Rights group sues Shanmugam in KL over Pofma correction order

A Malaysia-based rights group is suing Singapore's Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam for issuing an order, under Singapore's Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma), to correct statements it made on the country's execution method.

The suit by Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) was filed yesterday at the Kuala Lumpur High Court by law firm Daim & Gamany.

LFL's founder N. Surendran said the group 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.

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."

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

He said former Malaysian Bar president Ambiga Sreenevasan and Mr Gurdial Singh Nijar are representing him, Ms Sasidaran and LFL.

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," it said in a statement.

Singapore executes its condemned prisoners by hanging. The ministry said that all judicial executions are carried out in strict compliance with the law.

 
 
 
 

"All judicial executions are conducted in the presence of the Superintendent of the Prison and a medical doctor, among others," it said.

The ministry also said the law requires a coroner to conduct an inquiry within 24 hours of the execution to satisfy himself the execution was carried out duly and properly. It also said that "the rope used for judicial executions has never broken before".

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

In November last year, convicted Malaysian drug trafficker Abd Helmi Ab Halim was executed after an unsuccessful petition to Singapore's President for clemency.

Mr Shanmugam had said last May 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 into the country by Malaysians.

He added that one in five traffickers who brought in drugs above the threshold that carries the death penalty was Malaysian.

Besides the LFL, three other parties that shared the allegations - Singaporean activist Kirsten Han, The Online Citizen website and Yahoo Singapore - have been ordered to publish the correction directions.

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

The Straits Times has contacted the MHA for comment and has not received a response by press time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2020, with the headline 'Rights group sues Shanmugam in KL over Pofma correction order'. Subscribe