The death penalty: A sister speaks

An interview with Mila, sister of Syed Suhail bin Syed Zin. Syed is on death row for a drug trafficking charge. His execution date was set for 18 September 2020, but the High Court granted him an interim stay of execution pending applications currently before the court.

In this conversation between Mila and anti-death penalty activist Kirsten Han, Mila talks about Syed’s life, his struggles to cope with early traumas, and his experiences in juvenile detention (Reformative Training Centre in Singapore), the Drug Rehabilitation Centre, and ultimately, on death row. She reflects on what could have helped Syed, and what she believes he would do with his life now if it was spared by the President of Singapore, Halimah Yacob.

Mila also shares her views on addiction, the death penalty, and harsh drug control policies in Singapore, the stigma faced by ex-prisoners that plagued Syed’s life, the connections between poverty and drug use/trafficking, the high number of ethnic minorities on death row, and what a more therapeutic approach to drugs could look like. She imagines a society that is kinder towards those who have been in conflict with the law and empathetic to the sometimes-impossible choices faced by those who live on the margins of our society.

Mila’s voice is a necessary one for policymakers, and citizens who are pro-death penalty and anti-death penalty alike, to listen to. Even in a time of unimaginable personal horror, Mila’s voice is one of hope and possibility.

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