M'sian drug trafficker on death row 'knew what he was doing', S'pore courts found: MHA

The Court of Appeal affirmed the High Court's sentence.

Sulaiman Daud | November 07, 2021, 06:09 PM

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The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a Nov. 5 statement that the High Court found that Nagaenthran A/L K Dharmalingam, the Malaysian sentenced to death for drug trafficking, "knew what he was doing" when he committed the offence.

Nagaenthran was sentenced to death in 2010 by the High Court.

The sentence will be carried out on Nov. 10, 2021.

Nagaenthran, according to a petition set up appeal for clemency, cited the results of a forensic psychiatric evaluation, where Nagaenthran was assessed to have an IQ of 69.

Individuals who score below IQ 70 are internationally recognised as having an intellectual disability.

In response to Mothership's previous queries, MHA noted that both Singapore's High Court and the Court of Appeal had held that the Malaysian man's mental responsibility was not substantially impaired with regard to his offence.

"Nagaenthran was found to have clearly understood the nature of his acts, and he did not lose his sense of judgment of the rightness or wrongness of what he was doing," MHA said.

Application for life imprisonment

MHA's Nov. 5 statement noted that in 2015, Nagaenthran applied to set aside the death sentence for life imprisonment.

MHA said:

"One of the issues considered, during this re-sentencing application, was whether Nagaenthran’s mental responsibility for his actions was substantially impaired, at the time he had committed the offence.

The High Court considered the facts, expert evidence from four different psychiatric/ psychological experts, and further submissions by the prosecution and the defence."

It added:

"The High Court held that Nagaenthran knew what he was doing, and upheld the sentence of death. The High Court had assessed the evidence of the psychiatrists, including the evidence of a psychiatrist called by the defence, on behalf of Nagaenthran, who agreed in court, that Nagaenthran was not intellectually disabled."

The statement also said the High Court found that Nagaenthran was able to plan and organise on simpler terms, and "was relatively adept at living independently".

It also noted that his actions relating to the offence revealed that he was capable of "manipulation and evasion".

It gave the example of Nagaenthran trying to forestall a search when stopped at the checkpoint by telling Central Narcotics Bureau officers that he was working in security, "thus appealing to the social perception of the trustworthiness of security officers".

The statement added, in bold text: "He was also noted to be 'continuously altering his account of his education qualifications, ostensibly to reflect lower educational qualifications each time he was interviewed'."

Court of Appeal affirmed High Court's decision

There was no changing of the sentence by the Court of Appeal, saying it was satisfied that Nagaenthran clearly understood the nature of his acts.

The Court of Appeal noted:

  • Nagaenthran knew it was unlawful for him to be transporting drugs.
  • He attempted to conceal the bundle by strapping it to his left thigh and then wearing a large pair of trousers over it.
  • He undertook the criminal endeavour in order to pay off his debts.
  • He hoped to receive a further sum of money upon successful delivery.

The statement added:

"The Court of Appeal found that Nagaenthran’s actions “evidenced a deliberate, purposeful and calculated decision”, “in the hope that the endeavour would pay off, despite the obvious risks”.

This was “the working of a criminal mind, weighing the risks and countervailing benefits associated with the criminal conduct in question”.

Nagaenthran considered the risks, balanced it against the reward he had hoped he would get, and decided to take the risk."

MHA said Nagaenthran was accorded full due process under the law, and was represented by legal counsel throughout the process, and his petition to the president for clemency was unsuccessful.

It added that Singapore adopts a "zero-tolerance" stance against illicit drugs.

International attention

Nagaenthran's case has attracted international attention.

Malaysia's Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said on Nov. 5 that Malaysia has "requested for the discretion" of the Singapore authorities to grant presidential clemency to Nagaenthran.

However, he added that while he has sent a message, Malaysia respects Singapore's legal processes and "cannot interfere", Malay Mail reported.

The report added: "Asked about the letter he sent to Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan regarding the case, Saifuddin said he has not received a reply so far."

The New York Times (NYT) reported the case on Nov. 5, and noted that death penalty opponents gathered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, outside Singapore’s High Commission to protest the planned execution.

They also gathered outside Parliament House to urge the Malaysian government to intercede.

NYT also noted that human rights groups like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Malaysian group Lawyers for Liberty have spoken up against the pending execution.

Mothership has also contacted lawyer A M Ravi for comment.

Top image by Fatboo Flickr via Wikimedia Commons.