Last night, going through my bags to pack for Ipoh, I found various pieces of paper still tucked into the pouches and pockets: a copy of an affidavit from Nagen’s brother Navin, which I delivered to the lawyer’s office because he’d been stuck in quarantine at the time.
The acknowledgement receipt for the letter from Nagen's mother pleading with the president to show mercy, delivered to the Istana on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on the family’s behalf, because the pandemic made it difficult for them to deliver it in person. https://t.co/oQZhNxGBqa
The receipts and documents related to Mdm Panchalai’s final application, which I’d picked up from the court on her behalf late on Monday afternoon as the offices at the court were closing up for the day.
What use are these papers now, when yesterday we mourned over his casket before sending him on his final journey home? Every sheet, every page, is proof of how hard we’d fought, but also a reminder of a tremendous loss.
I’m sometimes asked what I find the hardest about being an anti-death penalty activist. My experience is that it doesn’t feel that hard while you’re working and campaigning.
It’s difficult, challenging, intimidating, nerve-wrecking, frustrating, heartbreaking, but there’s always something to be done: one more email, one more meeting, one more errand, one more meal to eat with families... It might be tiring, but you can take a step, then another.
When it gets the hardest is the day after an execution. When there are no more applications to file, no more court hearings to attend, no more campaign posters, no one left to lobby. When you don’t even have the practical needs of funeral arrangements to occupy you.
When all that is left is the emptiness that tells you this person you were trying to save is not here anymore. When the desperate hope that kept you going turns into grief.
There is nothing more that we can do to #SaveNagaenthran. But this doesn’t mean that we stop.
Later this morning, Datchina will appear via video-conferencing before a judge, facing off against the AGC, who will likely send more than one public prosecutor. No lawyer will take his case, so Datchina will have to argue for his life himself.
He is asking for a stay of execution—his hanging is scheduled for tomorrow at dawn—on the grounds that he is still party to proceedings that are pending in court, and has a pre-trial conference and hearing in May.
I find it ludicrous that he even has to argue this at all, but this is where we are.
At multiple points yesterday—when we met up outside Changi Prison, as we waited for Nagen’s memorial hall to be prepared, in quieter moments during the wake, when we were texting while he was on the road to Ipoh—Navin would ask about Datchina. “What about Datchina’s case now?"
Last night, while waiting for my bus home, I texted Navin to tell him that, even though they couldn’t make it to the wake, Datchina’s family had sent garlands for Nagen.
“Our family members all praying for Datchina,” he replied.
As neighbours on death row, Datchina and Nagen grew close like brothers. I can’t even begin to imagine how Datchina must be feeling, having just seen someone so close to him taken to the gallows, knowing that the state intends him to be next.
Datchina’s story is not as well known as Nagen’s; his case hasn’t received as much international media attention, hasn’t triggered an online petition with over a 100,000 signatures, hasn’t prompted billionaires to plead for him. That doesn’t mean that his life is less precious.
If you’re grappling with your grief for Nagen and wish there was something more you could do, channel your sadness and your anger and your power towards saving Datchina, who Nagen loved.
Channel your sadness and your anger and your power and your determination towards abolishing the death penalty, so that no more mothers will have to mourn the deaths of their children at the hands of the state.
On Monday night, when we gathered at Hong Lim Park, Datchina's mother urged us not to be afraid, and not to stop until we abolish the death penalty. We will honour her request.
As long as this cruel capital punishment regime exists, as long as there are prisoners on death row, we will not stop.