The Truly Despicable and Abhorrent Execution of a Poor Mentally Disabled Man for a Non-Violent Crime Exposes the Totalitarian Nature of Singapore’s One-Party Dictatorship
The execution on Wednesday 27 April of mentally disabled Nagaenthran, for the non-violent crime of drug smuggling, has given Singapore and LHL’s Government probably more publicity than it has received in a while. It will take more than a few paid social media influencers and shots of a grinning LHL greeting arriving billionaires with an upfront tax refund or grants at Singaporean taxpayers’ expense to MNCs shopping the nest deals to undo the harm it has caused. It should also focus attention on the fact that the imates on death row in Singapore are poor and either foreigners or ethnic minorities and there not because they killed someone or even committed a violent crime. They are there for drug smuggling.
Meanwhile the AG seems to have stopped seeking the death penalty for even the most sadistic and brutal killings and in many cases Singapore’s judges endorse extremely lenient jail terms. A woman who sadistically tortured, starved, chained and beat her maid to death received only 30 years, only a few years more than Singapore’s judges have handed out for rape sentences, which also include caning. Out of a group of six majority race men and one woman who attacked and killed an ethnic Indian man at Orchard Towers, only one has been charged with murder while most received only a few months jail. I wrote about the disproportionately lenient treatment of the six who were initially charged with murder but then had their sentences reduced (The AG Should Produce Statistics Rather Than Issue Threats). This is what I said then:
“One recent example is the case of a man who killed his son-in-law (who appears to have been Indian) in a premeditated murder (as the victim lay dying he stood over his victim and prevented passersby from helping him). He only received 8.5 years jail because he was supposedly suffering from a “major depressive disorder“. This contrasts with the mandatory death sentence for anyone caught in possession of more than small amounts of drugs and therefore deemed to be trafficking. It seems unjust and inequitable that someone trafficking in drugs receives a mandatory death sentence, whatever the circumstances, whereas someone committing premeditated murder gets only a few years in jail. The Government provides no statistics on the ethnic composition of death row inmates but most of those executed in the recent past have been ethnic minorities or foreign nationals from Malaysia, Indonesia and Nigeria. Lawyers like M. Ravi, who does many of the pro bono appeals, have stated publicly that 90% of inmates are minority race.
There have also been cases where the AG has withheld evidence from minority defendants who have been sentenced to death, most notoriously in the case of the Malay men who were only saved by JBJ’s dogged persistence, so well documented in Lee’s Law by Chris Lydgate.
There also seems to be a disproportionate treatment of sexual offenders even though again the Government refuses to provide any statistics. I have previously drawn attention to the case of a 63 year old gynaecologist who was only sentenced to ten months in jail after having sex with a 14 year old on three occasions, an astonishingly light sentence compared to what he would receive in most developed countries. Not surprisingly he claimed “depression” as a mitigating factor. Then there was the case of the US martial arts instructor, Joshua Robinson, who only received four years for having sex with two 15 year olds. By way of contrast an Indian minimart worker was sentenced to 13 years jail for sexual assault, though not sex, with a 12 year old minor.
The AG insists that justice is colour-blind in Singapore but if the Government has nothing to hide then Law Minister Shanmugam should provide statistics to show that it is. The Government insists that all Singaporeans be identified by race on our NRICs so it cannot claim that it does not have the data. It may be that race is just a proxy for income levels (minorities are likely to have lower median incomes than the majority though again the Government fails to provide statistics that might embarrass it) and that justice in Singapore is relatively colour-blind but a more lenient view is taken of those with the potential to excel in life, as shown by Justice Kaur’s sentencing of an NUS student to probation for molesting a woman on the MRT. As with other controversial subjects such as the size of the reserves and the PM’s wife’s civil servant salary, the statistics regarding sentencing and the ethnic make-up of the prison population and death row inmates are kept secret, presumably only because they might cause embarrassment to the Government. In the US there has been a huge outcry over racial unfairness in the treatment of African Americans in the criminal justice system. A large part of this is over the harshness of sentences for drug offences and in particular for crack cocaine, which historically was used more by black Americans than white. By failing to provide detailed statistics the AG and the Law Minister are the main culprits in creating the conditions which “have the potential to disrupt racial harmony in Singapore.” Why are they so reluctant?”
More recently there was the case of the Australian white supremacist and anti-Islamic terrorist, who was allowed to enter Singapore to look for a job by our ever-obliging (to white people) ICA, who killed an elderly Malay man and severely injured his wife after he threw a bottle from his high-rise condo and hit the man on the head after becoming incensed that they were allowed to use the facilities. I fail to understand why Gosling (the perpetrator) was not charged with murder or at the very least with manslaughter since he would receive a harsher sentence if he drove a car while drunk and killed someone. The fact that Gosling was intoxicated was astonishingly given as an excuse by the AG while in poor Nagaenthran’s case the AG said “He knew what he was doing” (perhaps by that logic if Nagaenthran had been drunk while transporting drugs he would have escaped the death penalty?) I can only conclude that Gosling only received a sentence of 5.5 years because the Government was afraid of offending Australia or deterring foreign talent from flocking to Singapore when they cannot get jobs in their home countries.
Just as it did with those who questioned the lenient treatment of the six who participated in the Orchard Towers killing but were not charged with murder, the AG has used threats of prosecution for contempt of court against those who highlighted the conflict of interest in CJ Sundaresh Menon for presiding over Nagaenhran’s appeal when as AG he had been responsible for prosecuting him. It was noteworthy that only Nagaenthran’s Malaysian lawyer had brought up the point because Singaporean lawyers are too scared to make it. No Singaporean lawyer was willing to argue the last-ditch appeal and it was left to Nagaenthran’s mother to appear in court in person. Malaysian lawyers and the judiciary are far more independent than their Singapore counterparts. The Law Society is barred from commenting on political matters without permission. While the UK abolished the archaic offence of “scandalizing the judiciary” in 2013 as restricting freedom of expression and being both unnecessary and archaic, LHL’s Singapore has of course doubled down on it as a useful tool for suppressing criticism of his control of the judicial and prosecutorial arms of government by passing the Administration of Justice (Protection) Act in 2016.
The appeal argument obviously hit a raw nerve as it has far wider implications than just the Nagaenthran case. It highlights the fact that the judiciary and the AG are not independent, as they are in the UK and other democracies. The PM appoints the AG and the high court judges with the approval of the President who cannot go against the recommendations of the Council of Presidential Advisers without risking being overridden by Parliament (Halimah Yaacob is beholden to LHL for clearing the path for her anyway). Only recently was there a separation proposed between the Legal Service and the Judicial Service with judges previously moving between the AGC and the judicial service, most notoriously in the case of Michael Khoo, who was demoted after he dared to demonstrate a smidgen of independence and not deliver the verdict LKY said in the case of JBJ. Though this separation might appear on the face of it to promise greater independence this is unlikely when the Judicial Service Commission will be chaired by the CJ and the vice chair will be the chairman of the Public Service Commission, all of whom are beholden to the PM.
In the past AGs who have done the PAP Government ‘sbidding or assisted it in crushing its opponents have been rewarded with appointment to CJ. Chan Sek Kheong was AG when he declined to prosecute PM Goh Chok Tong and deputy PM LHL for election offences when they entered Cheng San polling stations to intimidate voters in 1997 which undoubtedly helped the PAP to defeat JBJ. He earned his reward by being made CJ. He came to my dad’s wake presumably to salve his conscience. Lucien Wong, the current AG, used to be LHL’s personal lawyer and may be elevated to CJ after Sundaresh Menon retires (though my money is on my brother to be CJ after he proved himself a reliable ally). When I brought an action against the Government over the IMF loan commitment the judges promptly declared that Singaporeans had no locus standii to sue the Government and that the judiciary was there to “green light” the executive.
In a totalitarian state everything ( the legislature, the media, the judiciary, the AG, the trade unions, the universities, the schools etc. are under the control of one party and usually one person. In Singapore that includes the land, housing, peoples’ savings and most of the economy. Meanwhile the Budget is a sham, the Health Minister refuses to answer my questions and no one knows what the true state of the reserves is. The conflict of interest highlighted by Nagaenthran’s doomed appeal is just a small part of the fact that in Singapore everything is controlled by one man. The callous and sadistic execution of a mentally disabled man for a non-violent offence must be laid at his door.