Kirsten Han, M Ravi, TOC Asia issued POFMA correction orders over drug trafficker's death sentence
Tangaraju Suppiah was hanged on Apr 26 after being convicted of abetting the trafficking of more than 1kg of cannabis.
SINGAPORE: Correction directions under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) have been issued to several parties over false statements made about the death sentence meted out to convicted drug trafficker Tangaraju Suppiah.
Under the POFMA order, activist Kirsten Han, lawyer M Ravi, Transformative Justice Collective (TJC), The Online Citizen Asia (TOCA) and TOC co-founder Andrew Loh are required to carry a correction notice alongside their publications, said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in a press release on Friday (May 19).
Singaporean Tangaraju, 46, was hanged on Apr 26 after being convicted of abetting the trafficking of more than 1kg of cannabis.
Ms Han made Twitter and Facebook posts concerning the death sentence on Apr 19, and published an article on her website, We The Citizens, on the same date. She also made another Facebook post on Apr 22.
Mr Ravi published two Facebook posts on Apr 20 and Apr 27, while TOCA published posts on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter on Apr 28, and an article on its website on the same date.
TJC made a Facebook post on Apr 23, while Mr Loh published a Facebook post on Apr 24.
MHA said the social media posts and articles contained "false statements" about the capital sentence that was given to Tangaraju, including being denied an interpreter during the recording of his statement and that he was later found to be not guilty.
The posts and articles also said Tangaraju neither had an interpreter nor access to a lawyer during his trial.
"Tangaraju’s allegation that he requested for but was denied an interpreter during the recording of his statement is false, and was rejected by the High Court," said MHA.
"The High Court found this bare allegation, raised for the first time during Tangaraju’s cross-examination, to be disingenuous given Tangaraju’s admission that he had made no such request for any of the other statements subsequently recorded from him.
"Tangaraju was accorded full due process under the law. He was represented by legal counsel and had access to an interpreter throughout his trial."
The ministry added that the false statements included how Tangaraju was not informed that Justice of the Court of Appeal Steven Chong was the Attorney-General when decisions were taken by the Attorney-General’s Chambers in respect of the case.
"Tangaraju’s then counsel was informed, before the appeal was heard, that Steven Chong was the Attorney-General when decisions were taken in respect of his case," MHA said.
"Steven Chong was not, however, involved in the decision-making process, and Tangaraju’s then-counsel was informed of this as well.
"Tangaraju’s then counsel had replied to confirm that Tangaraju had no objections to Steven Chong JCA being a member of the coram for the Court of Appeal, to hear his appeal."
MHA said that Tangaraju's conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal and was not overturned.
The ministry also took issue with the posts that claimed several personal costs orders were made against Mr Ravi without justifiable basis, to penalise him for his work in death penalty cases.
Some of the cost orders were made in respect of him filing "unmeritorious applications to the courts", which were found to be abuses of the court process, the ministry said.
MHA noted that despite the government's clarifications and the courts' findings of the case involving Tangaraju, the five parties have continued to make false statements.
These false statements may affect public trust and confidence in the government and the judiciary, the ministry added.
A check by CNA showed that as of 1.30am on Saturday, all parties had put up correction notices.
RICHARD BRANSON, UN WEIGHED IN ON SENTENCE
Tangaraju's case also drew the attention of many around the world, including British billionaire Richard Branson and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who both denounced the death sentence.
Mr Branson wrote a blog post two days before Tangaraju's execution titled "Why Tangaraju Suppiah doesn't deserve to die", claiming that his conviction did not meet standards and that "Singapore may be about to kill an innocent man".
In a statement last month, MHA rejected Mr Branson's claims as "patently untrue".
The ministry also said it was "regrettable" that Mr Branson, in wanting to argue his case, should resort to purporting to know more about the case than Singapore’s courts, which had examined the case thoroughly and comprehensively over a period of more than three years.
The UN statement, which was published on Apr 25, urged Singapore's government to "urgently reconsider" the execution and expressed "concerns around due process and respect for fair trial guarantees".
In response, Singapore's Permanent Mission to the UN on Apr 28 said that statement "glossed over the serious harms that drugs cause".
"This is regrettable," said the mission, adding that countries have the sovereign right to choose the approach that best suits their own circumstances.
Mr Branson, who has been vocal in opposing Singapore's death penalty for crimes such as drug trafficking, also spoke out against the execution of convicted drug trafficker Nagaenthran Dharmalingam last year.
The Virgin Group founder was invited by MHA last October to a TV debate with Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Singapore’s approach towards drugs and the death penalty, but turned it down.