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Abuse of the court process

Anti-death penalty activist Ms Kokila Annamalai wrote on her facebook:

“Today, 23 unrepresented death row prisoners – including Abdul Rahim bin Shapiee, who faces execution this Friday – made history by filing a suit against the AGC and the Government of Singapore, claiming that their constitutional right to access justice is impeded because lawyers fear the prohibitive cost orders that may be imposed on them when they take up late-stage applications.” [LINK]

This looks bad for the legal profession and every party involved in the administration of justice. It is also extremely disturbing because the 23 applications were filed not by ordinary free people but by prisoners facing execution. News site, Malaysia Now has reported that one more death row prisoner has filed his suit against the Attorney General. That brings the total number of applications to 24.

In recent times, Singapore’s highest court has criticised lawyers of death row prisoners for abusing the court process. They were ordered to pay tens of thousands of dollars to the attorney general, such costs to be borne by them personally. M Ravi is one of the lawyers who is still struggling to pay the second judgement debt of S$20,000 ordered by the Court of Appeal.

Following several severe financial penalties on lawyers, death row prisoner, Nagaenthran Dharmalingam was left stranded without a lawyer. At the hearing of his application, his mother and sister who came from Ipoh, Malaysia a few days earlier, spoke on his behalf. But they did not manage to save him. Some irrelevant and frivolous questions were asked by the judge who wanted to know who helped them draft the court documents. What was the intention of the judges, I do not know.

Following Nagaethran’s execution, Nazeri bin Lajim also did not have a lawyer to argue his case. This time, the Court of Appeal did not even see him in court. He appeared via Zoom from Changi Prison while the judges appeared on screen from some remote chambers somewhere in the Supreme Court building.

Nazeri failed to persuade the judges to spare him. He pleaded for a bit of time to see his relatives.
According to social worker, Jolovan Wham, Andrew Phang JA called Nazeri’s request to be reunited with his family one last time an ‘abuse of process’. If such a statement was made, it is truly unkind. The man was already facing the gallows in a few hours and there was no need to say those words.

It does not reflect well for our country when 24 death row prisoners filed their applications in person just because lawyers feared to represent them because of exhorbitant costs that may be ordered by judges. Neither does the prison authority’s action or inaction or delay with regard to the filing of their applications (if true) reflect well on them as prison administrators with decades of experience.

Way back in the 1980s, ISA detainees had difficulties in engaging counsel for their habeas corpus applications. The reasons then were not because of colossal personal costs being awarded against them but the intimidation, harassment and arrests they faced from the government and its secret police. Two of my lawyers were arrested under the ISA. It was shocking that the secret police even had the audacity to arrest my lawyer, Mr Francis Seow when he came to interview me for the first time. It showed the utter disrespect for lawyers who were just doing their duty to their clients.

It is sad that the constitutional right to legal counsel today faces yet another challenge. Prisoners on death row, like all human beings and for that matter, all living creatures, big and small want to live. Last minute applications are not uncommon in countries which retain the death penalty. Singapore is not an exception. There is no need to cry abuse of the court process and order colossal sums as costs to be borne by lawyers.

Having said all these, I wish for the abolition of the death penalty for all offences. Why does our parliament impose such a cruel duty on our judges? Why deny our judges the choice of imposing a jail term for life in lieu of death. We are no longer a colonised people or barbarians . It is time we abolish the death penalty.

 

Teo Soh Lung

 

 

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READER COMMENTS BELOW

7 Responses to “Abuse of the court process”

  • xoxo:

    We pity the recalcitrants who have no qualms causing sufferings n even fatalities to the weak and for what?
    If you KNOWINGLY COMMIT A SERIOUS CRIME WITH SERIOUS PENALTIES,you find your own death.
    Lets show charity to those who truly deserve it.

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  • Singaporeans R Free Riders:

    We are no longer a colonised people or barbarians . It is time we abolish the death penalty.
    =====================================================================
    No, Teo. You just shown that you are still colonized.

    By advocating for a full Americunt style democracy, you think like an Americunt. You are colonized. From what you believe and think. Period

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  • sad end:

    Make access to legal aid affordable and available for all, especially the poor and those to be hanged.

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  • sad end:

    Make access to legal aid affordable and available for all, especially the poor and those to be hanged.

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  • Harder Truths:

    I will vote for the Death Penalty to stay, only stupid people want to play ‘sayang the convict’.

    Is the death penalty applied to everyone or was it given because the person knowing decided to break the law? Do drugs suddenly end up in someone’s pockets if he is innocent? If someone is murdered intentionally is that not done knowing the penalty for the crime?

    Too many assholes think they can get away with murder or drugs. The softer you are on crime the bigger the price the innocent person will have to pay. No need to believe me. Just look at the news everyday from ‘sayang nations’.

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  • majulite:

    “Having said all these, I wish for the abolition of the death penalty for all offences. Why does our parliament impose such a cruel duty on our judges? Why deny our judges the choice of imposing a jail term for life in lieu of death. We are no longer a colonised people or barbarians . It is time we abolish the death penalty.”

    I’m surprised that people still didn’t know the main reason why the government deny them life jail term, and it is all start by one person, LKY. Been pragmatic person, he rather have these people died rather to waste state resource to feed them for life. It is all about $$$$$$, not humanity for these pragmatic money-faced government.

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  • Drugtraffikersdeserveddeathbyh:

    Hang them all.
    Repeat, “HANG THEM ALL”

    DRUG Traffickers !!!

    DO NOT SPARE THE ROD !!!

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