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#StandWithSharif, a death sentence for trafficking cannabis

This week: A campaign to support Sharif and try to stop an impending repatriation, and a former property agent who has been sentenced to death for trafficking cannabis.

Apologies for a late newsletter this weekend—my Thursday and Friday turned into hectic days somehow and I just came home and crashed last night... 😴


Have you caught up on the news about what’s happened to Sharif? I sent out a special issue on Wednesday about the terribly unfair situation he’s been caught up in. Despite being a victim of targeted harassment, Sharif—who has worked in Singapore as a migrant worker for 16 years—is facing repatriation to Bangladesh.

If you don’t have time to read the whole special issue, here’s the tl;dr: early this year, Sharif’s employer received threatening letters demanding that Sharif pay his debts. But Sharif says he hasn’t borrowed any money from loan sharks. And this ‘debt collector’ hasn’t left any information about how much Sharif supposedly owes or to whom money should be paid to. You know, the sort of important info you should include if you really want people to pay you.

This harassment was reported to the police, but on 11 March Sharif’s employer gave him a termination notice. This notice actually says that they were ending his employment on the advice of the Ministry of Manpower and the police.

Sharif managed to find a new employer and kick-started the process of getting his work permit transferred to that new company, but the threatening letters were sent there too (how did they know?!) and now the new employer has backtracked on their decision to hire him. If this situation doesn't improve somehow, Sharif will have to go back to Bangladesh very soon.

If you'd like to support Sharif and urge the authorities to fix this messed-up situation, you can sign this online petition. There'll also be an event in support of Sharif tonight at Palms Bistro (60 Anson Rd, #01-02, Singapore 079914), 8pm–9:30pm.


A former property agent has been sentenced to death for trafficking cannabis. His defence was one I hadn't heard before. His lawyers had argued that he'd intended to use the weed for research and development instead of for trafficking because he'd grown fixated on the idea of starting a cannabis-based business. The judge didn't buy it.

Regardless of what anyone might think about this defence, the death penalty can never be justified. I was also struck by this part of CNA's report, in which the judge referred to a statement that the accused had given:

Justice See also referred to a portion of Seet's statement - recorded a day after his arrest - where the accused said the cannabis mixture was meant to help "damaged" friends who "need help and sense of belonging and also to give them a sense of security".

Instead of rushing to impose the death penalty, we should pay more attention to what's being signalled here—the reasons why some people choose to use drugs, and the pain that they are trying to self-medicate away.

You can read my secondary newsletter, Altering States, for more reflections on drug policy and drug use.


A solo protest was held outside the Attorney-General's Chambers on Transgender Day of Visibility (31 March). Lune Loh, the protester, was arrested. The protest was intended to draw attention to the treatment of trans people in prison. From Lune's statement:

Many trans women in Singapore who face incarceration, or who are incarcerated, are pre-operative (largely due to being unable to afford it) or non-operative, and are thus not legally considered female by State authorities. Therefore, they still end up in male prisons with cis-male inmates and guards.

A family effort: my cat Begbie struck the pose, I took the photo and my husband made the meme.