Monday, July 26, 2021

Taking the Vaccine is now a National Imperative

For the last 18 months, we have been battling an invisible enemy without respite.

In stealth, the enemy travels across borders incognito, hiding in plain sight, stealing a ride into our very midst. 

The troops it marshals for its destructive aims are none other than us ourselves.  It recruits anyone regardless of passport, age or occupation - and whether vaccinated or unvaccinated - to be its unwittingly secret agents, its unwilling accomplices and its involuntary soldiers.  

The invisible enemy defies capture. Instead, it forces us to take captive our innocents, to serve as prisoners-of-war in its stead.  To ringfence the contagion, close contacts of infected persons are identified and sequestered.  I have myself had to serve a mandatory quarantine order.  The isolation was an ordeal.  I never want to do it again nor do I wish it on anyone.

Besides damaging our physical health, the enemy also wreaks havoc by disrupting our economy and damaging our social relations.

The enemy deploys the most effective weapon of destruction tested by all histories of nations: Divide and Conquer.  We are seeing people turning against each other, becoming fragmented shards provoked to blame, name and shame. 

In the struggle to cope with the disruptions and economic fallouts, there is every temptation to cut corners and to steal a march. Some will remain resolute and impassive, but some will falter and fall. Those who have acted irresponsibly must face the consequences, but in our haste to blame others for recklessness, let us not forget who the real culprit is and how devious the culprit is.  For the enemy has up the ante by evolving into something more contagious than before.  

Let's face it – we are at war.  Tough times require tough responses and decisive action.

After 18 months of rolling border closures and lockdowns, our economy is battered and our lives are tattered.  Shutting our gates, hunkering down and remaining isolated, is not sustainable. The enemy is cunning and determined to stick around. 

After 18 months of battle, it is clear that a successful national vaccination programme is the best hope to exit the pandemic.  It is also clear that there is a limit to our endurance. 

No one has guaranteed that vaccines are 100% safe.  But what are the alternatives? What are we up against? Is time on our side? 

For every argument, there will be a counter-argument. For every set of data, there will be a set of alternative data.  There is a time and place for healthy scepticism, reasonable debate and careful evaluation. But there must come a time to make a personal decision – to take up the personal risk of making such a decision – and to take decisive action.

As I see it, taking the vaccine is now a national imperative. Once the nation is well-vaccinated, we can get on the road to restoring what the pandemic has taken away from us.  Helping others will always involve personal risks and detriments. But we need to unite our efforts to save our country, our economy and our future from the destructive effects of the pandemic.

To those who have volunteered to be vaccinated, I say thank you for your sacrifice and the risk you took, for sake of others and for loved ones.

In this pandemic which affects us all, there is a big picture to consider. In the big picture, so long as the nation is insufficiently vaccinated, our borders will never be fully opened, our economy will be hampered, and people's lives and livelihoods will remain in limbo.  

To those eligible for vaccination but are hesitant to take the vaccine, do consider joining the vaccination drive.  In my humble opinion, time is not on our side.

Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss

Monday, May 31, 2021


2.00pm, Tuesday, 31 May 2016 –
Seven or eight police officers swarmed into the diminutive 67-year-old’s home.  Ignoring her request to take off their shoes before entering, they roamed around her place for more than an hour, taking videos and photographs as they wanted.  The troupe left with her computer CPU, laptop and handphone. 

The invasion of Teo Soh Lung’s home and the seizure of her personal effects were made on the heels of a police report filed against her by the Election Department (ELD) for making four Facebook posts on Cooling-Off Day of the Bukit Batok By-Election (BBBE) that ELD said could be tantamount to election advertising.

If found guilty of an offence of election advertising, Soh Lung would be facing a fine not exceeding $1,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both.

Cooling-Off Day was born in Singapore on 1 July 2010.  It was birthed by our government to protect the citizenry from the danger of emotional voting.  As the government states on its official website:

“The day before Polling Day is known as Cooling-Off Day. There is a prohibition against election campaigning during this 24-hour period to give voters some time to reflect rationally on issues before voting.”

To date, Singapore has had seven Cooling-Off Days:

For three of the seven last elections, there were no complaints of Cooling-Off Day breaches based on public information.  Four of the past seven elections saw police reports filed for Cooling-Off Day breaches:

The BBBE held on 7 May 2016 saw Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) candidate, Chee Soon Juan face off with the ruling party’s candidate, Murali Pillai.

On 27 May 2016, ELD issued a media statement to announce that it had filed police reports against socio-political site, The Independent Singapore (TISG), Soh Lung and Roy Ngerng for possible election advertising. 

It was the first and only time that ELD had decided on its own initiative to complain of Cooling-Off Day breaches - and did so by filing three police reports.  All other complaints of Cooling-Off Day breaches on public record were made by citizens.

In the wake of ELD’s police reports, the Singapore Police Force moved with lightning speed and charismatic efficiency.  

9.59pm, Saturday 28 May 2016 - Soh Lung found an envelope containing a letter from the police under her front door.  Apparently, a hardworking member of the Singapore Police Force had made his way into the condominium where Soh Lung lived and up to her front door that Saturday night.  The letter informed Soh Lung that she was required to attend at the Central Division Headquarters at Police Cantonment Complex in connection with police investigation for an offence of election advertising. Her attendance was compulsory.

9.30am, Sunday, 29 May 2016 - A policeman knocked on Soh Lung’s front door.  Albeit a Sunday morning, he had come over to personally check if Soh Lung had received the police letter and to obtain her confirmation in person that she would be coming to the police station. 

10am, Tuesday 31 May 2016 - Soh Lung presented herself at Police Cantonment Complex.  There, she was questioned for two hours.  At 12.15pm, Soh Lung requested for a lunch break as she was tired, but her request was denied.  The questioning continued for another hour, after which she was put into a car with four police officers and taken to her residence. Another car of four officers from the Forensic Department followed, making a total of eight officers in two cars arriving at her place of residence.

On that same day, 31 May 2016, Roy Ngerng also presented himself at Police Cantonment Complex where he was questioned for about three hours, after which the police took him to his home and seized two laptops, two hard drives, memory cards and a mobile phone.

Arising from ELD’s police report against TISG, four individuals from TISG were separately questioned by the police, two of whom were immediately taken by the police, one to raid his home and the other to raid both his home and his office, where their electronic devices were seized.

However, that was not the end of it.  On 13 June 2016, a citizen filed a police report to complain that two posts published on the ‘Fabrications About The PAP’ Facebook fanpage (FAP) on Polling Day of BBBE (7 May 2016) could be election advertising.  On 17 June 2016, FAP founder, Jason Chua Chin Seng, was questioned by the police after which the police raided his home and seized his handphone, iPad and two laptops.

The aftermath of the BBBE saw tough action taken by the police in response to the four police reports for possible election advertising (three by ELD and one by a citizen).  Altogether seven individuals were questioned, six police raids were conducted (one had both his home and office raided) and five individuals had their personal devices seized.

For Soh Lung, she endured the trauma of a lengthy police interview and the indignity of being taken by eight police officers immediately thereafter to raid her home. 

Was it necessary for the police to spring a surprise visit to her home? 

Was it necessary for seven or eight police officers to step into her home? 

Was it necessary to seize her handphone, laptop and desktop CPU - comprising all her personal communication devices?

During the police interview, Soh Lung readily acknowledged that the publications ELD had complained of were made by her and her alone.  She therefore could not understand why it was necessary to raid her home and to seize her personal devices, thereby depriving her of their use indefinitely.  Moreover, the seized personal devices contained materials far beyond relevancy to the publications that were the subject-matter of the ELD complaint.  Her personal devices also contained personal information which would become open to scrutiny by total strangers.

The police ended their investigations in February 2017 without charging anyone.  Stern warnings in lieu of prosecution were issued to three individuals from TISG, Jason Chua, Roy Ngerng and Soh Lung (making a total of six warnings in all) and seized items were returned to their owners.

On collection of her items, Soh Lung found that her laptop was damaged beyond repair.

In their 27 May 2016 media statement, ELD said that they filed the police reports after taking into consideration the nature of the postings and the potential impact that they might have had, noting that Soh Lung and Roy Ngerng "regularly engage in the propagation, promotion and discussion of political issues". 

ELD picked Soh Lung and Roy Ngerng because they had a public following.

If the objectives of the powers-that-be was to 杀鸡儆猴 (literal meaning: kill chicken scare monkey), the action taken against Soh Lung and the others in the aftermath of BBBE, did the trick.

If your gardener gets too busy nipping buds, your garden may become flowerless – and what is the joy of that?

See author’s video documentary “Nipping Buds” related to this post at:

Saturday, April 17, 2021


Recently, a public figure who is (or was) practically the crown prince (皇太子殿下) of our land, announced that he would no longer be vying for our country's top seat.  "This year, I am 60." was among the more memorable lines of his announcement in which he also spoke about Covid-19, short and long runways, and his family. [1]

What the man said got me feeling wistful, sentimental - and romantic.

Wistful that I too am hitting 60.  Sentimental about younger days gone and the remaining days being rather numbered.  Romantic because of how glad I am that hubby is (still) keeping me company as I sail into the sunset.

On this warm and fuzzy float, I find myself reminiscing the highs and lows of love stories which I have enjoyed in C-Dramaland.  I have previously shared one of favourite love stories, the xianxia (仙侠) serial, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms. [2]

Another compelling xianxia (仙侠) serial to watch is LOVE AND REDEMPTION (琉璃).  Released in 2020, it has 59 episodes.  The main characters are convincingly played by Cheng Yi (成毅) and Crystal Yuan Bingyan (袁冰妍). 

I sometimes find the English titles of C-dramas rather hopeless.  This serial is one of the rare times where the English title describes the serial aptly - Yes, the story IS about love and redemption. 

I am also a little shocked that the introductory blurb in Netflix is unexpectedly accurate: 

"Two star-crossed lovers, cursed from the start. But no magnitude of heavenly meddling can keep them apart." 

 True.  This is indeed a “me and you against all odds” storyline which gets you rooting for the couple as they fight for each other and for their relationship.      

This serial a winner because it is not just a love story but also an action-packed adventure coupled with an intriguing mystery which keeps you hunting for clues and chasing for the revelation.  The episodes are fast-paced with plenty of twists and cliff hangers.  With never a dull moment, it is an entertaining ride all the way.  Some serials are slow burners, taking a while before you are made to stay on.  But for this serial, I was hooked from Episode 1. 

What is more, this serial passed the “husband” test – hubby was also captured with me at Episode 1. 

So if your TV companion is like mine, the impatient type who finds emotional scenes a yawn, then this serial with its combination of romance, action and mystery, is one to watch. 

LE COUP DE FONDRE (我只喜欢你) is another serial which got me at Episode 1.  This is not a fantasy but a contemporary romance drama.  Released in 2019, it has 35 episodes. 

This drama is unique for how the story is premised – for the story starts from its happy ending.  Scene 1 of Episode 1 shows our couple happily married for four years already.  But it seems that our winsome couple almost did not make it, making the viewers very curious to know how the couple overcame their obstacles to reach their happy ending.  The story then back tracks to the time when they were in high school, and we see what happened to them over the ensuing years.

Because the drama spans from the couple’s teenage years all the way to their lives as working adults, there is an authenticity to their story.  The difficulties they faced individually and as a couple are very relatable.  When the couple succeeds to defeat the odds and get to be together, it is for the hopeless romantics among us, proof of the conquering power of love.  It is a satisfying thrill when love wins.

This serial is led by well-known actors, Janice Wu Qian (吴倩) and Zhang Yujian (张雨剑).  For any romantic drama to be a hit, the leads must have the all-important on-screen chemistry, and the leads certainly do have it. 

After spending hours watching a romantic pairing on-screen, it is common for viewers to “ship” the couple, i.e. to wish and hope that the on-screen romance become real for the actors.  Fans of this serial were treated to an unexpected bonus love story.  In March this year, the media outed that Janice Wu Qian and Zhang Yujian tied the knot a while back and even have a child together, but they had kept their marriage a secret from the public. [3]

Celebrities who become a couple tend to get loads of attention and consequently stand to make a lot of money from publicising their relationship.  Case in point is the media frenzy when news broke that Hyun Bin and Son Ye-Jin, the on-screen couple in the hit K-drama, Crash Landing on You, are dating in real-life. [4]

But Janice Wu Qian and Zhang Yujian chose not to publicise their personal relationship.  Perhaps they kept their marriage a secret because it was not for sale.  If so, it is an endearing demonstration of true love that they cherish their relationship as personal and private and nobody’s business.      

Cynics say that there is nothing certain in life other than death and taxes. Not true. There is another certainty. I will say with absolute certainty that in every culture and time, love stories have been and will always be a firm favourite.

Don’t we all know that finding someone to love who loves you back is not easy. 

“The course of true love never did run smooth,” said Shakespeare. 

So, when two people fall in love, the relationship is as precious as a baby.  Like a mother's instinct, we want to protect the one true pairing’s love. We want to defend their desire to be together.  And we want them to live happily ever after.    

Someone to love, someone to miss.  Someone who loves you back, someone who misses you when you are not around. Is there anything better?  Isn’t that worth giving up everything else for?  

The quest for true love has legion followers.  From the 16 year old BFF to the 60 year old kaypoh auntie (ok, me), and also the poker face uncle listening over there.  Chins are rested on palms.

 “So, how did you two meet?”  Tell us, we are all ears to hear how you both met and fell in love.

 17 April 2021

About the Author:  Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss was a practising Sceptic for most of her life.  She recently converted to Hopeless Romanticism after encountering the number 60 and is now an Incurable Romantic.  In her spare time, she watches C and K Dramas to get her life priorities in order.

Hit her Facebook page at





Monday, March 29, 2021



It was THE RISE OF PHOENIXES 天盛长歌(TROP) which got me into C-drama.  Before TROP, I had never watched any C-drama nor had I any interest to.  Truth be told, it was my non-Chinese speaking husband who got hooked onto TROP first.  When he is not paying you attention, the competition has to be investigated.  That left me glaring at what the heck was he watching, to staring longer at the intriguing scenes - till eventually I was all in.   

Initially, what caught my eye were the exquisite costumes and the beautifully crafted sets that formed mesmerising picture frames on my TV screen. 

Then, I realised that a pretty intense plot was going down. The scenes were compelling. I was inexorably shipped into the unfolding story.  Hubby thoughtfully shuffled sideways to grant me space on the TV couch.  I couldn’t help but sit down to watch.

TROP is a period drama about power struggles in the imperial palace and rivalry amongst the princes of the Emperor.

The main character is Ning Yi, the 6th son of the Emperor - a multi-faceted, unpredictable contradiction of cunning villainy and hopeless victim, whose tragic past and vulnerability hooks you in.  You find yourself rooting for him to succeed in his plans and feeling sad when he feels sad.

I was stoked to discover that the name, ‘Ning Yi’ has significance.  Ning Yi in Chinese is宁弈 where 'Ning' is the character’s surname and 'Yi' is his personal name.   In fact, the word 'Yi' means ‘Go’ (i.e. Chinese chess), an ancient board game played with black and white pieces on a 19×19 grid of lines containing 361 points.  TROP is replete with references to the game of Go in dialogue and many scenes feature characters sitting across each over a game of ‘Go’.  Clearly, the reference to ‘Go’ is a metaphor for the games – the schemes, conspiracies and manipulations – which the characters plot, play and pit against each other.

Ning Yi is played by celebrated actor, Chen Kun 陈坤.  After watching TROP, I will say that Chen Kun’s fame and acclaim is well-deserved.  The way Chen Kun portrays Ning Yi is really something to watch.  He can make us see Ning Yi processing a range of different and conflicting emotions in one moment.  Chen Kun’s performance is so masterful that we are pulled to join Ning Yi as he goes through his dilemmas and tribulations. 

Incidentally, Chen Kun is helming the 2021 movie, 'The Ying Yang Master' 侍神令 (not to be confused with the 2020 movie, 'The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity' 阴阳师: 晴雅集).  Both movies are now streaming on Netflix with English subtitles.

The second main character is Feng Zhiwei, who is an equal to Ning Yi’s intellect and happens to be female. Feng Zhiwei is played by the luminous Ni Ni 倪妮.  Standing a statuesque 1.7m tall, Ni Ni wears her period costumes so magnificently.  Such a visual treat.  More pertinently, Ni Ni has acting abilities to match Chen Kun’s and her portrayal of Feng Zhiwei is captivating.

The relationship between Ning Yi and Feng Zhiwei is the golden chord which runs through TROP and the biggest gift of TROP is the amazing on-screen chemistry between Chen Kun’s Ning Yi and Ni Ni’s Feng Zhiwei.  From what Ning Yi and Feng Zhiwei say or do not say to each other - to what they do, risk and sacrifice for each other - it is spellbinding drama enthralling to watch.  Every time those two characters share a scene, magic happens. 

Overall, TROP has a rich plot that is full of action, with many exciting twists and dramatic turns. Viewers will be glued from episode to episode.  The main characters all undergo major changes as they make choices which determine their fate or when other characters make decisions which impact them, ensuring that viewers get a high dose of drama, irony and emotional payoffs.

When I was watching TROP, I knew next to nothing about the actors or those behind the production of TROP.  Later, I found out that not only are the main leads of TROP A-list actors in mainland China, TROP also feature many veteran and well-known actors in the secondary roles.  No wonder the level of acting is so outstanding.

After TROP, I went on to watch many other C-drama serials.  Recently, I went back to re-watch TROP. Now that I have more yardsticks to compare with, would I still be impressed with TROP?  Yes, even after having watched many other worthy C-drama serials, I still think that TROP is a first-rate production.

For great acting, eye-popping costumes and sets, an intricate plot, unforgettable characters with a sizzling love story in the midst – TROP delivers. 

TROP is currently streaming on Netflix with English subtitles. Check out the trailer for TROP here:


Born and bred in Singapore, Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss left school achieving the distinction of being practicably unable to read, write or speak Mandarin despite 10 years of studying the language. Her mono-lingual world ended when she stumbled into the land of Chinese drama during lockdown. To date, she has binge watched quite a number of C-drama serials already, all thanks to English subtitles, without which she would not have come this far.

If you are a C-drama fan from the English-speaking, do hit "Like" at her Facebook Page to connect and chat with her.


Tuesday, March 23, 2021


TMPB is a romantic fantasy costume drama based on Chinese mythology, a genre more aptly described by the term ‘xianxia’ (仙侠).

It tells the love story between Ye Hua and Bai Qian, a man and woman relationship which spanned across three lifetimes.  Of course, Ye Hua and Bai Qian are not humans, but non-human beings who have incredibly long life spans so to be practically immortal.  Such celestial beings also have abilities beyond that of humans and the laws of physics which humans are subject to, do not apply to them.  But despite their super human abilities, those celestial beings love, hate, mourn, yearn - and otherwise feel all the same emotions as (we) mortals do.     

At the time I started watching TMPB, Singapore was amid a stern lockdown and I was bored like hell.  Fortunately, my husband came to my rescue.  Albeit non-Chinese speaking, he had through friends’ recommendation, gotten hooked onto TMPB earlier on and in a spate of late nights he devoured the serial to the end in a frightening binge.  Unlike me, hubby used to watch ‘xianxia’ and ‘wuxia’ (武俠) TV serials when he was growing up and he loved those stories. wuxia (武俠) refers to a the genre of stories which feature ancient martial heroes who have extraordinary fighting skills.

Now hearing my pitiful cry for help and seeing how I was not coping well with having to be homebound, he recommended I watch TMPB. He even gallantly offered to sit with me to watch it all over again, adding that the serial was that good he didn’t mind.  Habouring grave doubts about how good any C-drama could be, but then battling cabin fever, I took up his kind offer to sit with me to watch TMPB.

Though TMPB was my second foray into the world of C-drama, it was my maiden voyage in the world of ‘xianxia’. I came to TMPB utterly devoid of any knowledge about the rules and premises of a "xianxia" universe.  So, I was hopelessly lost in the woods for the first 20 or so episodes, or perhaps I should say lost in space - as in the space between the Heavenly Realm and Mortal Realm, to and from which the characters would do much travelling, the purposes for which I was not getting. 

Several times, I would jump up and declared to hubby that I was giving up as I didn’t understand where the plot was going, what the characters wanted or were trying to do.  But every time I thought of bailing out, hubby would encourage me to keep going.  So I would sit down again (in preference to crawling up the wall – and also because hubby is warm and cuddly).

And then, in Episode 29 of 58 - the Story Exploded.  In a flash, all the plotlines and premises from the earlier episodes assembled together in my mind's eye.  So that is what the Story is About!  The epiphany was an amazing moment for me.  I finally saw the epic canvas on which the love story was being drawn.  I finally understood what the main characters wanted for themselves and I was so wanting them to succeed.  From that point forward, I was absolutely riveted.  That set me to furiously chase down all the remaining episodes of the serial to its beautiful finale. 

I loved the story so much.  Of course, after I had finished the serial, I went back to re-watch the earlier episodes, now with new eyes and newfound understanding.   

C-drama tells fantasy and romantic stories very differently from how such stories are told by English cinema.  It would be a mistake to apply the lenses used to watch English language fantasy drama to watch C-drama fantasy.  Because I threw away my usual lenses and put on different set of lenses, I was able to enjoy an incredibly beautiful, out-of-this-world love story.  It took me quite a while to find my bearings, but the payoff has been handsome.

All said, I must thank hubby for handholding me into the realm of ‘xianxia’. Thus initiated, hubby and I have, since TMPB, sat together and watched many other ‘xianxia’ and ‘wuxia’ C-dramas to date.  The dreary long hours of lockdown have become a time of fascination and excitement, as hubby and I roam and explore different worlds from the huddle of our stationery home.  Who knew that the romantic vibes from a ‘xianxia’ love story set in an immortal realm would be able to transcend into the realm of my living room.

TMPB 三生三世十里桃花 is also known as ‘ETERNAL LOVE’ and is currently available on Netflix with English subtitles. Well-known actors, Yang Mi 杨幂 and Mark Chao 趙又廷 are the main leads. 

Mark Chao is also the main lead in the 2020 movie, ‘The Yin-Yang Master: Dream of Eternity’ 阴阳师: 晴雅集, also currently available on Netflix with English subtitles.


About the Author:

Born and bred in Singapore, Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss left school achieving the distinction of being practicably unable to read, write or speak Mandarin despite 10 years of studying the language. Her mono-lingual world ended when she stumbled into the land of Chinese drama during lockdown. To date, she has binge watched quite a number of C-drama serials already, all thanks to English subtitles, without which she would not have come this far.

If you are a C-drama fan from the English-speaking, do hit "Like" at this Page to connect and chat with me.


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

How many clemencies from hanging has Singapore granted?


When all legal avenues have been exhausted, the last resort for a criminal sentenced to death, is to apply for Presidential clemency. 

When Singapore gained independence in 1965, the avenue of clemency was embedded into the Singapore Constitution[1].  Although clemency is usually discussed in the context of capital cases, it is in fact available to any offender for any offence.  The Singapore Constitution provides that any offender convicted of any offence in Singapore can apply to the President for a pardon, reprieve or respite, of the execution of any sentence pronounced on such offender. The President may “on the advice of the Cabinet” grant clemency in deserving cases. “On the advice of the Cabinet” means that the President has no personal discretion.  The power of clemency is exercised only if the Cabinet advises it. 

The grant of Presidential clemency from the death sentence is the focus of this article. 

For criminals sentenced to death, the Singapore Constitution additionally provides that the President must, once the Court of Appeal has confirmed the death sentence, call for reports on the conviction to be submitted to the Cabinet to consider the possibility of commuting the death sentence.[2]   So, whether the condemned prisoner asks for clemency or not, the Cabinet will consider clemency for such prisoner.

Since Singapore's independence, all of six clemencies against death sentences have been granted.[3]  In each of those six cases, the condemned prisoners had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

I have tabulated the details relating to the six Presidential clemencies from death sentences which have been granted in Singapore, and the table is shown below. 

What do we see when the number of clemencies granted is compared with the number of state executions? 

Of the six clemencies granted, three were granted prior to 1991 and three after 1991.  

On the number of criminals hanged since 1965 to 1991, there are no official data.  According to Amnesty International, a total of 21 judicial executions took place in Singapore from 1981 to 1990 [4], which data a scholar has said “may well under-estimate the true number of executions during this period since the statistics are usually compiled from media reports." [5]

As for the number of criminals hanged since 1991 to 2019, I have tallied 491 judicial executions took place based on official sources.[6]  As against that toll, two clemencies against death sentences were granted in 1992 by President Wee Kim Wee and one in 1998 by President Ong Teng Cheong.

No clemency from a death sentence was granted by President S R Nathan during his 12-year term nor by President Tony Tan, and nor by President Halimah Yacob at the time of writing this article.  In any case, the President has no personal discretion when it comes to granting clemencies.  His role is ceremonial.

Incidentally, in 2018, President Halimah Yacob granted clemency to a convicted murderer who was sentenced to "detention at the President’s pleasure".[7]  Detained at the President’s pleasure means to be imprisoned indefinitely until the offender is deemed to be suitable for release.  The man was 15 years old when he committed and was convicted of murder in 2001.  Because of his age when he committed the murder, his identity was sealed.  Being below 18 at the time of conviction, he was spared the death penalty and was instead sentenced to be detained at the President’s pleasure in accordance with Singapore’s criminal laws then. 

As for clemencies from the death sentence, since 1998 to now, there have been none.

One scholar has opined: “Based on data from 1991 to 2016, excepting jurisdictions where ‘clemency procedures are either absent or exist only on paper’ (such as China and Japan), Singapore may well possess one of the world’s lowest clemency rates among retentionist nations, at less than 1 per cent of finalized cases.” [8]

Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss is a practising lawyer in Singapore of more than 30 years’ standing.

24 February 2021

[1] Article 22P of the Singapore Constitution

[2] Article 22P(2) of the Singapore Constitution

[3] ‘Last Chance for Life: Clemency in Southeast Asian Death Penalty Cases’, Daniel Pascoe 2019, at p. 95.  Johnson, D. T. (2013), ‘The jolly hangman, the jailed journalist, and the decline of Singapore’s death penalty’, Asian Journal of Criminology, 8:54 stated that there have been “seven pardons since 1965” but provided no further details.

[4] Johnson, D. T. (2013), ‘The jolly hangman, the jailed journalist, and the decline of Singapore’s death penalty’, Asian Journal of Criminology, 8:54.

[5] Chan Wing Cheong (2016), 'The Death Penalty in Singapore: In Decline but Still Too Soon for Optimism', Asian Journal of Criminology, 11: 181, Footnote 10

[6] How many has Singapore hanged from the gallows?’, Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss (22 Feb 2021) at

[7] ‘Teen who killed Anthony Ler's wife gets clemency after 17 years in jail,’ The Straits Times, 13 December 2018

[8] ‘Last Chance for Life: Clemency in Southeast Asian Death Penalty Cases’, Daniel Pascoe 2019, at p. 96.

Monday, February 8, 2021

How many has Singapore hanged from the gallows?

The death penalty has been a part of crime and punishment in Singapore from day one.  Although there is a host of crimes under Singapore law which attracts the death penalty, Singapore has by and large executed persons convicted of murder and, since the enactment of the Misuse of Drug Act in 1975, drug-trafficking.       

Back in 2004, Singapore was put in the spotlight by a scathing paper, "Singapore - The death penalty: a hidden toll of executions" published by Amnesty International criticising Singapore's use of the death penalty. In particular, the paper chastised Singapore for its high rate of execution relative to its population size. The paper said that more than 400 had been executed since 1991 up the date of their paper, 15 January 2004.  How true is that?  Since Singapore became an independent nation in 1965, how many persons have Singapore executed?

I tried to find official judicial execution statistics, but it turned out to be a cat-and-mouse game.

On 12 October 2011, then newly elected Member of Parliament Pritam Singh from the Workers' Party filed a written question for the Minister for Home Affairs (MHA), asking from 2004 to 2010, how many criminals had been hanged in Singapore and what was the breakdown in terms of foreigners, permanent residents and Singaporeans for each of those years.[1]  In reply, DPM Teo Chee Hean provided statistics indicating that from 2004 to 2010, a total of 38 people were executed, comprising 26 Singaporeans and 12 foreigners.

DPM Teo Chee Hean also stated that the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) publishes the number of judicial executions in its Prisons Annual Report and that those Annual Reports were publicly available on the SPS website.

DPM Teo Chee Hean's statement gives the impression that the Singapore Government is transparent about execution statistics.  It may seem to the casual observer that Pritam Singh's question was unnecessary if execution statistics were publicly available by checking the SPS website.

In fact, Pritam Singh's question was not redundant at all.  If you go to the SPS website[2], you will only find SPS Annual Reports from 2008 onwards.  SPS Annual Reports prior to 2008 is not obtainable from the SPS website (and I do not know where to find them).   Moreover, looking through the 2008 Annual Report, it does not contain any statistics on judicial executions at all.  It is only starting with the 2009 Annual Report, that executions statistics are published in every Annual Report to date.  The 2009 Annual Report contains execution statistics for 2007, 2008 and 2009. So, it would be more accurate to say that execution statistics from 2007 onwards are publicly available on the SPS website.[3] Execution statistics prior to 2007 cannot be found on the SPS website.

Perhaps Pritam Singh was motivated to ask for the execution statistics from 2004 to 2010 because prior to filing his question, which DPM Teo Chee Hean answered on 12 October 2011, Pritam Singh could not find those figures anywhere. 

Thanks to Pritam Singh's question, official information on the number of persons executed in each year from 2004 to 2010 is on public record.  Further, based on the SPS website, we also know the number of persons executed in each year from 2007 to 2019. 

How about executions statistics prior to 2004? 

Amnesty International's paper published on 15 January 2004 prompted the Singapore Government to issue a rebuttal on 30 January 2004. Residing as footnote no. 4 at the end of the rebuttal were a set of statistics indicating that a total of 138 persons were executed "in the last 5 years".  Given the date of that rebuttal, "the last 5 years" would mean 1999 to 2003. Thanks to Amnesty International's paper, another piece of official information was coughed up. 

The Government’s rebuttal 30 January 2004 indicated that a total of 138 persons were executed in the 5 years from 1999 to 2003, but did not provide the breakdown for each year between 1999 to 2003.  From the yearly statistics given in Parliament on 12 January 2001, we can see how many persons were hung in 1999 and 2000.  But how many persons were hung in each of the years 2001, 2002 and 2003? 

Fortuitously, a set of official execution statistics that fell into the public domain inadvertently answered this question. On 24 September 2003, then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong gave the BBC in an interview in which he glibly said that up to 80 people had been executed in the first nine months of 2003.  To correct the erroneous figure, the Singapore Government attached a note to the transcript of the BBC interview stating that 21 persons were executed in 2000, 27 in 2001 and 28 in 2002. [4] Thus, another set of official statistics fell out into the open. The number of persons executed in 2003 can be worked out by arithmetic.  Thus, the gap in the execution statistics was filled.

How about executions statistics prior to 1999?

Rolling up my sleeves, I went on my hands and knees to claw and trawl the graveyard of old Parliamentary reports.  My efforts were rewarded.  I found that on 12 January 2001, in reply to a question filed by then non-constituency member of parliament JB Jeyaretnam from the Workers’ Party, Wong Kan Seng provided the number of persons who have been hanged in Singapore for the years 1991-2000, giving the numbers year by year and splitting the number for each year into the various crimes for which they were hanged.[5]  Thanks to JBJ's guts, another trove of official execution statistics was given out. 

As for the number of persons hanged prior to 1991, my efforts to find those numbers have drawn a blank.  Hopefully, someone has or has found those numbers and if so, I would be keen to learn.   

 In summary, the official sources which I managed to find are as follows:

  1. SPS website giving execution statistics from 2007 to 2019;
  2. Parliamentary report dated 12 October 2011 giving execution statistics from 2004 to 2010;
  3. Singapore Government’s rebuttal dated 30 January 2004 to Amnesty International's paper giving execution statistics from 1999 to 2003;
  4. Note attached to the transcript of Goh Chok Tong's interview with BBC released by the Singapore Government on 25 September 2003 giving number of persons executed in 2002, 2001 and 2000; and
  5. Parliamentary report dated 12 January 2001 giving execution statistics from 1991 to 2000. 
Piecing them together, the total number of persons hanged in each year from 1991 to 2019 can be calculated. Below is a tabulation of the information provided by the official sources.  From the tabulation, the following conclusions can be quickly be drawn:

  1. From 1991 to 2003 (13 years), 414 persons were executed, thus vindicating Amnesty International’s charge that more than 400 had been executed in Singapore since 1991 up to the date of their paper, 15 January 2004;
  2. From 2004 onwards, there has been perceptible drop in the rate of executions for mysterious reasons; and
  3. From 1991 to 2019 (29 years), 491 persons were executed.

No doubt more observations or inferences will come to mind on further consideration of the statistics. 

A set of information with gaps is incoherent. A complete set of figures is always useful. Which is why coherent factual information, especially information relating to state action carried out on behalf of the citizenry, should be made available for one to consider and ponder.  

Who knew that one has to be quite a sleuth to track down the number of persons hanged by the state. 

I do feel I am like Sherlock Holmes solving a murder mystery, pardon the pun.


Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss is a practising lawyer of more than 30 years’ standing who is interested in but does not specialise in the practice of Criminal Law. In uncovering the facts discussed in this article, her research tool was a good wi-fi connection to the internet and a bee in her bonnet.  Putting herself in the shoes of a layman, she did not avail of materials which are only accessible by subscription or otherwise unavailable to the general public. 

[1] “Judicial Executions in Singapore” Parl. No. 12, Sess. 1, Vol. 88, Sitting No. 6 (21 October 2011)

[3] Execution statistics from 2007 to 2019 are also available at

[4] "More people executed in Singapore", AFP report published in The Age, 25 September 2003

[5] “Number of Persons Hanged” Parl. No. 9, Sess. 2, Vol. 72, Sitting No. 13 (12 January 2001)