is one of the few remaining countries in the world that still enforces capital punishment for drug offences. The death penalty is still practiced in many Asian and Middle Eastern country while it has largely been abolished in the Western world, with the exception of the United States. Since 2014, Singapore has executed 21 persons for drug related offences.
According to numbers by the Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty (SWGDP), only seven clemencies have been granted to death row inmates by Presidents since Singapore’s independence, the most of which were granted by Dr Wee Kim Wee. The last clemency was awarded by the late Ong Teng Cheong in 1998.