MPs raise concerns on provision of 'substantive' cooperation to avoid gallows
Singapore: Meting out harsher penalties for those in the lower rungs of drug syndicates - which one Member of Parliament (MP) described as "a perverse outcome of the law - and a further widening of the discretionary powers of the Public Prosecutor, were chief among the concerns parliamentarians raised yesterday, as they rose to speak on proposed amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act.
The concerns arise from a specific provision, which will introduce changes to the death penalty regime for drug trafficking: The trafficker must have only played the role of courier and he must have cooperated with the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) in a "substantive" way to escape the gallows.
While the objective of the provision is to "let less culpable offenders involved only in low level transportation or couriering avail themselves", such traffickers would have "little or no information on the senior members or the inner workings of the syndicate", Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP Edwin Tong argued.
He added the provision "could potentially discriminate" between the different offenders who commit the same crime but who may, for various reasons, have different levels of knowledge and insight into the syndicate's activities.
Said Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim: "A low-level courier who knows nothing about the drug network will go to the gallows, while another courier who has more information (and is presumably closer to the higher echelons) can escape death. This would be a perverse outcome."
Arguing that CNB "operations may fail due to the information being outdated or due to law enforcement incompetence", Ms Lim asked: "Why not simply require full co-operation, without the additional requirement of substantial assistance to disrupt drug trafficking activities?"
Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Alvin Yeo suggested the cooperation requirement be made "more objective and less subject to the judgment or discretion, or even the whims, of individual officers" in the CNB or the Attorney-General's Chambers.
Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Christopher De Souza felt that cooperation should be construed strictly so it leads to concrete outcomes helping or resulting in the dismantling of syndicates.
Expressing his concern, Nominated MP Laurence Lien said: "Whether a person gets a chance to live or not hinges on how useful the offender is to the State in achieving certain ends. The life and death of an offender should not be decided based solely on their utility to the State."
The debate continues when Parliament resumes tomorrow.--Courtesy of Today