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Petition for clemency “the right of every person, country and organisation”; “totally unnecessary” for K Shanmugam to talk about respecting Singapore’s laws: Teo Soh Lung

Law and Home Minister K Shanmugam’s remarks regarding the Malaysian government’s decision to petition for clemency on behalf of three of its citizens on death row are “totally unnecessary”, as the right to petition for clemency is “the right of every person, country and organisation, whether local or international”, said civil society rights group Function 8 director and veteran lawyer Teo Soh Lung on Sun (26 May).

She rebutted the assumption that “any person who submits a petition is interfering in the judicial system or acting against the government”, and argued that in fact “it is the minister who is interfering in the clemency process by making his stand and thus implying the government’s stand on the death penalty” through his remarks on the number of clemency petitions sent by the Malaysian government and Malaysian offenders convicted by Singapore courts.

“This is wrong as it may influence the minds of other ministers and affect the outcome of the clemency petition,” Teo added.

She also suggested amending the Singapore Constitution “to provide for an independent clemency board”, whereby the President of the Republic “should be given the power to review any petition and not just be a rubber stamp of the executive”.

Teo’s commentary sparked some debate with commenters, one of whom posited that the Singapore government’s stance could possibly, in turn, reflect a reluctance to assist Singaporeans who are convicted for serious offences abroad:

One commenter, however, made an argument in support of the death penalty as an effective deterrent against drug trafficking and other drug-related offences based on statistics from the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, which Teo refuted, suggesting that correlation is not causation with regard to the decline in executions for drug trafficking offences in Singapore: