KUALA LUMPUR, July 25 — With hope in their eyes and hearts in their mouth, the families of four Malaysians scheduled for execution in Changi Prison stood outside the gates of the Singapore High Commission here to plead for their lives.
Numbering around 50, the relatives of the death row inmates and their friends were joined by anti-death penalty advocacy groups on busy Jalan Tun Razak from as early as 9.30m seeking an audience with Singapore High Commissioner to Malaysia Vanu Gopala Menon.
The group, led by Lawyers for Liberty legal adviser N. Surendran, were looking to rope in the Singapore diplomat’s aid in pleading clemency for convicted drug mules Datchinamurthy Kataiah, Gobi Avedian, Abdul Helmi Ab Halim and Rahmat Karimon.
After waiting nearly an hour, the high commission allowed the group to send in a smaller representation. Surendran, Parameswari the wife of drug mule Gobi, and Geha Bodhi care Centre chairman Lam Kai Cheong went in.
“We met Miss Zee Ping Lin, political counselor for the high commission and Jonathan Lee the political secretary of the embassy. We put our case to them and Parameswari made a heartfelt plea on behalf of everyone,” Surendran told reporters after exiting the diplomatic mission.
“However, I told them we are very disappointed with the high commissioner for treating us in this cavalier way. How can you tell us leave the note at the guard house? I cannot believe that a high commissioner of another country can treat representation involving life and death in that manner.
“They have promised to convey what we have told them including the memorandum to their government but they are unable to say anything beyond that,” the lawyer said.
Surendran added that he asked the envoys for feedback, but was told that they could only do so if they hear back from the Singapore government.
Also present were representatives from Amnesty International Malaysia, Malaysian Bar Council Legal Aid Centre, Suara Rakyat Malaysia Care Station, Persatuan Masyarakat Prihatin Zi Zai Yuan Di, Pertubuhan Suara Belia, Kuantan Vipassana Meditation Centre and Heart World.
Sisters Logheswari, Sathirani and Saraswathy told Malay Mail their brother Datchinamurthy has been jailed almost nine years.
They claimed the Singaporean authorities believed he was not just a courier, but a drug kingpin.
“When he was caught, the police kept accusing him of being the boss of the drug operation despite him telling them he was not,” said Sathirani, relating that her brother was caught with less than 50g of heroin.
“They didn’t give him access to a lawyer so he could at least defend himself, and threw him in jail, expediting his death sentence,” she added.
Lam said that Singapore is known to be a “stickler” when it comes to law enforcement, but remained hopeful that their clemency plea will not fall on deaf ears.
“They must understand that most of them are poor, uneducated and are easily manipulated by stronger personalities.
“To arrest them and so easily sentence them to the gallows is very sad and disappointing so I hope they can reconsider,” Lam said.
Singapore has not granted clemency to anyone since 1998. According to Surendran, the republic recently rejected 13 cases, four of which are Malaysians.
Malay Mail highlighted the plight of another Malaysian Pannir Selvam Pranthaman who gained a last-minute reprieve when the Singapore courts made a rare decision to postpone his execution.
Despite his reprieve, the Court of Appeal noted that there are “extremely narrow grounds” where the clemency process can be challenged and that Pannir Selvam should be given a “reasonable opportunity” to get advice on whether he can mount a successful challenge.
Pannir’s sister P. Angelia was present today to show her solidarity with the other families and said she hopes the Singapore government will at least give the inmates a chance to live with live imprisonment and a proper defence.
With chances slim to none that any of these inmates will be pardoned Surendran was asked his next move.
“We will take this to a higher level. We have the backing of the people and the government from what we’ve seen from the response.
“The Singapore government is targeting Malaysian citizens and the double standards are clear.
“We the Malaysian lawyers are not allowed to even see our client whereas other lawyers from other jurisdictions like Australia are allowed to,” he added.
The memorandum was addressed to Singapore president Halimah Yacob, requesting the government of Singapore to reconsider the application of the death penalty.
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