Friday, October 28, 2005

The Singapore Hangman

He is already 73 years old and a grandfather at that. But he is not allowed to retire because he is irreplaceable. No one wants his job. Isn't that a dream situation for any employee where one is virtually indispensible?

But wait, there's more than meet the eye as to his job!

Darshan Singh is Singapore's chief (and only) executioner. In nearly half a century of service Singh has hung more than 850 prisoners.

The next man on his list is 25 year old Aussie Nguyen Tuong Van. This horrible event seems inevitable after the Singapore president was advised, predictably by his Cabinet, to reject Nguyen's appeals for clemency. Aussie Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has also made a final diplomatic attempt to save Nguyen's life, but he conceded that he has little hope for a favourable response.

When Singh hangs a convict sentenced to death, he would say to the condemned man:

"I am going to send you to a better place than this. God bless you."

Singh wants to retire but until the Singapore government can recruit another hangman, he has been asked to hang on (pun not intended).

Naturally Singh cannot blab openly about the nature or quirks of his work but a colleague told the media:

"He tried to train two would-be hangmen to replace him, a Malaysian and a Chinese, both in the prison service. But when it came to pulling the lever for the real thing, they both froze and could not do it. The Chinese guy, a prison officer, became so distraught he walked out immediately and resigned from the prison service altogether."

Is it right for man to kill man in such a manner? The responsibility is of course not that of the hangman or even the judge, but of the authority that prescribed the law. But I am glad that I don't have such a job that confronts me with the terrible dilemma and agony of terminating a healthy man's life in the name of social retribution.

(1)Shanmugan Murugesu – Nobility on Eve of Execution
(2) A Sad Tale of 2 Aussie Drug Smugglers
(3) Why I am Against the Death Penalty!
(4) Stupid if He's Smart, Smart if He's Stupid!

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