Two drug traffickers hanged

SINGAPORE - Two Singaporeans on death row were executed yesterday morning, in the first hangings carried out here since legislative changes to the mandatory death penalty came into force on Jan 1 last year.

Convicted drug traffickers Tang Hai Liang and Foong Chee Peng, were hanged in Changi Prison Complex, after they decided not to be considered for re-sentencing under the new laws.

Tang was 36 years old and Foong was 48.

They were convicted of trafficking in heroin in 2010 and 2011 respectively, said the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) in a statement yesterday.

The legislative changes were passed by Parliament in November 2012 after a review of the mandatory death penalty.

A moratorium on executions was called in July 2011 when the Government started the review.

Under the new laws, judges will have the discretion to impose a life sentence instead of death for certain instances of murder and drug trafficking. After they came into force in January last year, 35 people awaiting capital punishment - 28 for drug offences and seven for murder - were given the chance to be considered for re-sentencing under the new regime.

Tang and Foong were among them, but had chosen not to go through the process, said the CNB spokesman yesterday.

Both men had also indicated their preference for this before a High Court assistant registrar, adding that "they understood the consequences of their respective decisions".

The bureau did not say why they had decided not to go through re-sentencing.

Tang had brought into Singapore 89.55g of heroin, and Foong, 40.23g. These quantities were higher than the 15g limit that triggers the death penalty.

CNB confirmed that both men were represented by lawyers throughout the process.

They had also been given the opportunity to petition for clemency from President Tony Tan Keng Yam - but they turned it down.

Singapore is one of few industrialised countries in the world that has retained the death penalty.

During the Parliamentary debate to pass the changes to the mandatory death penalty laws, Law Minister K. Shanmugam and Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean had emphasised that the death penalty has played a big part in deterring drug trafficking here and would remain so.

They also said that the new laws - which removed the death penalty for certain drug offences - would give drug couriers an incentive to help the authorities nab "bigger fish".

Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC's Hri Kumar Nair said yesterday that the changes to the law have resulted in some death sentences being changed to life imprisonment.

Among the 35 on death row when the new laws kicked in, nine have been re-sentenced to life imprisonment, with some getting caning as well, the Ministry of Home Affairs said yesterday.

Another 22 are at various stages of the appeal, re-sentencing or clemency processes, and some have filed other legal challenges.

"Going forward, there will be cases where the Courts will give life imprisonment instead of a death sentence," said Mr Nair, who is also chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs.

He added that having deterrent sentencing is a necessary, but not a sufficient, tool against the drug menace, when asked about the impact of the new laws on drug offenders.

Other factors, such as price, demand and connectivity also come to play, he said.

"We have calibrated the sentencing regime as circumstances have changed," said Mr Nair. "It is difficult to say what will happen in the future. I personally hope that we give more discretion to the Courts and send fewer people to the gallows."

This article was first published on July 19, 2014.
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