Rights lawyer slams Singapore minister over defence of death penalty

Human rights lawyer N Surendran says Law Minister K Shanmugam’s suggestion that Malaysia ‘arrest the traffickers’ before they enter Singapore is ‘silly talk for a Cabinet minister’.

PETALING JAYA: A human rights lawyer today slammed Singapore’s Law Minister K Shanmugam over his defence of the death penalty which he claimed was an effective deterrent against drug offences.

Shanmugam had also claimed that the republic’s citizens were supportive of the death sentence following news that the execution of a Malaysian drug mule had been put on hold.

In a series of tweets, Lawyers for Liberty adviser N Surendran said Shanmugam’s claim that the death penalty deterred drug trafficking was not only without basis but the minister had failed to provide any evidence to back his claim.

Studies on the death penalty, Surendran said, revealed otherwise.

“He then childishly suggests that Malaysia ‘arrest the traffickers’ before they enter Singapore. This is silly talk for a Cabinet minister.”

The former Padang Serai MP also wondered how Shanmugam knew that Singaporeans were in favour of the death penalty as there’s “barely any freedom of expression in Singapore”.

“Faced with repressive laws, the timid Singaporeans daren’t criticise their government. Malaysia is a beacon of freedom in comparison.”

Earlier today, Shanmugam had said it was “not tenable” to make exceptions and stop the execution of Malaysian drug traffickers.

He said this would undermine the rule of law in Singapore, he said.

Shanmugam also said some members in the Pakatan Harapan coalition were “ideologically opposed” to the death penalty.

Surendran said it was “arrogant and unbecoming” of a senior minister like Shanmugam to take such a tone with a minister from a friendly country like de facto law minister VK Liew.

“Liew wrote a letter to the Singapore government appealing for the life of a Malaysian drug mule,” he said.

“What’s wrong with that?”

It was reported that Liew had written a letter to appeal on behalf of Pannir Selvam Pranthaman, a drug mule on death row in Singapore.

The 31-year-old was caught trafficking in more than 51g of heroin at the Woodlands Checkpoint in 2014. He was supposed to be executed at dawn today, but the Court of Appeal in Singapore granted a stay of execution yesterday.

The Singapore Court of Appeal granted the stay to Pannir on the grounds that he be given time to file a judicial review to challenge the clemency process.

The challenge must be filed within two weeks.