Singapore’s unyielding stance on drug trafficking and capital punishment has hit international headlines of late.
Much of it has to do with 34-year-old Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, the allegedly intellectually disabled Malaysian drug trafficker who was sentenced to death more than a decade ago.
Despite multiple appeals and international calls for clemency, including a last-minute appeal by his mother, the drug trafficker was executed on Wednesday (27 Apr) after exhausting his rights of appeal.
His brother has since confirmed the funeral will be held in Ipoh.
Speaking to The Star on Wednesday (27 Apr), Nagaenthran’s younger brother confirmed that the execution had been carried out.
According to a Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign Facebook post, the execution was by hanging.
The brother also shared that a funeral will be held in his hometown of Ipoh.
Later in the day, social media page Wake Up, Singapore shared that a short wake will be held at Sin Ming before Naganthran’s body gets repatriated back to Malaysia.
On Tuesday (26 Apr), his mother, Madam Panchalai Supermaniam, made a last-ditch attempt to stop the execution.
ST reported that Madam Panchalai had said in Tamil that she wanted her son back alive.
She mentioned that she “needed time” to get a lawyer. Yet she apparently submitted court papers written in “legal language” that she claimed were written by “educated” friends.
The court papers suggested that Chief Justice Menon, who had presided over Nagaenthran’s appeal in 2016, had “fundamentally breached” her son’s right to a fair trial, which gave rise to “reasonable apprehension of bias”.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Wong Woon Kwong called this a “baseless” argument as the drug trafficker and his lawyers had previously said they had had no objection to Chief Justice Menon presiding over the case.
Moreover, DPP Wong said Chief Justice Menon was not involved in any of the decisions relating to the drug trafficker’s prosecution.
A three-judge Court of Appeal, comprising Justices Andrew Phang, Judith Prakash and Belinda Ang, eventually rejected the appeal.
Justice Phang said the application was “patently devoid of factual and legal merit”, and a “clear continuation” to “drip-feed” applications to stop the execution.
After her appeal was dismissed, the court granted Nagaenthran two hours to spend with his family and hold their hands.
Nagaenthran was 22 years old when he was put on death row in Nov 2010.
In 2009, he was caught importing 42.72g of heroin into Singapore by strapping the bundle to his thigh. The amount exceeded the threshold of 15g.
Nagaenthran allegedly suffered from a mental impairment, a point which activists and lawyers used to argue his case.
After a failed appeal in 2011 against his conviction and sentence, the now 34-year-old filed another appeal in 2015 to have his sentence changed to life imprisonment.
The re-sentencing application took into account evidence from evaluations done by four psychiatrists. The High Court then maintained that Nagaenthran had known what he was doing at the time and upheld the sentence.
The Ministry of Home Affairs also said that Nagaenthran had altered his account several times. The Court of Appeal also said his actions were “the working of a criminal mind”.
Despite filing numerous appeals, a re-sentencing application, and a petition to the President, the Courts upheld the death sentence for Nagaenthran.
He was originally scheduled to be hanged on 10 Nov 2021, but filed a last-minute appeal, said The Straits Times (ST). He was then granted a stay of execution by the Court of Appeal after testing positive for Covid-19 on 9 Nov.
On 29 Mar 2022, another last-minute appeal was filed, which the Court of Appeal rejected.
Nagaenthran’s family was then informed via a phone call that he was to be executed on 27 Apr.
The execution must’ve been an extremely difficult pill for Nagaenthran’s family to swallow, especially given how they’ve never lost hope even until the last minute.
While the punishment is no doubt saddening, we hope Nagaenthran’s story will deter people from trafficking drugs in Singapore.
Our condolences go out to his family and those who had helped to appeal his sentence over the years. May he rest in peace.
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