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Home Office response to Sir Richard Branson’s blog post of 10 October 2022

Nagaenthran A/LK Dharmalingam

1. Sir Richard Branson (hereafter referred to as “Mr. Branson”) says that Nagaenthran A/LK Dharmalingam (“Nagaenthran”) had a “well-documented intellectual disability” and was hanged despite it.

2. We have repeatedly stated that this is false.[1] The Singapore courts ruled that Nagaenthran knew what he was doing and that he was not intellectually disabled.[2] The psychiatrist called by the Defense itself agreed, in court, that Nagaenthran was not intellectually disabled.

3. Mr. Branson also suggests that Singapore violated our international commitments to protect people with disabilities by carrying out the death penalty on Nagaenthran. This too is false, as Nagaenthran was not intellectually handicapped.

Singapore’s approach to drugs

4. Second, Mr. Branson questions Singapore’s approach to drugs, including the application of the death penalty to those who traffic large quantities of drugs.

5. Drugs take a heavy toll on lives and on society. Globally, approximately 500,000 deaths are related to drug abuse each year.[3] In the United States (US) alone, there were over 100,000 drug overdose deaths in 2021, a record number.[4] The opioid crisis is a significant factor in the recent decline in life expectancy in the United States.[5] Around the world, large numbers of babies are born with symptoms of drug withdrawal and dependence. In the United States, nearly 80 newborns are diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome every day.[6] In England and Wales, more than 4,850 drug-related deaths were recorded in 2021, the highest number since records began in 1993, as more people die after using opiates and cocaine.[7]

6. Countries also bear significant monetary costs due to drug abuse. The economic cost of opioid use disorders and fatal opioid overdoses in the United States was estimated to be approximately $1 trillion in 2017.[8] The total annual cost of drug abuse was around £15.4 billion in the UK in 2014.[9] Locally, a study by Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University found that drug-related crimes cost Singapore SGD 1.2 billion in 2015.

7. Our priority is to protect Singapore and Singaporeans from the scourge of drugs. We take a comprehensive approach to harm prevention, which includes applying the death penalty to traffickers who traffic large quantities of drugs and seek to profit from the destruction of the lives and livelihoods of others .

8. Capital punishment has had a clear deterrent effect on drug traffickers in Singapore. It has also helped prevent major drug syndicates from establishing a foothold here. Convicted drug traffickers have provided first-hand accounts that they deliberately trafficked below the capital threshold – they were willing to risk imprisonment, but not capital punishment.[10] After the introduction of mandatory capital punishment for opium trafficking, there was a significant reduction – 66% – in the average net weight of opium trafficked in Singapore in four years.[11] Similarly, in the four years since the introduction of mandatory capital punishment for trafficking more than 500 grams of cannabis, there has been a reduction of 15 to 19 percentage points in the likelihood that traffickers will choose to traffic above the threshold of capital punishment.[12]

9. A study was carried out on people from parts of the region outside of Singapore, where most of our arrested drug traffickers come from. 83% of respondents said capital punishment makes people unwilling to traffic large amounts of drugs in Singapore; and 69% said capital punishment is more effective than life imprisonment in deterring people from committing serious crimes.[13]

10. Singapore’s strict laws and clear enforcement have drastically reduced the amount of drugs entering Singapore. Many Singaporean lives and families have been saved from the evils of drugs. The number of drug addicts has also steadily declined. In the 1990s, we arrested over 6,000 abusers each year. We arrest about 3,000 abusers a year today, even though our population has grown from about 3 million people in 1990 to about 5.5 million in 2022.[14]

11. According to the Gallup Global Law and Order Report 2020, 97% of adults in Singapore feel safe walking alone at night, compared to a global average of 69%.[15]

Other Issues Raised

12. Thirdly, Mr Branson suggests that there have been developments which should worry Singaporeans, alluding to suspicions of racial bias and the fact that those executed in recent times were petty drug dealers.

13. This assertion is false. Mr. Branson probably picked it up from some activists in Singapore with their own agendas. Our laws and procedures apply to everyone equally, regardless of background, nationality, race, level of education or financial status. Anyone facing a capital offense has due process under the law. Their trials are transparent and open to the public and the media. In August 2021, 17 prisoners awaiting capital punishment (PACP) filed a motion against the Attorney General (AG), seeking statements that in prosecuting them for capital drug offences, the AG had acted to arbitrary and discriminatory manner against them on ethnic and other grounds. . The High Court dismissed the claim.[16] He also ordered the lawyers, including Mr M Ravi (“MR”) who Mr Branson mentioned in his message, to pay the costs because they had abused the legal process.[17] The High Court said MR’s affidavit contained sweeping generalizations not supported by specific evidence. Now Mr. Branson is peddling the same allegations.

14. Mr. Branson also alleged that Singapore continually targets death penalty defense lawyers and human rights defenders, which has a “chilling effect” on lawyers’ willingness to represent persons facing criminal charges. capital punishment. This is another lie. Defense attorneys have never been penalized for representing and defending defendants. Any defendant liable to capital punishment has a lawyer to defend him.

15. However, this does not mean that lawyers can abuse the judicial process by filing late and manifestly unfounded requests to obstruct the enforcement of legally imposed sentences.

16. For example, in the Nagaenthran case, the Court of Appeal dismissed last-minute motions as an abuse of process.[18] The judgment noted that Nagaenthran had been given due process under the law and had exhausted his rights of appeal and nearly all other remedies provided by law since his conviction.[19]

17. Mr. Branson is entitled to his opinions. These views may be widely held in the UK, but we do not accept that Mr Branson or others in the West have the right to impose their values ​​on other societies. Nor do we believe that a country that pursued two wars in China in the 19th century to force the Chinese to accept opium imports has any moral right to lecture Asians about drugs.

18. Our policies on drugs and the death penalty derive from our own experience. We are satisfied – like the overwhelming majority of Singaporeans – that they work for us. Nothing we have seen in the UK or the West convinces us that adopting a permissive attitude towards drugs and a tolerant stance towards drug trafficking will increase human happiness. When it comes to drug addiction, things have steadily gotten worse in the UK, while things have steadily gotten better in Singapore.

19. The Ministry also invited Mr. Branson to Singapore for a live televised debate on Singapore’s approach to drugs and the death penalty, with Singapore’s Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Justice, Mr. K Shanmugam. Mr. Branson’s flight and accommodation in Singapore will be paid for. Mr. Branson can use this platform to demonstrate to Singaporeans the error of our ways and why Singapore should scrap the laws that have protected our people from the global scourge of drug addiction.


[1] Facts of the Nagaenthran Case a/l K Dharmalingam; Transcript of Sydney Morning Herald interview with Mr K Shanmugam, Home Secretary and Minister for Law, 15 September 2022
[2] Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam vs AG [2022] SGCA 26
[3] WHO fact sheet – Opioid overdose
[4] CNN, In 2021, US drug overdose deaths hit highest level on record, CDC data shows (May 2022)
[5] Annual Review of Public Health, Decreasing US Life Expectancy: Missing the Trees for the Forest, 2020.
[6] CDC data and statistics on opioid use during pregnancy
[7] The Guardian – Cocaine and opiates lead to record number of drug-related deaths in England and Wales, 3 August 2022
[8] CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report – State-Level Economic Costs of Opioid Use Disorders and Fatal Opioid Overdoses – United States 2017
[9] House of Commons, Debate File CDP-0230, Human and Financial Costs of Drug Addiction, 21 November 2017
[10] MHA COS 2022 on “Singapore’s Approach to Criminal Justice”
[11] MHA COS 2022 on “Singapore’s Approach to Criminal Justice”
[12] The death penalty in Singapore
[13] MHA COS 2022 on “Singapore’s Approach to Criminal Justice”
[14] MHA COS 2022 on “Singapore’s Approach to Criminal Justice”
[15] Gallup Global Law and Order Report 2020
[16] Syed Suhail bin Syed Zin and Ors against AG [2021] SGHC 274
[17] Syed Suhail bin Syed Zin vs AG [2022] SGHC 140
[18] Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam vs AG [2022] SGCA 26
[19] Nagaenthran a/l K Dharmalingam vs AG [2022] SGCA 37


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