I am directed to refer to the petition for clemency for Kho Jabing and to inform you that the President, after due consideration of the petition and on the advice of the Cabinet, has decided that the sentence of death should stand.
— — —
Principal Private Secretary
To the President
This is how a clemency petition is rejected. This is how a family, so fearful yet hopeful, is told that their loved one is going to die.
Jumai Kho folded the letter carefully and slid it back into its envelope. “When can we see Jabing?” she asked in Malay.
In pushing Singapore to take baby steps away from the death penalty, one aspect of the criminal justice system in need of reform could be the clemency process, said anti-capital punishment campaigner M Ravi at a film screening and discussion organised for the World Day Against the Death Penalty on Saturday.
In Singapore, pardons are granted by the President, who is the elected head of state of the country. However the court ruled in 2011 that the President has to act on the advice of the Cabinet when it comes to clemency cases, effectively handing the power to the government that has not only kept capital punishment on the books, but actively defended its continued use.
M Ravi, a human rights lawyer whose licence to practise is currently suspended, pointed out that former president S R Nathan had not granted any clemencies during his two six-year terms as head-of-state. In fact, since Singapore’s independence in 1965, less than ten clemencies have been granted. The last clemency was granted by Ong Teng Cheong in 1998.
This October 10th, the Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty is commemorating the 13th World Day Against the Death Penalty in solidarity with all individuals and groups working on the abolition of capital punishment.
Singapore commendably amended its death penalty regime in 2013, but the amendments did not go far enough in abolishing the mandatory aspect of the punishment. It is a fact that the mandatory death penalty still remains and will continue to be applied unless certain conditions are met. Singapore therefore retains its position of having the death penalty for drug smuggling or trafficking.