Hanging offenders with low IQ – where is mercy?

MohammadIt was nothing but a blip in the news cycle here.

39-year old man hanged for a vicious murder of a 69-year old woman.

He had stabbed her more than 110 times during a robbery in her flat 10 years ago, in 2005.

His brother was also arrested and sentenced to death for being accomplice to the crime – but he was later found not guilty and was released.

It all looks like any other “normal” case of murder – until you realise that the man in question, Mohammad bin Kadar, has an IQ of just 76, which is below average for an ordinary person.

He had appealed his sentence but it was rejected by the appeals court.

His petition for presidential clemency was also rejected by President Tony Tan.

And so, on early Friday morning, 17 April 2015, Mohammad was finally hanged in Changi Prison.

A 10-year case comes to an end – and very few people care or are even aware of his case.

Is it right for the state to hang someone who apparently is of diminished disposition intellectually?

Furthermore, according to anti-death penalty activists, Mohammad “was under the influence of Dormicum when he entered the flat of Mdm Tham Weng Kuen” and repeatedly assaulted her.

Interestingly, Singapore amended the law in 2012 to give judges discretion to sentence convicts of murder and drug trafficking cases to life in prison or the death penalty.

Before the amendments, death was mandatory for such cases.

Under the Penal Code,  those who are found to be of “abnormality of mind” can also offer “diminished responsibility” as a defence. (See here.)

Be that as it may, and I won’t go into the details of the legal argument, what troubles me more is the moral question – why did the President not find Mohammad worthy or deserving of a pardon, given his circumstances?

During the debate on the changes to the mandatory death penalty provisions in Parliament, Law Minister K Shanmugam mentioned the word “mercy” twice, when he explained the changes.

“Our cardinal objectives remain the same. Crime must be deterred. Society must be protected against criminals. But justice can be tempered with mercy and where appropriate, offenders should be given a second chance.”

And later. he added:

“This change will ensure that our sentencing framework properly balances the various objectives: justice to the victim, justice to society, justice to the accused, and mercy in appropriate cases.”

The question then is: why was Mohammad not deemed deserving of mercy?

Mohammad has thus become the first person to be hanged in Singapore after the amendments to the law was made.

As a Singaporean, I cannot be proud of the execution of people, and it saddens me even more when the person executed is someone like Mohammad.

But this is not the first time we have hanged someone of low IQ.

The case of Rozman Bin Jusoh should never be forgotten.

The then 22-year old Malaysian, who had an IQ of 74, was reportedly entrapped by anti-narcotics officers in 1993.

He was subsequently found guilty of drug trafficking and was duly hanged.

You can read his story here.

While giving judges the discretion to mete out punishments is a good thing (and in fact should be a normal thing), what we may want to also look into is how those who are considered “lesser” than the average person is treated in the criminal justice system.

Even if Mohammad had been spared and had his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment and the mandatory 15 strokes of the cane, would that also be acceptable, or humane?

Would that be merciful?


Why did newspaper reject SKM’s statement on Amos Yee?


There are several troubling things about the way our local mainstream media is reporting the Amos Yee case.

First, there was the false impression given by a Straits Times report that Amos Yee’s mother had made a police report against her son.

The Straits Times had reported:

“A teenager who is in police custody for posting a video online that insulted Christianity and attacked Mr Lee Kuan Yew has been declared by his mother to be beyond her control.

“A reliable source told The Straits Times Amos Yee’s mother has made a police report to that effect.”

But as Amos’ mother told The Online Citizen (TOC), the report gave the wrong impression that somehow she was not getting along with her son, or that she wanted the police to do something to her son.

“I did not file a police report to have my son arrested,” Amos’ mother told TOC plainly.

By the way, Amos’ mother has been with her son at every court appearance, even visiting him when he was in remand.

Notice how it was the so-called alternative media (TOC) which clarified the truth of the matter.

And then there is the utter silence in the mainstream media of the vicious and vulgar threats made against Amos Yee, including one by a grassroots leader and a pro-PAP Facebook page.

There is absolutely nothing about these threats in the mainstream media. Read More…

Amos Yee and the intolerance of the hysterical minority


Christians are offended? Really?

Vincent Law, a family and youth counsellor, has stepped forward and bailed out 16-year old Amos Yee on Tuesday.

Yee was being held by the authorities because no one had posted the S$20,000 bail for him over the weekend.

He had been in remand for 4 days, and is being charged for three alleged offences which are (quoting local news reports):

  • Allegedly causing matter to be seen and heard by five victims by creating a video clip containing remarks against Christianity with the deliberate intention of wounding the feelings of Christians.
  • Allegedly transmitting electronically an image showing obscene figures, believed to be a cartoon or caricature of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Mr Lee in an unflattering sexual depiction.
  • Allegedly making an insulting video clip online containing remarks about Mr Lee which was intended to be heard and seen by persons likely to be distressed by the same.

As his case is before the courts, I shall not delve into it specifically.

Instead, my concern is a wider one of how the government decide what is allowable and what is not, in the area of things which are deemed to be sensitive for some religions and their adherents. Read More…

Poison pen fliers – a virulent kind of sneakiness

Victor Lye's poison pen flier

Should the police investigate the PAP poison pen fliers incident?

Since a branch chairman of the People’s Action Party (PAP) led a group of party activists to distribute anti-Workers’ Party (WP) fliers in Aljunied, questions have been raised asking if the Singapore Police Force (SPF) should investigate the matter.

Briefly, the PAP branch chairman for the Bedok Reservoir area of the constituency, Victor Lye, together with his group of activists, had apparently distributed perhaps thousands of fliers to the flats in the area, urging residents to query the WP on issues pertaining to the running of the town council.

Are the actions of Victor Lye, who is also the chairman of the non-political grassroots organisation, the Citizens Consultative Committee (CCC), of the area, setting a precedent, or is he simply following one, when he distributes political literature to the public?

Incidents in recent years, particularly in 2009 and 2010, are instructive in viewing the issue.

In May 2009, several not-so-flattering posters of Member of Parliament for Nee Soon, Lee Bee Wah, were posted at some blocks in the area.

Read More…

Where is the junzi, gentleman?

ccsOnce upon a time, PAP leaders spoke of how ministers should be junzi, gentlemen.

“Dr Chee has stood for elections thrice – and lost badly all three times, once receiving just 20 per cent of the vote,” the Minister of Social and Family Development (MSF), Chan Chun Sing, wrote in his letter to the Huffington Post on 15 January protesting that the US-based website was giving “considerable but undeserved attention and space” to Dr Chee.

Mr Chan then went on to list Dr Chee’s alleged shortcomings, dating back more than 20 years, and haughtily concluded:

“It is because of these and other failings that Dr Chee is a political failure.”

Mr Chan’s remarks deriding Dr Chee’s supposed “failure” as a politician have been met with equally derisive reactions from the public towards Mr Chan – they point out that Mr Chan himself is “wet behind the ears” politically, having only entered politics in 2011 through a non-contest in the Tanjong Pagar GRC, helmed by former prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew.

Some say Mr Chan should not be making fun of Dr Chee when he himself “has not won a single vote”.

Read More…

Debate on S’pore history obstructed by govt’s unproductive behaviour


Recent remarks from government ministers to the various alternative accounts of our history is disheartening, to say the least. If this is how the debate on our beginnings is going to proceed, I am afraid we may end up with nothing more than personal invective being hurled by the government, and nothing more.

For that is how the “debate” has gone so far.

I wouldn’t even call it a debate, actually. I would call it whiny and desperate defences, devoid of any real or meaningful and productive discussions.

The government’s actions so far are namely two – one; ban, censor, prevent, any alternative accounts from reaching the masses. The ban on Tan Pin Pin’s film is an example.

Of course, the authorities say it is not actually a ban because students can view it, and private screenings of the film are also allowed. But this, the authorities do not seem to realise, makes a mockery of its own reasons for the ban in the first place – that the film poses “a threat to national security”. What kind of government allows a film (or anything, for that matter) which poses a threat to national security to be made available to the masses, especially our students?

So, it is clear the authorities have rubbished their own assertions.

Two; it has resorted to personal attacks to obscure the call for evidence to substantiate its claims made about our history, in particular to the security swoop which detained more than 100 opposition members in Operation Coldstore in February 1963. The government has, instead, chosen to avoid and ignore such calls from Singaporeans, historians and former detainees.

The prime minister, for example, had even mocked what he described as “revisionist” historians for their academic credentials, instead of presenting facts to back his claims. And just yesterday (14 Jan 2015) Minister of State, Sam Tan, accused these “revisionist historians” and their “proxies” of lacking “intellectual honesty”.

Mr Tan, like PM Lee, has presented no evidence to back up what they say, whether in reference to the historical facts, or to who these “proxies” of the “revisionist historians” are.

In other words, the ministers seem to be swinging wildly in perhaps the hope that something will hit.

In sharp contrast to the petty and infantile name-calling of the government, the historians, the former detainees and even ordinary Singaporeans have all – civilly, I might add – taken it upon themselves to do their research and to take time and effort to write these down and share their findings and views with others online.

The latest to do so is Dr Poh Soo Kai , who was in the thick of the situation more than 50 years ago. pskI’ve had the privilege to meet and listen to Dr Poh speak on several occasions. He is a soft-spoken man. And the word which lingers in my head after hearing him is “gentleman”. And you can see this in the way he calmly writes about our past, about what had taken place back in 1963 and prior.

His is quite unlike the uncouth name-calling of PAP ministers.

Dr Poh is a founding member of the PAP, and also of the Barisan Socialis, and a former detainee under Operation Coldstore. He is a practising medical doctor who continues to practise at his clinic which he set up in the 1960s with the late Dr Lim Hock Siew, Singapore’s second longest detainee (19 years).

Do take some time to read this fascinating background to not only why Lee Kuan Yew had to instigate the arrests of more than 100 of his political opponents, but also the larger context in which the British and the Malaysians had to go along with the scam.

For example, Dr Poh writes in “Battle for Merger Revisited, Part 2“:

“Even Lee Kuan Yew saw that the way ahead for him politically was to take on the appearance of an anti-colonial fighter though he recognised that his future rested firmly with the British.[ii] Chin Peng in My Side of History (2003) revealed that Lee had contacted the CPM for support when the PAP was being formed. At that time in 1954, Lee was fully aware that Samad Ismail was a communist, yet he appointed him the pro-tem chairman of the PAP at its inaugural meeting at Victoria Memorial Hall.”

In brief, while the PAP government, now as in the past, castigates and accuse the opposition Barisan Socialis of being part of a communist conspiracy to overthrow the government in Singapore through armed struggle, the PAP was in fact itself deeply in cahoots with the communists.

This is borne out in historical records and is not disputed, even by the PAP.

But instead of engaging in deep and meaningful debate on our history which will enlighten and even empower Singaporeans with a shared sense of national identity in this our 50th anniversary, the PAP government has instead chosen to attempt to discredit others through name-calling, and mocking of researchers’ personal academic qualifications.

It is truly unfortunate for Singaporeans that the Government is also at the same time denying them access to historical records, such as Cabinet Papers, which will no doubt cast much light on what the Lee Kuan Yew government discussed in private about the alleged communists and indeed of Operation Coldstore itself, and in particular its real reason for the security operation.

Singaporeans deserve a substantive debate, and not the vain and childish attempts at avoiding the real questions of our history.

The PAP government should stop its unproductive behaviour, including its unconvincing excuses not to release secret documents which will help Singaporeans understand their past.

It is shameful behaviour, especially in the year when Singaporeans are called to celebrate its nationhood.

Stoking hatred and ill will – MCI replies

tnpOn 19 October 2013, I posted an email on this blog, titled, “Stoking hatred and ill will”, which I had sent to the following:

–          Minister for Communications and Information, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.

–          Acting Minister for Manpower, Tan Chuan Jin.

–          Minister of State, MCI,  Sim Ann

–          Perm Sec, MCI

The email was in response to various government ministers’ accusations of netizens “stoking hate and ill will”, in the words of Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin.

In that email, I highlighted instances of the mainstream media engaging in seemingly xenophobic and racist behaviour in its reports.

The Press Secretary to the Minister of MCI replied to the email on 31 October, almost 2 weeks after the email was sent.

Here is the content of that email, and my subsequent response: Read More…


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