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Singapore

Singapore surveys public on attitudes toward death penalty as rights groups call for its abolition

  • The city state executed eight convicts last year, the highest number in a decade
  • Human rights groups said the survey is unlikely to be a prelude to Singapore softening its position on capital punishment
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2018, 7:47pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 November, 2018, 12:30am

Singapore will gauge public attitudes towards the death penalty in a survey, the interior ministry said on Wednesday, as human rights groups renewed calls for its abolition.

The city state – which staunchly maintains that capital punishment is a crime deterrent – executed eight convicts last year, the highest number in a decade, according to official data. They had all committed drug offences.

The Straits Times said it is the first time that the MHA, which is in charge of the prisons department, is conducting a survey on the subject.

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Last week’s hanging in Singapore of convicted Malaysian drug trafficker Prabu N Pathmanathan sparked fresh calls to scrap the death penalty, a legacy of British colonial rule.

Neighbouring Malaysia, where the cabinet has decided to abolish the death penalty, had asked Singapore to spare the 31-year-old convict on humanitarian grounds.

“The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is conducting the survey to give us a better understanding of Singapore residents’ attitudes towards the death penalty,” MHA said in a statement.

It said the survey is part of the government’s “regular research on our criminal justice system” and involves citizens and permanent residents.

“Participants were randomly selected based on age, race and gender, for a representative sample of the Singapore resident population,” it added.

Some 2,000 respondents will be questioned between October and December by market research consultancy Blackbox Research, which the MHA has commissioned for the project, the newspaper said.

Human rights groups said the survey is unlikely to be a prelude to Singapore softening its position on capital punishment.

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

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“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.”

Previously, the death penalty in Singapore was mandatory for crimes like drug trafficking and murder.

Following a review, legislation was passed in 2012 removing the mandatory provision for drug trafficking and murder under certain circumstances.