Responding to misguided accusations – no, we do not want traffickers to go unpunished

Since the publication of this article on publichouse.sg, “The hanging of Muhammad Ridzuan – a family left to pick up the pieces”, (which have been read by a surprising number of people), some have accused the website of arguing for drug traffickers to not be punished, or to be allowed to go scot-free.

It is a bewildering accusation as nowhere in the article does it make such a call.

But it is not a new accusation. Every time an article appears which calls for the abolition of the death penalty in Singapore, or when an article (such as the one in question here) depicts the situation of the families of drug traffickers, some people jump to the extreme and unfounded – and yes, completely ignorant – accusation that we want drug traffickers to get away unpunished.

This is an accusation made even by ministers, at least implicitly, if not blatantly.

And then there are also others who think we should take on the role of the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), such as one “Marsie TP” who posted this ludicrous challenge:

And that is exactly part of the problem – an irrational, knee-jerk reaction to what are serious issues, belittling the sufferings of families of traffickers, as if they have forfeited all rights to compassion simply because they are related to couriers or mules.

It reminds one of a certain ex-Nominated Member of Parliament calling for the children of terrorists to be killed… just in case they grow up to be terrorists themselves. Guilt by association, nevermind rationality.

It is a childish way of thinking.

So let’s put it in record. I do not speak for others but only for myself.

No, I do not think or feel or want drug traffickers to go unpunished. Far from it. I agree that the punishment should be severe, and must reflect the serious consequences of drug trafficking which devastate the lives of families and the person himself.

At the same time, I do not feel drug trafficking is so heinous a crime as to warrant the death sentence.

Both the United Nations and the European Union do not recognise drug trafficking as such a crime either.

Also, drug trafficking is not, generally and most times, a violent crime in itself.

Some say well, drugs affect and destroy the lives of those who engage in them. This is true – but we need to be specific here and look at how drugs is consumed, or taken by the addict.

The addict does so with total free choice.

Drugs can only be imbibed in a few ways: through snorting up the nose, through needle injections, and through inhalation.

All of these methods can only happen if the addict himself voluntarily does it.

No one can force drugs into his body.

So, at the risk of sounding uncompassionate, the truth is that drug addicts must also take the responsibility of being addicted to drugs.

As one ex-drug addict told me recently: “No one put a knife to my neck and forced me to take drugs. I did it myself. This is why there is supply – when there is demand from people like us.”

As another friend of mine posted on her Facebook page:

“[To] all those who support the death penalty for drug traffickers and whose argument is that they have a choice and choose to commit the offence despite knowing the consequences… well the drug addicts have a choice too and they choose to take drugs despite the consequences to themselves and their families so if you have no sympathy for drug traffickers you should not have any sympathy for drug addicts either.”

Should we then hang all addicts and traffickers? Would this not be the best deterrence of which the government claims is what the death penalty does?

Of course we do not hang everyone. For addicts, we rehabilitate them, and punish them with jail terms as well.

So, why can’t we do the same for the traffickers, especially when most of the traffickers caught are mere couriers, and not the kingpins of the trade?

Would life imprisonment, with possibility of parole after say 20 years, not be appropriate?

Must we take their lives?

These are questions we need to seriously ask, because we must realise that hanging, or killing, couriers and traffickers leaves another set of victims – that of the families, such as that of Muhammad Ridzuan.

They are often as innocent as the families of addicts. So, why do they deserve a lifetime of pain?

Remember that addicts have a chance of being rehabilitated and thus have a second chance on life.

Why should traffickers, especially those who are mere mules or couriers, not be given the same?

The only reason which the government has offered so far is that of deterrence. But the government has not produced one iota of evidence to show that the death sentence does indeed have a deterrent effect.

On the contrary, there is indication that drug addiction is on the rise in Singapore, despite our tough penal regime.

Perhaps instead of hiding behind unsubstantiated and nebulous claims of deterrence, we should consider if there are better ways of dealing with the problem.

For example, why has there not been a concerted effort by ASEAN to deal with the sources of drugs itself (in the so-called Golden Triangle area, which produces much of the world’s drug supply)?

If Singapore is serious about curbing the spread of drugs in our region, then it is high time it pushed for ASEAN member countries to do more.

Singapore will chair the association next year (2018), and it would be a good time for it to push such an agenda, and show that it is willing to do more to get at the sources of the drugs, and to go after the kingpins of the trade – and not just make examples out of mere mules by killing them while leaving the kingpins untouched.

Again, I am not calling for the mules to go unpunished. I am saying that if you do not even make much effort to go after the kingpins, then you really do not have much ground to stand on with your claim to deterrence.

I mean, you think hanging Muhammad Ridzuan will deter the kingpins from sending the next bunch of desperate, illiterate mules who come from poor backgrounds from some obscure kampongs in some third world countries?

If that were so, the drug problem would have been solved eons ago.

Mindef was no victim – part 1

Back in late 2014, when I was informed that the Attorney General’s Chamber (AGC) had sent us a letter of demand about an article we had published on The Online Citizen (TOC), my first thoughts were, “Oh crap.”

And when I later read the letter itself, I was flabbergasted.

The AGC had threatened to use the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) against us if we did not comply with its demands.

I remember the first word which came to my mind after reading that letter.

“Sneaky”.

I was in disbelief – disbelief that this government would be so sneaky as to use a law, which was meant to protect the truly vulnerable, for itself, a government which is all-powerful, and which has unlimited resources.

Sneaky indeed.

And more than that, it was distasteful. It was pathetic. It was horrible. Continue reading “Mindef was no victim – part 1”

Post-op follow-ups – how much do they cost?

bill2

It has been more than two months since I had my quadruple coronary heart bypass surgery at the National Heart Centre (Singapore). Earlier, I wrote about the costs of the operation itself which cost a total of S$25,000, before government subsidies and insurance. (Please see here.)

In this article, I will talk about the post-op follow-up consultation and rehabilitation costs, so as to give readers – and those who may be undergoing or contemplating similar procedures  an idea of what to expect in terms of financial commitment.

Deciding to go through a heart bypass operation is a major decision, often a necessary one, as in my case. Three of my main arteries were significantly blocked, which resulted in chest pains, shortness of breath and a general deterioration of my health the year before the surgery. Continue reading “Post-op follow-ups – how much do they cost?”

Healing

Blood diffusion on left thigh after CABG op. It has cleared up entirely now.
Blood diffusion on left thigh after CABG op. It has cleared up entirely now.

It has been slightly more than 3 weeks since I had my surgery on 22 September 2016. Things are going well, and I am recovering better than I had expected.

I still have a little chest discomfort when I exert myself, such as when I reach for something, or when I try to carry something. So, I have to be careful when I do so.

I can’t carry a 2kg watermelon, for example. It would be too much of an exertion. My chest also hurts when I sneeze. I particularly hate sneezing now cos it feels like your heart is being squeeze rather tightly whenever I do.

But other than this, I am fine. Continue reading “Healing”

Is Medishield Life a rip-off?

mslSince my last article in which I wrote about the bills for my two medical procedures – an angiography (including a percutaneous coronary intervention) and a coronary heart bypass surgery (CABG) – some have criticised the Medishield Life scheme for not paying out enough in situations such as mine.

Just to recap, the bills are as follows. I am including the PCI as a separate item:

First bill:

Angiography: $3,393.00

PCI: S$4,379.85

Misc (medication, ward charges, etc): $2,954.24

Medishield Life payout: $720

 

Second bill:

CABG (including 6 day ICU/ward charges): $4,903.63

Medishield Life payout: $4,529.15

 

GRAND TOTAL: $15,630.72

I won’t go into the details of the numbers and how they are derived as I have already explained it in my previous article. (Please click here.) Continue reading “Is Medishield Life a rip-off?”

“They will come at 6am to prepare you.”

“They will come at 6am to prepare you,” the night nurse told me. Mine would be among the first surgeries of the day.

Dinner the night before
Dinner the night before

It was a sense of relief to hear that because it meant I would finally be going through with the surgery, and that there is very little more I need to do. But later, that relief also turned to anxiety and fear, feelings which I knew I would have as the day drew nearer, although at the same time I had also been looking forward to the event.

And the next morning, just like clockwork, the nurses came into my ward and told me, “Mr Loh, we will have to prepare you.”

I looked at the clock and it was 6am.

I hadn’t slept much the night before. I kept running the whole operation through my mind, just to calm myself. I had had some last-minute nervous thoughts. Continue reading ““They will come at 6am to prepare you.””

Murali’s unnecessary spending

TODAY, 8 September 2016
TODAY, 8 September 2016

The PAP candidate for the Bukit Batok by-election has promised a S$1.9m estate upgrading plan which will be implemented if he is elected as its Member of Parliament.

Before we readily applaud this, let us go back about 7 months – to September 2015, in the heat of the general election.

The former incumbent MP of the ward, David Ong – who has since resigned his position after some personal indiscretions – had promised a 5-year plan for Bukit Batok.

The plans would cost S$24 million.

According to news reports of his rally speech then, Mr Ong announced that this would include remaking the market in the estate and its surrounding areas, improving the shops in the ward, constructing a new hawker centre, as well as a new eldercare centre and two new early childhood education centres. Continue reading “Murali’s unnecessary spending”