S'poreans share their reasons for showing up at candlelight vigil on Apr. 25 for M'sians on death row

Some of them were there to learn more, some were there to support.

Low Jia Ying | April 26, 2022, 06:54 PM

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About 300 to 400 people showed up at Apr. 25's candlelight vigil for the imminent executions of two Malaysian drug traffickers, Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam and Datchinamurthy Kataiah.

Local activists gave speeches at the event, calling for the abolition of the death penalty and solidarity for the families of the two men, who were present at the vigil.

Mothership spoke to some of the vigil attendees to ask them why they had showed up that day and what they thought of the Malaysian men's chances of getting their sentences overturned.

Wanted to find out more

Sherlyn, 20, who attended the vigil with her boyfriend, said she showed up to the vigil to learn more about the death penalty:

"Personally, I read a lot about this on the Internet, and I came down because I did not know much about it and I wanted to find out more. We feel that honestly it might be quite a slim chance for them [not to be executed], but we are very heartened by what we see today -- that a lot of people are here in support."

Sherlyn and her boyfriend.

The student added: "We still hope that there might be a chance that the government would change their minds."

A pair of friends at the vigil were also moved by what they had read online about Nagaenthran, and decided to come to the vigil even though they had school the next day.

"Personally, I saw a lot about this on social media, especially a few months ago when he was due to be executed. Since then, I've felt more strongly on the issue. Back then I still felt strongly, but now I'm here in protest, my views have become more concrete," said 17-year-old Tadek.

Alysha and Tadek.

The pair had also brought along their own handmade sign to the vigil, with a slogan calling for an end to the death penalty in Singapore.

"Honestly speaking, I don't think their chances are really high, and I'm not sure if the Singapore government would change their stance on this. I don't think a couple of protests would make them change the stance they've had for such a long time," said 17-year-old Alysha.

She added: "But I do believe in the future, if this continues, then there will be a change."

To show solidarity with those on death row

Tim, who came to the vigil alone, said that while he hopes their sentences would be reversed, he is not sure if it will happen.

The 28-year-old financial advisor told Mothership why he is against the death penalty: "I'm against the death penalty because I believe in extending love and forgiveness to people. I do believe that everyone deserves second chances. I come from a position of love, love meaning that we forgive and let the person start anew. I guess most people's stance [for keeping the death penalty] is that it creates a safer environment, but I do not believe that my safety should be at the expense of someone's life."

Tim said that his physical presence at the vigil was "an action" to show how he and the others gathered that day felt about the death penalty.

This was echoed by another vigil attendee, Nurul, who said: "I showed up today to stand in solidarity with Nagen and Datchina who will be hanged, and to show my support for their loved ones and their families."

The 32-year-old administrator said: "I'm also here to be present and to show up and to tell them that Singaporeans like me do not agree with the death penalty."

Mothership also spoke to a group of friends who were standing with cardboard signs they had made.

Tipan, Nisha and Ris.

One of them, Tipan, who had just finished schooling said: "Well, I'm here because I care about human lives. With Nagaenthran and Datchina being Tamil Indian men, and me being Tamil Indian as well, this means a great deal to me. Regarding their chances of surviving, I'm not too sure but I'll always have faith."

The 19-year-old was accompanied by two of his friends -- Nisha, 21, and Ris, 27.

Speakers questioned effectiveness of death penalty

Speakers at the vigil questioned the effectiveness of the death penalty and encouraged the people who had turned up to continue sharing the stories of those who were on death row.

Local activist Ariffin Sha said that to his knowledge, the death penalty in Singapore has only managed to target drug mules, and not drug kingpins. He said drug mules were easily replaceable and sentencing them to death does little to affect drug distribution chains.

Singapore Democratic Party chairman Paul Tambyah said in his speech: "The death penalty is not necessary to maintain our safety, as it has been alleged."

He pointed out that among the 10 safest countries in the world according to the Global Peace Index, only two still retain the death penalty -- Singapore and Japan.

In attendance at the vigil were also former Reform Party chairman Charles Yeo, writer and poet Alfian Sa'at, and veteran actors Lim Kay Siu and Neo Swee Lin.

Last-minute appeal dismissed

In a last-ditch effort to save Nagaenthran from the gallows, his mother, together with Nagaenthran, filed a criminal motion in the Court of Appeal on Apr. 25.

According to CNA, the Court of Appeal dismissed the application on Apr. 26.

In delivering the judgment, Justice Phang said the application was "devoid of merit" and constituted a "calculated attempt" to diminish court processes, reported CNA.

Nagaenthran is due to be executed at dawn tomorrow (Apr. 27).

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All photos by Low Jia Ying