Take more balanced, broader view on capital punishment: Singapore Foreign Minister at UN

Take more balanced, broader view on capital punishment: Singapore Foreign Minister at UN

NEW YORK: Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Wednesday (Sep 21) urged countries to take a “more balanced, broader assessment” of the death penalty, as he outlined Singapore’s approach to capital punishment.

He was speaking at a high-level event on the sidelines of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York, where representatives from countries like Italy noted the “clear international trend in favour of the moratorium” on capital punishment while calling for a “constant effort to listen to those who hold a different position”.

In his speech, Dr Balakrishnan acknowledged Italy’s intention to promote debate. “I think our starting shared position has to be that all human life is sacred,” he said, adding that the question was “whether the death penalty, in the proper context and in strictly limited circumstances, plays any role in protecting the sanctity of life”.

“In Singapore, where I come from, the death penalty remains on our statutes,” he said. “But it is applied only and strictly in the context of an unwavering commitment to the rule of law.

“In fact, you could argue that a prerequisite is an unwavering commitment to the rule of law, resting on a strong and independent judiciary. There must be fair and transparent laws and due process … Capital punishment is carried out only after due judicial process and in accordance with the law.

“As a result, for what it is worth, I can stand here and tell you that Singapore is one of the safest countries in the world. Our residents, including women and children, can go anywhere they please, freely and without fear, at any time of the day or night.”

Dr Balakrishnan went on to explain how capital punishment for drug-related offences and for murder has been a key element in keeping Singapore drug-free and safe. “Singapore is probably one of the few countries in the world which has successfully fought this drug problem. And we do not have slums, we do not have ghettos, we do not have no-go zones for the police.

“The death penalty has deterred major drug syndicates from establishing themselves in Singapore, and we have successfully kept the drug situation under control.”

Dr Balakrishnan also noted that Singapore has “very high levels of support on the part of (its) people for the death penalty to remain on (its) books”.

“But we do not take this support for granted and from time to time, we will continue to review our legislation and make changes according to our circumstances,” he said.

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