No exceptions for Malaysians on death row: Shanmugam

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam added that the Singapore Government will not intervene when there are no legal reasons to do so and when the courts have already imposed a sentence.
Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam added that the Singapore Government will not intervene when there are no legal reasons to do so and when the courts have already imposed a sentence. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Pakatan govt has made three requests, but it's not tenable for S'pore to agree, says minister

Since the Pakatan Harapan government took power in Malaysia around a year ago, it has made three requests to stop executions of Malaysians in Singapore, two of whom are drug traffickers, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday.

But Singapore cannot make exceptions for Malaysians who have been sentenced to death for their offences as it would undermine the rule of law here, he added.

"Let me be quite clear, it is not possible for us to do so, regardless of how many requests we receive," said Mr Shanmugam.

He added that the Singapore Government will not intervene when there are no legal reasons to do so and when the courts have already imposed a sentence.

"It is not tenable to give a spe-cial moratorium to Malaysians, and impose it on everyone else, including Singaporeans who commit offences which carry the death penalty," said Mr Shanmugam.

The death penalty is imposed because evidence shows it is an effective deterrent against drug offences, he added, stressing that "we are not going to be deflected from doing the right thing for Singapore".

Mr Shanmugam revealed that his Malaysian counterpart, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Liew Vui Keong, who is the de-facto Law Minister, had spoken to Senior Minister of State for Law Edwin Tong and written to the Singapore Government over the case of Pannir Selvam Pranthaman.

 
 
 
 

The 31-year-old Malaysian drug mule, who was convicted of importing 51.84g of heroin in 2017, is on death row here.

He got a temporary reprieve after the Court of Appeal granted him a stay of execution on Thursday, a day before he was due to be hanged.

Speaking at the Central Narcotics Bureau's workplan seminar at the Home Team Academy, Mr Shanmugam said Singapore will respond to Datuk Liew once the case is over, adding that some Malaysian ministers are "ideologically opposed" to the death penalty.

"And we have to respect that. At the same time, we do impose a death penalty in Singapore, and I expect that Malaysia will respect that condition as well," he said.

Mr Shanmugam revealed that last year, almost 30 per cent of the drug traffickers caught here were Malaysians, and nearly 30 per cent of the heroin seized, by weight, was brought in by Malaysians.

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

"How do we go easy on Malaysians in the face of these statistics? And if we did, what will it mean for the rule of law?

"It will become a joke if there is a request made and we go easy. That is not the way Singapore works," said Mr Shanmugam, adding that when he responds to Mr Liew, he will make three key suggestions to get to the root of the problem.

First, he will request statistics on how many drug traffickers the Malaysian authorities pick up on their side of the border.

 
 
 
 

"I assume their border control is as good, (that) they have strict laws on drugs. I assume they have as much of a will and intention to enforce them as we do," he added.

"If they can make sure they arrest the traffickers before they come into Singapore, that helps them and it helps us. The traffickers do not have to face the death penalty - they can keep them in Malaysia."

Second, he will ask about efforts to catch drug kingpins who operate in Malaysia and are "too scared to come into Singapore", adding that both sides could cooperate effectively in this area.

Third, he said it would be helpful if the penalties that Singapore imposes on drug traffickers are publicised widely among the potential drug trafficking groups in Malaysia, who are predominantly poor, less educated and Indian, and do so to earn "a few hundred ringgit".

Mr Shanmugam said the drug trafficking situation, if dealt with, would benefit both countries, adding that a practical way is to address the social situation of the vulnerable in Malaysia.

Pannir Selvam had applied for his death sentence to be stayed on the basis that he intends to mount a legal challenge against the rejection of his petition for clemency to President Halimah Yacob.

A three-judge Court of Appeal that granted his request had noted that Pannir Selvam was told of the rejection and his execution date just one week in advance, which did not leave the prisoner much time to get legal advice on his options.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2019, with the headline 'No exceptions for Malaysians on death row: Shanmugam'. Print Edition | Subscribe