Malaysian Govt Tries To Save Malaysian Inmate Due For Execution in Singapore

By Ariffin Sha

Prabu N Pathmanathan, a 31-year-old Malaysian national is slated to be executed this Friday (26 October 2018) Changi Prison Complex.

Prabu was first arrested for drug trafficking on 31 December 2014 and sentenced to the death penalty. His family was informed of Prabu’s execution date only on 20 October 2018.

Malaysian lawyer group, led by prominent human rights lawyers N Surendran and Latheefa Koya, urged the new Pakatan Harapan Government, who have already committed to abolishing the death penalty in Malaysia, to undertake diplomatic efforts to save Prabu’s life.

Earlier today, it was announced that the Malaysian Law Minister, Liew Vui Keong, was set to pen a letter to the Singapore Government to commute Prabu’s death sentence to life imprisonment. In a UN day address, Minister Keong also called upon the Singapore Government to halt Prabu’s execution.

Background on Arrest

Image result for ica singapore checkpoint

On 31 December 2014, Prabu’s co-accused, Suthakar drove a Toyota Hilux into Singapore via Woodlands Checkpoint when his car was subjected to a search by ICA Officers. The ICA Officers noticed some scratches on the screws in the rear seat and decided to remove the screws. They then found ten packets of a brown granular substance, which was later identified as diamorphine, in the compartment.

Suthakar then identified Prabu as the owner of the car and told the officers that he was instructed by Prabu to transport the packets into Singapore and meet him outside a Sheng Shiong supermarket. Suthakar admitted that he knew he was transporting drugs but claimed that he thought he was in possession of cannabis instead of diamorphine. He also claimed that Prabu was to pay him about 1,000 to 1,500 Malaysian Ringgit. Prabu was arrested later that afternoon at the car park at Woodlands Town Garden and two screwdrivers were retrieved from the dashboard of his car.

During his trial, Prabu raised an issue about the admissibility of his statements as he claimed that the Investigating Officer induced him with the offer of escaping the death penalty. The trial judge also found that the forensic evidence was “not entirely conclusive” as the test from the Health Sciences Authority only revealed that one of the screwdrivers retrieved from Prabu’s car “could have originated” from the screws in the Toyota Hilux.

 Despite this, the Judge ultimately found that Prabu had knowledge of the specific nature of the drugs being transported and, together with Suthakar, had the common intention of transporting the drugs into Singapore for the purposes of delivering it to buyers in Singapore. However, the Judge held that Suthakar’s role was limited to that of a courier as his actions constituted “acts preparatory to or for the purpose of transporting, sending or delivering the diamorphine under s 33B(2)(a)(iii) of the Act.” We understand that Suthakar’s sentence was eventually commuted to life imprisonment while Prabu was sentenced to the death penalty.

Response from Malaysian Lawyers

On 10 October 2018, the Malaysian Government announced plans to abolish the death penalty in principle. The timing of this announcement on the World Day Against the Death Penalty brought widespread praise for the newly-elected Pakatan Harapan government.

Lawyers for Liberty, a lawyers group in Malaysia, applauded the Government for its long overdue recognition and called upon it to repatriate Malaysians who faced the death penalty abroad.

“At this moment, let us also not forget the many hundreds of Malaysians who are languishing on death row in foreign countries, particularly for being drug mules … Having rejected the death penalty in this country, we now have the moral authority to fight for the lives of our citizens abroad.” – N Surendran, Adviser to Lawyers for Liberty

In a statement released earlier this evening, Lawyers for Liberty called on the Pakatan Harapan Government to undertake “urgent and strenuous” efforts to save Prabu’s life.

“On Oct 13, Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki Yahya assured Malaysians that the government would come up with a solution for Malaysians facing execution abroad … We now urge the Malaysian government to make urgent and strenuous efforts to save Prabu from the gallows this Friday.”

Statement from Malaysian Law Minister

The de-facto 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.”

During a speech to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the United Nations Day, the Law Minister made a case for abolishing the death penalty and called upon the Singapore Government to save Prabu’s life. The speech was delivered to an audience that consisted of hundreds of diplomats, politicians, and representatives from civil society.

 In addition to Selamat Bin Paki, who was executed earlier this morning at Changi Prison Complex, a total of three people may be hung in the space of 48 hours this week in Singapore. Barring the exceptional case of Kho Jabing, who was hung on Friday afternoon following an eleventh-hour appeal, this is the first time that an inmate is hung at a time other than the traditional execution time of dawn at Friday. The hanging of someone on a Wednesday and the hanging of three people in the span of a week has not occurred before in recent history. While the Malaysian Government embarks on abolishing the death penalty, there seems to be a bloody rampage of sorts taking place across the causeway.

Irwan Bin Ali, a 43-year-old Singaporean is the other inmate who is set to be executed alongside Prabu on Friday. Irwan was first arrested on 26 April 2012 and found to be in possession of 2.5kg of diamorphine. At trial, Irwan challenged the admissibility of his statements by arguing that Irwan was suffering from the severe effects of heroin withdrawal and therefore was agitated, in pain and troubled at the time statements were taken from him.

At trial, one psychiatrist opined that Irwan was indeed suffering from acute drug withdrawal but another psychiatrist differed in his opinion and said that Irwan was only suffering from a milder form of chronic, as opposed to acute, drug withdrawal. Ultimately, the judge held that the chronic drug withdrawal did not impair Irwan’s state of mind sufficiently enough so as to affect the admissibility and voluntariness of the incriminating statements. The Judge found that the accused was in possession of diamorphine and knew the nature of the drugs he was in possession of. Although it was not disputed that the accused was a mere courier (and therefore eligible to have his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment), as the Prosecution refused to give a certificate of co-operation to Irwan, the Judge did not have the option of commuting his sentence. He was sentenced to death on 9 September 2016

Candlelight vigil to be held for Prabu and Irwan at Hong Lim Park

In Singapore, civil society group Community Action Network announced that permit has been given for a candlelight vigil to be held at Hong Lim Park at 7.30pm on 25 October for Prabu. More details about the event can be found at the following link.

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