Latest: Singapore single mother awaits death row in Malaysia for drug trafficking. On the pretext of a business trip to China, Iqah was handed a suitcase containing heroin arranged by her Nigerian boyfriend and was arrested by Malaysian Immigration. A campaign is underway to raise funds for the appeal. To find out more, read

We have also heard that since Vui Kong's appeal started, there has been an unofficial stay of execution for all prisoners on death row in Changi Prison, pending the decision of the court on Yong's case. As the case has been dismissed by the Court of Appeal, we anticipate a Changi gallows bloodbath in a scale not seen since the Pulau Senang uprising in 1965 when 18 men were convicted of murder and hanged in a single Friday morning.

Singapore, which routinely persecute dissenters and critics, continue to hang young drug runners while at the same time work closely with Burmese military generals, and has invested billions in business ties with Burma, one of the biggest heroin manufacturing countries the world.


If you know someone who's charged in a capital case, received the death sentence, or is on death row in Singapore and if you have have your side of the story to tell, contact us at sgdeathpenalty [at]

Friday, October 29, 2010

20 year old Singaporean charged for murder

The Straits Times: NSF faces 3 more charges

Soh Wee Kian was charged two weeks ago with the murder of clerk Hoe Hong Lin at Mandai Tekong Park in Woodlands during the Mid-Autumn Festival on Sept 22. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

THE Woodlands murder accused was charged with three counts of attempted murder on Friday.

Full-time national serviceman Soh Wee Kian, 20, was charged two weeks ago with the murder of clerk Hoe Hong Lin, 32, at Mandai Tekong Park in Woodlands during the Mid-Autumn Festival on Sept 22.

The first fresh charge accuses him of trying to murder Ms Ooi Li Li, 31, by using a knife to inflict injuries on her at the void deck of Block 171 Yishun Avenue 7 on the evening of Jan 29.

Four days later, he allegedly tried to kill Ms Lam Hui Lin, 23, along Khatib Bongsu Park Connector at Yishun Avenue 6 between 11am and 11.21am.

He is also accused of attempting to kill Ms How Poh Ling, 25, at the void deck of Block 588B Montreal Drive in Sembawang on the morning of May 26.

Soh was remanded for psychiatric assessment until Nov 19. His lawyer Josephus Tan had a brief word with him in court. Soh's biological father was among six people who came for the case.

If convicted of attempted murder, Soh can be jailed for up to life and liable to caning.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Interview with Alan Shadrake: "No visible efforts made to catch kingpins"

Exclusive: The Temasek Review Talks to Alan Shadrake

British Author Alan Shadrake of “Once a Jolly Hangman”, was arrested on the 18th of July 2010 in Singapore, and subsequently detained for approximately two days.

With respect, to his ongoing trial in The Singapore’s High Court, we will refrain from discussing his case and book in depth, as that would be a contempt of court and adversely affect his ongoing trial.

Currently a resident of adjacent Malaysia, he was, charged to have “cast doubt on the impartiality and independence of the judiciary” with the charge being (Scandalizing the Judiciary).
TR: Alan, how have you been holding up?

Alan: (Laughs) I am getting by.

TR: In the interest of a fair and balanced interview, we would like to ask, were your intentions for writing the Book (Once a Jolly Hangman) to scandalize the judiciary of Singapore or was it purely  investigative journalism, which expanded into a book?

I got into this book by chance.  I’d been invited by the Singapore Tourism Board to write some travel articles for a publication in California.  I had been living in various parts of the US for 20 years and as a Permanent Resident, I could have become a citizen.  When I arrived in March 2002 as a guest, I learned of two murders involving a British millionaire Mike McCrea. It was known as The Orchard Towers murders.  McCrea had fled to Australia with his girlfriend Audrey Ong. She alone returned to Singapore.   Seeing as how Australia cannot extradite anyone to any country where they might face the death penalty.  A long legal battle ensued and Singapore had to promise not to hang him if found guilty.

Around the same time an Australian citizen, Nguyen Van Tuong, was hanged for drug trafficking.  The difference in penalty here stood out like a sore thumb to me. If the death penalty did not come into the picture there would be no need to make these “ad hoc” arrangements as to who should live or who should die in such cases.

My (surprise) interview with the hangman which went around the world, further peeked my interest and I decided to look into many old and recent trials which ended on the gallows – and the unusual cases where it didn’t. I quickly came to an understanding that different punishments were perhaps meeted out to similar crimes. And more often than not,  simple mules, often young, immature and vulnerable girls and boys were the ones who ended up being hanged – not the sophisticated adults that had lured them into trafficking.
It occurred to me that no visible efforts were being made to catch the king pins. In particular the cases of Julia Bohl, who helped run a lucrative drugs ring in Singapore, and Guiga Lyes Ben Laroussi, who ran an even bigger operation which became known as The High Society Cocaine Circle.  Guiga amazingly escaped the long arm of Singapore’s Law, all this before being allowed bail while facing a maximum 30 year jail sentence.  He managed to get his passport back and return home to Tunisia.  Despite being put on Interpol’s website for the past 5 years, it appears that no effort has been made to bring him back for trial. Quite a different story to that of the Romanian diplomat who allegedly killed a Singaporean in a drunk driving accident.  Laroussi had been destroying lives in Singapore for years!  It gave me a very strong impression that cases which should have had the same strong verdict and Mandatory Punishment were differing greatly.

Read more here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Is this the Young PAP's interpretation of human rights?

 Following Young PAP member Michael Rebaczonok-Padulo's piece, we are curious to know if the following story depicts his interpretation of human rights for the victims and their family. If that is not the case, then Mr Rebaczonok-Padulo seems to have confused human rights with recourse for victims or their families. 

While discussion on the mandatory death sentence for drug offenders rages on the Internet, Singapore's ruling party and its youth wing have kept uncomfortably quiet and the mainstream media has not taken this issue up for a proper public debate. 

The real issue which the Young PAP have skirted is the arbitrary application of the mandatory death penalty for drug offenders, which leaves judges no room to give the offender a lesser sentence than what the law stipulates, unless of course, if he or she happens to be a German

We would like to hear the Young PAP's stand on this.


Latest update: It is most appalling to see that Young PAP has added an addenum to the article at 1.32am, 23 Oct, many hours after it was first published. If the Young PAP cannot take responsibility for what it publishes on its site, then why publish it at all?


Savage justice for murderer of boy's father

 By ANTHONY MITCHELL, Daily Mail 11:25am 4th May 2006

A bloody act of vengeance: 16-year-old Mohamed Moallim takes a knife and stabs the man who killed his father

Large crowds gathered at a Koranic school in the capital, Mogadishu, to watch him stab Omar Hussein in the head and throat.  

Read more here

Young PAP: Vengeance killing is a human right

Picture 2
I have just read an editorial on the death penalty by YPAP member Mr Michael Rebaczonok-Padulo, entitled ‘WHAT ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS FOR VICTIMS?‘ I suggest you read it; it is a piece that provokes a very strong response from me. Which is why I would now like to take this blog entry to write my rebuttals to his argument. I will be quoting excerpts of his piece (underlined emphasis mine), followed by my response.
While it is good and even noble that there are persons and groups concerned with the ongoing struggle for the full application of human rights, I find it shocking that the human rights of the victims of heinous crimes for which criminals are executed are not always given as much media attention.
This is the main thrust of Rebaczonok-Padulo’s piece: that the rights of the victims are neglected, while anti-death penalty advocates are spending precious time and resources championing the cause of the perpetrators. However, this is not simply skewed or misleading; it is downright untrue.

Unlike what the writer would like you to believe, being anti-death penalty and caring for the victims are not mutually exclusive. One can do both, which is why many – if not all – anti-death penalty campaigners support rehabilitation and counseling programs for both victims AND inmates. We believe that everyone should have the care and attention that they need, and that no one is completely irredeemable. By calling for the abolishment of the death penalty, we are NOT neglecting the victims.

This leads me to my second point about the Rebaczonok-Padulo’s thesis. He seems to be suggesting that if we abolish the death penalty, we are somehow depriving the victims of their human rights. In other words, revenge killing is a human right.
My question to him would be this: since when was killing a human being the RIGHT of another? How would the execution of one person be fitting with the human rights of another? Has the writer not heard of “two wrongs don’t make a right”?

Justice is not based upon “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth”. This is why we don’t sexually violate rapists, or cut slashers, etc. We recognise that there are some acts that are cruel and barbaric, and have no place in justice. We draw the line and refuse to commit the cruel acts that might have been committed by the criminals before us, because we refuse to sink to their level of violence. So why would we be willing to sink to a murderer’s level and endorse the death penalty, which is nothing more than state-sanctioned murder?
Although the name of the website sounds biased (, the information found there is incredibly detailed and factual…
“Detailed” and “factual” does not mean that the website cannot still be biased. And it is precisely as biased as the name ‘Pro-Death Penalty’ sounds. At the end of the day, Pro-Death is trying to convince people that the death penalty is good and right, and should be kept. It is as subjective as the website Anti-Death ( It is up for the individual to read these two sites and acquaint themselves with the facts, and make up their own minds.
Sifting through all the information so painstakingly gathered was, for me, akin to watching episode after episode of the ‘Crime Investigation’ series on Cable TV, as I was shocked into disbelief at the extent to which human beings can become so utterly depraved and bestial.

A Texan death chamber. Image from NYTimes.
I am glad that the writer feels horror at the “depraved and bestial” acts of certain human beings. That response is only natural. But if the writer can feel such abhorrence of violence and murder, why then is he advocating execution? If he is shocked and repulsed by violent crimes, why is he all right with lethal injections, long drops, firing squads, electrocution and gas chambers (for these are all methods of state execution found around the world)?
I submit that once a person commits the most supreme act of violence against another of his fellow human beings in the form of murder, or accomplice to murder, then he himself ipso facto forfeits his own human rights at the moment in which he commits the crime. This of course assumes that he is not doing so in self-defence, or to defend loved ones or other innocents from wanton attacks by criminals, or to defend his country in times of war. This also assumes, of course, that there is positive forensic evidence and/or credible eyewitness testimony that proves conclusively that he is the perpetrator of the crime in question.
These assumptions are logical, of course, but in real life it can be incredibly difficult, perhaps even impossible, to be sure of anything 100%. This is why we see people being exonerated after being sentenced to death row, or worse, executed. This is why, no matter how hard we try, there are still miscarriages of justice and wrongful convictions. This is bad enough with prison sentences, but with the death penalty it is the height of injustice. The irreversible nature of the death penalty requires the justice system to be absolutely infallible. However, like any other institution controlled and run by Man, there is always the possibility of mistakes and errors of judgement. They might not be intentional, but with death penalty cases that doesn’t make the consequences any less acceptable.

Image from

When I read the book No Choirboy: Murder, Violence and Teenagers on Death Row, I realised that inmates could land on death row because of a myriad of issues. Despite what we’d like to believe, real life is not like CSI, or Bones, or any of those homicide investigation TV dramas where they always have iron-clad proof and confessions with absolutely no sliver of a doubt about who the perpetrator is. People could land on death row because their accomplices cut deals or got plea bargains and testified against them. People could land on death row because of inadequate legal representation. People could land on death row because of a combination of seriously unfortunate circumstances. Even if you had the most upright cops, most diligent lawyers and most honest judges there would still be the possibility of errors.

So how could we just automatically strip a person of his human rights the moment we think he has committed a crime? How could we proclaim that a person does not deserve his/her human rights? How does that make us better people than they are?

And let’s go one further: what about the family of the offender? Do they, too, have to be punished just for being related to the offender?
So while some argue that Van Nguyen was not a murderer and, moreover, that he seemed to have fully repented while incarcerated, the fact remains that had he succeeded in his premeditated plan to sell the drugs, he would have been at least indirectly responsible for the possible destruction of the lives of those to whom the heroin would have been sold. That certainly ranks high on the list of very serious crimes, and one can hardly argue that it was carried out in the ‘heat of passion’.

Van Nguyen. Image from
This argument about the death penalty for drug trafficking simply does not stand. What Rebaczonok-Padulo seems to be saying is that Van Nguyen deserved the death penalty because of the potential effects of the drugs he was carrying, not the actual damage done (which, since the drugs were confiscated at his arrest, was nil). If we follow this logic, we should also start handing out the death penalty for drunk driving, attempted murder, aggravated assault, domestic abuse, armed robbery, rioting etc. After all, any of those crimes have the potential of destroying lives.

It is not justice to mete out punishment – especially when the punishment is as cruel, archaic and irreversible as DEATH – on the grounds of potential harm. This is why Rebaczonok-Padulo’s argument here is, in a word, flawed.
Subsequently, however, the drug trade was sharply curtailed and crime dropped dramatically, thanks in part to capital punishment being meted out for such crimes, in his [Dr Lim Lee Ching] own view and that of his family. He logically associates the very strict laws governing crime and punishment with safe neighbourhoods, and is therefore in favour of retaining the death penalty, as are his family members.
This anecdote might very well be true in relation to the views and experience of the writer’s friend Dr Lim. However, it is insufficient as evidence of the effectiveness of the death penalty in curbing crime. When it comes to an issue as absolute, controversial and crucial as the death penalty, the burden of proof is heavy. Here Rebaczonok-Padulo does not provide any concrete evidence that the death penalty is the direct cause of reduction of crime – perhaps because there is no such evidence.

The argument that the death penalty is the cause of crime reduction also neglects other important factors such as police competence, rehabilitation of offenders and civic education. These are crucial factors in the fight against crime that should not be so easily pushed aside or forgotten in favour of making general and simplistic assumptions about the death penalty.

Also, it is worth emphasising that having no death penalty does NOT mean we have no punishment. Would long prison sentences/life imprisonment not serve as deterrents?
Obviously administration of the death penalty is something never to be taken lightly in any case, which is precisely why it is meted out so rarely.
If the death penalty is really meted out so rarely, why is it that Amnesty International’s estimates have put Singapore at the top of the list of executions per capita in the world?
However, if one is not planning to commit murder (or in the case of Singapore, traffic in illegal drugs above certain stipulated quantities), then one has nothing to worry about.
This too, is not completely accurate. If you take a look at the presumption clauses of the Misuse of Drugs Act, you will realise that when it comes to drug trafficking charges, the burden of proof ends up on the shoulders of the defendant. This means that instead of the usual “innocent until proven guilty”, we’re looking at a “guilty until proven innocent” scenario. How does one prove one’s innocence in such a situation, with all the presumptions heaped upon one’s head?

Tochi could not understand what was happening, and cried all the way to the gallows.

On top of these presumption clauses, drug trafficking over the stipulated quantities comes with the MANDATORY death penalty. This means that the judge has no discretion in considering mitigating circumstances and handing out sentences. Once you’re found guilty – remember presumption clauses! – you WILL be sentenced to death. Goodbye.

Just look at the case of Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi, a young man from Nigeria who came to Singapore with the hopes of being a footballer. Although his trial judge admitted that “there was no direct evidence that he knew the capsules contained diamorphine”, he was executed anyway.

So it’s not true that one has no need to worry about the death penalty in Singapore if one does not commit murder or traffic drugs. All it takes is for someone to slip something into your bag/pocket/suitcase while you’re on holiday; 15g of heroin ain’t exactly a big package.
Fortunately, an Internet search reveals that there are indeed such support groups…
Rebaczonok-Padulo concludes his editorial with a list of 3 victims’ support groups in America, praising them for having “got their priorities right”. By listing these groups (LOLAM, Families of Murder Victims and Survivors of Homicide) in the context of his article, he seems to be suggesting that if we advocate abolishment of the death penalty, we are somehow letting these people down, disrespecting and neglecting their human rights. Seeing these links in his article, an average reader would have the impression that these groups are pro-death penalty.

However, if you actually look at the website, none of them are actually advocating the death penalty. In fact, Loved Ones Left After Murder (LOLAM) even states that the family’s “religious convictions will not allow them to advocate capital punishment”. These groups are not about baying for blood, they are about supporting the people left behind, and lobbying the government for better crime prevention and legislation.

Image from MVFHR

In fact, there are a number of groups out there that both support the victims as well as campaign against the death penalty. Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation (MVFR) is one such example. Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights (MVFHR) is another. In fact, you can find a whole list of literature, reports and organisations from victims against the death penalty here. The stories from these organisations are extraordinary tales of compassion, mercy and humanity.

This clearly proves that being anti-death penalty and caring for victims are not mutually exclusive standpoints. In fact, the above organisations have proven that one could even be a victim and still be anti-death penalty.
In summary, I find Rebaczonok-Padulo’s assumption that anti-death penalty advocates neglect the plight of the victims to be false. Contrary to his beliefs, one can support and sympathise with the victims while calling for the abolishment of capital punishment. Also contrary to his assertions, the abolishment of the death penalty is not an infringement of the human rights of victims. Two wrongs do not make a right. Death does not make things better; it only inflicts pain on yet another family.

I thank Mr Rebaczonok-Padulo for joining in the death penalty discussion and weighing in with his views on the YPAP website. I respect his right to his own view and standpoint, and would therefore ask him to extend the same courtesy to me and my fellow anti-death penalty campaigners, and thank him to not make such snap judgements or hasty generalisations about our priorities.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sydney Morning Herald: Looking away from the death penalty abroad is collusion

Looking away from the death penalty abroad is collusion

Brigid Delaney October 22, 2010

Globalisation has swept the world, but the mediaeval remedy remains.

Poor Colin Campbell Ross. The 29-year-old Victorian was hanged in 1922 for the rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl. It was later found that they got the wrong man.

On Monday, Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls formallyreturned Ross's cremated remains to his family.
Advertisement: Story continues below

An atonement - but so late, too late.

In 1981, France's Justice Minister abolished the death penalty, saying it was untenable as it depended on the impossible premise of ''totally responsible guilty parties'' and ''absolutely infallible judges''.

French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy said recently, with a note of Gallic exasperation, ''To think we still have to argue against the death penalty''.

In the case of the Bali nine, Scott Rush, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are literally arguing for their lives. They may have admitted various levels of culpability in their roles after the April 2005 heroin bust, and it is proper they should be brought to account, but the great injustice here is that the punishment does not fit the crime. Moreover, the punishment should be regarded as a crime.

It's interesting watching Australian politicians on this matter - their responses speak somehow to character, like a low tide revealing water marks; the Christian who thinks that only God has the power to take life, the humanist who recoils at such awesome power invested in the state, and the diplomat who believes state sovereignty is sacred.

The narrative that engulfs death row cases flows on regardless: the grainy footage of the arrests, the shock and denial of the accused, the deep distress to the families and friends. The introduction into their lives of the media. The organisation of legal teams. The diplomatic approaches, the hearings and appeals, the religious awakening in prison, the vigils of supporters, the masses, the pleas for clemency, the prayers and the petitions.

Towards the end there is, as there was with Australian Nguyen Tuong Van (executed almost five years ago in Singapore for drug trafficking), a sort of public turning. Compassion for the prisoner, sorrow for his family, an acknowledgment that perhaps people can change. Then a lump in the throat, or sudden tearfulness watching the evening news when you hear he has been hanged.

But the central, unmovable thing in all this activity is the legal system that supports the death.

It is before such a legal system that many objections wilt, where we answer our own disquiet about the death penalty with a fey ''well, it's their law, so we have to abide by their punishment'', as if the legal systems of others were beyond critique. As if they never get it wrong.

Sovereignty is the trump card and for many our inner diplomat speaks louder than our inner Christian or humanist. But what if you believe that the immovable thing, the thing at the centre of it all, is not the legal system but the sanctity of life?

While globalisation has swept the world and continues to radically transform cultures and economies, the barbaric, mediaeval ''remedy'' of the death penalty remains like a recessive gene in a body that has successfully evolved and adapted to modern life.

You wouldn't recognise parts of Shanghai or Beijing, so modern have they become, yet China executes unreported thousands (sending the bill for the single bullet to the families). In December 2009, in great secrecy, they executed Akmal Shaikh, a mentally ill Briton accused of drug smuggling.

You may go to Singapore to buy the most advanced electronic gear (and so cheap) - yet that is where they killed 25-year-old Nguyen with a noose, where he went dignified and prayerfully to his death.

You may go to Bali for an Eat, Pray, Love experience when down the road is Kerobokan prison and the young men are in sweaty little rooms with their lawyers and their hopes.

And the US, where 3000 men and women are waiting in dread (maybe after a while in a kind of toxic boredom) to be put to death by the state. Why do we tolerate the continued existence of this?

Anyone like me who studied humanities at a university in the '90s had it drilled into them not to assume your legal system is better or more enlightened than theirs.

But what is this triumph of cultural relativism in the face of the great opportunity that exists for everyone of personal transcendence? That is the unforgettable lesson Nguyen taught us, and repeated in the Kerobokan transformations of Sukumaran and Chan - the computer and art classes they are teaching the other prisoners, their faces more open and luminous with each court appearance.

How is it possible to accept the sovereignty of countries where the legal ''remedy'' is death?

There are some things so fundamentally abhorrent that to cough politely and look away is uncomfortably close to collusion, at one remove from some baying mob in Tehran gathered at the scaffolding in the square.

Brigid Delaney is a former lawyer, journalist and author of This Restless Life.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

How to propel a book to bestseller status

Malaysian Insider

OCT 21 — “Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Docks” is about to become Malaysia’s Strategic Information and Research Development Centre’s (SIRD) bestseller to date.
The book has seen four print runs of 2,000, 1,000, 1,000 and 2,000 in just five months, totalling 6,000 copies with over 5,500 copies already sold.
If the British author of “Once a Jolly Hangman”, Alan Shadrake, had not been arrested, prevented from leaving Singapore, prosecuted for contempt of court and investigated for criminal defamation, the book at best might have sold only 1,500 copies over a full year, said Chong Ton Sin, the face of the Malaysian book distributing company and publishing imprint SIRD.
From October 18-20, Shadrake faced contempt of court proceedings over charges of scandalising the Singapore judiciary. Judgment is due on October 26. Meanwhile, Shadrake is being separately investigated by the Singapore police for criminal defamation, an offence which carries a maximum two-year jail term and fine.
With such scandalous news, Chong is expecting that the book by the end of 12 calendar months will easily surpass 8,000 copies and outdo a previous SIRD Malaysian title which sold 7,000 copies.
According to Chong, before Shadrake’s arrest, not many people knew about issues surrounding the mandatory death penalty. Thus interest in the book would have been nothing like present sales if not for the legal prosecution of the author.
Ever since the book was removed from Singapore bookshops and its author arrested, sales of Shadrake’s book have been fast and furious with the bulk being sold in bookshops in Johor Baru. 
The book was first launched on June 26 in Kuala Lumpur and later on July 17 in Singapore where the author was promptly arrested the next day.
Chong, who was in Singapore together with author at the book launch, left Singapore the next day on the 11am bus back to Kuala Lumpur. He was unaware that Shadrake had been arrested until he reached Kuala Lumpur later that afternoon.
Ten days before Shadrake’s arrest, Singapore’s de facto censor, the Media Development Authority, sent letters of warning to the book’s local distributor as well as retailer Kinokuniya who both withdrew the books from distribution and sales respectively.
K. Gunavathay, on behalf of the Controller of Undesirable Publications, wrote on July 7 to the local distributor: “Due to the book’s content, you are advised to consult your lawyers on the import and distribution of the book to ensure that the content of the book does not contravene Singapore’s laws.”
“Once a Jolly Hangman” features exclusive interviews with chief hangman Darshan Singh and researched stories of high-profile death penalty case studies which question Singapore’s death penalty system.
This is not SIRD’s first Singapore publication. It has also published other Singapore-focused publications such as “The Fajar Generation: The University Socialist Club and the Politics of Postwar Malaysia and Singapore”. The print run for this book was 1,800 softcover copies and 200 hardcover copies, of which a total of 1,600 copies have been sold to date. 
SIRD also lent its imprint to a Singapore-based publisher to bring out Teo Soh Lung’s “Beyond The Blue Gate: Recollections of a Political Prisoner”. Two thousand copies of Teo’s book were printed of which 300 (150 sold to date) are being distributed by Gerakbudaya in Malaysia. Most of the remaining 1,700 copies, according to Chong, have been nearly sold out in Singapore.
“Beyond the Blue Gate: Recollections of a Political Prisoner” will be launched in Kuala Lumpur on October 27 at 7.30pm at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall in Jalan Maharajalela. It will be launched together with the third edition of “445 Days under the ISA” by Dr Kua Kia Soong who was arrested under Operation Lalang on October 27, 1987.
Meanwhile, Shadrake has his sights set higher. He is looking to see if he can get a book deal with an international publisher so that his book can go global and put Singapore’s death penalty controversy further on the world’s map.
Whatever the outcome of his contempt of court trial and ongoing investigations into criminal defamation, we can certainly expect a long postscript to “Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Docks” — a bestseller by any standards

DPP’s statement “a serious imputation on my character” – M Ravi

Tensions arose midway through this morning’s proceedings on the Alan Shadrake case when defense counsel M Ravi made an application for Deputy Public Prosecutor Hema Subramanian to withdraw a statement.
At issue was the following portion of Ms Subramanian’s submissions:
“The suggestion of his [Mr Ravi’s] submissions seems to be that the present and past contempt cases were brought because the AG is “overly sensitive” and “thin-skinned” and not because the statements in question were actually contemptuous. Embedded in these submissions is the suggestion that the Judges who heard the earlier contempt proceedings and found contempt were only “rubber stamping” the AG’s application and not because on the laws and facts, there was actually contempt.”
Mr Ravi, responded that these were serious allegations and a serious imputation on his character.
“What a scandalous allegation is that,” he told Justice Quentin Loh. “She is saying I should be held in contempt of court.”
Ms Subramanian then stood up to rebut Mr Ravi but was told by the Judge that two people should not be speaking at the same time. She then sat down.
Mr Ravi requested a withdrawal of Ms Subramaniam’s statements.
Justice Loh did not address the request, saying that no charges were being filed against Mr Ravi at the current moment.
Mr Ravi said that the Attorney-General’s Chambers had sufficient opportunity to object to any part of his oral submissions yesterday during the hearing, but had instead chosen to level this accusation today.
Mr Ravi also noted that the Attorney-General’s statements were a threat that could compromise his conduct of his case. He then stated that if contempt proceedings were proffered against him, he would have to discharge himself from the case as he would be in a position of conflict.
Justice Quentin Loh then gave the assurance that if the Attorney General were to press charges against Mr Ravi because of the current proceedings, they would be heard before him and he would be given a fair hearing.
Mr Ravi expressed his confidence in the impartiality of Justice Loh, and said that given this assurance he would continue to conduct Mr Shadrake’s defence.
The hearing continues this afternoon.
TOC has obtained the following response from Mr Ravi. We publish it in full below.
“The Attorney-General’s Chambers has opportunistically used the cover of court proceedings to threaten me with future contempt proceedings.
This is a grave threat against members of the Singapore Bar whose duty it is to fearlessly and zealously canvass their clients’ cases.
To the extent that they impute I have scandalized the judiciary by submission on my client’s behalf, I will be taking legal advice and follow-up action.”

Monday, October 11, 2010

Singaporean faces death sentence for 20 years old robbery/murder case

Today Online: Facing the music, 20 years later

SINGAPORE - A 46-year-old man has been charged with a murder which took place more than 20 years ago.

Ong Seng Chuan is believed to be one of three men who robbed a coffeeshop and killed its owner Ling Ha Hiang, 74, on Dec 19, 1989.

Mr Ling, who ran Tien Wah Eating House at Block 529, Ang Mo Kio Street 51, was found with his hands and legs bound behind his back.

The old man's head was wrapped in masking tape and he suffocated to death.

Ong's two alleged accomplices have already been dealt with. Then-curry rice hawker, Sim Thiam Seng, had pleaded guilty in 1992 for the robbery.

Sim, who was 35 years old then, was jailed eight years and given 12 strokes of the cane.

His accomplice, Wong Oon Cheong, also 35 then, pleaded guilty a year later to manslaughter and robbery.

The then-welder was jailed 10 years and given 18 strokes of the cane.

Ong, who is believed to have been on the run, is now in remand.

He will be back in court on Friday and faces the death sentence if convicted. SHAFFIQ ALKHATIB

Sunday, October 10, 2010

SADPC's World Day Against the Death Penalty message

In commemoration of 
World Day Against the Death Penalty‏

10 October 2010

On this day, the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) would like to renew our solidarity with international and regional non-governmental organisations, fellow activists and governments working against the death penalty.

With the recent events on the regional front, the issues surrounding the death penalty has been heavily discussed in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia and here in Singapore. Human rights advocacy groups and activists in these respective countries are proposing for their governments to work towards the total abolishment of the death penalty. We support the calls and efforts undertaken and we look forward to the day where the death penalty cease to exist.

In the past year, we have been campaigning on the case of Yong Vui Kong, a Malaysian youth on death row who was caught carrying 47 grams of heroin on June 13, 2007. He was 18 at the time of his arrest. It has been quite a journey and we have seen the campaign growing beyond our shores. The support we have received from our Malaysian colleagues and their network is definitely motivating and we will definitely continue our campaign efforts to keep Yong Vui Kong alive and to advocate for a second chance.

Singapore, according to the research by Amnesty International, has the highest rate of execution by hanging per capita. However there has been no transparency in the statistics made known to public knowledge. Along with the death penalty for violent crimes such as murder, Singapore also practices the application of mandatory death penalty for non-violent crimes like drug trafficking.

We would like to take this opportunity to express our stand that the death penalty as a whole is not the absolute solution to deter violent and drug related crimes. Instead, it violates an individual's rights to be given a chance to be rehabilitated, reformed and repent. All human beings should be treated with humanity, criminals or otherwise. So let us all join hands together to work towards making the death penalty history.

Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC)

Friday, October 8, 2010

AsiaOne: S'pore drug syndicate leader arrested

AsiaOne: S'pore drug syndicate leader arrested

Fri, Oct 08, 2010

AROUND 4.7kg of heroin was seized by Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) officers in what is deemed as the biggest haul since 2008.

The estimated street value of the haul is $702,000, said CNB in a statement on Friday.

A 38-year-old man suspected to be the leader of a local drug syndicate has been arrested, along with two others.

CNB officers launched an operation at around 7.30am on Thursday when information was received that a drug transaction will be taking place.

Officers spotted the syndicate leader leaving his flat at Commonwealth Close at 9am.

He proceeded to the Kitchener Road area, where he was seen meeting up with a 56-year-old man and handing over an envelope, which contained $3,000.

Both were immediately arrested.

The 56-year-old man led officers to the syndicate leader's car, where 600g of heroin was recovered.

A 38-year-old man, believed to be the leader's associated, was also arrested in a follow-up raid of the leader's flat.

CNB officers recovered a bag with 4kg of heroin, as well as drug paraphernalia, including weighing scales, empty plastic sachets and drug smoking utensils.

All three are Singaporeans and unemployed.

They are currently being investigated for drug trafficking and face a minimum of five years' imprisonment and caning.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, the men might also be sentenced to death.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Why so little data on hanging?

Why so little data on hanging?

Unless death penalty becomes a hot ideological issue, it is unlikely this will change

WHAT ends warrant a hanging at dawn?

Five years ago, the execution of Australian drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van, 25, sparked a debate over precisely that question. For a moment, at least, Singapore's mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking came up for discussion.

Today, the issue is back in the spotlight with the death sentence Yong Vui Kong, 22, a Malaysian convicted of the same offence, has received. Then, as now, a campaign has sprung up around the condemned, calling for clemency and second chances.

Yong's lawyer, Mr M. Ravi, has tried to save his client, for whom he is working free of charge. He has invoked Singapore's Constitution and involved the Malaysian government. The case is awaiting final appeal in the Court of Appeal.

It is easy to see why Nguyen and Yong have attracted such attention. Their stories are heavy with pathos: Both came from poor backgrounds, struggled with family problems and received the death sentence while still painfully young.

It could be said they were small fry, mere mules acting under the direction of shadier, more powerful drug lords who hovered out of reach of the law.

The campaign to save Yong has played up his poverty, youth and his family's desperate pleas for compassion.

But the Government has made it clear why Nguyen was hanged. It has weighed the matter and believes the death penalty deters traffickers and keeps the country relatively free of the drug scourge.

This is not to say that debates on the death penalty should not take into account the human factor.

I feel they should. But the more immediate issue is: Why is there a studied silence about the number of people executed each year, and a curious dearth in public studies on the death penalty's deterrent effects on drug trafficking?

This was precisely the question raised last year by then Law Society president Michael Hwang, who in the Law Gazette called for the Government to publish detailed statistics on crime and punishment, so that the effectiveness of the death penalty could be reviewed.

The Government's response was swift. In January last year, Law Minister K. Shanmugam said: 'The introduction of the death penalty for drug trafficking has, we believe, had the deterrent effect...As a result of our policies, thousands of young people have been saved from the drug menace.'

Mr Shanmugam also said that statistics were readily available from the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB). The Home Team also conducts research with independent researchers on crime, punishment and criminal behaviour, he said.

'It is not clear what statistics are said to be lacking,' he added.

Nevertheless, Mr Hwang's point is still a pertinent one. Although statistics on drug crime are indeed available from the CNB, the figures on executions are less readily available.

Also, unlike US studies on the death penalty and its effect on murder rates, there are no detailed, publicised analyses of its effects on drug trafficking here - even when such studies could vindicate the Government's position on deterrence.

Even raw numbers are hard to come by. The latest available statistics on the death penalty are from 2005, when eight people were hanged. Between 1998 and 2003, 138 people were executed, 110 of them for drug crimes.

When The Straits Times approached the Home Affairs Ministry for fresh data, its request was declined.

CNB numbers also seem to show that deterrence has some limits.

On the one hand, there has definitely been a general long-term downward trend in the number of addicts arrested. However, the number of syndicates detected and foiled has held fairly constant over the past eight years, hovering between 32 (in 2002) and 24 (in 2004). Last year, 28 syndicates were smashed.

While it could be argued that the number would have been higher in the absence of a death penalty, it can equally be said there is a recalcitrant core of syndicate activity that is undeterred.

Why, then, the reticence on data? An outcry seems unlikely, as the vast majority of Singaporeans - some 96 per cent, according to a 2005 Straits Times survey - supports the death penalty.

It is doubly puzzling because the Government seems to have good reason to think that deterrence works. When it first made the death penalty mandatory for drug trafficking in an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act in 1975, there was a palpable sense that Singapore could be losing the war on drugs.

The number of heroin abusers arrested had increased by almost 112 times in 12 months, reaching 1,007 in the first half of 1975. The number of traffickers arrested for dealing in heroin had also increased from six in the first half of 1974 to 26 in the same period in 1975.

By the first half of this year, the number of heroin abusers arrested had halved, to 580. As United Nations data show, Singapore has a dramatically lower rate of drug abuse than other countries in the region.

Perhaps the biggest clue to the Government's reticence on the matter lies in two key sentences in Mr Shanmugam's reply to Mr Hwang's article last year.

'The debate on capital punishment is not going to be settled on the basis of statistics,' he said. 'The philosophical and ideological chasms that separate the proponents and opponents of capital punishment are quite unbridgeable.'

The Government may be keeping mum because it knows its numbers will not convince diehard opponents of the death penalty, who feel nothing can justify hanging another human being.

It may also be silent because it feels a debate on the death penalty is simply not a debate that is worth kindling in Singapore.

There are no fence-sitters to convince, no embattled supporters to arm. After all, those who support the death penalty are comfortably in the majority. The number of people on the other side of the ideological chasm is still small.

Unless public consensus shifts - unless the death penalty becomes an ideological issue that occupies the public consciousness - it is unlikely the Government's position on this issue will shift.

Arbitrary application of death penalty continues in Singapore

Arbitrary application of death penalty continues in S'pore

Singapore flag
The Straits Times reported on 3rd Sept 2010 that a Singaporean drug syndicate leader, who had been arrested trafficking over 60g of heroin, was given the death sentence while his girlfriend from Thailand escaped the noose, even though both faced the same charge.

Phuthita Somchit, 35, defend herself by claiming not to know that the content was heroin, even though she knew it was drugs. But she had taken a much more active role in drug trafficking, as she would take orders over the phone, pack drugs and even recruit runners to deliver them.

Compare this to the case of Amara Tochi, who was hanged in 2007 after he put up the defence of not knowing bag of capsules contained heroin, but medicinal herbs from Africa. In sentencing Tochi, the judged noted "Consequently, even if he may not have actual knowledge that he was carrying diamorphine, his ignorance did not exculpate him because it is well established that ignorance is a defence only when there is no reason for suspicion and no right and opportunity of examination."

This is not the first time that a female was given a lesser sentence that what the law stipulated for drug trafficking. In Singapore's context, trafficking more than 15g of heroin meant mandatory death.

The High Court must have considered the risk of political fallout between Thailand and Singapore if one of their nationals were hanged in Singapore, but most importantly, hanging a foreign lady and a mother of two meant only bad publicity for the country and unwanted attention to the growing anti death penalty sentiments on the ground.

Therefore Phuthita Somchit was only sentenced to 9 years imprisonment, even though her original charge would have most certainly meant that she could not possibly escape the gallows.

Other cases worth noting include German teenager Julia Bohl, whose government intervened and saved her from almost certain execution for trafficking over 600g of marijuana, and Filipino domestic worker Flor Contemplacion who was sentenced to hang in 1995, and the political ruckus in Philippines after her execution lead to an unwritten rule that domestic workers in Singapore would escape the death penalty even if their crime mandates judicial punishment by hanging. This is evident in the case of domestic workers Guen Aguilar, who was charged for murder of her friend and 18 years old Indonesian Juminem, who killed her Singaporean employer.

This selective application of the death penalty must stop and the only way to do it fairly would be to completely abolish the death sentence. Otherwise Singapore will continue to face the situation where one's background or gender decides whether he or she will be executed, and not based on the law being applied fairly to suit the crime.

Worse still, the risk of executing an innocent person is something that the Singapore courts have not been able to prevent, as put by former Chief Justice Yong Pung How. When questioned by human rights lawyer M. Ravi whether an innocent man could be hanged due to procedure, Yong Pung How's answer was a chilling "yes".

Some of these above-mentioned cases are expounded in the book "Once a Jolly Hangman", whose author, Alan Shadrake, was arrested and charged for suggesting that the Singapore judiciary was not independent because of how selective the death sentence is meted out, especially on certain politically sensitive cases. Was Alan Shadrake arrested for speaking the truth or was it contempt of court? Read the book and be the judge.