Prosecuting Violet Netto for Helping Prepare a Last-Ditch Appeal for Nagaenthran Only Serves To Emphasize LHL’s Control Over Judiciary, AG and Everything Else That Matters in Singapore
A few days ago the State Times published a report saying that Violet Netto was under investigation by the police for not having a valid practising certificate when she represented Nagaenthran, the mentally disabled man whom LHL insisted on executing for the non-violent crime of drug trafficking. In contrast to the way drug mules are treated, most convicted murderers are spared the death penalty and many receive shockingly light sentences, like the Chinese man who killed his Indian origin son-in-law and only got eight years. This is presumably because ethnic minorities’ lives are not worth as much as majority race ones (and quite rightly so, as LKY argued, because it has been scientifically proven that Malays and Indians are less intelligent than the Chinese!).
There was also the disgracefully lenient sentence given to an Australian white supremacist and terrorist who only got five years for killing a Muslim and inflicting a life changing injury on his wife. Again, our Government’s deferential attitude toward whites and its unspoken assumption that whites are racially superior to brown-skinned people as demonstrated by the red-carpet rolled out for third class expats unable to find work in their home countries coupled with the deliberate policy of handicapping male Singaporeans through the forced labour tax of NS explain why it allows them to literally get away with murder. In India there was widespread anger a few years ago that the grave of a British general who had beaten his cookboy to death in the nineteenth century for crossing his path was still being tended. It should surprise no one that along with the archaic and barbaric British Indian Penal Code of 1860 which SIngapore still uses, that the colonial attitudes which made murder of subject peoples much less serious than that of their white masters still prevails.
The reason for requiring lawyers to have a practising certificate should be to protect the public and ensure that they can be confident when they contact a lawyer that the person is qualified, competent and bound by the obligations and sanctions under the Legal Profession Act such as keeping client monies separate from their own. In Nagaenthran’s case no other lawyer was willing to take up his last-ditch appeal because it was based on arguing that the CJ had a conflict of interest in hearing (and dismissing) Nagaenthran’s previous appeal as he had been AG at the time of Nagaenthran’s original conviction. This argument is not one that LHL’s Government wants to hear because it highlights the fact that the AG and the judiciary are not independent of each other and ultimately, like everything else in Singapore, come under the PM’s direct control. I highlighted this in my previous blog piece, “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” and I repeat my conclusion here:
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.
The choice for Nagaenthran was not between being represented by lawyer with a practising certificate and one without. It was between having legal aid and not having it. Without Violet’s assistance, Nagaenthran’s mother would not have been able to mount a last-ditch appeal, even though it was clearly fruitless. CJ Menon, when delivering judgement in March on the judicial review sought on the question of Nagaenthran’s clearly evident intellectual disability had said callously that the appeal was an abuse of process and had the effect of “unjustifiably delaying the carrying into effect of the sentence imposed on the appellant”. However judicial murder of a person is not quite the same as holding up a business transaction. In the US, which still has the death penalty but executes a tiny fraction of the number executed in Singapore as a proportion of total population, delaying tactics are used all the time, with executions sometimes being stopped as a prisoner is strapped to the execution gurney. No sanctions that I know of are taken against defence attorneys for filing what the judicial and prosecutorial arms of the PAP Government view as egregious abuses of process.
Of course the real reason LHL’s Government, or rather his AG and judiciary, are looking to punish the lawyers involved personally, through higher costs and the likely shameful criminal prosecution of Violet Netto for assisting a mother only trying to save her son, is that the argument highlighted the glaring and obvious non-independence of Singapore’s judiciary and AG. AGs who perform well, i.e. serve LHL and the PAP faithfully and servilely, are promoted to CJ, as Chan Sek Kiong and Sundaresh Menon were. In the final paragraph of my last blog (repeated above) I pointed that everything in Singapore is under the control of one man and everyone is beholden to him and scrambles zealously and grovellingly to do his bidding in the hope of being tossed some scraps from the master’s table. The persecution of an 84 year old woman for daring to hold up a shameful and unfair execution and highlight Singapore’s barbarity to the world is just one small manifestation of this absolute control.
I am writing to you from a personal capacity as a heartfelt follower of the news on the recent executions of the drug traffickers who have been apprehended in Singapore.
I have read the articles written on various platforms regarding this issue, in particular the article on ICJ, titled “Singapore: Halt executions and cease punitive cost orders against death-row lawyers”.
I would like to offer some of my thoughts as a layperson who is keen to see changes in the way the death penalty is applied (fairly) in our country.
While it is clear that under international law and standards, the use of the death penalty “may never be imposed upon a conviction for drug offenses since such offences, in turn, do not involve “intentional killing”, Singaporean courts have thought and acted otherwise based on reasons of deterrence and ensuring that the social ill (of illicit drug use) is not being perpetuated. It is plain that with the recent appeals by the drug traffickers on death-row being rejected by the Court of Appeals, it would be a tall order before Singapore does away with the death penalty for this offence.
I believe, however, that we can provide an avenue for the condemned even if the face of the death penalty (as a finality that cannot be changed). I was pondering if it could be possible to go through these processes below before the drug trafficker faces the noose. As a lay person, I am not fully aware of the constraints that might underlie my thoughts and suggestions, so I am writing to you to see if these are feasible options.
1. If the drug trafficker is a foreigner, let him be sent back to his home country to be tried under its own law if his home country is willing to take him back. There should be a time frame for this to happen. If his home country does not take him back to be tried, then Singapore’s draconian law will have to apply.
2. If the drug trafficker is a Singaporean, it is likely that he would have to face the death penalty. However, if it is possible to “open” his case to the countries who oppose the death penalty given to his offence and allow him to seek asylum elsewhere (if another country were to “take him in”), then he might be able to escape the inevitable. Of course, this is subject to whether it possible to extradite him in the first place (as I am not aware of the other legalities in place).
3. The foreigner (as mentioned in point 1) could also have the option of being extradited to another country that is willing to give him asylum.
4. In all the above cases, these drug traffickers should never be allowed to step foot in Singapore again.
The reasoning behind my thoughts in the above 4 points is that since Singapore is not going to change its stance on the death penalty for drug traffickers because of the “need” to eradicate the “doer of the social ill” once and for all, the provision of asylum for these drug traffickers overseas and prohibiting them from ever entering Singapore soil could be the only way that the lives of these criminals be preserved.
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