Execution of Malaysian drug convict sparks war of words between Jakarta and Singapore

Singapore says Malaysia should instead aggressively root out the drug kingpins in the country who send drug traffickers to Singapore.

The execution of a convicted Malaysian drug trafficker in Singapore has sparked a war of words between Malaysia and Singapore. While Malaysia argued that cases involving drug mules should be handled as per international standards, Singapore retorted that the nation treats all drug offenders equally and that it expects other countries to respect its laws.

"Singapore's laws apply equally to all, regardless whether the offender is Singaporean or foreign," Singapore's Ministry of Law and Ministry of Home Affairs said in a joint statement. The Singaporean authorities said Malaysia should instead aggressively root out the drug kingpins in the country who send drug traffickers to Singapore.

What does Malaysia say?

Executed by hanging
Executed by hanging Pixabay

Earlier, a minister in Malaysian Prime Minister's Department said the execution of Abd Helmi Ab Halim was "unjust and disproportionate for drug mules to bear the fate of the gallows". "It is .... therefore heart-wrenching to see a fellow citizen to be executed for circumstances entirely uncompelling, given the close proximity of our countries," minister Liew Vui Keong had said, according to Bernama news agency.

But Singapore said it has sovereign rights in adjudicating death penalty. "Foreigners who choose to break our laws must be prepared to be subject to them and cannot expect any differentiated treatment," the joint statement by the ministries added.

What was the crime?

Mary Jane excluded from the execution list
Police seized the drugs Reuters

Abd Helmi was hanged to death in the Changi Prison Complex on Friday, Channel News Asia reported. Helmi was sentenced to the mandatory death penalty in 2017. The man, who is from Johor in Malaysia, is married and has children, Malaysian dailies reported. Helmi's clemency plea was rejected by the President in July.

The Malaysian drug offender was detained while carrying 16.56g of diamorphine, or pure heroin. According to CNA, the amount of drug he trafficked was equivalent to about 1,380 straws of heroin. Singaporean ministries said capital punishment has helped in curbing drug crimes in the island nation.

Sovereign right

"The use of capital punishment is an issue that every country has the sovereign right to decide for itself, taking into account its own circumstances and in accordance with its international law obligations," the statement said. "Singapore is one of the few countries in the world where the drug menace has been contained. Singapore respects the sovereign right of other countries to determine their own legal systems, and expects the same in return," the statement added.