Human rights activist Kirsten Han writes a eulogy for both the deceased drug courier Muhammad Ridzuan Ali, who was hanged at 6AM on 19 May, Friday, and another drug courier, Kho Jabing, who was hanged one year earlier on 20 May.

“19 May 2017, the day of Ridzuan’s execution, has rolled over into 20 May 2017, the first anniversary of Jabing’s hanging.

I’m not writing this to persuade anyone to oppose the death penalty – six years of working on this issue has taught me not to expect anyone to change their position because of anything I say or write or do. I’m not writing this to argue that anyone has suffered more or less than anyone else. Mistakes have been made, victims have been created, tears have been shed, and it’s not my place to rank them.

I’m merely writing this to acknowledge the things we do, the things we’ve done, the things we allow to be done on our behalf. Whether one is pro- or anti-death penalty, some things are just true:

– This time last year, a healthy, able-bodied man in his 30s named Kho Jabing was alive. It was to be his last day on earth. His family were only able to say goodbye to him over a video link before he was whisked away to the execution chamber, the first death row inmate not to be executed at 6am on Friday in Singapore’s independent history (as far as we know). It was his younger sister’s 28th birthday. He was loved.

– This time yesterday, a healthy, able-bodied man in his 30s named Muhammad Ridzuan bin Mohd Ali was alive. It was his last night on earth. He was a drug courier who wasn’t given a Certificate of Cooperation, which meant the court had no choice but to sentence him to mandatory death. Many people turned up at the mosque to pray for him and bury him. He was loved.

Some people will feel that all this is justified, that the two men committed the crime, and therefore we have the right to exact such a price. Others will feel that it’s wrong, that the death penalty has no place in a civilised world. All have the right to hold the opinions that they do.

But those opinions shouldn’t be based on assumptions or rhetoric. They should be based on research, consideration, and a full recognition of the reality and effects of such a system. If you support the death penalty, support it while acknowledging that it involves the deliberate ending of human life. If you oppose the death penalty, oppose it while remembering the lives that have been taken in our name against our wishes.

This time last year, two mothers and two sisters had sons and brothers to love. Tonight, they are still mothers and sisters, but their sons and brothers are no longer with them. Whether you support or oppose capital punishment, spare a thought and prayer for the families who suffer the penalty without committing any crime.

RIP Kho Jabing. RIP Muhammad Ridzuan bin Mohd Ali.

(Between the executions of these two men, four others were hanged in Singapore. They are Chijioke Stephen Obioha, Devendran a/l Supramaniam, Kester Ng and Jeffrey Marquez Abineno.)”

Kirsten Han

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