President Halimah Yaacob, please show mercy to Nagaenthran
Nagaenthran Dharmalingam has now been scheduled to be executed in Singapore on the April 27, 2022.
His only hope to live is if the Singapore government - one that has just recently announced its transition to the next generation of leadership - finds it in themselves to leave behind old ways that don’t work, and embrace a more compassionate approach towards more effective law enforcement.
In 2009, Nagen was working in Johor Bahru. He found himself looking to borrow RM 500 to help his father with his heart operation. He turned to his boss for a loan for the money.
This boss said he would agree to the loan, if Nagen would agree to carry something into Singapore. Nagen initially said no, which caused this boss to beat Nagen, and further threaten to kill his girlfriend.
In fear, Nagen agreed to do what his boss asked.
Nagen ended up being arrested at the Singaporean border. The authorities found 42 grams (less than 3 tablespoons) of diamorphine strapped to Nagen’s thigh.
In Nagen’s trial, Nagen’s lawyers argued that Nagen’s IQ was only 69 - meaning that going by international standards, this meant Nagen had an intellectual disability. Psychological experts in his trial did not dispute this.
Nevertheless, Nagen was found guilty and sentenced to death.
13 years after this sad incident, after multiple attempts by people all over the world - including Richard Branson, Tony Fernandes, and Stephen Fry - to advocate for Nagen, the date for his execution has been set.
Nagen’s mother and sister must be incredibly distraught. They have constantly spoken of what a gentle hearted young man Nagen was - someone who was always kind, and would never hurt another being.
Perhaps most tragically of all, Nagen is clearly a victim here, not a hardened criminal.
He was threatened and coerced to commit a crime he had no intention of being involved in, because he was trying to protect the people he loved, and was too intellectually disabled to understand the full implications of what is happening to him.
Even now, lawyer N. Surendran said that Nagen “doesn’t really get what is happening” to him.
I can’t imagine what it is like for Nagen and his family for him to have lived in isolation on death row for so long, not fully comprehending what is going on.
And now, with the execution only days away, it must be infinitely worse.
I think we in Malaysia completely share Singapore’s goals of vigorously combating illegal drug trafficking. No one wants either of our countries to be drowned in a deluge of drugs.
The question we need to look ourselves in the mirror to ask is however: is the mandatory death penalty in either country effective in actually reducing the drug trade? There will always be young people like Nagen, who will be preyed upon by people like his boss.
And that boss has another boss, and so on further up the line, until we find the big time, super rich underworld figures who are really making the most profits from the suffering of people like Nagen.
The trouble is, not only will such kingpins never face the death penalty, they are unlikely to even ever see the inside of a courtroom.
Some of the more cynical among us even suspect that at this level, there is even collusion between criminals and the authorities.
Whatever the case, the death penalty is only increasing the number of victims of the drug trade, not reducing them.
In Nagen’s case especially, every international standard screams out that we should treat this case with special care, due to Nagen’s mental condition.
Singapore recently announced that after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s upcoming retirement, his replacement will be Finance Minister Lawrence Wong.
A transition of leadership is a momentous occasion in any democracy.
Nagen’s family, and everyone else who believes in compassion and merciful justice, call upon Singapore’s government - especially President Halimah Yacob, who holds the power to grant clemency to Nagen - to please take this opportunity to show how Singapore’s next generation of leadership is not stuck in the mud of the past, but wants to take steps towards a more enlightened, brighter future.
Today is the 7th anniversary of my wedding. If the execution goes as planned, Nagen will never get to experience a wedding of his own, or the opportunity to hold his own child in his arms, or even the very simplest of joys of just being alive.
Everything he has, everything he is, will be snuffed out at the mere flick of a switch.
Please Singapore, please prevent this tragic injustice.
NATHANIEL TAN is a strategic communications consultant.
Twitter: @NatAsasi, Email: [email protected] #BangsaMalaysia #NextGenDemocracy.