A new low.

By Sangkari Pranthaman, sister of Pannir Selvam Pranthaman, who is on death row in Singapore Prison

I can’t believe it’s happening again. 

This time, not only is Singapore taking a human life away, they’re doing it to someone with a mental disability. What an awful piece of news to hear in this modern day and age. 

Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam has been scheduled to hang in Changi Prison, Singapore on 10th November 2021. A time was not confirmed in the execution notice which was sent to his family residing in Ipoh, Perak. This is a traumatic shock to the family, especially during this festive season. I spoke to Nagaenthran’s elder sister Sharmila; she did not have the strength to reveal the truth to her mother that her eldest son is about to be murdered in Changi Prison, the week after Deepavali. Imagine, they will have to live through Deepavali, wallowing in the sorrow of their son’s fate.

Also, my next concern here is the family’s financial condition. How will they manage the travel expenses to a country with a higher exchange rate (three times over) on such short notice? I can imagine how they feel now, as I have experienced the same situation before. This new shock will place extreme pressure and despair on Nagaenthran’s family in the coming weeks. Drug mules are not from wealthy families; they are from poor and vulnerable ones.

Singapore, where is your heart? Where is your conscience? Do you realise that these events that have transpired, which are wholly under your control, lack a single shred of humanity? Not only have you broken a family into pieces, you are giving them harrowing memories to live with for the rest of their lives.

Nagaenthran with his sisters.

As we are all aware, when the pandemic struck, it turned many things upside down for  everyone. This applies to the families of death row inmates as well. We have been unable to visit our family members in Changi Prison for a long time now. Yet, before the border has even opened, they decided to schedule the execution of Nagaenthran. How on earth is this fair? It is heartbreaking to learn that the family was given such little notice to plan for visits and prepare travel as well as funeral arrangements. 

Nagaenthran’s family was made aware of multiple rules and regulations for state travel  arrangements to enter Singapore. On top of that, they will have to quarantine themselves as well.  While in Singapore, they will have to comply with visitation rules in Changi  Prison, be tested negative for Covid-19, and comply with the rules on funeral arrangements. 

My question: is it really necessary for Singapore to set the death penalty schedule in motion now, with the current state of the world? Why aren’t you more focused on handling the spread of the pandemic? Why are you so eager to carry out the death sentence, under these tough circumstances? It is shocking to see Singapore’s impatience in carrying out the task of killing without any humanity.

Hanging Nagaenthran and other offenders like him does not only hurt them but their families  and loved ones too. The impact is devastating, destructive, and is an infringement of basic  human rights. Executing a mentally and intellectually-challenged person is prohibited under international human rights law and the Convention of Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD).  

Nagaenthran has been on death row since 2010. We need to bring to wide-spread attention the fact that in this modern era Singapore still wants to hang humans to death for non-violent drug offences, not to mention a person with a mental disability. Singapore, you are not only backward in mind and thinking, but not human enough to show forgiveness and compassion.


Background

Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam is a Malaysian citizen currently on death row in Singapore. In a letter dated 26 October 2021, the Singapore Prison Service informed his family that he is scheduled for execution on 10 November 2021.

Nagaenthran was arrested on 22 April 2009 at the age of 21, and later charged with importing 42.72g of diamorphine. He was sentenced to death in November 2010, and has spent over a decade on death row.

During interrogation with the police, Nagaenthran had admitted to knowing that the bundle he was carrying contained diamorphine, and that a friend named “King” had strapped it to his thigh so it could better escape detection. During the trial, Nagaenthran denied knowledge of the contents of the bundle, saying that he had been threatened to deliver the bundle for “King”. This defence was rejected by the judge.

According to Dr Ung Eng Khean, a psychiatrist in private practice at Adam Road Medical Centre, Nagaenthran suffered from “an abnormality of mind at the time of his arrest, namely: Severe Alcohol Use Disorder, Severe Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Combined Type and Borderline Intellectual Functioning/Mild Intellectual Disability”. However, Dr Ung’s evidence was rejected by the judge.

Three of the State’s experts were of the opinion that Nagaenthran does not suffer from an intellectual disability, but they did agree that he has borderline intellectual functioning. He was found to have an IQ score of 69, mild ADHD of the inattentive type, and also that his executive functioning skills (including verbal fluency, set-shifting, abstract reasoning, strategy formation, and problem solving) were impaired. This evidence was accepted by the Court. However, the Court was of the opinion that his borderline intellectual functioning and impairments were insufficient to conclude that Nagaenthran had suffered from abnormality of the mind for the purposes of the Misuse of Drugs Act. 

Nagaenthran was also not issued a Certificate of Substantive Assistance by the prosecutor. He sought leave from the court to launch a judicial review of this decision, but leave was refused in May 2018.

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