As Amnesty International pleads to stop Singapore’s fifth execution in under four months, one man, whose name is not being released, was executed by hanging at the Changi Prison Complex in east Singapore for the crime of trafficking cannabis.
Singaporean executions are carried out by “long-drop hanging”—usually taking place at dawn. The country is notorious for its use of corporal and capital punishments, and the country’s hanging system has been criticized for at least the past 20 years. During canings, for instance, a 1.2 meter-long cane of about 1.2 centimeters in diameter is used to beat the perpetrator, sometimes for drug offenses. For the crime of trafficking cannabis, the death penalty is mandatory.
Thanks to activists like Kokila Annamalai, we know when severe injustices amid the War on Drugs take place in the farthest stretches of the globe. People like Annamalai are tired of executions for drug-related crimes, especially when it involves cannabis and other harmless crimes.
“We have confirmation that a 49-year-old Singaporean Malay man was executed today, 26 July, at Changi Prison,” Annamalai tweeted. “He has lived in prison since 2015, after being convicted of trafficking in cannabis (marijuana). He was sentenced to the mandatory death penalty.”
Activists say racism is part of the equation, as the region is allegedly prone to racially-biased decisions during the legal process. The 49-year-old Malay man executed for cannabis trafficking was one of 17 prisoners who had filed a suit accusing the Singaporean government of racial bias in their prosecutions in capital punishment cases. Unfortunately, the lawsuit was tossed out and nearly anyone involved in the case was allegedly targeted—even the defense attorney.
“This is the 6th confirmed execution in a span of 4 months,” Annamalai continued in subsequent tweets. “He was one of 17 prisoners who had filed a historic suit accusing the Singapore state of racial bias in their prosecutions in capital punishment cases. The suit was thrown out last year and their lawyer M Ravi was slapped with heavy fines after being accused of abuse of process by the attorney-general (AG).”
Singapore publicly reveals very little, if any information about its executions, which come in the form of hangings. Local anti-death penalty non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like Transformative Justice Collective ask questions regarding the deaths and the surrounding circumstances. They get information through other prisoners or inmates’ relatives, which is the only way information is possible.
Singapore officials also executed another man, Singaporean Nazeri Lajim, 64, with a long history of drug use and other drug offenses, who had been sentenced in 2017 for trafficking 960 grams of heroin.
Earlier this month, VICE World News followed the families of people on death row in Singapore due to drug charges. They found clemency appeals to the president were rejected and hopes were destroyed in one of the harshest places on the planet to be caught with drugs.
“This morning, the family of Kalwant Singh, a Malaysian on death row in Singapore, was informed that his execution has been scheduled for next week, 7 July 2022,” the Transformative Justice Collective tweeted on June 29.
Singh was arrested in 2013 for drugs. He was 23 years old then and has spent the past nine years in prison.
According to activists, executions by hanging came to a standstill during COVID-19.
VICE World News reports that Malaysia and Singapore shared a gung-ho approach to the death penalty, but both countries’ approach to drugs were originally rooted in British colonial-era laws. But then nearby in Thailand, cannabis has been decriminalized, suggesting drug reform is overdue in the corner of the globe.
Benjamin M. Adams is Staff Writer at High Times, and has written for Vice, Forbes, HuffPost, The Advocate, Culture, and many other publications. He holds a Bachelor of Communication from Southern New Hampshire University.