Malaysian rights group sues Minister K Shanmugam in KL over Pofma correction order

Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs refuted allegations made by Lawyers for Liberty as "untrue, baseless and preposterous" on Jan 22, 2020.
Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs refuted allegations made by Lawyers for Liberty as "untrue, baseless and preposterous" on Jan 22, 2020.PHOTO: GOV.SG

KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysia-based rights group is suing Singapore's Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam for issuing an order, under Singapore's fake news law, to correct statements it made on the country's execution method.

The suit by Lawyers for Liberty (LFL), a human rights lawyers organisation, was filed on Friday (Jan 24) at the Kuala Lumpur High Court by law firm Daim & Gamany.

LFL's founder N. Surendran said it is seeking a declaration from the High Court on the order issued to LFL, LFL director Melissa Sasidaran and himself that they post a correction notice on their statement.

Should they fail to do it, he pointed out that the Singapore Government said "we would be guilty of a criminal offence under the Pofma (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)", he told reporters at the court complex after filing the papers.

It is also seeking a court declaration that "the defendant cannot take any action against us in Malaysia under the Pofma".

He added: "We've filed it with the supporting affidavits and we'll be waiting for the hearing date in Malaysia."

Giving his reason for the suit, Mr Surendran said he believed the corrections order was "an attempt by Singapore to encroach upon, or to crackdown the freedom of speech in Malaysia and impose its fake news Act on Malaysians".

He added that former Malaysian Bar president Ambiga Sreenevasan and lawyer Gurdial Singh Nijar are representing him, Ms Melissa and LFL.

Mr Gurdial said the "unusual nature" of the Singapore government seeking to extend its laws to Malaysia's citizens has prompted LFL to file the suit.

On Jan 16, LFL said in a statement that prison officers in Singapore were instructed to kick the back of the neck of a prisoner with great force to break it if the rope breaks during a hanging and that the Singapore Government approved of "unlawful methods" that are used to cover up an execution if the rope breaks.

On Jan 22, Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) refuted LFL's allegations as "untrue, baseless and preposterous".


"These allegations are entirely unfounded," the ministry said in a statement.

Singapore executes its condemned prisoners by hanging and all judicial executions in island-state are carried out in strict compliance with the law and all judicial executions are conducted in the presence of the Superintendent of the Prison and a medical doctor, among others.

The ministry also said the law requires a coroner (who is a judicial officer of the State Courts) to conduct an inquiry in 24 hours of the execution to satisfy himself that the execution was carried out duly and properly and "the rope used for judicial executions has never broken before".

It added: "Prison officers certainly do not receive any 'special training to carry out the brutal execution method' as alleged. Any acts such as those described in the LFL statement would have been thoroughly investigated and dealt with."

The ministry noted that the LFL has a history of publishing sensational and untrue stories to seek attention in the hope of getting Malaysian prisoners, convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death in Singapore, off the death penalty.

In November 2019, convicted Malaysian drug trafficker Abd Helmi Ab Halim had his death sentence carried out after an unsuccessful petition to Singapore's President for clemency.

Mr Shanmugam, who is also the Law Minister, had said in May 2019 that almost 30 per cent of drug traffickers caught in Singapore in 2018 were Malaysians, and nearly 30 per cent of the heroin seized, by weight, was brought in by Malaysians.

He also said one in five traffickers who brought in drugs above the limit that carries the death penalty was also a Malaysian.

Besides the LFL, three other parties that shared the allegations have been ordered as well to publish the correction directions alongside the LFL statement. They are: Singaporean activist Kirsten Han, The Online Citizen website and Yahoo Singapore.

On Thursday (Jan 23), the authorities said the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) will get Internet service providers in Singapore to block the LFL's website, following its refusal to comply with the corrections order.

LFL is the fifth case in which Pofma has been invoked since it took effect on Oct 2 last year.

When contacted, a Ministry of Home Affairs spokesman said: "We have only seen media reports, we do not have any further details as yet. As such, we are unable to comment."