Sunday, 25 January 2009

Orison of odium

In the midst of our CNY celebrations of luck, prosperity, and family reunion, or for our non-Chinese friends, a few days’ respite from another work-a-day, let us not forget that death is here and always. 

And that in Singapore, Disneyland with the death penalty, Death is a known Hour to some. 

And to some others, Death can be a wished-for spectacle. Death as Edifying Entertainment:

Kudos to death row coverage

I refer to the report, 'One-Eyed Dragon wanted to help others' (Jan 11), and commend the excellent coverage of the hanging of triad leader Tan Chor Jin.

Going behind the walls of Changi Prison and reporting the news was a good move. The report was a good attempt at highlighting what goes on in death row. Many people do not know what transpires behind the walls. Hopefully, in future, there can be more coverage highlighting the last moments of the man to be hanged, as well as the reaction of public officials.

I hope the Ministry of Health, prison officials and representatives of the various religious organisations can work out something that is acceptable to all parties concerned to encourage death row prisoners to donate their organs after death. But in the final analysis, the man to be hanged, and his close family members, should make the final decision.
-- Jasbir Singh, ST 25 Jan 09

In the past, public executions were possible because the rulers had absolute power. The spectacle of those executions served as a deterrent and a warning to all. It also instilled into the commoners the fear of the absolute ruler, thus further reinforcing the ruler’s power. As totalitarian rule gradually diminished in the last century, capital punishment, where carried out, had to become more opaque affairs. Graphic (re)presentations of death-row criminals had the unwelcome effect of undermining state power. The power of the State to exact revenge. The power of the State to kill. Thus newspaper reports of capital punishment usually revealed only the barebones of the said cases, functioning as a panoptical reminder of the State's power to unleash violence upon its own people, without necessarily risking the liberal public’s backlash.

Should I agree with the above writer - in supporting the death penalty, and in his suggestion of voyeurism - then pardon me for being a citizen of a state that kills efficiently and with impunity. Pardon me for being a citizen of a state that has no room for magnanimity, and with a people possessing no ability to forgive. Pardon me for bearing witness to my country’s crime.

Should I agree with the above writer, then, should the day comes that he might kill another man in a fit of inexplicable, irrational, incendiary fury, and is unmitigatedly sentenced to death, and is compelled to sign away his body parts in powerless, walled-off circumstances away from daylight, should the day comes, that he latches unto penitence and feels remorse, but yet shall never find pardon and that precious stroke of redemption, should the day comes, that he knows that the hour of his Death is tomorrow’s sunrise, and each second is an excruciating eternity to that spectacular Hour that will be relished by a cheering, waiting crowd, brimming with curiosity and anticipation, salivating with the writer's last moments and celebrating with his Death, should that regretful day comes, I shall remain ashamed of my country as an abattoir, I shall remain ashamed of myself as an abettor, and I shall remain adamant in the face of that writer’s impending, wrongful Death, that my sympathies for him shall abhorrently, but absolutely remain with me.




  1. powerful...

    love your (s)wordplay.


  2. keep up the great work raising the awareness of fellow singaporeans in the coming year!