SINGAPORE is one of the only countries in the world to effectively control drugs because its draconian laws provide a deterrent, the country’s ambassador to the United States has claimed.
In an opinion piece published by the Washington Post on Sunday, Ashok Kumar Mirpuri wrote that while Singapore “does not take joy in the death penalty”, its citizens “understand the need for it and strongly support it”.
Mirpuri was responding to a previous article published by the Post, reporting US President Donald Trump’s claim that killing drug dealers could help to address the country’s opioid crisis.
“Some countries have a very tough penalty, the ultimate penalty, and they have much less of a drug problem than we do,” Trump was quoted as saying. “If you shoot one person, you get life in prison. These people kill 1,000, 2,000 people, and nothing happens to them.”
Mirpuri argued that Singapore’s low rate of drug use – at 30 people per 100,000 according to government statistics – was the result of its implementation of “stiff penalties” for selling and consuming drugs.
The most recent United Nations estimates are that Singapore’s rate of drug abuse is indeed lower than neighbouring Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
Singapore imposes the death penalty for murder or drug trafficking, however as of 2012 judges have discretion to issue a life sentence rather than capital punishment. According to Amnesty International, 10 people have been executed by Singapore in the past three years.
A further 17 people have been sentenced to death.
“When expressing sympathy for drug traffickers, let us remember the immense harm drugs cause abusers and their families, especially children,” wrote Mirpuri on Sunday. The Post reported that Trump has “privately expressed interest” in Singapore’s policy of executing drug dealers.
Rights groups and public health experts have expressed concern about the US President’s support for a punitive approach to drugs policy. Kasia Malinowska, Director for the Global Drug Policy Program at Open Society Foundations recently told Asian Correspondent in an interview that: “In this context to hear the President of the United States to throw these words out there is just terribly irresponsible.”
“I think it’s an awful message for everyone else who is looking to Trump with admiration or looking for justification in their own jurisdiction,” she said.
Most countries in Southeast Asia implement the death penalty for drug crimes except Cambodia and the Philippines which are abolitionist in terms of the law.
Since mid-2016, however, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has overseen a bloody drugs war in which police and paid killers have shot thousands of people. Human Rights Watch has said more than 12,000 people have been killed in extrajudicial circumstances.
Trump has previously congratulated his Philippine counterpart on his “unbelievable job” in the controversial war on drugs.