The family of Tangaraju Suppiah, a Singaporean man who is set to be hanged next week over a kilogram of cannabis, is pleading for clemency and urging a retrial. Tangaraju was sentenced to death in 2018 for conspiring to smuggle drugs, and the Court of Appeal has upheld his sentence following an unsuccessful appeal. Tangaraju’s sister, Leelavathy Suppiah, expressed disbelief with the sentencing, stating that she did not believe that her brother received a fair trial. She urged the Singaporean government to reconsider the punishment and that a retrial happens. Singapore has some of the strictest drug laws in the world and insists that the death penalty is still an effective deterrent against drug trafficking. This is a global issue as cannabis has been decriminalised in many parts of the world, including neighbouring Thailand. Rights groups have been campaigning to abolish capital punishment in Singapore. Although the country resumed its use of execution by hanging in March 2022, its recent increase in death penalty use has sparked global outcry, including from the UN and British tycoon Richard Branson, as they seek for the government to review its capital punishment policies. Amnesty International has recorded that the government executed 11 people for drug offenses last year. Tangaraju’s family, relatives, and friends have signed appeals and petitions demanding the government reconsider the death penalty ahead of his scheduled execution. Meanwhile, various activists are planning to deliver the petitions to the president’s office. Family members of Tangaraju believe that there was a loophole in the case since the accused never handled the drugs. Also, they claim that Tangaraju was questioned by police without legal assistance and denied a Tamil interpreter during the recording of his first police statement. It is high time for Singapore to realize that the world has moved on from harsh and one-sided drug policies that punish the poorest and most vulnerable groups. The country should consider engaging in a broader public debate about its capital punishment policy before more lives are lost. As a cannabis-friendly author, I urge the Singaporean government to abolish the death penalty for drug offenses, as it is a harsh and unnecessary punishment that has been proven to be ineffective.
As a disclaimer, the opinions expressed in this article don’t reflect those of High Thailand.