“It was also the first time that I had ever seen an executed man (and, in the event, at rather closer range than I had planned on). It was a deeply upsetting experience which only rooted my distaste for capital punishment more deeply.”
(M. Ravi at page 150 of his book, ‘The Kampong Boy”)
He led the largest anti-death penalty movement that modern Singapore had ever seen. With a very firm principle of standing up for human rights, M Ravi, has been countering against the law of mandatory death penalty in Singapore, albeit the challenges.
A law for “a safe and secure Singapore
The consequences, under law, for serious crimes such as murder, kidnapping and drug trafficking has been long well-established. Those who break these law ought to be aware that they will be hung to death. The deterrent effect of such laws, which intend to protect the society at large, is the rationale behind this strict stance. Is that not what we Singaporeans want? ‘A safe and secure Singapore’?
In spite of the gravitas that is commanded by anything regarding human lives, capital punishment is a murky topic in Singapore; hardly given an open discourse. In 2012, there was a review of the mandatory death penalty. Though miniscule, this review possibly envisages the loosening of the law’s firm grip on mandatory death penalty. Yet, (quoting M Ravi’s chapter) “It’s This Law That Really Sucks”. It is a law for the safety for the society at large and, that is the truth for its very existence.
This is more than the law death penalty in Singapore
In his book, which is an autobiographical account of his life, M Ravi reflects his experiences of the most highly debated death penalty cases in Singapore, he defended. He shares what he has learnt – “both as a lawyer and as a human being”. It is insightful; giving you the history and experience, from Ravi himself.
I often wondered why Ravi would take it upon himself to go beyond the boundaries of a defence lawyer?
This is more than the issue of capital punishment in Singapore. What he witnessed in 2003, while fighting for justice for Vignes Mourti, provoked him, he told me. This is about human rights. He had to do something about it.
“I have made it my mission and my calling card”.
(M. Ravi at page 265 of his book)
In spite of the circumstances he has been in and is facing, Ravi continues his activism. He shared his experience of working with international organizations such as Amnesty International, where he trains on human rights advocacy. He also travels outside of Singapore serving his ideas towards fundamental rights such as “Right to Sleep” and “Right to Water”. He is looking to be active in countries such as India, where there has been developments of Human Rights law.
“We need not shy away from human rights or politics. It is our virtue.” he told me. Well, civil rights activism is another area of debate altogether.