Saturday, January 22, 2022

Wisma Putra in frantic but ‘tactful’ appeal for Singapore to spare Nagaenthran’s life

The last few days have been marked by 'intense communication' between officials from both countries as the date of Nagaenthran's final appeal draws near.

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The Malaysian foreign ministry is doubling diplomatic efforts with Singapore in the hope that the city-state will spare the life of Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam whose pending execution has attracted international attention.

A diplomatic source said there has been “intense communication” in recent days between officials in Putrajaya and their counterparts in Singapore, on top of a letter from Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah to his Singapore counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan.

Wisma Putra has also been briefing senior leaders in both countries as part of efforts to explain its stance on Nagaenthran’s case.

“Talks and phone calls have marked the last few days, especially after it became apparent that Nagaenthran was on the path to recovery from Covid-19,” said the source.

This is not the first time Wisma Putra has found itself involved in an out-of-court appeal on behalf of citizens facing the death penalty in Singapore, where dozens of Malaysians still on death row are hoping for their sentences to be commuted or for a presidential pardon.

Rights groups said many of these convicts are from poor families and were tricked into becoming drug mules with promises of lucrative payments.

Nagaenthran’s case was pushed into the international spotlight after details emerged about his mental state.

A diagnosis of his mental capability presented during his trial found that Nagaenthran has an IQ of 69 – below the threshold of 70 for declaring a person as intellectually disabled.

International treaties, whose signatories include Singapore, prohibit capital punishment for mentally disabled persons.

Nagaenthran was nonetheless sentenced to death, with his execution due on Nov 10 after losing several appeals.

But in a twist of fate, he tested positive for Covid-19 just as his lawyers were rushing to beat a tight deadline for a stay of execution.

A new hearing for what will be his final appeal in Singapore courts has been set on Nov 30.

The source said the appeals to Singapore had not been easy, adding that Wisma Putra has had to be “tactful” in conveying its requests to plead for the life of its citizen.

“The main objective is to ensure Nagaenthran is spared from the gallows.

“So we have to tread carefully around sensitivities involved,” the source said, adding that so far, officials have been careful not to give the impression that Malaysia is questioning or intefering in Singapore’s judiciary.

Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah and Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob are among those who have personally pleaded for Nagaenthran’s life.

Flamboyant British billionaire Richard Branson also penned a personal appeal to Singapore president Halimah Yacob, saying Nagaenthran’s case was just one of many stories of poor people forced to courier drugs while the real culprits got away.

“Year after year, people face the gallows, the firing squad, or – in Duterte’s Philippines – unaccountable death squads for alleged drug-related crimes. Yet, the global drug trade continues to grow, and illicit drugs of all types are more readily available around the world than at any other point in history,” wrote Branson.

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