SINGAPORE — On Wednesday (17 May), Singapore executed Muhammad Faizal Mohd Shariff, 36, convicted for cannabis possession, marking the city-state’s second execution within a span of three weeks.
Faizal, who was part of a group of 17 ethnic Malay death row inmates alleging racial bias in Singapore’s application of capital punishment, was arrested in 2016 with 1.6kg of cannabis.
The suit was dismissed last year, leading to heavy penalties for prominent rights lawyer M Ravi, who represented the inmates.
Faizal’s execution comes in the wake of international uproar following the hanging of Tangaraju Suppiah for a similar offense.
Prominent rights lawyer M Ravi, who previously represented the prisoners, expressed concern over the disproportionate execution rates against Malays.
Making his comments on his Facebook page, he pointed out that while Malays constitute just over 13% of Singapore’s population, they make up nearly 65% of the death row inmates.
“There is even considerable disparity between the percentage of Malays sentenced to death for drug offences, and the percentage of Malays in prison for all offences or the percentage of Malays arrested for drug consumption,” Ravi added.
Singapore’s tough anti-narcotics laws have received international criticism, notably from the United Nations and business tycoon Richard Branson.
The People’s Action Party-led government, however, maintains that the death penalty has effectively controlled drug-related crimes.
Authorities confirmed that Faizal’s capital sentence was carried out at Changi Prison Complex, following the dismissal of his last-ditch appeal on Tuesday.
Justice Tay Yong Kwang, who presided over Faizal’s appeal, deemed it an “impermissible attempt at reopening and rearguing the appeal”. He noted that there was no new evidence satisfying the requirements of a review application and dismissed the appeal without setting it down for a hearing.
The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) stated that the executed man had full access to legal counsel throughout the process, and his identity was withheld to respect his family’s privacy.
Singapore resumed executions in March 2022 after a hiatus of over two years, with thirteen death row inmates executed since then.
The recent executions, including the controversial case of Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam, who was deemed to have a mental disability, have drawn widespread condemnation.
Activists and rights groups worldwide continue to push for Singapore to abolish capital punishment, arguing against its efficacy as a deterrent against crime.
Despite the international outcry, the Singapore government has defended its stance, stating that the guilt of those executed was proven beyond reasonable doubt.
However, critics continue to voice concerns over a climate of fear within Singapore’s legal fraternity, especially after several lawyers, including Ravi, faced penalties or lost their practice licenses for representing death row inmates.
“The call to the Singapore government to scrap the death penalty has been loud and clear globally,” said Amnesty International’s executive director for Malaysia, Katrina Jorene Maliamauv. She urged Singapore to halt the executions and commute all existing death sentences.