Singapore’s response to public pressure on Nagaenthran’s case provides no justification for executing a person with mental disability — N. Surendran

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NOVEMBER 4 — We refer to the statement issued on 3 November 2021 by the Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in response to widespread public pressure on the planned execution of Malaysian Nagaenthran Dharmalingam.

We are dismayed and appalled by the half-truths and misleading assertions contained in the MHA statement.

Firstly, the MHA relies on the fact that Singapore courts found that Nagaenthran’s ‘mental responsibility for his crime was not impaired’, and hence no one should object to this hanging.

However, the MHA deliberately sidesteps the fact that the court also found that Nagaenthran suffers from borderline intellectual functioning and ADHD; has an FSIQ score of 69; and that his executive functioning skills are impaired.

Executing a person with any kind of mental or intellectual disability is in breach of customary international law. It is also inhumane and sickens everyone who hears about it.

This is the real objection and concern of right-minded people, both Malaysian and Singaporean, to the planned execution of Nagaenthran. This is why Singaporeans have been raising funds for the family and Malaysians have been carrying out public protests in recent days.

The MHA’s robotic response that the court and clemency process have been exhausted does not answer these concerns.

Executing a person with any kind of mental or intellectual disability is in breach of customary international law. ― TODAY file pic
Executing a person with any kind of mental or intellectual disability is in breach of customary international law. ― TODAY file pic

Throughout their statement, nowhere does the MHA respond to or address the above mental and intellectual disabilities of Nagaenthran. Instead, they try to paint this man with a child’s intellect as a calculating and deliberate criminal, in a desperate bid to defuse public outrage on both sides of the causeway, as well as rising international disgust.

Secondly, MHA’s claim that they have been helping the family with travel arrangements is simply false.

It is public knowledge that the complex logistics and hefty costs are being managed by prominent Singaporean activist Kirsten Han. The Singapore Prison Services (SPS) have only bothered to communicate with the family whenever Ms Han has made queries to the SPS. The SPS has in fact made the process more difficult by childishly refusing to communicate directly with Ms Han, who is the family’s representative in Singapore for these arrangements.

In short, the SPS has taken no initiative to help the family in surmounting the nightmarish travel and accommodation red-tape.

On the prohibitive costs faced by the family, it is unacceptable for the MHA to offer the excuse that anyone ‘who wishes’ to enter Singapore at this time will have to bear the attendant costs. The family do not wish to enter Singapore; they are being forced to enter Singapore under extreme duress in order to visit their loved one facing execution.

If Singapore carries out this execution, it will be a permanent blot upon them. We urge them to take heed of civilised opinion and step back from the brink. 

*N. Surendran is advisor to Lawyers for Liberty.

**This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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