Lawyers For Liberty director Melissa Sasidaran.

LFL director Melissa Sasidaran clarifies statement in response to AGC’s comments on ‘threatening’ letter allegedly sent to founder N Surendran

Following recent statements made by Singapore’s Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) in relation to Lawyers For Liberty (LFL) founder N Surendran, the Malaysian human rights and law reform organisation’s director Melissa Sasidaran responded via Twitter on Tue (16 Jul), clarifying that she had stated earlier that “the letter was sent by AGC to High Court”, not to Surendran “personally”.

The AGC on Tue rejected allegations surrounding its role in sending a “threatening” letter to Surendran over the latter’s statements on the predicament of several Malaysian death row prisoners represented by him in Singapore, including 31-year-old Pannir Selvam Pranthaman.

An AGC spokesperson told TODAY that the AGC “did not send any letter to Mr Surendran” on Fri (12 Jul) as claimed by LFL.

Instead, said the spokesperson, the AGC had written to the court justifying its grounds of objection to requests made by Pannir Selvam’s Singapore lawyers to the court on July 8 and 10, which included asking the court for permission to allow a Malaysian lawyer to be present at the hearing of an application filed by said Singapore lawyers.

“We are unable to comment further on this matter, as the matter is now before the courts,” added the spokesperson.

LFL’s Melissa Sasidaran’s response to TODAY’s report of AGC’s statement on ‘threatening’ letter allegedly sent to LFL’s N Surendran. Source: Melissa Sasidaran @melissa_ms / Twitter

 

Sasidaran, in a statement published on LFL’s website on Tue, said: “Coming from the Attorney General’s office in a formal note to the High Court, this amounts to a serious threat against Surendran.”

“Singapore is notorious for bringing contempt of court or criminal defamation charges against its critics,” said Sasidaran, adding that “British author Alan Shadrake was similarly prosecuted and jailed in 2011 for making remarks on the death penalty in Singapore”.

Sasidaran also said in the same statement that the AGC has accused Surendran of making “scandalous allegations against Singapore and its legal system, including accusing Singapore of acting in total disregard of international legal norms and decent world opinion”.

“The threat against Surendran is an unlawful interference by the state of Singapore with the death row prisoners’ right to counsel and legal assistance,” according to Sasidaran.

“By virtue of Article 9 of the Singapore Constitution, every person is entitled to a fair trial which includes the right to legal advice and representation. The threat against Surendran is hence in breach of Singapore’s own laws and Constitution,” she argued, adding that the alleged threat is “a calculated attempt to sabotage Pannir’s legal team, as well as hindering legal assistance from Malaysia for the other Malaysian prisoners”.

“In doing so, Singapore is also in flagrant breach of international law and standards; the right to be provided legal assistance is enshrined in Article 14(3)(d) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),” added Sasidaran.

“We strongly urge Singapore to urgently withdraw the baseless allegations and unwarranted threat made against lawyer N Surendran, to enable the death row prisoners to seek legal recourse unimpeded,” she said.

Surendran is the lead Malaysian lawyer and an instructing solicitor to the Singapore lawyers representing Pannir in court.

Pannir Selvam, who is also represented by Singapore lawyers Too Xing Ji and Lee Ji En, had applied for a stay on his death sentence on the grounds of challenging President Halimah Yacob’s rejection of his petition for clemency.

The Ministry of Home Affairs, in response to Malaysian media reports, said on Thu that Pannir Selvam’s petition was “carefully considered”, and that President Halimah had acted on the advice of the Cabinet in not granting clemency, in line with Singapore’s Constitution.

On 23 May, however, Pannir was granted a last-minute reprieve from execution by the Court of Appeal. His legal challenge against the President’s rejection of his clemency appeal will be heard this Fri (19 July).