Contributed by Liew Kok Heng, Writer / Editor, Bar Council Secretariat; photos by Satha Selvan Subramanian, Senior Administrative Assistant, and Manoj Kumar Rajendra, Administrative Assistant, Bar Council Secretariat
A slight drizzle that turned into a short downpour did not stop a 60-strong crowd from gathering outside the Singapore High Commission for a candlelight vigil for Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, ahead of his scheduled execution in Singapore the following day; and Datchinamurthy Kataiah, who was scheduled for execution on 29 Apr 2022, but has since been granted a stay of execution.
Nagaenthran had been incarcerated since 2009 for trafficking drugs into the island state. The Singapore Court of Appeal stayed his execution last year after he tested positive for COVID-19. One day before his execution, Nagaenthran’s mother, Panchalai Supermaniam, who was unrepresented, made a final, last-ditch legal challenge in the Singapore Supreme Court to stay her son’s execution, but was unsuccessful, and his execution was set to take place at dawn on 27 May.
As the rain subsided around 8:30 pm, the crowd began to swell, with concerned parties joining in from across a nearby street, walking towards the Singapore High Commission’s main entrance. Banners bearing the words “Abolish the Death Penalty” were raised and placed to face the congested street of Jalan Tun Razak,
Several police vehicles were spotted arriving earlier before the vigil began. Police personnel were present throughout the vigil as a crowd control measure, reminding participants to exercise physical distancing.
The vigil saw the presence of various Members of the Bar including the Office Bearers of the Malaysian Bar — Karen Cheah, Mohamad Ezri Abdul Wahab, Anand Raj, and Murshidah Mustafa — and immediate past President, A G Kalidas; Bar Council Constitutional Law Committee Co-Chairperson, Andrew Khoo; and current and previous Bar Council Human Rights Committee Co-Chairpersons — New Sin Yew, Yohendra Nadarajan, Roger Chan Weng Keng, and Mansoor Saat.
Also present was Latheefa Koya, former Chief Commissioner of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (“MACC”) and Co-Founder of Lawyers for Liberty (“LFL”); N Surendran, LFL Adviser; and representatives from Sebaran Kasih Malaysia, a non-profit organisation working with vulnerable and marginalised communities. Concerned members of the public were also present at the vigil.
Members of the media, including foreign media, were seen interviewing Karen Cheah, the President of the Malaysian Bar, for her statement on this issue:
“We hope in the future the Singapore government can adopt the moratorium on death penalty and executions. We have this in Malaysia and we have also voted for it at the United Nations along with many other countries.”1
1 “Ahead of morning execution in Singapore, Malaysians hold candlelight vigil in support of Nagaenthran (VIDEO)”, Malay Mail, 26 Apr 2022.