Lawyers, nine NGOs and the families of Malaysian death row prisoners as well as their supporters submitted an appeal for clemency for Malaysian death row prisoners in Changi Prison at the High Commission of the Republic in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur yesterday (25 Jul).
The memorandum was addressed to President Halimah Yacob, urging her and the Government of Singapore to reconsider the death penalty, particularly against drug mules “while the drug kingpins and traffickers are still at large”.
“How many must face the noose and be hanged before the Government of Singapore realizes that punishing drug mules to eliminate drug is a futile exercise?
“We hope that you, Madam President, and the Government of Singapore would take a moment to reconsider the death penalty. It has proven not to be an effective deterrent and will not improve crime rates or trends in Singapore,” the memo read.
LFL director Melissa Sasidaran (front row, extreme right in above pic), alongside activists from other NGOs such as Amnesty International and Buddhist association Geha Care Bodhi Centre, as well as the families of Datchinamurthy s/o Kataiah and Gobi s/o Avedian were also present outside the High Commission in KL yesterday.
The families of two other Malaysian citizens on death row in Singapore — Abdul Helmi bin Abdul Halim and Rahmat bin Karimon — were not present.
Pannir Selvam Pranthaman’s family had also notably joined the submission of the memorandum.
Pannir Selvam was granted a stay of execution by the Singapore Court of Appeal in May. However, his instructing solicitor N. Surendran told a press conference with Pannir’s family in Petaling Jaya earlier this month that the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) in Singapore have not provided a certificate of substantive assistance.
“Right now we have to apply to the High Court in Singapore to cancel the decision of the Attorney General’s Chambers in not providing the certificate of substantive assistance, and thereby ordering the A-G to give it,” said Surendran.
Angelia Pranthaman, Pannir’s younger sister, told reporters yesterday that “Singapore is not only punishing its death row inmates”, but also the families of the inmates.
The families will be “destroyed” in the absence of their family members who are incarcerated and subsequently executed by the State, she added.
“Disappointed” with “cavalier” treatment by S’pore High Commissioner in KL: N. Surendran, LFL legal advisor and lawyer to M’sian death row prisoner Pannir Selvam
Lawyers For Liberty co-founder and legal advisor Surendran expressed his disappointment with the “cavalier” manner in which His Excellency Vanu Gopala Menon, the High Commissioner of the Republic of Singapore in Kuala Lumpur, handled the submission of the memorandum on Malaysian death row prisoners in Singapore.
Speaking to reporters in front of the High Commission at Jalan Tun Razak in the Malaysian capital city after communicating with officials at the High Commission, including HE Menon, Surendran said: “I have no other way [to describe this treatment].”
Surendran, Gobi’s wife Parameswary and Geha Bodhi Care Centre chairman Lam Kai Cheong were the only three individuals permitted to enter the High Commission to submit the memorandum to two of the Embassy’s representatives, namely Political Counsellor Zhiping Lin and Second Secretary (Political) Jonathan Lee.
“Although they saw us and listened to what we said — all we asked is for every family to have its representative — they refused. And the High Commissioner — when I messaged him — he gave me this reply.”
Quoting HE Menon’s message, Surendran narrated: “We have an understanding for three of you to come in and deliver your note. We are not prepared to allow more into the High Commission. If you are not satisfied with that, the group can leave with the note with the guard house. I’m sorry, that’s our position.”
“We are very disappointed with the attitude [of the High Commissioner]. This is a matter of life and death for Malaysians [on death row in Singapore] … I cannot believe that a High Commissioner of another country can treat representations involving life and death in that manner,” said Surendran.
He added that the Malaysian death row prisoners awaiting execution for drug trafficking “are not drug kingpins”, and that the drug trade cannot be stopped by putting drug mules to death.
“These are not Pablo Escobars that they are hanging. Singapore cannot pretend that they are putting an end to the drug trafficking problem by hanging poor Malaysian drug mules, most of whom were duped even if they are guilty,” said Surendran.
Banner used in protest against Yong Vui Kong’s case “sadly” used again “as Singapore refuses to stop the state-sanctioned killings”: LFL director Melissa Sasidaran
Sasidaran on Thu shared via Twitter photographs of a red banner used in yesterday’s handing in of the memorandum, which she highlighted was the same banner used by protestors outside the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur in 2010.
The protest held nearly a decade ago was related to Malaysian Yong Vui Kong, who was caught in possession of 47.27g of diamorphine near the Meritus Mandarin Hotel by Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers in 2007 when he was 19 years old.
Singaporean international human rights lawyer M Ravi represented Yong in his case. Yong’s death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane in Nov 2013 when he was 25.
Yong’s commuted sentence was part of the result of amendments made to Singapore’s drug laws in 2013. He had met the conditions of a mere drug courier under Section 33B(2) of the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA), and being in possession of a certificate of substantive assistance from the Public Prosecutor (PP), as stated under s.33B(2)(b) MDA:
However, M Ravi told a LFL press conference on Tue that granting a non-judicial officer such as the PP the power to issue such a certificate may be “in breach of the principle of separation of powers”, given that the PP is designated under the AGC, which falls under the executive arm of the government.
Former Singapore Law Review deputy editor Joshua Kow in his 2013 essay titled “How substantive is “substantive assistance”? similarly argued that “the full, independent discretion” of the PP in issuing such a certificate is “a marked departure from what ought to be within the power of an independent judge who is obliged also to give reasons for his decision”.
Such an amendment, Kow posited, “would not change the status quo in favour of more transparency or accountability”, as the PP’s decision “remains unaccountable and opaque”.
“In imposing a death penalty which is mandatory, giving the Public Prosecutor full discretion in issuing the certificate makes it no different from the law prior to amendment,” he added.
Kow also highlighted the possibility that — quoting the Workers’ Party’s Sylvia Lim’s speech on the MDA Amendment Bill — “some accused persons may not receive the certificate even if they were willing to provide the CNB with whatever information they had” as a result of the full discretion vested within the PP.
The scope of the PP’s powers in determining whether accused persons should receive certificates of substantive assistance can be further seen in s.33B(4) below, which also provides for an indemnity clause protecting the PP from any legal action or challenge regarding his decision to issue such certificates or otherwise:
Another point of note raised by Kow in his essay is how, as provided for in s33B(4), the degree to which an accused person has “substantively assisted the Central Narcotics Bureau in disrupting drug trafficking activities” highly rests upon the “sole discretion” of the PP.
The “provision of information leading to the arrest or detention or prosecution” of others involved in the same drug trafficking operations in itself, he argued, “is inherently unfair and possibly onerous to the convict”, as couriers such as Yong, according to Kow, make up, “for lack of a better phrase, the “lower rungs of the ladder” in the larger hierarchy of the illegal drug trade”.
“Realistically, it is highly unlikely that couriers would possess such information, either because the leaders of the syndicate have taken steps to restrict the downward flow of such information, or the revelation of such information would endanger their family members (a situation faced by Yong himself,” he added.