Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, a Drug Trafficker on Death Row, Deemed Not to Be Intellectually Disabled


Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, a Malaysian on death row, had been making headlines recently.

After committing a serious crime over a decade ago, it seems like his sentence was about to come to an end when an online petition stating that he was intellectually disabled popped up.

However, it seems like the petition about his disability was false.

What Happened to Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam?

In 2009, Nagaenthran tried importing 42.72g of heroin into Singapore through Woodlands Checkpoint. Unlike other smugglers who hide the drugs in weird parts of their car, he merely strapped the drugs onto his thigh.

He was sentenced to death in Nov 2010. According to the Misuse of Drugs Act, the death sentence was imposed if the amount of heroin imported is over 15g.

Although he tried to appeal against his conviction and sentence, his appeal was dismissed in Sep 2011.

Four years later in 2015, he tried to file a resentencing application and substitute his death sentence with life imprisonment. However, the High Court was not having any of it and dismissed his application in 2017. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal in 2019.

His petition to the President for clemency was also unsuccessful.

Petition on Social Media for Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam

The light was only shone on the case late last month when Singapore Prison Service wrote a letter to Nagaenthran’s mother in Ipoh on 26 Oct. The letter informed his mother that the death sentence for Nagaenthran will be carried out on 10 Nov.

Extended daily visits will be facilitated till that day.

Human rights group Amnesty International Malaysia started a petition to urge President Halimah Yacob to stop the death sentence. The petition stated that Nagaenthran should be pardoned because of two main reasons:

  • Nagaenthran was “coerced” into drug trafficking by a man who had threatened to murder his girlfriend
  • He was intellectually disabled with an IQ score of 69

That petition has garnered over 55,000 signatures.

Experts: Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam is Not Intellectually Disabled

However, evidence from four different psychiatric/psychological experts and further submissions by the Prosecution and the Defence have deemed him not to be intellectually disabled.

He was able to plan, organise and be capable of manipulation and evasion. An example of that was his lies that was unfolded at the checkpoint. He told the Central Narcotics Bureau officers who stopped him that he was “working in security”.

He made him look more trustworthy.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), he also “continuously altering his account of his education qualifications, ostensibly to reflect lower educational qualifications each time he was interviewed.”


Additionally, his large pair of trousers that he wore to hide his bulging left thigh showed that he knew what he was doing.

He also did this risky move to pay off his debt – a move where he previously considered the risks and rewards before performing.

Plus, he was represented by legal counsel throughout the process and accorded full due process under the law.

With all these pieces of evidence against him, they concluded that he was not intellectually disabled and was well aware of what was happening when he tried to smuggle the drugs.

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