SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Thursday (May 23) said that the clemency petitions for a Malaysian who faces the death sentence were "carefully considered".
President Halimah Yacob acted on the advice of the Cabinet in not granting clemency to Pannir Selvam Pranthaman, who is on the death row for trafficking heroin, said MHA.
Pannir Selvam was on Thursday granted a stay of execution, just a day before he was due to be executed. He applied for more time to file a fresh application to impugn the clemency process, which was granted by the court.
"There are extremely narrow grounds upon which the clemency process may be so impugned. However, in our judgment, the applicant ought to have a reasonable opportunity to take advice on whether he can mount a successful challenge," said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.
Pannir Selvam and his family was notified of the president's rejection of his clemency petition and the scheduled date of his execution in letters just a week in advance.
This did not give him much time to get advice on what options he might have to challenge the execution of the sentence, said the Chief Justice.
Pannir Selvam had questioned the transparency of the clemency process in an affidavit, saying he was "surprised" the letter from the Istana about the clemency rejection and the letter from Singapore Prison Service informing him of his execution were both dated May 17.
"This means that the decision of the prison to proceed the execution was made prior to the rejection of clemency by the President," he concluded.
However, MHA said that Mdm Halimah gave directions on May 7 to notify Pannir Selvam and his family that the death penalty would stand.
The Istana had sent the letters on May 14 to the Singapore Prison Service to forward to the accused and his family, according to an affidavit by Mr Benny Lee, principal private secretary to the President.
Pannir Selvam and his family were then notified in the letters from the Istana, which were dated May 17. Another letter from the Singapore Prison Service with the same date notified them of the judicial execution.
CERTIFICATE OF SUBSTANTIVE ASSISTANCE
MHA also responded to Malaysian reports claiming the Pannir Selvam was "unreasonably denied a 'Certificate of Substantive Assistance', which might have spared him the mandatory death penalty".
"MHA would like to clarify that the decision is taken by the Public Prosecutor in his sole discretion, based on whether the offender had provided the authorities substantive assistance that leads to the disruption of drug trafficking activities in Singapore," said the ministry.
"The Public Prosecutor determined that he had not."
Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, drug couriers who have either been certified by the public prosecutor to have substantively assisted the Central Narcotics Bureau during investigations, or have proven themselves to be mentally impaired can be spared the mandatory death penalty and given a life sentence instead.
MHA also gave a brief account of the facts of the case.
Pannir Selvam was charged and convicted of trafficking into Singapore about 1.8kg of a substance which was analysed to contain not less than 51.84g of heroin, the ministry said.
He was sentenced to the mandatory death penalty on May 2, 2017. The Misuse of Drugs Act provides for the death penalty if the amount of heroin imported is more than 15g.
The drugs Pannir Selvam trafficked is equivalent to about 4,320 straws of heroin, "which is sufficient to feed the addiction of more than 600 abusers for a week", MHA said.
Pannir Selvam was represented by lawyers both at the trial and his appeal, which was dismissed on Feb 9 last year, MHA added.