Saturday, June 26, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Jun 22, 10
Singapore's Law Minister is reported to have said: 'Yong Vui Kong is young, but if we say, we let you go, what is the signal we are sending?' One might reply that it will signal there is still a shred of mercy left within the island's justice system. And can the minister really be so unforgiving that commuting the sentence to life imprisonment is equated to 'letting you go?'
Perhaps the minister is alluding to the possibility that drug kingpins will be encouraged to use young persons as couriers if Yong is not executed. But this is to imagine that drug kingpins, contrary to everything we know about them, actually care about the fate of their mules. To think that the island will be flooded with drugs if one less person is executed or the law made more discriminating is indeed a case of paranoid thinking.
If the upbringing, decency and education of ordinary Singaporeans are to be so easily toppled by a few thoughtless drug mules, it is not a very strong society is it?
That fact that there have been a never ending series of executions for drug offences in Singapore shows clearly that, as a deterrent, their existing laws fail miserably. Studies show that would-be offenders are influenced more by their assessment of the chances of getting caught rather than by the harshness of the penalty if caught.
Young people especially are often not mature enough to make the correct judgement so it's no use telling them that they have been warned. Is it right for society to require them to forfeit their lives for a single act of rashness, greed or stupidity?
The present case recalls that of Nguyen Van Tuong, a young Australian hanged by the Singapore authorities in 2005 for heroin trafficking despite the strongest appeals for clemency made by the Australian prime minister, Australian federal and state parliaments, the Pope, the New Zealand PM, many others and a loud clamour from the Australian public.
Tragically, the doors of hope are likely to close upon Yong Vui Kong one by one. As the hangman prepares the ropes for yet another judicial murder of a hapless young man, Singaporeans should reflect on the sort of society they live in and how their high standard of living can coexist with a primitive and pitiless justice system. The sad truth is that most of them would not even have heard of this case.
Monday, June 21, 2010
- In 2005, Took Leng How, a Malaysian worker at the Pukit Panjang Wholesale Centre came under investigation when 8 year old Huang Na went missing. Took fled Singapore to Malaysia while under police custody. Under the advice of his father, who told him that Singapore laws will protect him if he did not murder Huang Na, Took returned to Singapore to give evidence on how he accidentally strangled Huang Na during a game of hide and seek. Despite no conclusive evidence that Took intentionally murdered Huang Na, he was sentenced to mandatory death. Days before his execution, Took was filled with rage and he told his family that he wanted wear a red suit during the execution, ostensibly under Chinese culture as a way to seek revenge, as he did not believe that he deserved to be hanged. His family pleaded with him to go in peace, and Took finally relented. (This is first hand account from Took Leng How's family) Took's case begs two questions to ponder about: Why would Took Leng How return to Singapore voluntarily to face near certain death sentence if he had really intentionally murdered Huang Na? Why would a person guilty of murder on the eve of his execution have so much hatred in him to seek revenge?
- The trial judge, before passing the death sentence on Yong Vui Kong, summoned the defence counsel and public prosecutor to chamber and asked the prosecution if they would consider reducing the charge given the relatively young age of the drug offender, who was not even 19 at the age of the offence. The prosecution declined and the death sentence was handed to Vui Kong.
- In 2002, Julia Suzanne Bohl, a 20 year old German girl was found with 687g of marijuana in her home in Singapore, 187g higher than the limit which carries the mandatory death sentence. Germany promptly intervened, and because of the politically sensitive nature of the case the charge was reduced to one of trafficking and she was sentenced to 5 years in prison. Eventually, Julia served only 2 years of her prison sentence and she was sent back to Germany. Does the State regard an Australian, Nigerian and Malaysian life as less important than that of a German's?
- The Central Narcotics Bureau routinely uses undercover detective to pose as buyers for drugs, such as in the case of Rozman bin Jusoh. During the trial it became evident that Rozman was intellectually handicapped, taking more than five minutes to answer a simple question like the number of siblings he had. His interpreter and psychologist both emphasized that Rozman was not simply faking it. The trial judge also pointed out that “It was…clear from the evidence that the CNB agent and the undercover CNB officer were more than mere agents, and had, in fact, undertaken a substantially active role in persuading [Rozman] to sell them drugs...". The judge then proceeded to sentence him a lesser sentence of 7 years imprisonment under a lesser charge for subnormal intellect. The prosecution appealed against the sentence, and the High Court eventually passed the death sentence on Rozman after considering that his subnormal intellect was not enough to negate his intention to traffick the drugs.
- Singapore has the highest per capita rate of execution in the world according to Amnesty International, a human rights based group which keeps track of human rights violation around the world. Majority of the executed were for drug offences.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Jun 19, 10
M Ravi (left), a human rights lawyer representing Yong on a pro-bono basis, said the government has requested to meet him when he visits Kuala Lumpur next week, between June 25 and 29.
“They have requested that I write a formal letter to them, which I have just forwarded to the media. I will keep you informed of the developments,” said Ravi, in an SMS to Malaysiakini yesterday evening.
Ravi says the Singapore Malaysian High Commission's second secretary Rohani Hussain conveyed the request.
Ravi met with Rohani and Juraida Abd Jamil, the other second secretary from the Consular's officer, for about an hour in Hotel Hilton this morning to discuss Yong's case.
Rohani visited Yong, who was caught trafficking 47g of heroin into the island city in 2007, in Changi prison yesterday following media reports seeking Malaysia's intervention in the case
Duty to protect citizens
At the same time, Ravi said he is exploring with Malaysian lawyers to file an application in court for mandatory injunction to compel the Malaysian government to file a complaint in the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
“This would be done if (Malaysia) fails in its duty to exercise its right to this vital legal remedy, which is available to our client via the ICJ,” he said.
“We note with regret the de facto law minister of Malaysia's (Nazri) response, that the case was an internal matter. His remark was of grave concern to us, our client as well as the legal community and civil society in Malaysia,” he added.
“It is the duty of the Malaysian government to protect the rights of its nationals,” he stressed.
Ravi, in his letter to the High Commissioner, explained that Yong was making a clemency petition to the Singapore cabinet and President SR Nathan.
S'pore minister prejudiced case
His recourse for remedy was unfortunately pre-empted when Singapore Law Minister K Shanmugam made a remark about the latter's case even before he could file the clemency, said Ravi.
Ravi added that Shanmugam's remark has prejudiced Yong's relief to the clemency process.
“In our view, as well as based on the opinion of legal experts in London, this is a serious breach of due process. We would urge the Malaysian government to file a complaint at the ICJ on behalf of its national facing imminent death arising out of the breach of local and international laws by Singapore,” he said.
“In view of the denial of the clemency process, the only option available to the Singapore government is to commute Yong's death sentence, which is the same remedy that can be sought by the Malaysian government at the ICJ”.
On May 9, Shanmugam said publicly that “Yong Vui Kong is young, but if we say, we let you go, what is the signal we are sending?”
The island's legal experts said that these comment had potentially prejudiced an appeal before it had been decided in court, making Nathan's rejection of Yong's clemency appeal both “illegal and flawed”.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Jun 18, 10
It is uncertain whether the Commissioner himself or a representative from the his office will be dropping in on the 22-year old in Changi prison.
Malaysia has largely kept silent on his sentence and pending execution for a drug trafficking offence in 2007 when he was barely 19.
But a ray of hope for Yong flickered yesterday, when his Singaporean lawyer M. Ravi received a telephone call from the Commissioner's office, requesting an "urgent" meeting regarding the case.
Ravi, (right) an established human rights lawyer in Singapore, told Malaysiakini that Commissioner Md Hussin Nayan wanted a briefing on the latest developments of the case at 10am tomorrow (today).
"I am hopeful that Malaysia would intervene in this matter and I will explain in detail about the legal consequences of this case, which is important to Malaysia, and the clemency petition to commute Yong's death sentence," said the lawyer, who is representing Yong on a pro-bono basis.
Flawed legal process
"The crux of the issue is that a Malaysian citizen has been denied clemency, and the whole process is flawed and illegal," he added.
Ravi was referring to a senior law officer's comment that it is not the Attorney-General but cabinet which makes a decision on this matter. Later, President SR Nathan had rejected the petition.
However, Yong's scheduled hanging in December last year was delayed when his lawyer applied for a stay of execution.
Ravi thanked Malaysiakini for highlighting the issue in its news portal as a series of articles recently had sparked the interest of the Malaysian government and Singaporean online media to look further into the case
"I am prepared to give my fullest cooperation to assist the Malaysian government to act in the rightful manner and best interest of my client," he added.
Yesterday, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nazri
Abdul Aziz ruffled the legal community's feathers when he said he was unaware of Yong's case, and since it happened in Singapore, Malaysia will not interfere in its legal process.
Lawyers working on the death penalty issue and Yong's case had expressed 'shock and astonishment' that Nazri, the de facto law minister, could wash his hands of the matter.
However, Param Curamasamy, former UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, said despite Nazri's "irrational public statements," he cannot be faulted on this particular issue.
He said this is because Asean, of which Malaysia is a member, had a pact not to interfere in each other's internal affairs.
Moreover, in both countries - Malaysia and Singapore - drug traffickers face the mandatory death sentence.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Yong's Singaporean lawyer, M Ravi, who was in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, told Malaysiakini he was in town to seek help from the public to show the Singapore government that Malaysians cannot tolerate Yong's execution or the death penalty.
Yong (pictured with his mother) was only 19 when arrested in 2007, outside the Meritus Mandarin Hotel in Singapore.
He was convicted on Nov 14 last year for drug trafficking and sentenced to death, which should have taken place on Dec 4.
However, Ravi, a prominent human rights lawyer, filed for a stay of execution on Dec 1, making it the first such case to be halted in the country.
When contacted, Ravi said he is aware why Singapore did not find it necessary to highlight Yong's case.
"Probably because he presents no political mileage. He is first of all a (Malaysian) Chinese, and a Sabahan," said Ravi in a telephone interview.
"But Malaysia can help by bringing the case to the International Court of Justice to determine whether Singapore's conduct constitutes a violation of both local and international laws and further seek a judgment," he said.
Ravi (right) said the mandatory death sentence in any country is tantamount to cruelty and violates international standards and human rights law.
Despite Yong's petition for clemency, Singapore Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong ruled on May 14 that Yong must go to the gallows.
"It is all wrong, because even a senior cabinet minister has said he should be hanged even before he had presented his petition," said Ravi.
According to Article 22(p) of the Singapore constitution, a petition is submitted to the president who then makes his decision on the clemency or mercy petition. President SR Nathan rejected the clemency petition last December.
When met in the Parliament lobby today, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz was in the dark about the case.
"This is the first time I heard about this case. What is it all about?" he asked.
When details were given, Nazri simply said: "It's in Singapore so we will not interfere in their legal processes."
Think Centre, a human rights NGO in Singapore, said the Court of Appeal has acknowledged that the mandatory death sentence is a cruel, degrading and inhuman punishment in other countries.
"But since Singapore's constitution does not provide for a prohibition against cruel, degrading and inhuman punishment, the legal system here (Singapore) seems extremely inhumane," said executive director Samydorai Sinnappan.
Activist Rachel Zeng, who has met Yong's family, said this was indeed one of the "saddest" cases in Singapore.
"I hope everything goes well with his appeal. We will do what we can to campaign along with the appeal," she added when contacted.
Zeng said Yong was permitted to see his mother through a glass panel last December. He knelt and bowed three times to her.
"It was really emotional as they have not seen each other for three years," said Zeng, who related the experience in her blog.
"They (Yong's family) did not tell her that her son is on death row in order to minimise the blow due to her (health) condition."
Zeng said she does not understand why the Singapore government and the attorney-general's chambers seem to be in a hurry to execute Yong.
"I also learnt just last Friday that there was another execution of a young man from Sabah (at the end of last November).
"Yong knew the young man as they were on death row together. It was a drug-related case as well," she added.
In Asia, apart from Singapore, only two other countries execute those who are found guilty of trafficking drugs - Malaysia and Thailand.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
Yong Vui Kong's counsel, M. Ravi was in Kuala Lumpur for a press conference yesterday (Jun 10) at the office of the Malaysian Bar Council. The press conference was to raise attention through the Malaysian media on Vui Kong's capital case in Singapore.