Traditionally, executions in Singapore only take place at dawn on Friday. The only exception in recent history is the case of Kho Jabing who was originally set to be executed on Friday morning but was hung on Friday afternoon instead owing to an eleventh-hour appeal which was heard dismissed on the morning of his execution. Following Jabing’s execution, the time between an inmate’s execution and the time an inmate’s family will be notified of the execution decreased from two weeks to just one week.
This week, Singapore is set to execute no less than three inmates in a span of just 48 hours. Earlier today (24 October 2018), Selamat Bin Paki was executed. This is the first time that an inmate is being executed on a Wednesday. Another two executions are slated for this Friday (26 October 2018). The family of Prabu N Pathmanathan, a 31-year-old Malaysian national who is set to be executed this Friday, was only notified of his execution date on 20 October 2018 according to a report from Malaysiakini. Irwan Ali, a Singaporean, is the other inmate who is set to be executed this Friday.
As executions are not announced publicly, activists and lawyers face a hard time trying to find out the execution dates of inmates. The short time between when the families are notified and when the executions take place also make it hard to arrange for family members, especially those who live overseas and may not be able to afford to travel to Singapore, to spend some time with the inmate during his/her final days and hours. Prior to the case of Jabing, activists, and lawyers also operated under the assumption that if one could get an execution stayed, the inmate would not be hung until the following Friday morning – giving more time for the family to prepare for the execution and legal recourse if any. However, the “rush” to execute Jabing following the dismissal of his criminal motion throws all of those assumptions, which were once widely accepted as conventions surrounding execution by all parties, out of the window. Kirsten Han, an anti-death penalty activist from Singapore, summarises the bleak situation in the following words:
“It is shocking to hear about a hanging taking place on a Wednesday, departing from years of precedent where executions took place at 6am on Fridays. Although it’s awful to hang people on any day of the week, this move away from the prison’s usual practice means that the little that we know about capital punishment in Singapore might no longer be true, making the death penalty regime even more opaque and unaccountable to the public than before.
We have also noticed that the time between the rejection of a clemency appeal and the scheduling of an execution has been reduced, which means families also have less time to mentally and emotionally prepare themselves.” – Kirsten Han, Second Chances
In addition to the lack of rigidity surrounding the conventions governing the process of execution, the Singapore Prisons Services and the Ministry of Home Affairs is not transparent in relation to the total number of executions per year. TOC understands that if the two executions slated for Friday are carried out, it would mean that no less than eight inmates were hung this year. This is a twofold increase from the total number of executions in 2017, which stands at four, based on official records.
M Ravi, an international human rights lawyer who has been representing clients on death row for almost 15 years now had this to say about the executions this week:
“Though we were tragically unable save Selamat Bin Paki this morning, I hope the government will take immediate steps to impose a moratorium on death penalty by staving off the two impending executions this Friday in line with what Malaysia had recently done towards abolishing the death penalty. Quite rightly, Malaysia has acknowledged that death penalty does not serve as a deterrence. Our leadership needs the courage to recognise this, put aside its ego and do the right thing.”
Malaysian Law Minister Liew Vui Keong told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that he received news of Prabu’s imminent execution only this morning (24 October 2018) and shared that he intends to pen a letter to the Singapore Government to halt Prabu’s execution. He added that he plans to work with the Foreign Ministry on this issue. When asked what would happen if the execution were to be carried out, he replied “That will be a sad thing. I hope they won’t.”
Anti-death penalty activists in Singapore will be organising a candlelight vigil for both Prabu and Irwan tomorrow evening at 7.30pm at Hong Lim Park. More information on the vigil can be found at this link.