Singaporeans rally against death penalty as two more head to gallows

Protesters rally to abolish the death penalty in Hong Lim Park in April. Photo: Andre Frois/Coconuts
Protesters rally to abolish the death penalty in Hong Lim Park in April. Photo: Andre Frois/Coconuts

Public protests against capital punishment resumed last night just days before Singapore plans to execute two more prisoners.

Death penalty opponents gathered again last night for a vigil in Hong Lim Park to protest the hangings of Malaysians Nagaenthran Dharmalingam and Datchinamurthy Kataiah, who are scheduled to die tomorrow and Friday, respectively. Both men were convicted of drug-related offenses.

Similar to a protest held earlier this month, the three-hour vigil saw hundreds holding placards, participating in prayers and singing along. Some donned merch that read “Not In My Name. Abolish The Death Penalty.”

Familiar faces Alfian Sa’at, Lim Kay Siu, Neo Swee Lin, and Charles Yeo, as well as Dharmalingam’s family were present. 

Both high-profile death row inmates were convicted of smuggling close to three times the limit of heroin into Singapore from Malaysia. Dharmalingam, whom activists say is intellectually disabled, lost his final appeal last month. Singapore rules capital punishment mandatory for trafficking 15 grams of heroin and up.  

400+ rally against death penalty after Singapore executes prisoner

After the rally, a mini protest was held outside the Singapore Prison Service in Changi with supporters holding candles and signs that read: “End Oppression Not Life.” 

“[T]he death penalty does nothing for us but spreads more suffering and pain, that executions need to stop, and that they needed to be stopped decades ago. It has been years of repeating myself like a broken record,” journalist and activist Kirsten Han said today.

The United Nations yesterday published a statement urging Singapore “to halt the imminent execution” of Dharmalingam and Kataiah, saying there has been an “alarming acceleration in execution notices in the country.”

“The use of the death penalty for drug-related offences is incompatible with international human rights law,” it wrote.

Less than a month ago, on March 31, 68-year-old Malaysian Abdul Kahar Othman was hanged on a 2013 heroin conviction, which had been the first execution in over two years since the pandemic hit.

“We call upon Singapore to review its long-standing position on the death penalty in light of increasing evidence showing its ineffectiveness as a deterrent and to consider implementing a moratorium on all death sentences pending such review,” the U.N. statement added.

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