PETALING JAYA: De facto law minister Datuk Liew Vui Keong has denied interfering with the Singapore Court of Appeal's decision to stay the execution of P. Pannir Selvam, a Malaysian citizen convicted on a drug charge.
Liew, who is Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, said that "a certain quarter" in Singapore – whom he did not identify – had made serious allegations against him about the matter in the past few days.
"The allegation that I have interfered with their judicial system is totally unfounded and baseless. It's purely a figment of an imagination on someone's part," Liew said in a statement Sunday (May 26).
Liew said he wanted to place the narrative of events in a correct perspective to avoid further confusion and unnecessary innuendos from some people.
Pannir, 32, was convicted in 2017 of trafficking 51.84g of diamorphine or heroin at the Woodlands Checkpoint on Sept 3, 2014, and was sentenced to death by hanging.
Singapore President Halimah Yacob later rejected a clemency appeal from Pannir's family.
Pannir then filed an application for a stay of execution before the Singapore Court of Appeal on Wednesday (May 22), two days before he was due to be executed in Changi Prison.
The Court, after hearing submissions from Pannir's lawyer on Thursday (May 23), granted a stay of execution.
Liew said he was notified on Monday (May 20) about the impending execution by rights group Lawyers for Liberty.
At about the same time, Pannir's family issued a press release urging Liew and the Malaysian government to look into the matter.
Liew said he managed to speak to Singapore's Senior Minister in the Ministry of State for Law on Wednesday afternoon.
"As time was pressing, I sought our Foreign Minister's blessings to communicate with the Singapore Government and to write an email to them where I made a representation based on valid legal grounds."
Liew said he had not read the grounds of decision by the Singapore Court of Appeal in granting Pannir a stay of execution.
"What's obvious is that the Singapore Court made its decision having considered the prevailing circumstances and the rule of law applicable to the case.
"It is therefore equally untenable to allege that there's an interference on my part in their judicial process.
"I, and everyone of us here in Malaysia, respect the decision of Singapore's Court," Liew said.
Liew said the Singapore Court of Appeal has only granted a temporary reprieve to Pannir to allow him to exhaust his legal and constitutional rights by engaging a competent counsel of his choice.
On Friday (May 22) – a day after the Singapore Court of Appeal decision – Singapore's Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam was reported saying that Singapore cannot make exceptions for Malaysians who have been sentenced to death for their offences as it would undermine the rule of law here, he added.
"Let me be quite clear, it's not possible for us to do so, regardless of how many requests we receive," said Shanmugam.
Shanmugam said the Singapore Government will not intervene when there are no legal reasons to do so and when the courts have already imposed a sentence.
He added that the death penalty is imposed because evidence shows that it is an effective deterrent.
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