Are we a nation lacking in compassion

The execution of Prabu N Pathmanathan last Friday, 26 October 2018 despite last minute pleas from his family, the Malaysian government and a citizens’ petition for clemency signed by four local civil society organisations – Maruah, Think Centre, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign and Function 8 and 49 Singaporeans is sad and troubling.

The criminal justice system may not be functioning as well as it should or at least, justice may not have been seen to be done by those who are aware of the execution. I will be happy to receive clarifications from the authorities if I am wrong in holding this view.

Judgement of the Court of Appeal

In drafting the petition for clemency for concerned citizens, a frantic search for the judgement of the Court of Appeal was made. None was found.

Prabu was charged together with Suthakar J Raman for trafficking of 227.82g of diamorphine or about 11 sachets of Nescafe. (A sachet of Nescafe 3 in 1 weighs 19g.) Both were convicted and sentenced to death.

The trial court judgement reveals that none of the drug was found in the vehicle driven by Prabu. The circumstantial evidence was the seizure of two screwdrivers found on the dashboard of his vehicle, one of which, according to the forensic expert “could have originated” (whatever that means) from the six screws in the vehicle of Suthakar. Other evidence comprise the mobile phone messages which allegedly coincided with the statements given by the two men under police interrogation. These were subsequently admitted as evidence.

The trial judge based his judgement largely on the statements of Prabu and Suthakar given under interrogation. As there is no published judgement, I do not know the decision of the appeal court judges on the voluntariness of these statements.

A rumour surfaced that Prabu’s co-accused, Suthakar who drove the car that transported the drug escaped the gallows. If that is true, then he could have succeeded either on appeal while Prabu failed or the attorney general had given him a certificate of cooperation after the appeal was dismissed. We will perhaps never know unless the authorities clarify.

I do not know why there is no written judgement pertaining to the appeal/s. For a case that involves the lives of two people, surely it is not too much to expect the court to deliver a judgement giving its reasons as to why the men had to be hanged. I am aware that delivering written judgements is not compulsory and there are precedents where the executed never had the opportunity to know the full reasons why their appeal failed. All they hear in court is the pronouncement of the verdict and the manner in which they must be executed.

It is my opinion that this is not fair to the prisoner and unsatisfactory in a civilised country. Any condemned person wants to know why he has to die. It is not only the duty of the judges to explain to a condemned person why he has to suffer death. It is his right to know the reasons.

Clemency Petition

The absence of a written judgement creates a problem for the lawyer who has to prepare the clemency petition to the president. He is handicapped for he does not know why his client’s appeal is rejected.

The contents of a clemency petition is not restricted to personal and/or family circumstances. It can refer to or even criticise the judgement. In Prabu’s case, his lawyer is deprived of the opportunity to analyse the judgement before the petition was drafted.

I am given to understand that the lawyer who prepared Prabu’s clemency petition did not contact or had no opportunity to contact his family. While it is not compulsory for Prabu’s family to be contacted, it leaves much to be desired. Here the Singapore Prison Service could have assisted the family even though they do not live in Singapore. A little effort on their part would have gone a long way to ease the trauma of the family of the prisoner.

It was thus in such unfortunate circumstances that Prabu’s mother who learnt about her son’s impending execution exactly a week before he was hanged, petitioned to President Halimah Yacob for clemency. That petition signed by her and her children pleaded for a commutation of the death sentence. It was delivered to the Istana on the morning of the eve of the execution.

Some hours later, a citizens’ petition was also delivered to the President. But all to no avail.

The response from the President’s Principal Private Secretary to Prabu’s family read:

“Dear family members of Prabu N Pathmanathan,”

“… we are unable to accede to your request for a further reconsideration of the matter as the clemency process had already been concluded.”

The Citizens’ clemency petition did not receive any response.

I do not understand the President’s reason for not acceding to the family’s request. Her Excellency said that she or the cabinet is unable to reconsider because “the clemency process had already been concluded.” She is wrong.

Under section 313(h) of the Criminal Procedure Code, the President has the power to postpone the execution as long as the warrant to execute issued by the court has not been carried out. The section reads:

“the President may, at any time before the warrant is carried out, order a respite of the execution of the warrant and afterwards appoint some other time or other place for its execution;”

The power to “order a respite” in order to conduct a further investigation or in order to grant more time for Prabu’s mother to be with her son is entirely hers because at the time of receipt of the clemency petition, the warrant to execute has not been carried out.

It is a sad day when people who hold enormous power, the power over life and death of another human being, fail or refuse to exercise such power. Surely this is not the Asian value or culture we possess. The President would have shown humanity even if it is to allow a few more days for a condemned person to be with his mother and to accord some courtesy and respect to our closest neighbour, Malaysia.

 

Teo Soh Lung

 

 

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7 Responses to “Are we a nation lacking in compassion”

  • HarderTruths:

    Compassion is he opposite of ‘You die your business”

    No need to elaborate further.

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  • LIONS:

    Compassion- NO!
    Pa$$ion – Plenty!

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  • What Boh Bian means:

    Teo Soh Lung,
    Peasants will say Boh Bian when you tell them a person is hanged in sg.

    This term Boh Bian is a COP OUT to ignore anything political where peasants rather due than talk politics with open heart and full honesty .

    They say boh bian to every tariff hike that ever happened in the history of Singapore.

    If someone is murdered, they say boh bian. If someone is sued bankrupt they clap and say boh bian.

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  • Bystander:

    Nay, Ms Yeog should not lump us together with Govt, it’s only Govt, the PAP members, and the docile President short on compassion, they only focused on their bulging bank statement every month, why should they care about other lesser beings.
    Just look how speedily they cut off Najib, no more buddy buddy talk in a matter of just a few weeks.
    No money, no power, no compassion.

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  • N.Jungne:

    Nephew also kenna ambushed, residents $$$ for daily upkeep of lifts and flats are used to sue Elected Opposion MPs. What compassions?

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  • Chiok:

    @ Are we a nation lacking in compassion

    Just look at 2 death cases and compare in HK , 1 金庸。

    2 藍潔英。

    Both are not criminals dealing with drugs.

    Talking about 金庸 in his younger days as it is stated when he disapprove of CCP and criticise them on his newspaper. CCP or pro china fans wanted to assassinate him.

    The first killed was HK DJ Lam Bun.

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  • Drink Stall Vendor Sacked!:

    Madam Yap has served Deyi Secondary School for 38 years.

    She was given a warning letter and then told to go by 15 Nov 18.

    Reason is for using plastic cups?

    According to sources online, the Principal is ‘renowned’ for being high handed!

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