S R Nathan, the longest serving president from 1999 to 2011 did not grant clemency to any death row inmates during his 2 terms as President.
This is according to the Singapore Working Group on the Death Penalty (SWGDP) in its statement issued on the 13th World Day Against the Death Penalty last October.
SWGDP stated, “Since Singapore’s independence, only seven clemencies have been granted (as at Oct 2015), with the last being exercised by the late President Ong Teng Cheong.”
It went on to reveal that of the 7 clemencies, two were granted in the term of President Benjamin Sheares, one under President Devan Nair, three under President Wee Kim Wee, and one under President Ong Teng Cheong.
Presidential clemencies granted by past Presidents:
• Benjamin Sheares (1971-1981): 2 in 10 years
• Devan Nair (1981-1985): 1 in 4 years
• Wee Kim Wee (1985 -1993): 3 in 8 years
• Ong Teng Cheong (1993-1999): 1 in 6 years
• S R Nathan (1999 – 2011): 0 in 12 years
The SWGDP is an advocacy group in Singapore which believes in giving convicted people a second chance to live. It advocates for the abolishment of the death penalty in Singapore as well as commits to raising awareness on issues surrounding the death penalty.
On its website, it said:
ALTHOUGH WE BELIEVE THAT EVERYONE NEEDS TO TAKE THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS OR HER MISTAKES AND THAT NO CRIME SHOULD GO UNPUNISHED, WE ALSO BELIEVE THAT UNJUST AND PROBLEMATIC LAWS AND PROCEDURES NEED TO BE DEBATED AND REVISED.
THE DEATH PENALTY IS AN IRREVERSIBLE PUNISHMENT AT THE END OF A PROCESS THAT IS PRONE TO HUMAN ERROR, WHICH MEANS THAT IT IS ALL TOO POSSIBLE THAT INNOCENT LIVES WILL BE TAKEN AWAY. AND THAT IS SOMETHING THAT SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN.
As at Oct 2015, the last clemency was granted by the late president Ong Teng Cheong in May 1998. He commuted Mr Mathavakannan Kalimuthu’s death sentence to life imprisonment. He was 19 when he and two other men killed a gangster in 1996.
‘I have to ask the man up there to forgive me’
After Nathan stepped down as President in 2011, he gave an interview to the media. During the interview, he was asked about granting presidential pardons during his 12-year term in office. He was asked if he found it difficult.
“The constitution clearly lays it down that I have to act on the advice of the cabinet, and the cabinet acts on the advice of the Attorney-General,” he said.
“You have a right to question it… through the process, you determine whether all the facts have been taken into account, whether there’s anything that needs special consideration.”
Upon further probing by a reporter from Yahoo, Nathan finally said, “Of course it’s a difficult thing when it comes to the death penalty. It’s a matter of conscience. That’s the law… and you do your best to see that there is justice done.”
“You are in no position to contradict the submission when you have not heard the case,” he continued. “You can’t purely go on human emotions.”
“I have to ask the man up there to forgive me for what is done for the good of society.”