Minister Liew denies interfering with Singapore case of death row Malaysian

Datuk Liew Vui Keong speaks to reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya May 8, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Datuk Liew Vui Keong speaks to reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya May 8, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, May 26 — De facto law minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong has denied allegations that he tried to interfere with Singapore’s death sentence of a Malaysian citizen that a Singaporean court later stayed.

Liew said he made a representation to the Singaporean government last Wednesday on Pannir Selvam Pranthaman’s case on “valid legal grounds” and had spoken to Singapore’s Senior Minister in the Ministry of Law, as Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam was unavailable.

“The allegation that I have interfered with their judicial system is totally unfounded and baseless. It’s purely a figment of an imagination on someone’s part,” Liew said in a statement.

The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department said serious allegations had been made against him by “a certain quarter” across the Causeway. It is unclear who Liew is referring to.

Singaporean leaders have responded strongly to the Malaysian case, with Shanmugam saying that it is “not tenable” for Singapore to go easy on Malaysian drug offenders arrested in their country.

Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs also reportedly said Singapore President Halimah Yacob had acted on the Cabinet’s advice in not granting clemency to Pannir, besides noting that the public prosecutor had the sole discretion to deny Pannir a certificate of assistance.

Liew noted that Pannir had applied for a stay of his execution last Wednesday by challenging the prosecution’s rejection of a certificate of assistance on Pannir’s claim of helping Singaporean police in a drug case. The certificate would have enabled the court to sentence Pannir to life imprisonment instead of death.

Pannir was also challenging the Singaporean president’s rejection of his clemency petition that was purportedly served on the same day as his execution notice.

The 32-year-old Malaysian, convicted of drug trafficking, was originally scheduled to hang last Friday, before Singapore’s Court of Appeal allowed last Thursday a stay of the execution to enable him to challenge the refusal of clemency.

“Although I haven’t had the benefit of reading the grounds of decision of the Singapore’s Court of Appeal, what’s obvious is that the Singapore’s Court made its decision having considered the prevailing circumstances and the rule of law applicable to the case. It is therefore equally untenable to allege that there’s an interference on my part to their judicial process.

“I, and so is everyone of us here in Malaysia, respect the decision of the Singapore’s Court,” said Liew.

Liew noted that the Singaporean court had only granted Pannir a temporary reprieve to allow him to exhaust his rights by engaging a competent lawyer.

“It is an absolute abhorrent to justice if he is denied such basic rights and get executed without being heard.”

Pannir was convicted on June 27, 2017 by the Singapore High Court of allegedly trafficking 51.84g of diamorphine at the Woodlands Checkpoint on September 3, 2014.

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