Media reports on death penalty forum

Singapore bans human rights expert from speaking at public forum on death penalty
15 Apr 2005

The government on Friday banned a representative from Amnesty International, a frequent critic of the city-state, from speaking at a forum on the death
penalty here.

Immigration and Checkpoints Authority spokeswoman Lim Jing Jing said that Tim Parritt’s application to speak had been rejected after “careful consideration,” but she did not provide an explanation. Foreigners require a permit to speak publicly in Singapore.

Parritt, a Singapore researcher for the London-based human rights group, arrived Friday afternoon and still intends to attend the public forum Saturday on the
death penalty in Singapore, opposition leader Chee Soon Juan said in a statement.

Chee heads the opposition Singapore Democratic Party and is a director of the human rights group the Open Singapore Center.

In a letter to Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng that was made available to The Associated Press, Chee questioned the government’s decision to prevent Parritt from speaking.

“The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority has also found it unnecessary to tell Singaporeans why it has banned Parritt from engaging Singaporeans on such a weighty issue as the death penalty,” Chee said in the letter.

“Singaporeans are intelligent people and they can make up their minds as to whether the speaker makes sense or not. There is no need for you to play mind-controller any longer,” he said.

Amnesty International often criticizes Singapore’s use of the death penalty and claims that the island it has the highest per capita rate of executions in the world.

In its 2004 annual report, the group said executions in Singapore are “shrouded in secrecy.” Singapore rejected the report, saying it was full of “misrepresentations and distortions.”

Of 138 people hanged in Singapore in the five years to January 2004, 110 were convicted of drug offenses, according to the Central Narcotics Bureau.

Singapore maintains that its tough anti-narcotics laws have saved it from the drug scourge plaguing several other Asian nations. (AP)

Twins campaign to free father from Singapore death row
12 April 2005

Two 14-year-old Singapore brothers have begun a rare campaign in the city state to free their jailed father from death row, where he faces execution for trafficking about 1 kg of marijuana.

Twins Gopalan and Krishnan Murugesu, on the advice of their father’s lawyer, handed out about 500 flyers in a busy shopping district seeking support for a petition against the execution, saying their father’s death would make them orphans.

“My parents are divorced and my father has been looking after us. My mother remarried, lives somewhere else and doesn’t see us anymore. If he is hanged…we will become orphans,” 14-year-old Krishnan Murugesu was quoted by local Today newspaper as saying.

The twins, under care of their unemployed grandmother since their father was arrested in August 2003, rely on handouts from a welfare agency for daily expenses, said his lawyer, M. Ravi.

Shanmugam Murugesu, 38, arrested at the Malaysian border, lost an appeal against a conviction of trafficking about a kg of cannabis. His lawyer is seeking clemency from Singapore President S.R. Nathan.

Singapore enforces some of the world’s toughest drug laws. Anyone aged 18 or over convicted of carrying more than 500 grammes of cannabis faces mandatory execution by hanging.

In its 2004 report, rights group Amnesty International said about 400 people have been hanged in Singapore since 1991, mostly for drug trafficking, giving the wealthy city-state of 4.2 million people possibly the highest execution rate in the world relative to its population.

Amnesty said only 6 people sentenced to death in Singapore has been spared execution.

Singapore has staunchly defended its use of the death penalty and maintained that capital punishment has deterred major drug syndicates from establishing themselves in Singapore.

Singapore human rights activists campaign to save drug trafficker from death penalty
16 Apr 2005

With tears rolling down her cheeks, 62-year-old Letchumi Ammah pleaded passionately to an audience of about 100 people on Saturday to help her save her son, a convicted drug trafficker, from Singapore’s gallows.

“Please don’t hang my son,” Ammah said, in between anguished wails. “This is the first time that he has committed a crime out of folly. Spare him!”

mmah was speaking at a forum about the death penalty organized by local human rights activists in this Southeast Asian island nation, known for having some of the world’s harshest drug laws.

A Singapore court last year found Ammah’s son, Shanmugam Murugesu, 38, guilty of trafficking 1,029 grams (36.3 ounces) of marijuana. Under Singapore law, anyone possessing more than 15 grams (0.5 ounces) of marijuana is presumed to be trafficking and faces death if convicted. Singapore says it must deal harshly with drug offenders to protect society.

London-based human rights watchdog Amnesty International says the island has the highest per capita rate of executions in the world.

A researcher from the group, Timothy Parritt, had been scheduled to speak at the forum, but was told upon arrival by immigration authorities that he had been banned from doing so, without an explanation.

Parritt issued a statement read out by the event’s organizers, which said Amnesty International was disappointed not to be able to address the forum, but appealed to the Singapore authorities to commute Murugesu’s death sentence to imprisonment.

Murugesu’s appeal against his conviction has been dismissed by the Court of Appeals, Singapore’s highest court. He is seeking presidential clemency with the help of his lawyer and family, who have been making public petitions since last week. Murugesu’s twin 14-year-old sons distributed flyers last week in seek of public support.

The president’s decision is expected to be announced by the end of this month or in early May. No date for an execution has been set.

Parritt said the audience of about 100 people at the forum was a positive sign that public debate about the issue was growing.

“The turnout was twice what we expected,” said Sinapan Samydorai, who leads the local human rights group Think Center and was one of the speakers at the forum.

“It shows the efforts of Shanmugam’s family to raise awareness have worked. We hope that something may come out of it.”