Death penalty for the government then?

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Beacon of moral contradiction

Consider the following scenarios:

First, the case of Noinoi. In 2006, Mohd Ali Johari was charged for the murder of his two-year-old step-daughter, Noinoi. He admitted to slapping her, immersing her in water repeatedly. He was a father at 17, a gambling addict, runner for illegal bookmakers, immature, deficient parent. He said he sometimes brought Noinoi home with him as he thought that she would help him avoid detection by the police.

Look at “Nelly” and “Rose”. Nelly (aged six) was placed under foster care after her mother, uncle and grandfather were arrested for illegal gambling. She had been cared for by multiple caregivers and witnessed her mother accepting illegal bets. Her sister, Rose, a newborn baby, was placed under foster care in 2010.

Look at “Ricky”, nine years old, referred to MCYS in 2007 when his mother and stepfather were imprisoned for illegal gambling. Both had a long history of gambling addiction. Father was also a runner for bookmakers. Ricky was admitted to a children’s home, where he was observed to have emotional issues and suicidal tendencies.

Last case I wanted to highlight. Girl, we call her “A”, was arrested at the age of 16 for underage gambling. She was brought to underground casinos by her half-sister, now serving sentence for underage gambling herself, also by her mother’s boyfriend.

Later, when her mother’s boyfriend was incarcerated, she turned to her mother, who brought her to casinos regularly. She has three half-brothers currently incarcerated for excessive gambling. Five others arrested for illegal gambling – friends of Girl A’s mother – operated an illegal gambling den at her half-sister’s residence. Total number of people involved in this group: 12.

Gambling destroys families, so there is a very strong case for the death penalty on gambling. Too drastic, you say, but I ask you to consider the real victims in these scenarios — the family members and the young ones who suffer. Ask yourself if we are prepared for the consequences of not having a death penalty for casino operators. More importantly, we must target the real kingpins in the gambling industry — those who grant licences to casinos and derive tax revenues on these businesses.

Of course, I’m not being serious in asking for such a draconian penalty. Yet that was the logic given by Law Minister K Shanmugam when he used these real life cases in his ‘passionate plea’ when responding to calls to remove the death penalty for drug offenders. I merely altered the offences without making these stories any less plausible.

First, the case of Noinoi. In 2006, Mohd Ali Johari was charged for the murder of his two-year-old step-daughter, Noinoi. He admitted to slapping her, immersing her in water repeatedly. He was a father at 17, a marijuana smoker, cough syrup abuser, immature, deficient parent. He said he sometimes brought Noinoi home with him as he thought that she would help him avoid detection by CNB.

Look at “Nelly” and “Rose”. Nelly (aged six) was placed under foster care after her mother, uncle and grandfather were arrested for drug consumption. She had been cared for by multiple caregivers and witnessed her mother taking drugs. Her sister, Rose, a newborn baby, was placed under foster care in 2010.

Look at “Ricky”, nine years old, referred to MCYS in 2007 when his mother and stepfather were imprisoned for drug offences. Both had a long history of drug abuse. Father was also a drug abuser. Ricky was admitted to a children’s home, where he was observed to have emotional issues and suicidal tendencies.

Last case I wanted to highlight. Girl, we call her “A”, was arrested at the age of 16 for possession of meth. Drugs were given to her by her half-sister, now serving sentence for drug consumption, also by her mother’s boyfriend.

Later, when her mother’s boyfriend was incarcerated, she turned to her mother, who gave her heroin regularly. She has three half-brothers currently incarcerated for drug consumption. Five others arrested for consumption of drugs – friends of Girl A’s mother – consumed drugs at her half-sister’s residence. Total number of people involved in this group: 12.

There is no doubt that these are very tragic real life stories, but we risk letting emotions cloud our judgement on whether the punishment fits the actual crime. The crime here is drugs trafficking and abuse, not family abuse and neglect per se. If the latter were the case, we should have the death penalty for child abuse as well.

My main objective, though, is to highlight the contradiction promulgated by the government as both the issues of drugs and casinos — both capable of destroying families — were debated in parliament this week.

So, Mr Shanmugam, what then is your take on this?

[Second Minister for Home Affairs] Iswaran added that the value proposition of the two IRs lie in the economic benefits that they bring, and their roles in making Singapore a vibrant and dynamic economy.

It is best the government steers clear of using dire social consequences to justify the death penalty on drugs, considering it has already lost all moral capital the moment it decided to go ahead with the casinos.