Singapore has sovereign right to use death penalty against drug offenders: Ministries respond to Malaysian minister

The interior of Changi Prison. A convicted Malaysian drug trafficker had his death sentence carried out on Nov 22, 2019, at Changi Prison Complex, after an unsuccessful petition to Singapore's President for clemency. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore has the sovereign right to use the death penalty against drug offenders and expects other countries to respect its laws, said the Republic's Law and Home Affairs ministries in a joint statement on Friday (Nov 22).

The ministries were replying to a statement by Malaysian Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Law) Datuk Liew Vui Keong, who had noted with "grave concern" the execution of a Malaysian citizen for drug offences in Singapore.

Convicted Malaysian drug trafficker Abd Helmi Ab Halim had his death sentence carried out on Friday (Nov 22) at Changi Prison Complex, after an unsuccessful petition to Singapore's President for clemency.

He had trafficked enough pure heroin enough to feed the addiction of nearly 200 abusers for a week, MHA and MinLaw said. He was accorded full due process under the law, and was represented by legal counsel throughout the process, they added.

The ministries also noted that Mr Liew said it is the drug kingpins and not drug mules who must face the full brunt of the law.

"Malaysia can help in the common fight against drugs by aggressively rooting out the drug kingpins in Malaysia who send drug traffickers from Malaysia to Singapore," the ministries said.

They added that Malaysia can also take "serious steps" to prevent people from being recruited for drug trafficking and from crossing into Singapore.

"In this way, Malaysia can do more to help save the lives of Malaysians who would otherwise become drug traffickers, trafficking drugs into Singapore. Such drug traffickers, by peddling drugs, bring death and misery, and destroy thousands of lives in Singapore."

Mr Liew had, in his statement, said that Malaysia imposes a "strict moratorium" on execution for drug trafficking crimes pending a comprehensive review, in line with "established international standards".

"It is therefore heart-wrenching to see a fellow citizen to be executed, for circumstances entirely uncompelling, given the close proximity of our countries," said Mr Liew.

MHA and MinLaw had noted that Malaysia's government had, in commenting on a similar case, previously said that it respected the rule of law and due process of Singapore.

"Singapore's laws apply equally to all, regardless whether the offender is Singaporean or foreign," the ministries said, adding that foreigners cannot expect different treatment.

Noting that there is no international consensus on the death penalty, the ministries added that the death penalty is an important component of Singapore's comprehensive anti-drug strategy.

"Our experience is that the death penalty, when combined with other measures, has been an effective deterrent," the ministries said.

Mr Liew had also said that it is "unjust and disproportionate for drug mules to bear the fate of the gallows".

"Justice must be tempered with mercy, and I implore Singapore to do so."

In their response, MHA and MinLaw said that the use of capital punishment is an issue that every country has the sovereign right to decide for itself.

"Singapore respects the sovereign right of other countries to determine their own legal systems, and expects the same in return."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.