‘Singapore’s strict for a reason’: Former drug abusers share what will happen if the death penalty is abolished

The government's stance on the death penalty has been discussed in recent years as a deterrent for drug-related crime. 

But what do ex-drug abusers honestly feel about capital punishment? This was the question host Munah Bagharib posed on an episode of AsiaOne's Got People Say, a talk show on contentious topics often left unspoken.

While some countries have abolished the death penalty, seven-year recovering addict Bruce Mathieu believed that the laws in Singapore are "strict for a reason". 

The 51-year-old, who first dabbled with cannabis when he was 13, said: "I can't speak for other countries, and I know activists will tell you that the death penalty does not deter drug trafficking." 

"Well, guess what? It has deterred me, and I'm sure it did for a lot of people."

"Drugs are already coming in from neighbouring countries regularly. If Singapore removes the death penalty, everyone will become very brazen since nothing is holding them back anymore," he added. 

Meanwhile, content creator Simon Khung (better known as Simonboy), who has been in recovery for three years, felt that the tough laws are pivotal in keeping the number of drug abusers low, which in turn will prevent other societal issues. 

"If we remove the death penalty, there will be more drugs available and it will lead to more crimes and students quitting schools," the 36-year-old said. 

Mathieu agreed with Khung's opinion, while adding that those who are thinking of dabbling in drugs must first know of the consequences. 

Speaking from his own experience some three decades ago, he said: "When we play a game, we know that rules are involved."

"We didn't go into it with our eyes closed, right? We know the consequences, but we did it anyway." 

'My mother won't even look at me'

Like Mathieu, Sufian Mohd Noor, who has been in recovery for 12 years, was influenced to try drugs at an early age - during his primary school days, in fact. 

The 51-year-old shared that while growing up in the late seventies, drugs were available "everywhere". 

"I mixed around with friends and I thought of giving it a try," Sufian said, adding that his father and brother were also involved in drugs. "I just wanted to see how to get high, but I became addicted. By the time I realised, it was too late." 

Starting out as a drug abuser before moving on to drug trafficking, Sufian was arrested nine times - the last of which he was sentenced to jail for nine years and received 14 strokes of the cane. 

When asked by the host if he was aware that the drugs he trafficked would affect abusers and their families, Sufian said that all he cared about was making money back then. 

But he said that he now understands how his mother felt while living with a drug trafficker like him. 

"I pity her because when my father and brother were caught for drug trafficking, she had to visit them in prison," Sufian said. "My mum didn't know I was a drug abuser since I knew how to hide."

"When I was caught, she just kept quiet. And you know what made me sick? My mother won't even look at me." 

'No such thing as soft or hard drugs'

Other countries have recently moved to legalise the use of cannabis - with Thailand being the only country in Asia to decriminalise the drug after delisting it as a narcotic in 2022. 

But Mathieu argued that there is no such thing as soft or hard drugs. 

"Drugs are drugs. If you get addicted, it will be bad for you," he said. 

Meanwhile, Damian Chue from the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (SANA) believes that it is a misconception that cannabis doesn't have much of an impact on users. 

"Cannabis has been shown to lead to mental health disorders and psychotic illnesses. So I don't think it's that straightforward," he said.

"In fact, I think it's one reason why like SANA, our community, partners, the government and ex-drug users want to share their message and clear these misconceptions." 

Nicholas Tan, another ex-drug user who has been recovering for eight years, warned that dabbling in drugs out of curiosity or peer pressure "can ruin your life". 

Khung agreed that the consequences of drug abuse are "for life". 

"We have cried so many times, we have caused our family to cry so many times. And I really hope to bring this awareness that you will lose out on so many things," he concluded.


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