Last Monday I sent out a WTC longread on the life of Nazeri bin Lajim, a Singaporean death row prisoner, and his life-long struggle with drugs and incarceration. Please give it a read if you haven’t yet.
Shook by a shortage of chooks
Malaysia says that they’re hoping to resolve the situation involving the ban on chicken exports soon. In the meantime, Singapore is facing a chicken shortage. We get a third of our chicken from Malaysia — they’re sent over, slaughtered and chilled here — so hawker stalls, eateries, etc. who deal in fresh or chilled chicken are in a difficult situation. Some places have raised their prices, while Dickson Nasi Lemak has chosen to shut down until things get better.
Again, I normally wouldn’t think to feature something about food and import/exports so prominently in the newsletter, but this is something that pretty much everyone has been talking about and is a big issue in a country that depends so much on imports for so many necessities. It raises questions about food security — something that has been acknowledged as an issue — especially when you take that into consideration alongside the climate crisis and how it’ll affect agriculture and food production around the world. The price hikes that come with limited supply, as we’re seeing with chicken-based dishes now, also means that we have to think about how the food security pressures will be unevenly borne across society, with the poorest among us suffering the most.
I would love to delve into this further, but am snowed under with work at the moment, so I’d like to extend an offer to someone who might have the time and interest to dig into this, or who might already have some experience or expertise with this issue, to write about this for We, The Citizens. Interested? Apply here!
Joking about domestic violence is bad (why must this even be said)
The National Crime Prevention Council posted a meme using a photo of Amber Heard testifying during the high-profile defamation trial in the US (brought against her by ex-husband Johnny Depp). Gender equality organisation AWARE had to issue a statement condemning it, because we now live in a world where it isn’t blatantly obvious that making jokes and memes out of allegations of domestic abuse and turning something so horrific and painful into a circus is terrible behaviour and absolutely a bad idea. 😡
The law and the death penalty
The Court of Appeal released its written grounds of decision as to why they decided to uphold the stay of execution that Datchinamurthy Kataiah won the day before he was scheduled to be hanged. The appeal had happened extremely quickly, catching everyone off-guard that day. The Attorney-General’s Chambers had argued that the civil case that Datchina is party to — known as OS 188 — was not considered a “relevant proceeding” that would have taken him out of the queue for execution, and that it was therefore all right for him to be hanged despite being part of this case.
Thankfully, the apex court did not agree. They wrote:
”In our judgment, these assertions of a lack of relevance of OS 188 by the appellant [AGC] were in substance an attempt to have this court try OS 188 without the benefit of a proper trial. Yet, while we found that the respondent could not make out a prima facie case of reasonable suspicion that OS 188 would impugn the validity of his conviction and sentence in relation to Art 9(1), it was not possible to conclusively determine, in the absence of a hearing of OS 188, that there could not be a prima facie case of reasonable suspicion in relation to Art 12(1).”
In our view, it could not, even taking the appellant’s case at its highest (ie, that the “relevance” of a pending proceeding requires that it has a bearing on the conviction and sentence imposed on the respondent), be said that in the present case, the correspondence that was the subject of OS 188 was completely irrelevant to the respondent’s conviction and sentence of death. The court could not speculate on what evidence would be adduced in respect of OS 188, and the effect that that evidence might have on the respondent’s arguments in respect of an alleged breach of Art 12(1). In this regard, it was clear that the respondent would not have a reasonable opportunity to present his case in OS 188 if the scheduled execution was proceeded with. The determination of the respondent’s claim in OS 188 could well require further evidence from him, and such evidence could have a bearing (as just mentioned) on his argument in relation to Art 12(1).
In sum, we considered that the respondent could establish a prima facie case that OS 188 was a relevant pending proceeding in which his involvement was required.
In response to media reporting on the Court of Appeal’s judgement, a spokesperson for the AGC said, “In Datchinamurthy's case, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and AGC had been of the view that the outstanding civil claim involving Datchinamurthy and other offenders was not an impediment to the carrying out of their sentence.”
I find it appalling that the government, and the government’s legal advisor, were both of the view that it was perfectly all right to execute someone who is still party to a case that’s pending before the courts. What’s worse: OS 188 has to do with 13 prisoners (12 of them on death row) suing the Attorney-General’s Chambers over the prison leaking their private correspondence to the AGC. And there was the AGC arguing that it’s okay to hang one of the guys that’s suing them, before the case is heard and the court has ruled! Conflict of interest all over the place.
Separately, it looks like it’s going to get even more difficult for lawyers to act for late-stage death row cases. Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Minister of State for Home Affairs, says that the government is mulling over legislative changes to “curb abuses of court processes”, citing the applications that had been filed to try to stay or halt the execution of Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam. It remains to be seen what this legislation is going to look like, but I can tell you from experience that what this means is that lawyer will not want to touch a late-stage death row cases, regardless of its merits. The climate of fear is real — why do you think Datchinamurthy had to represent himself before the High Court and Court of Appeal, even though his case was compelling enough that he won both?
Thank you for reading this week! As always, please help me spread the word about this newsletter by sharing it widely.