24-year-old Singaporean man Muhammad Iskandar bin Sa’at was charged in court on Monday under Section 4(1) of the Arms Offences Act. He had allegedly fired a police revolver while trying to escape custody at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital. If found guilty, he will mandatory death penalty.
According to the Police:
“The suspect, a 24-year-old Singaporean man, was arrested for motor vehicle theft on 19 June 2015 and under remand for further investigations. On 20 June 2015, the suspect complained of chest pains and was escorted by Police officers to KTPH to seek medical attention. While inside one of the hospital’s examination rooms, which are not accessible to the public, the suspect attempted to escape but was stopped by one of the Police officers. A struggle ensued during which the suspect snatched the Police officer’s revolver. Shots were fired from the 31-year-old officer’s revolver. The subject was subsequently subdued and the situation brought under control. The suspect sustained superficial injuries while the Police officer suffered gunshot wounds to his left thumb and right foot. The officer was subsequently conveyed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital. He has since undergone surgery and is currently in a stable condition.”
Firstly, the mandatory death penalty is obsolete in today’s standard of a fair justice system. The Singapore government has already moved in the right direction in 2012 when it removed the mandatory death sentence for drug-related and murder offences.
Furthermore, the mandatory death sentence deprives the judge of using his discretionary powers to exercise compassion should he find extenuating circumstances to pardon the accused of the mandatory death penalty.
However, presently, we still find the draconian mandatory death penalty being used in Singapore as seen in the Arms Offences Act. While we may debate about the intention of Muhammad Iskandar to harm the police officer, it is clear that the death penalty does not and did not deter the individual from committing a crime even though he knows that Singapore has strict laws with regards to the discharge of a firearm.
This is evident again in the kidnapping case of the mother of Sheng Shiong Supermarket boss, who was abducted in Hougang. Similarly, kidnapping is a capital crime but that did not deter Lee Sze Yong or Heng Chen Boon.
If we look at the details of this case, we find more points of doubt. Why was Muhammad Iskandar left alone with just one officer? Leaving a suspect with just one police officer makes it enticing for the suspect as he may think he is powerful enough to overpower one other person. Also, why wasn’t Muhammad Iskandar handcuffed behind his back? What are the SOPs when transporting a suspect?
I know we shouldn’t rush to judge the hardworking police but these are just questions that the public would think of, and I hope the police would seek to address these concerns in their own investigations.
Going by what we know, it is very likely that Muhammad Iskandar would be sentenced to death for the illegal discharge of firearm, unless the defence is able to prove that it was the cop’s finger that was on the trigger (even that may not suffice). While it may be too late to amend the law, let’s hope that for the sake of humanity and the rights of the individual, the mandatory death penalty would one day be removed from all laws of Singapore.