Five hanged in last decade, nine more in line: A look at Malaysians facing gallows in Singapore for drug offences

·10-min read
Family and friends of Nagaenthiran Dharmalingam keep a vigil over his body in Tanjung Rambutan, Ipoh April 28, 2022. — Picture by Farhan Najib
Family and friends of Nagaenthiran Dharmalingam keep a vigil over his body in Tanjung Rambutan, Ipoh April 28, 2022. — Picture by Farhan Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 — Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, 34, was executed in Singapore on Wednesday morning, the latest in a line of Malaysians who faced capital punishment under one of the world’s strictest laws against drug trafficking in Singapore.

Meanwhile, another Malaysian K. Datchinamurthy, 36, was previously slated to be executed this morning merely two days after Nagaenthran met the gallows. He managed to obtain a stay of the execution from the Singapore High Court at the 11th hour yesterday.

If Datchinamurthy had been executed today, he would have been the sixth Malaysian to be sentenced to death for drug offences in Singapore since 2016, according to court documents from a separate case involving two Malay Singaporeans who were convicted and sentenced to death in April 2010 under the city-state’s Misuse of Drugs Act.

Data in the affidavits prepared and presented in the court there on February 2022 by Singapore-based human rights lawyer Ravi Madasamy showed that there are eight more Malaysians waiting to be executed in the republic besides Datchinamurthy.

Since 2010, a total of 14 Malaysians have been on death row there with ethnic Indians making up almost three-quarters of them at 11. Two Malays and one ethnic Chinese rounded up the list.

Meanwhile, Malaysians made up 13 out of the 37 offenders who have had their convictions or sentences overturned on appeal. Seven or over half of them were ethnic Chinese, five of them ethnic Indians, and one was Malay.

Nagaenthran Dharmalingam's body arrives at his family home in Ipoh April 28, 2022. — Picture by Farhan Najib
Nagaenthran Dharmalingam's body arrives at his family home in Ipoh April 28, 2022. — Picture by Farhan Najib

Human rights lawyer and coordinator for civil society Lawyers For Liberty (LFL) Zaid Malek told Malay Mail that Datchinamurthy will have his appeal heard on May 20, but he alluded to Singapore’s history of not backing down on convictions on drug offences.

“Singapore has always adhered strictly to the law as you can see from their response to the condemnation of the death penalty.

“However by doing that they tend to ignore the larger sentiments that a death penalty imposes, especially on those who are disabled and their families,” he said.

In his affidavits, Ravi had argued that there is an over-representation of ethnic Malays in Singapore’s condemned population of drug offenders. There are currently 77 of them, which also included the 14 Malaysians mentioned above.

Of those, 50 of them were Malays, 15 ethnic Indians, 10 ethnic Chinese, and two from other nationalities.

Ravi pointed out that despite making up just 13.5 per cent of the population in Singapore, as of June 2021 Malays make up 77 per cent of Singapore residents sentenced to death for drug offences since 2010.

Malay Mail remembers the four other Malaysians who have been executed in Singapore for drug offences so far, based on information obtained from Singapore’s Integrated Electronic Litigation System (eLitigation):

1. Abdul Helmi Ab Halim, 36, executed November 21, 2019

Abdul Helmi was sentenced to death for trafficking 16.56g of diamorphine on March 24, 2017 following his arrest on April 9, 2015.

He was 32 when he committed the offence. When caught by officers from the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), he admitted to bringing in the drugs from Johor Baru by motorcycle and was delivering them to somebody at an open-air car park of Block 123 Teck Whye Lane located near the Keat Hong LRT station.

Prior to that, he had been working in Singapore as a bus captain with SBS Transit Ltd until March 2015 when his employment was terminated following a traffic accident. The day after he was terminated by SBS, he had met his friend, “Rafi”, at a coffee shop in Johor Baru.

“Rafi” informed him of a job opportunity which involved making a “panas” or hot delivery, where he would earn RM1,000 for bringing the drugs into Singapore.

2. Prabu M. Pathmanathan, 31, executed October 26, 2018

Prabu along with an accomplice named Suthakar J. Raman was tried on one charge each of having the common intention to traffic in 227.82g of diamorphine, and preparing to traffic in 227.82g of diamorphine.

He was caught in a sting operation, set up by Suthakar who had earlier been arrested by CNB officers driving a Malaysian registered Toyota Hilux at the Woodlands Checkpoint.

Officers had found twenty packets of brownish granular substance containing not less than 227.82g of diamorphine drugs concealed under the passenger back seat behind the driver's seat in Suthakar’s vehicle.

The High Court decreed that Prabu was a recruiter who told Suthakar to drive the narcotics into Singapore and was subsequently sentenced to death.

The late de facto law minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong had then planned to write a letter to the Singapore government to urge it to commute Prabu’s death sentence to life imprisonment.

Prabu was caught in a sting operation, set up by Suthakar who had earlier been arrested by CNB officers driving a Malaysian registered Toyota Hilux at the Woodlands Checkpoint.
Prabu was caught in a sting operation, set up by Suthakar who had earlier been arrested by CNB officers driving a Malaysian registered Toyota Hilux at the Woodlands Checkpoint.

3. Prabagaran Srivijayan, executed July 14, 2017

Prabagaran was hanged at Changi Prison after a last-ditch bid to stave his execution failed.

He was arrested in the early morning of April 12, 2012 with two packets of drugs recovered by the CNB in the Hyundai Sonata sedan he was driving at the Woodlands Checkpoint.

CNB officers found two black bags hidden underneath the tray inside the centre armrest console between the driver's seat and front passenger's seat, which subsequently showed to be not less than 22.24g of diamorphine. He was charged under Section 7 of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Court documents said Prabagaran had borrowed the car from a friend to enter Singapore on that day in April because he could not use his motorcycle. He had been behind in paying his monthly instalment and was afraid that a dealership in Malaysia would repossess the vehicle.

Prabagaran had also told another friend that he had to take the car to Singapore early in the day — even though he was due to start his shift at a petrol pump station here only at 3pm — because he needed to return his work permit and gate pass to a former employer.

During the trial, the prosecution had argued that Prabagaran was an untruthful witness and that his testimony was “unconvincing, riddled with inconsistencies and cannot be believed”.

Prabagaran’s lawyers had filed a case in Malaysia’s Court of Appeal to consider an application to refer Singapore to the International Court of Justice over concerns about the trial.

His legal team has also raised concerns about the fairness of his trial. Amnesty International said this included the alleged failure of the authorities “to follow up leads and call on key witnesses that would corroborate his version of events”.

Eswary Vengatasamy, the mother of S. Prabagaran broke down during a press conference, January 11, 2017. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Eswary Vengatasamy, the mother of S. Prabagaran broke down during a press conference, January 11, 2017. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

4. Devendran Supramaniam, 31, executed November 18, 2016

Devendran was convicted of importing 83.36g of diamorphine, after driving his Malaysian-registered motorcycle into Singapore at the Woodlands Checkpoint. He was stopped by CNB officers as he appeared on their blacklist.

A subsequent search of the bike revealed six bundles containing brown powdery substance weighing 2.7kg wrapped in newspaper which upon analysis was revealed to be 83.36g of diamorphine.

Meanwhile, here is a list of Malaysians who have been sentenced to death for drug offences in Singapore and had their sentence upheld on appeal. They are now either waiting for their sentencing dates or more pending appeals.

1. Yu Ching Thai

Yu was 30 when he was charged and sentenced for trafficking on May 24, 2012.

He had with him four packets containing 915.60g of powdery substance which were analysed and found to contain not less than 19.84g of diamorphine, which was due to be delivered to one “Muhammad Abdullah”.

2. Kalwant Singh Jogindar Singh

Kalwant was convicted by the High Court after a joint trial involving various charges under the Misuse of Drugs Act for trafficking 120.9g of diamorphine.

The High Court sentenced him to death almost exclusively on statements by a co-accused, Mohamad Yazid Md Yusof.

Manchester United fan and motorcycle enthusiast Pannir Selvam is seen here in May 2014 with his newly-purchased motorcycle which he used to visit his elder sister Sangkari. — Picture courtesy of Pannir Selvam’s family
Manchester United fan and motorcycle enthusiast Pannir Selvam is seen here in May 2014 with his newly-purchased motorcycle which he used to visit his elder sister Sangkari. — Picture courtesy of Pannir Selvam’s family

3. Pannir Selvam Pranthaman, 34

Convicted in Singapore for trafficking heroin in 2017, Pannir had failed in his application to initiate a challenge against his death sentence.

He was granted a stay of execution in 2019 for his death sentence and had his judicial review application rejected by the Singaporean Court of Appeal in 2021.

In this appeal, Pannir had contended that information he provided to the authorities was crucial to their eventual arrest of another trafficker named Zamri Mohd Tahir, and as such should be granted a certificate of substantive assistance.

The dismissal, according to the report, was hinged on whether the intel provided by Pannir to the CNB was substantial in assisting with investigations and enough for the agency to disrupt drug trafficking activities.

In 2019, Malay Mail had written extensively on the story of Pannir Selvam. Read here for Part I of the story on who the Ipoh boy is, and Part II for how his family had turned detective to save him from the gallows.

4. Rahmat Karimon, 32

On May 27, 2015, Rahmat delivered a green bag to one Zainal Hamad, who handed him money in exchange. He was arrested and the bag was found to contain not less than 53.64g of heroin. Rahmat was arrested at the Woodlands checkpoint.

Both men were convicted by the High Court after a joint trial and given the mandatory death sentence.

5. Saminathan Selvaraju

Saminathan was found trafficking 301.6g of diamorphine with two others in 2013. Court deduced that Saminathan was a courier for the drugs and was sentenced to death in 2018.

6. Lingkesvaran Rajendaren, 30

On May 24, 2016, Lingkesvaran delivered a bundle wrapped in black tape to an accomplice at the void deck of Block 289 Yishun Avenue 6. The bundle contained not less than 1.37kg of powdery substance that was analysed and found to contain not less than 52.77g of diamorphine.

He was sentenced to death in 2018.

7. Tamil Selvam Yagasvranan, 35

Caught in 2017 with two others, Tamil was charged for trafficking 19.42g of diamorphine on February 8, 2017 and sentenced to death in 2019.

8. Punithan Ganesan, 38

Punithan was the first man to be sentenced to death through Zoom online video conference in May 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. he received the sentence for his role in a 2011 heroin transaction.

He was found to be complicit in trafficking at least 28.5g of heroin by introducing the two couriers to each other in 2011, and instructing one to drive into Singapore two weeks later to meet the other.

Punithan denied any connection to the pair and disputed their testimonies that he had recruited them to transport drugs, linked them up and arranged the transaction.

All the convicted were charged under Singapore's Misuse of Drugs Act, which is the main legislation for drug offences there.

Under Section 5(1) of the Act, it is an offence for a person to traffic in a controlled drug.

The death penalty will be imposed under this section if they are found to have in their possession more than 1,200 g of opium containing more than 30g of morphine, 15g of diamorphine, 30g of cocaine, 500g of cannabis and more than 250g of methamphetamine.

Section 17 of the Act says if one has in his possession more than 100g of opium, 3g of cocaine, 2g of diamorphine, 15g of cannabis, 30g of cannabis mixture, 10g of cannabis resin, 25g of methamphetamine or 113g of ketamine regardless, he shall be presumed to be trafficking.


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