Rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) has slammed the Singapore government’s reaction to growing protests over the imminent execution of a mentally disabled Malaysian prisoner, while also accusing it of failing to help his family with travel arrangements.
It said the home ministry had deliberately ignored concerns over the mental state of Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam by saying that he understood the gravity of the crime he committed.
LFL adviser N Surendran said at the heart of the protests was Nagaenthran’s intellectual disability as diagnosed by a psychiatrist during his trial, adding that executing such a person not only violates international law but also “sickens everyone who hears about it”.
“This is the real objection and concern of right-minded people, both Malaysian and Singaporean, to the planned execution of Nagaenthran. This is why Singaporeans have been raising funds for the family and Malaysians have been carrying out public protests in recent days.
“The home ministry’s robotic response that the court and clemency process have been exhausted does not answer these concerns,” Surendran said.
Yesterday, Singapore’s home ministry defended the death sentence of Nagaenthran amid growing pressure in both the city-state and Malaysia for the government to halt the execution scheduled on Nov 10.
It said Nagaenthran, who was convicted of trafficking drugs into Singapore, clearly understood the crime, adding that he had also exhausted all legal appeals.
The government also claimed that it had accorded facilities for Nagaenthran’s family to travel to Singapore.
The response came as protests mount in Malaysia over the execution, with rights activists reminding Singapore of its obligation to abide by international treaties prohibiting capital punishment on mentally disabled persons.
An online petition urging Singapore President Halimah Yacob to use her power of pardon on Nagaenthran has gathered some 50,000 signatures.
Yesterday, dozens of activists gathered at Parliament in Kuala Lumpur urging the Malaysian government to plead for Nagaenthran’s life.
A Singapore lawyer’s constitiutional challenge is also set to be heard on Nov 8 in a bid to stop the execution.
LFL questioned claims by the Singapore home ministry that it had provided assistance for Nagaenthran’s family to visit him in prison.
It said it was Singaporean activist Kirsten Han who had been helping the family with the costs as well as managing the complex travel SOPs which it described as “nightmarish” and bogged down by red tape.
“The Singapore Prison Services has only bothered to communicate with the family whenever Han made queries to the SPS. The SPS has in fact made the process more difficult by childishly refusing to communicate directly with Han, who is the family’s representative in Singapore for these arrangements,” said Surendran.
He reminded the home ministry that Nagaenthran’s family were not choosing to make a trip to Singapore like other travellers.
“The family do not wish to enter Singapore; they are being forced to enter Singapore under extreme duress in order to visit their loved one facing execution.”
Surendran warned that going ahead with the execution on Nov 10 would be a “permanent blot” on Singapore.
“We urge them to take heed of civilised opinion and to step back from the brink.”