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Writers' Fortnight 2019: Beyond Redemption
Writers' Fortnight 2019: Beyond Redemption
By Mehul Seth, Grade 9, East Campus
What has been described as “the harshest and most final punishment that our country’s criminal justice system can inflict upon an individual,” is legal in 56 countries. In Singapore, we do not often hear about capital punishment - there is minimal media coverage about the death penalty, names, dates and times, of executions. Capital punishment is imposed for murder, drug trafficking, sedition, kidnapping and firearm offences.
Through Global Perspectives, a subject where we look into global issues, we were introduced to an expert on capital punishment in Singapore. Kirsten Han has been on a variety of media and has been to several institutions such as NUS (National University of Singapore) to talk and express her opinion on the death penalty.
During her talk with us, she conveyed her strong feelings against capital punishment and how it should be illegal, but not just in Singapore. The anti-death penalty activist helps and supports families of those who face the punishment, while trying to shine a spotlight on capital punishment to the media.
A Second Chance
Kirsten Han works on specific cases. She worked with the Jabing family to plead against giving Kho Jabing the death penalty.
After coming to Singapore to find a job that would financially support himself and his family, he made his way from Sarawakian, Malaysia to Singapore. According to his sister, Jamai Jabing, “He had never done anything bad before so I thought that nothing could go wrong and it would be better for everyone.” On 17 February 2008, Jabing acted on the contrary to his described behaviour. Along with his friend Galing anak Kujat, Jabing set out to dispossess two Chinese workers. During this event, one of the two workers escaped as Cao Ruyin was unable to. Jabing then struck a piece of wood at Cao’s head which later caused his death. Subsequently in 2010 Kho Jabing was found guilty of murder and was sentenced to death. Although he was later removed from death row, he was replaced in 2015 and that decision was final. This was nothing but frustrating for the Jabing family and his lawyers. On 20 May, 2016, Jabing was executed at 3:30 pm. He was allowed to meet his family one last time before the he was hanged in Changi Prison. Imaginably, there were tears and it was an extremely emotional goodbye as it was his last.
Kirsten Han has rather moral and emotional arguments against capital punishment. The majority of her reasoning is about the emotional impact of the execution. She argues that in many cases the emotional burden for the family of the executed is extremely high and the consequences they face are even higher as the victim’s family. Han implies that the families should not deal with this, knowing that their son, daughter or any family member has been killed because of an incident that could have been because they panicked or made a mistake. She contends by saying that life imprisonment is a much better option because they have a lifetime to suffer with loneliness, boredom and to reflect on what they were convicted for.
Another popular reason for anti-capital punishment which specifically applies to convicted murderer, is that many of the victims' families feel pity for the murderer on death row and would have preferred to forgive them and have them serve a different punishment. Families of the victims have said that it has been painful to watch the execution and moving on would have been better as opposed to solving the problem by taking another life.
Lorrain Taylor had two sons, Albade and Obadiah who were murdered. “Taking another person’s life does not stop violence,” Taylor responded to the execution of her son's murderer.
Joshua “jojo” White was murdered at the age of 23 and the murderer was convicted and sentenced to the death penalty. Yet, White’s parents said that “We do not think that the execution of Jojo’s killer will make the world a better place”.
Too dangerous to be kept alive
In spite of this, many argue that capital punishment is the best-fitting punishment for such crimes. Though families like the Taylors and the Whites say that “revenge is not justice,” there are numerous other families that emotionally benefit from the execution. As long as the prisoner is alive, families of the victim live in fear and often prefer the convict to be sentenced to death. They believe that even years rehabilitation is not enough to “fix” them.
In 1996 Kelly Jenkins was executed for being found guilty of murder. As he was being injected a lethal substance, the Kelly family and survivors of the murder victim watched from just a few feet away. They said that they were “glad that he's off this earth.” and had a sense of satisfaction that they knew “where Leo Jenkins is right now,” At the night, Mrs. Kelly went against several opinions as she stated that “This is justice in a big way. Believe me, it was served tonight."
Particularly in Singapore, it is argued that the death penalty exists partially as a deterrent. With the knowledge of the consequence of committing a high-level crime is a death penalty instills fear in the hearts of citizens and even foreigners travelling to that country.
The controversiality of capital punishment is a result of several opinions that provide different justifications for a variety of situations. It is extremely difficult, even impossible, to come to a conclusion and always support/go against this issue because as it is so heavily dependent on the circumstances. What if it was your younger brother that was murdered? Or what if your younger brother was the one facing the death sentence? Would your decision to support or go against capital punishment differ?
In UWCSEA, there is a connection to capital punishment. During Global Perspectives, we learn about serious issues and look into our own belief systems to allow us to inquire further into ourselves. We are made to voice our opinions and dissimilarly to certain schools, we are free to speak on controversial topics which helps us determine our values and beliefs. “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life.” - J.R.R. Tolkien.
To explore more of the Writers' Fortnight-inspired student writing, please view our Flipboard.
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“The Big Read: Capital Punishment - a Little More Conversation on a Matter of Life and Death.” TODAYonline, 1 Dec. 2018, www.todayonline.com/big-read/big-read-capital-punishment-little-more-con....
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“Families of Murder Victims Speak Out Against the Death Penalty.” ACLU of Northern CA, 22 Oct. 2014, www.aclunc.org/article/families-murder-victims-speak-out-against-death-p....
Talks, TEDx. “Stories behind the Death Penalty in Singapore | Kirsten Han | TEDxNUS.” YouTube, YouTube, 30 May 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAoLFv7c1V4.
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team, Reality Check. “Death Penalty: How Many Countries Still Have It?” BBC News, BBC, 14 Oct. 2018, www.bbc.com/news/world-45835584.
“Person Holding Glass Window.” Free Stock Photos, www.pexels.com/photo/horror-crime-death-psychopath-8578/.