By M. Ravi
I refer to the Malaysian Lawyer N. Surendran’s quote following Prabu N Pathmanathan’s execution earlier today:-
“Late last night, the Singapore President’s Office delivered a letter to Prabu’s family in response to their clemency petition. The letter stated that ‘the clemency process has concluded’ and ‘we are unable to accede to your request … This rejection is unlawful under the Singapore constitution as there is no bar to the filing of a fresh clemency petition. It is a flagrant breach of due process for the Singapore president to reject the family’s clemency petition without even considering it … Was this an underhanded method by Singapore authorities to execute secretly and prevent representations being made or court applications being filed? … It is disturbing that the Singapore government is prepared to disregard basic processes in their rush to execute this young Malaysian” – N. Surendran, Lawyers for Liberty
N. Surendran here has a valid point that Singapore has breached due process when the President replied that the clemency process had concluded, in her refusal to consider the lastest clemency petition. Filing second round clemency petitions are absolutely permitted under the Consititution and must be considered by the President when they are filed.
I recall that in 2016, a second clemency petition was also filed on behalf of another Malaysian, Kho Ja Bing a few days before his execution. At that time, the then President, Mr Tony Tan, whilst acknowledging Kho’s intention to file a new clemency petition, had acknowledged that he would look at the latest position and consider it. However, in the end, he took the position that his decision to reject the previous clemency petition in October 2015 “still stands”.
This clearly shows that the current President is in breach of the due process and the spirit of Article 22P of the Singapore Constitution that governs the clemency process. It is wrong for the President, who acts on the advice of Cabinet, to state that the clemency process once decided cannot be invoked again. When practising, I myself had filed second clemency petitions on behalf of my clients in the past and they were considered.
This is a grave matter of public concern and involves the lives of people on death row. It involves possible unlawful executions of nationals of other countries. In view of the contradicting positions taken by the office of the President, and to prevent any escalation of diplomatic tensions between the two countries, I strongly urge the President of Singapore to exercise the powers vested to Her Excellency under Article 100 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore to refer the above constitutional question to the Court of Three Judges to determine the matter. If the President does not exercise her powers under Article 100, this may result in further breaches of due process. It is also in the interest of Singapore that she calls for the convening of the Court of Three Judges in view of the egregious breach of due process of the law under local and international human rights law. The Constitution demands clarification on the interpretations applied