SINGAPORE: It is “not tenable” for Singapore to go easy on Malaysian drug offenders who are caught on this side of the Causeway, said Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam on Friday (May 24).
Speaking at the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) Workplan seminar, Mr Shanmugam mentioned the case of Pannir Selvam Pranthaman, the Malaysian who was granted a stay of execution on Thursday by the Court of Appeal, saying he was accorded full due process at every stage.
The 31-year-old was convicted of trafficking 51.84g of heroin at Woodlands Checkpoint in September 2014.
"You bring in 51, 52 grams of pure heroin, it is equal to over 4,000 straws of heroin, and (it) feeds hundreds for a week. A person like that is a dealer in death, no two ways about it,” Mr Shanmugam said, but did not go into specific details as the case is before the courts.
Malaysia’s Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Liew Vui Keong said on Friday in a Malay Mail report that he was "pleased to know of the stay of execution" for Pannir Selvam and had liaised with counterparts in Singapore with the blessings of Malaysia's Foreign Office.
Mr Shanmugam gave some observations about drug traffickers coming from Malaysia. He said that there are some from Malaysia's ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition party who are "ideologically opposed" to the death penalty and that they "have to respect that position".
"At the same time, we do impose the death penalty in Singapore, and I expect that Malaysia will respect that position as well," he said.
Singapore received three requests from Malaysia to intervene in executions since the PH government came into power a year ago, and two of these were drug traffickers, he added.
He pointed out that a majority of Singaporeans supported a tough anti-drug stance, including the use of the death penalty against drug traffickers.
Last week, the results of a study by the Ministry of Home Affairs showed 69.6 per cent of Singaporeans polled indicated that the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for criminals who traffic a large amount of drugs.
READ: Younger Singaporeans' support for capital punishment for drug traffickers below national average: MHA survey
"It is not tenable to give a special moratorium to Malaysians, and impose it on everyone else, including Singaporeans who commit offences which carry the death penalty," Mr Shanmugam said.
The minister added that nearly 30 per cent of drug traffickers caught in Singapore last year were Malaysians and nearly 30 per cent of the heroin found, by weight, was brought in by Malaysians. One in five of the heroin traffickers who brought in amounts that attracted the death penalty were Malaysians too, he said.
"How do we go easy on Malaysians in the face of these stats? And if we did, what will it mean for the rule of law? It will become a joke if there is a request made and we go easy. That is not the way Singapore works," he said.
MORE PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS NEEDED
Mr Shanmugam said he intends to write back to his counterpart Mr Liew to discuss ways to address this issue of cross-border drug offences and to "get to the root of the problem".
One of the things he wants to bring up is to find out how many drug offenders are picked up by Malaysian authorities on their side of the Causeway.
He said it would be good for both sides if drug traffickers were caught by Malaysian authorities, as the offenders can be dealt with according to Malaysia's laws and not have to face Singapore’s capital punishment.
He will also ask about efforts to catch drug kingpins operating from Malaysia who are "too scared" to come into Singapore.
"We have good cooperation with Malaysian agencies; they do a good job, we cooperate effectively. And I hope they can be given every support, and we can get more evidence on the other kingpins operating in Malaysia to be picked up," Mr Shanmugam said.
Another thing he wants to suggest is to publicise Singapore’s laws regarding drug offences to communities in Malaysia that are more susceptible to being lured to bring drugs into Singapore.
"(The message would be) don’t traffic (drugs) into Singapore. And if you do, these are the consequences," Mr Shanmugam said.
He reiterated that it is "simply not doable to keep asking Singapore not to carry out the penalties imposed by the courts".
"We really cannot allow Singapore to become a place where traffickers can come in at will, use us as a transit point, flood our country with drugs, and then when caught, they say 'we do not know'," Mr Shanmugam said.