On 4 February (Tuesday), Foreign Affairs Minister said in Parliament that his ministry will provide consular assistance to Singaporeans who are arrested or detained abroad, in accordance to the local laws.
“The safety of Singaporeans who are travelling overseas is always the paramount concern of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA),” said Dr Balakrishnan.
He added, “We constantly remind Singaporeans who are visiting, working or living overseas that they have to abide by the local laws. If a Singaporean is arrested or detained, we ensure that our citizens are accorded due process under those local laws.”
The Minister was responding to a question raised by Workers’ Party Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, Leon Perera. He asked to what extent consular support will be given to Singaporeans who are apprehended or charged with offences abroad after the MFA is informed of the incident.
To this, Dr Balakrishnan explained that the “extent and nature of our consular assistance is determined by the unique circumstances of each case”. He added that it also depends on the bilateral and international obligations of the host country as the “entire process has to be in accordance with the local laws and regulations”.
Explaining how the consular support works, the Minister said that upon being notified of a Singaporean’s arrest abroad, MFA will get immediately get in touch with the next-of-kin and contact the local authorities to “ascertain the basic facts of the case”.
Additionally, MFA will request for consular access to the Singaporean and facilitate visits by the next-of-kin,” said Dr Balakrishnan, emphasising that all this is subject to approval of the local authorities.
“MFA will also continue to seek updates from the local authorities on the progress of the case and we will remain in contact with his next-of-kin and family members in order to provide consular assistance,” he added.
Man claims MFA did not offer support during arrest in Malaysia
Earlier this year, TOC reported about a man named Mohan Rajangam, who was arrested by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) – and his subsequent extradition by the Malaysian Police — on 21 Mar 2015 over a charge made against him for a murder that took place in Penang Island.
In his interview, Mr Mohan rehashed his traumatic experience of being left in Malaysia for four months, allegedly without any follow up from either the SPF or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
When asked as to whether anyone from the Singapore consulate or embassy in Malaysia — situated in Johor Bahru and the capital city of Kuala Lumpur — had visited him throughout his remand, Mr Mohan said: “No… [The Singapore] Embassy did not visit. None of the Singapore people [from] any of the departments — [they] did not come and visit me for the four months [I was held in Malaysia].”
“My cousin Viknesen assisted my wife by emailing to the [Ministry of] Foreign Affairs for advice and assistance” regarding his predicament “in detail”, according to Mr Mohan, to which a MFA officer replied that their representatives had made two calls.
The Singapore Consulate in Johor Bahru had, according to Mr Mohan, contacted a police officer at the North Johor Bahru headquarters in Skudai, while the High Commission in Kuala Lumpur had contacted the Malaysian Investigating Officer in his case for information on his whereabouts.
“Thereafter there was no follow up from the Foreign Affairs for 4 months. They did not visit me in Penang, and neither did anyone contact me after my release,” he said.
After questioning why no one had visited him in remand in Penang, and after explaining to the MFA officer in a phone call everything that had taken place throughout his four-month ordeal, Mr Mohan was told that the officer would investigate the matter and call him back. However, Mr Mohan has yet to receive any follow-up from the MFA officer.
In the March 2015 MFA email that TOC has seen, MFA only provided the contact details of the Malaysia investigating officer to the family with no follow up question as to what help would the family require.
Singapore police failed to inform family of details of the arrest and detention
Mr Mohan also alleged that the Singapore police did not inform his family of his whereabouts and condition over 48 hours after his arrest.
“After 48 hours, my family was not told anything,” he said, adding that his family had to go to the Hougang Police Station — the nearest police station to their residence — to find out what had happened to him, only to be informed by a police officer regarding his extradition to Malaysia, and that he had been produced in a Malaysian state court with a Warrant of Arrest.
When asked as to whether SPF had given him any explanation behind sending him over to their Malaysian counterparts without investigating his claim that he was not present at the crime scene at the time of the murder, Mr Mohan replied that “nobody” had given him such an explanation.