British aviation magnate Richard Branson says a “national conversation” about the use of the death penalty in Singapore is “long overdue”, voicing disappointment in the city-state’s “relentless machinery of death” following the execution of Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam yesterday despite his mental disabilities.
“Singapore’s relentless machinery of death did what it always does,” Branson said in a blog post dedicated to Nagaenthran.
“Stubbornly rejecting international human rights law and the views of experts, it left no room for decency, dignity, compassion, or mercy. Justice wasn’t served.”
Nagaenthran was hanged at Changi prison early yesterday morning despite the international outcry over the death sentence handed down to him 12 years ago for trafficking 43g – about three tablespoons – of heroin into Singapore.
He had an IQ of 69, a level recognised as a disability, and was reportedly coerced into committing the crime.
His mother’s last-ditch attempt to halt his execution was thrown out by the court which said the criminal motion filed by Panchalai Supermaniam appeared to be a “calculated attempt” to diminish the finality of the court process.
Panchalai had appeared in court herself as she was unable to find a lawyer in Singapore willing to represent her son.
“Imagine the anguish, the anxiety, the grief,” Branson said on Panchalai’s final efforts to save Nagaenthran.
“He was not a criminal. He was a victim – of his personal circumstances; of drug cartels that prey on the vulnerable; of a justice system that so consistently seems to fail minorities, the marginalised, and the poor. Humanity has failed him.”
Branson, who had multiple times called for Singapore to give Nagaenthran clemency, said in his last plea that while he had “enormous respect” for the city-state, its use of capital punishment was the “one horrible blotch on its reputation”.
“More than ever, I am convinced that it’s in our hands to end the death penalty in our lifetime. The global movement for abolition is growing. Also because of miscarriages of justice like this,” he said in his blog post.
Adding that Singapore would not be the same after this, he said people were beginning to doubt the need for the death penalty.
“If a system cannot protect the rights of those with disabilities, if it cannot offer empathy and reprieve, then something is fundamentally broken.
“Nagaenthran’s case has raised so many questions about good governance, transparency, due process, fairness, and about Singapore’s commitment to international agreements. This will not go away.
“I’d rather know Singapore as modern, world-class hub of trade than as a place that wastes its resources and its reputation on hanging people.”