Many Singaporeans are now questioning the death penalty. This follows news about Nagaenthran Dharmalingan who is on the death row for his attempts to smuggle 43g of heroin into Singapore. This is despite him having an IQ (69) that is internationally recognizable as an intellectual disability. He was scheduled to be hanged on 9 Nov, but his hearing has been postponed after he was tested COVID positive.
In response, 237 family members and friends of prisoners who have lived on death row have come together to pen a letter of appeal to the president. The letter was shared by Transformative Justice Collective (TJC). TJC is a collective with the goal of seeking the reform of Singapore’s criminal punishment system.
Subsequently, on 14 Nov, TJC shared in a Facebook post reflecting about how we Singaporeans are all Nagaenthrans.
“For many of us, drugs become a way to cope with violence, illness, poverty, discrimination, broken relationships, and broken families that we struggled with before we started using. Drugs help us cope in ways that institutions and the system cannot, or refuse to address.”Transformation Justice Collective
Nobody will risk their lives over a few pills unless they had nothing to lose. Drugs are not what destroyed their lives, it is the result of a destroyed life.
Death penalty does not fix the problem
In 2021, the Ministry of Family and Social Development highlighted that people with adverse childhood experiences were more likely to report alcohol and illicit substance use. Yet, they are still further punishing these individuals with a death sentence, despite all they have had to been through.
What we need is to address the issues that led drug users to use the drugs in the first place. More often than not, these are issues that many other Singaporeans face as well.