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]

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Malaysia government writes to Singapore President for clemency for Vui Kong

Malaysia government writes to Singapore President for clemency for Vui Kong

Source: The Star

THE Foreign Ministry sent a letter to the Singapore government last week to plead for clemency for young Sabahan Yong Vui Kong, who was sentenced to death in the city state for drug trafficking.
Deputy Foreign Minister A. Kohilan Pillay told senator Datuk Saripah Aminah Syed Mohamed that the letter from Wisma Putra was addressed to the President of Singapore for his consideration.
“Yong’s family had also written to the President of Singapore,” he said.
Yong, 22, was convicted on Jan 7 last year for trafficking in 47gm of diamorphine, a capital offence under the Singaporea Misuse of Drugs Act.
Yong was arrested on June 13, 2007. He was 18 when he committed the offence.
The last day for Yong to file his petition for clemency is Aug 26, after which he may be hanged at any time.
In his reply, Kohilan also said two Malaysians, convicted of drug trafficking in China and Japan respectively, had their sentences reduced.
In the case of Umi Azlim Mohammad Lazim, who was also sentenced to death by a High Court in Guangzhou, China, her death sentence was reduced to life imprisonment.
The former Universiti Malaysia Sabah student from Kelantan was found guilty of trafficking in 2.983kg of heroin in Shantao airport, and was sentenced to death on May 15, 2007 at the age of 23.
In the case of Raja Munirah Iskandar Shah, who was convicted of trafficking in 690.8g of syabu in Narita International Airport in 2006 at the age of 21, her sentence was reduced from seven years and four months to six years and nine months.

Monday, July 26, 2010

SADPC & TOC to take to Speakers’ Corner – 1 August

The Online Citizen: There must be room for mercy

Update: A report on the Save Vui Kong Campaign, 
1 Aug 2010, Speakers' Corner, Singapore

SADPC & TOC to take to Speakers’ Corner – 1 August

It’s been three years since then-19-year old Vui Kong was sentenced to death in Singapore.
He’s been sitting on death row since 2007 at Changi Prison awaiting the day he would be hanged.
For someone so young, that in itself is torture.
His family, particularly his brother Yun Leong and sister Vui Fung [picture right, campaigning in Sabah], has been campaigning tirelessly for Vui Kong’s sentence to be commuted and he be given a second chance.
The Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) and The Online Citizen (TOC) lend our voices to the plea.
We would like to ask you, our readers and your friends, to help support the call as well.
SADPC and TOC will be holding a petition signing event at Speakers Corner on 1 August to garner signatures to appeal to the president to grant Vui Kong a reprieve. The signatures collected will be sent to the campaign in Malaysia to be delivered eventually to the president of Singapore, Mr SR Nathan.
Besides the signing of the petition, participants will also be able to say a message of support which will be recorded on video. We will use these for a second campaign clip. [Here's our first campaign video.]
Please do give an hour or so of your time to lend your voice to Vui Kong’s family and to Vui Kong who cannot speak for himself as he sits alone on death row.
The details of the event are as follow:
Event: Give Vui Kong A Second Chance
Date: 1 August 2010
Time: 4pm – 6pm
Venue: Speakers Corner (Hong Lim Park)
How to get there: Take the NEL to Clark Quay MRT station and use Exit “A”. It’ll bring you directly into Speakers Corner.
  1. Petition-signing, an appeal to the president of Singapore to grant Vui Kong’s clemency appeal.
  2. Announcement of continuation of Facebook photo project
  3. Recording of messages on video from participants
  4. Short speeches
  5. Taking of a group photo (6pm)
The clemency appeal must be submitted to the president by 26 August. And depending on how the president decides, Vui Kong could be hanged anytime after that.
This could be the final opportunity for us to do something to save Vui Kong.

Please come join us this Sunday.
Thank you.
*In the meantime, please sign the online petition here.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Must Yong Vui Kong Die?

Josh Hong, Jul 23, 10, 12:20pm (Malaysia Kini)

An internal survey carried out by the MCA in 2003 found that 25 percent of Chinese Malaysian students quit schooling before completing secondary education.

Entitled 'Not One Less', the report also reckoned that more than 65 percent of the dropouts left school before they had a chance to sit for Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR).

Meanwhile, 26.5 percent of the 169,985 Indian Malaysian students aged 13 through 17 did not complete secondary school in 2001, according to the Yayasan Strategik Sosial (YSS), an MIC social arm. Among them, some 3,000 had not been to school at all.

Where did these youngsters end up? While I don't have concrete figures, a stroll around any major town or city in the country exposes me to Chinese youths selling pirated DVDs or working in unlicensed game shops or internet cafes.

Quite a number of the adventurous ones try their luck by working illegally in Australia, the United States and Britain, but many more found themselves in the wrong company and are now forced to collect debts for Ah Longs (loan-sharks) or, worse, trapped in illicit drug trafficking.

(Now, one can tell Mahathir Mohamad and Ibrahim Ali to their face that not all Chinese and Indians are rich and better-off than the Malays.)

That Malaysia has undergone tremendous economic changes over the last two decades is undisputed, and we do now enjoy a level of material comfort that is beyond our forefathers' wildest dreams.

No jobs in rural areas

But all this has come at a price. The government's emphasis on heavy industries and the urban economy has resulted in the marginalisation of agriculture and fisheries, a situation aggravated by the worsening income disparity.

These days, school dropouts of all ethnic groups do not have a choice but to venture into the city because jobs in the rural areas are hard to come by.

And the city does not offer them much hope. Vocational training programmes or schools - public and private alike - are closed to these underprivileged youths because they do not even have a Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) certificate, so many simply enter the job market as unskilled workers earning meagre pay, or become involved in criminal activities.

Under the glittering surfaces of urban modernity lies a host of social ills. The exam-oriented education system has failed many who are not suited to it, and their futures look bleak.

Should one be surprised that the Malays are besieged with the menace of Mat Rempit (street-racers) and dragon-chasers (drug addicts), while gangsterism is a grave concern to the Indians?

And many gambling outlets and brothels would have to shut without the participation of school dropouts from the Chinese community; neither would the Ah Long be doing brisk business.

Even in the vast and resource-rich East Malaysia, the numbers of indigenous girls being lured into the entertainment sector or prostitution in the Peninsula are on the increase.

Rising costs of living mean that both husband and wife are now compelled to work, with no-one at home to tend to the emotional needs of the dropout kid.

One wrong step will leave an indelible pain on the family, and the juvenile delinquency today is a bitter fruit of Malaysia's obsessive pursuit of economic growth and antipathy towards social justice.

Going down the wrong road

Yong Vui Kong from Sandakan, Sabah, is a typical Chinese Malaysian dropout; he did not even make it to secondary school. His life started to go wrong when he came to Kuala Lumpur to work for Ah Longs, collecting debts and selling pirated DVDs.

After being told by his "bosses" that drug trafficking would be met with punishment lighter than that for selling pirated products, he was caught with 47g of heroin by Singapore customs officers.

He was barely 18 years old at the time. Last November, Yong (left) was sentenced to death. M. Ravi, a fearless Singapore lawyer, is now racing against time to save his life.

In the eyes of the Singapore authorities that pride themselves on rigorous justice, Yong is no doubt a perpetrator. But isn't he also a victim of a failed education system, a broken family and social poverty? Having embraced Buddhism, he is now a changed person remorseful for his wayward past. Would mercy triumph over harsh justice?

Political and economic pressure

Given that the island state is among the least corrupt in the world and home to a great number of Malaysian workers and professionals, where the People's Action Party (PAP) government seems to have fairer policies that contrast sharply with the malicious nature of Malaysia's race-based politics.

Chinese Malaysians generally think highly of its justice system, as if everyone is truly equal before the law.

However, with the publication of the book 'Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock' by Alan Shadrake (left), a former British journalist, this perception is now shattered.

If the PAP government is as colour-blind and judicious as it claims, how would one explain why Shanmugan Murugesu, a Singaporean citizen of Indian origin, was hanged for smuggling marijuana while Julia Bohl, a German national, was sentenced to five years' imprisonment, of which she served only three?

Under Singapore's strict drug laws, capital punishment is mandatory when one possesses more than 500g of marijuana. Bohl had 687g of the stuff with her when she was caught. But she was more than just an innocent consumer, for she actively sold drugs - supplied by a Malaysian syndicate - to her peers in order to sustain her glamorous lifestyle in Singapore. It is widely believed the authorities caved in and reduced the charges against Bohl under Germany's "economic muscle" (in Shadrake's words).

Furthermore, Michael McCrae, a British national, was implicated in two gruesome murders in Singapore. Having escaped to Australia on a fake passport, he confessed to the crimes. Requests for extradition by Singapore were rejected because Canberra is opposed to death penalty.

McCrae was finally brought back to the island state to face trial after the Singapore government promised not to resort to the ultimate punishment. Thanks to Singapore's strong economic interests with Australia, he cheated the gallows and was sentenced to 24 years in jail.

Finally, the Singapore authorities allowed counsels from Down Under to visit Nguyen Tuong Van, an Australian citizen on death row, in 2005. But when Ngeow Chow Ying (right), Yong's legal representative in Malaysia, sought a meeting with her client, her pleas went unheeded. If this is not double standards, what is?

The PAP argues ad nauseam that only the sternest punishment can deter drug couriers.

But it is a well known fact that the very same government has maintained close trade ties over the years with Lo Hsing Han, a notorious Burmese drug lord of Chinese origin.

Since Singapore is renowned for its world-class efficiency in virtually every area, including nipping dissent in the bud, is it not puzzling that, to date, no notable drug kingpin has been convicted there?

Yong was indeed reckless and guilty, but was his offence really more heinous than those committed by McCrae and Bohl, that it can only be expiated by death?

Of uppermost concern to Malaysians is: if we fail to save Yong from the gallows, would the Malaysian government, political parties and general public be able to ensure Yong would be the last victim of our very own social failure?

Shadrake faces heavy silencing hand, part 2

I have now seen a copy of the summons issued to Alan Shadrake. Somewhat to my surprise, all charges (so far) relate to contempt of court, none to criminal defamation, despite what was mentioned in the formal statement issued by the police and reports in the local media. In the light of this, my post Shadrake faces heavy silencing hand now seems a bit off the mark, mainly discussing as it does, criminal defamation.
This post will therefore remedy that mismatch and focus on contempt of court.
As readers may recall, Alan Shadrake is the author of Once a Jolly Hangman, for which my review can be seen here. He was arrested on the morning of 18 July 2010 and is due for a court hearing on 30 July.
The summons Shadrake has to answer is an application by the Attorney-General to the High Court for committal [to imprisonment] for contempt. It cites Section 7(1) of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, which says merely this:
7. —(1) The High Court and the Court of Appeal shall have power to punish for contempt of court.
The summons also cites the subsidiary legislation known as Rules of Court of which Order 52 lays out the technicalities.
Nowhere is contempt of court defined. I guess what it means has to be drawn from case law which can be problematic in that precedents should be evaluated in the context of their times and places.
However, the summons contains a statement by the Attorney-General, as required in accordance with Rule 2(2) of the Rules of Court. Relevant words from that statement:
The grounds upon which the said relief is sought are that the said Respondent has participated in acts in connection with the bringing into existence, publication and distribution of the Book which contained passages that scandalise the Singapore Judiciary.
The Book is about the administration of the death penalty in Singapore.
The Book contains passages which undermine the authority of the Singapore courts and public confidence in the administration of justice in Singapore. Without being exhaustive, this Statement sets out the passages which contain imputation against the independence and integrity of the Singapore Judiciary.
Several passages in the Book contain allegations and insinuations that the Singapore Judiciary, in determining whether to sentence an accused person to death, succumbs to political and economic pressures, and that the Singapore Judiciary lacks independence.
The summons sheet then goes on to list four passages from the book allegedly showing the claimed imputations.
The Attorney-General next goes on to say:
The allegations and insinuations in these passages are that the Singapore Judiciary does not mete out justice impartially but instead is complicit in an abuse of the judicial process.
The book also contains passages which allege or insinuate that in criminal proceedings on drug-related offences, the Singapore Judiciary is biased, particularly against the “weak”, “poor” or “less-educated”, or is otherwise guilty of impropriety.
Seven more citations from the book are given by way of example.
* * * * *
The problem, as I mentioned in my earlier post, is what constitutes contempt, and where is the line drawn between malicious denigration of the judicial process and fair comment. Fair comment is sincerely-held opinion and plausible conclusions predicated on a measure of evidence. Fair comment does not have to be true; it only has to be within reason, derived from verifiable starting points. The greater the public good at stake the greater the leeway should be given to fair comment.
I would argue that Shadrake’s book constitutes fair comment, and on a matter of great public importance as well. That being the case, it cannot constitute contempt of court.
In connection with this, I note that the Attorney-General has, in support of his application, picked out sentences from the book which are at face value critical of the judiciary and the justice process, but ignored the fact that leading up to each of these passages, Shadrake had priorly discussed in the book certain facts or timelines which he had unearthed, and which quite reasonably lead to the conclusions he draws. By ignoring the arguments that Shadrake developed from initial facts and focussing only on the critical tone of the conclusions, it seems that our chief law officer’s understanding of contempt of court is that justification has no role to play; any statement, no matter how well-founded, that is negative towards the judiciary or justice system constitutes contempt.
This flies against the human right to freedom of expression. Such a sweeping formulation of contempt of court makes it akin to lese majeste laws, which begin with the presumption that the king can do no wrong: He is perfect and any criticism of the king is necessarily false simply because it treats him as fallible. Our Attorney-General is taking a similar approach with contempt of court: Our judiciary and justice system is perfect and infallible and must be held beyond reproach; any criticism must by definition be wrong and criminally liable.
This is an extremely dangerous route to take. Judges and officers of the court are human. They can be wrong, corrupt, careless, slothful, servile, cowardly, obstinate, sexist, racist . . . and generally suffer from any number of human failings. To put in place a criminal regime that forbids any criticism of the justice system and its officers is to ensure that we will indeed have a system that is corrupt, careless, slothful, servile, cowardly, obstinate, sexist, racist, and generally unworthy of the term “justice”. And with impunity.
* * * * *
In the UK, contempt of court is governed by the Contempt of Court Act (1981) and common law which you can read about in the Your Rights Org guide where it is explained that the old scope of contempt was found to be in contravention of Article 10 (Freedom of Expression) of the European Convention of Human Rights. As a result, contempt of court is today more narrowly understood to mean any speech that interferes with the integrity of legal proceedings. It must be specific to a particular ongoing case, e.g. influencing jurors and prejudicing a fair hearing for one side in a case, or disrupting the smooth process of a trial.
Your Rights Org also makes it a point to stress that “the [Contempt of Court Act]  permits the publication of material which would otherwise amount to contempt if . . . it involves the discussion of public affairs.”
Surely a discussion of how the death penalty has been applied by Singapore’s justice system is a matter of supreme public interest. Thus the question before us is not what the book is about or whether it is critical of our judiciary, but what our governance ideals are about. Should contempt of court in Singapore mean some sort of sweeping lese majeste-type law that shields scandal within the justice system or a more narrow formulation that acknowledges the right to freedom of expression, and that looks kindly on criticism that can only strengthen the course of justice?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Woman suggests death sentence for road speeding

A Singaporean lady wrote a letter to the Straits Times suggesting the death penalty applied to speeding drivers who cause deaths.

She also recommends caning as punishment for speeding drivers in general. Apparently this is the same Ivy Singh-Lim who recently was in a tug with Building and Construction Authority’s
lawsuit for failure to hire professional maintenance and allow BCA inspection. She was hauled to court on May 3rd this year. 

There could have been a million reasons to a car accident, fatal or not. Which is why it is called a car accident. Even an accidental killing of someone is termed as manslaughter and carries a lesser maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Furthermore, on the road a vehicle does not even need to speed to cause fatality due to the nondiscriminatory nature of accidents.

Shall we also cane her for her failure to comply with public, building and workplace safety standards and endangering workers and the public who patronise her company? And if one of her workers die due to workplace negligence, shall we likewise send her to the gallows?


Speeding deaths: Consider capital punishment

LAST year, there were 188 road fatalities, or a road death every other day, and driving along Lim Chu Kang Road on Monday morning, it was not difficult for me to see why.

The speed limit of the road was 70kmh, and as I drove along, big trucks and lorries flashed past me, dangerously above the speed limit.

Drivers who speed do not realise that they are part of a killing machine. Speeding is a fatal menace and should be much more policed than it is now.

During my 45-minute journey from Kranji to Suntec City, I did not spot a single police patrol car or Traffic Police motorcycle.

Speed traps are too few and far between, allowing irresponsible drivers to bolt and swerve on expressways unpunished.

Alongside public campaigns on road safety, there should be more traffic policing vehicles to arrest the immediate problem of dangerous speedsters.

It is also appalling to see the types of vehicles allowed on our expressways, and the manner in which they are driven: small motorcycles with unprotected riders in slippers zipping in and out of traffic, and lorries loaded with men and material zooming past speed limits.

Singapore has stringent standards in licensing drivers, but such standards are futile if we let law-breaking speedsters threaten the lives of other road users and do not police such dangerous drivers.

Fines and imprisonment may not be enough of a disincentive.

The punishment which will effectively deter speeding is caning.

And if a driver’s speeding is responsible for a road user’s death, then hanging is a fair punishment for killing someone. 

Ivy Singh-Lim (Mrs)

sgdeathpenalty petitions to the Singapore President for clemency

Yong Vui Kong was just six months above the legal age where mandatory death is applicable for drug offences.

"The court recognises that the mandatory death penalty 
is a cruel, degrading and inhumane punishment," 
- Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong

Petition # 5120: 

Dear President, do consider for a moment that Vui Kong was just barely 19 years old when he was arrested for drug possession.

 Trial Judge Choo han Teck had the compassion to consider Vui Kong's mitigating factor, but did not have the legal authority to grant him a less heavy form of punishment. This is evident when he summoned both prosecution and defence lawyers to chambers and asked of the prosecution could consider reucing the charge given the young age of Yong Vui Kong. The prosecution declined and the death sentence was handed to Vui Kong. 

Also, do consider Vui Kong's capacity for repentance, and the potential contributions he will give to society in future after you grant him pardon and a new leash of life. We urge the Istana to take a maganimous approach in Vui Kong's case given the background circumstances which Vui Kong faced as a child. The lack of access to proper education must have played a major role in which Vui Kong took the wrong path and ended up doing what he did.

We should recognise that the root of the problem lies not in the drug runners but the kingpins who pay these runners to do the dirty job. If Vui Kong is pardoned, he not only would make good his contribution to society, he can also help to pull people who are once like him out from the ruinous and dangerous path of drug trafficking. 

Vui Kong last safety net lies in your hand, and we Singaporeans believe that you have the power to put proper what our laws were not not able to do.


The petition has currently gathered over 5000 signatures. Sign the petition here.

Drug Trio Sentenced To Gallows By Shah Alam High Court

SHAH ALAM, July 22 (Bernama) -- The Shah Alam High Court on Thursday sentenced three men, including a Singaporean, to the gallows for trafficking in 2.1kg of methamphetamine, three years ago.

Foreman Gan Thean Lim, 46; mosaic layer Gan Thiam Boon, 35; and Singaporean Ang Eng Thye, 47, a building contractor, were found guilty of trafficking in the drugs.

The offence was committed in Room 7107, Pyramid Tower Hotel, Bandar Sunway, Petaling Jaya on Feb 6, 2007.

They were convicted under Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act which carries the mandatory death penalty.

Another accused, Lam Chong Chooi, 55, who was originally charged with the three man, was acquitted by Judge Dr Badariah Sahamid as there was doubt in his (Lam's) role as sentry for the drug transaction.

In his defence, Lam, a coffeeshop worker, told the court he was at the hotel lobby to watch ice-skating and denied any knowledge of the three accused, and his presence in the room where the transaction happened.

She said the testimony from an agent provocateur who was in the room during the transaction with the three accused, was consistent.

In their defence, the three said they were gambling in the room and that there was another man nicknamed 'Specky', who was involved in the transaction, apart from the agent provocateur.

Nevertheless, Dr Badariah said, there was no detail provided on 'Specky', adding that there was no gambling paraphernalia like dice or bowl found in the room.

She said, while the three claimed there was a man whom they referred to as 'Mak', who came to the room to meet them, Mak's statement was doubtful because he could not give details of the room.

She said the trio failed in their defence and were found guilty of drug trafficking.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Campaign Launched for Vui Kong - 2nd Chance

From 2ndchance4yong

July 21, 2010
Youthful folly led an 18-year-old to drug-trafficking. Today, at 22, he pledges his remaining life to campaign against drug-trafficking and drug abuse. Should his life ends tomorrow to deny him and others like him a second chance?

The Save Vui Kong Campaign (SVKC) today calls upon elected representatives and members of the public to plead to His Excellency Singapore President Sellapan Ramanathan to grant clemency to death convict Yong Vui Kong.

Yong may be hanged anytime after this 26 August if his plea for clemency is rejected.
Unfortunately, his right to seek clemency under the Singapore’s Constitution has been compromised by statement of the Hon. Minister of Law K. Shanmugan.

Even before his clemency plea is officially filed, Mr Shanmugan was quoted to have told the press: “Yong Vui Kong (who was sentenced to hang for trafficking in 47g of heroin) is young. But if we say, ‘We let you go’, what’s the signal we’re sending? We’re sending a signal to all drug barons out there: Just make sure you choose a victim who’s young or a mother of a young child and use them as the people to carry drugs into Singapore.”

Singapore’s Unrecognized Ally in Anti-Drug Campaign

The real signal Singapore is sending should Vui Kong be pardoned is exactly the opposite to what Mr Shanmugan has second guessed.

Vui Kong is a completely changed person after his arrest. He has found his spiritual salvation in Buddhism and vowed to use his remaining days to counsel lost souls like he once was and to campaign against drug-trafficking and drug-abuse.

Vui Kong who just want to redeem his past sins is actually an unrecognized ally of the Singapore Government in the latter’s anti-drug campaign. Executing him will not stop the next drug trafficker, just like the execution of previous traffickers did not stop Vui Kong, who was illiterate and did not know even about the death penalty.

Keeping Vui Kong alive may however may. He will do whatever he can to get his message of regret and redemption out to many young lives and saving them from drugs.

A second chance for Vui Kong is therefore also a second chance for many others out there.

What the Elected Representatives Can Do
All 222 members of parliamentarians from the Dewan Rakyat, 69 sitting Senators and 60 state assemblypersons of Sabah are invited to personally make their plea. We have prepared a card for them to sign and mail it back using a stamped self-addressed envelope by next Friday (31 July 2010). Concerned state assemblypersons from other states are welcome to join. We will then present these personal plea cards together to the Istana – Office of the President of Singapore.

What the Members of the Public Can Do
Members of the public can go online to endorse a petition to the Singapore president at SaveVK/petition.html. They can help the campaign further by printing the petition and signature form (available in three languages) to collect signatures from families, friends, colleagues and even strangers. The URLs for downloads are kl6t1gf5ss
(English Version) ibce9v8kcd
(Mandarin Version) daqymy6vtu
(Bahasa Malaysia Version)

Completed signature forms should be mailed to reach the address below by August 22 

“Save Vui Kong” Campaign
Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
Jalan Maharajalela,
50150 Kuala Lumpur,

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Malaysian senators plead for Sabah youth’s life

Free Malaysia Today: Malaysian senators plead for Sabah youth’s life 

E-mail Print
By Patrick Lee

KUALA LUMPUR: Several senators and NGOs today urged Singapore authorities to spare the life of Yong Vui Kong, a Sabahan youth convicted of drug trafficking.
The senators and NGO representatives gathered in the Parliament lobby today to demonstrate their support for Yong’s clemency petition to the Singapore president.

Yong, 18, was sentenced to death in January last year for trafficking in 47 grammes of diamorphine, a derivative of heroin. He was to have been executed last December, but he filed an appeal against the sentence on the ground that the death penalty was inhumane. The appeal was rejected last May.

The senators are concerned that the Singapore government had apparently already decided to reject his plea for a pardon even before it is filed.

Yong’s lawyer, M Ravi, who recently brought Yong’s plight to the attention of MPs and senators, said Singapore’s law minister K Shanmugam had prejudiced his client’s appeal for clemency with his statement that Singapore would be giving the wrong signal to potential drug traffickers if Yong was spared.

“Yong Vui Kong is young,” Ravi quoted Shanmugam as saying. “But if we say, 'We let you go,' what is the signal we are sending?”

Tunku Aziz condemned the statement. "It should not be about sending the right message,” he said.

Petaling Jaya municipal councillor Richard Yeoh, who was also in the Parliament gathering, said Yong deserved a second chance. He said the young man was “a victim of the syndicates” and was acting as a drug mule.

It emerged during the trial that Yong is the product of a broken home who began his life in crime at the age of 15. He sold pirated VCDs and then got involved with secret societies.

Early this month, Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said his ministry would write to the Singapore government to plead for clemency on Yong’s behalf.

"In the past 12 years, not a single case carrying the death penalty has been awarded a pardon," Yeoh said. "What does this say about them?”

"We are not saying that there has been a miscarriage of justice," said Tunku Aziz. "However, in the appeal for clemency, all circumstances should be considered."

Also read:

Singapore: M'sia yet to plead clemency for drug mule

Local man in Singapore death row gets govt support

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Yawning Bread: Shadrake faces heavy silencing hand

 From Yawning Bread

It’s all over the world by now: The Singapore government arrested last Sunday morning Alan Shadrake, the author of Once a Jolly Hangman, a book I reviewed a short while ago. BBC has reported the arrest, as has Associated Press. A simple web search shows that it’s been further carried in Indian, Canadian, Australian, Taiwanese media, among many others. Amnesty International has highlighted his case on its website.
The Media Development Authority (MDA), Singapore’s orwellian-named censors, has owned up to being the party that made a police report, triggering his arrest. Amnesty International noted in its story, with dripping irony, that the MDA claimed on its website to be “developing Singapore into a vibrant global media city.”
The police issued a statement on 18 July 2010 (the day of the arrest) that said:
In response to media queries, Police confirm that they have arrested British national Alan Shadrake. He is being investigated for alleged offences of criminal defamation and other offences. The arrest was made pursuant to a Police report that was lodged on 16 July 2010 by Media Development Authority. Alan Shadrake has also been served with an application by the Attorney-General for an order of committal for Contempt of Court. Police investigations are ongoing.
I understand a court date has been set: 30 July 2010.
What is criminal defamation? It’s considered an archaic law in most countries that still have it, in that it has historically been used to silence speech inconvenient to the powers that be. In Singapore, it is found in Sections 499 and 500 of our Penal Code, which say:
499. Whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs, or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person, intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter excepted, to defame that person.
[snip] and
500. Whoever defames another shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years, or with fine, or with both.
Criminal defamation is different from usual libel or slander suits that we more often hear about, e.g. the 2008 case against Dow Jones and editor Hugo Restall brought by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and others. Those are civil suits taken out by a person who feels his reputation has been damaged by another, and the judgement sought is usually one of retraction, apology and financial damages. Criminal defamation is a case brought by the State against an individual, for which the penalty can include imprisonment.
What therefore is unclear is whose reputation has been damaged that the State so keenly feels about? On the surface, it would be the MDA since it was they who lodged the police report, but as far as I can recall, Shadrake did not even mention the MDA in his book. So what standing does the MDA have to lodge such a complaint?
How can it be that a police report of defamation is made without any specifics as to whose reputation has allegedly been injured and by what item of speech? Saying it’s the book is too broad a brush; it has some 200 pages.
Latest reports are that Shadrake was held nearly 40 hours before he got bail, during which he was intensively interrogated. Were the police on a fishing expedition trying to catch him on something? So, is this whole thing yet another example of intimidation again?
Consider this: Even Section 499 of our Penal Code allows a number of exceptions, among which are:
Imputation of any truth which the public good requires to be made or published
First Exception.—It is not defamation to impute anything which is true concerning any person, if it is for the public good that the imputation should be made or published. Whether or not it is for the public good is a question of fact.
Public conduct of public servants
Second Exception.—It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion whatever respecting the conduct of any person touching any discharge of his public functions, or respecting his character, so far as his character appears in that conduct, and no further.
Conduct of any person touching any public question
Third Exception.—It is not defamation to express in good faith any opinion whatever respecting the conduct of any person touching any public question, and respecting his character, so far as his character appears in that conduct, and no further.
Yes, in his book Shadrake gathered many telltale clues that point to an uneven application of justice, and poses a question of how perfect or imperfect is our justice system. That the carriage or miscarriage of justice is a matter of public good or public interest surely is beyond contest. Anyone who has read the book will likely find that what accusations he has raised would fall within the second and third exceptions.
So, even if the MDA (especially when it does not appear to have any locus standi) has made a complaint, did our men in blue even read the book to establish for themselves whether the complaint has any merit, before rushing around like mindless zombies arresting the author?
Shadrake’s chief point in his book was that various officers of justice were not discharging their duties properly. It seems to me that by arresting him, our civil servants, the police and the Attorney-General’s Chambers are only proving his point.
* * * * *
It is true that many countries too have laws pertaining to criminal defamation, but it is now considered archaic in modern liberal democracies. In Europe, which has one of the best developed bodies of human rights jurisprudence, case law now makes it clear that fair comment on public interest matters cannot possibly fall under such a law.
In a paper, Ilia Dohel writing for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said:
Although the Strasbourg Court [European Court of Human Rights] has never ruled that criminal defamation laws have to be abolished, it may be derived from its judgements that in no case involving public interest or initiated by a public official would instituting criminal charges against a journalist be compatible with modern freedom of expression principles enshrined in Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
and that,
Even more significant is the Court’s standard on cases involving public officials and public interest stories. Several rulings defended the right of the society to scrutinise public officials, who have consciously chosen the limelight: ‘The limits of acceptable criticism are accordingly wider with regard to a politician acting in his public capacity than in relation to a private individual. The former inevitably and knowingly lays himself open to close scrutiny of his every word and deed by both journalists and the public at large, and he must display a greater degree of tolerance, especially when he himself makes public statements that are susceptible of criticism’ (Oberschlick v. Austria, judgement of 25 April 1991).
* * * * *
Alan Shadrake has also been called upon to answer the charge of Contempt of Court. Here again, this is an abuse of the law. Singapore seems to prefer an interpretation of this concept as wide as the Pacific Ocean.  Any speech that even questions the operation of justice is now considered to be an expression of contempt. The effect would be to silence any criticism, however well-founded, and give further impunity to public officials to abuse their positions or underperform.
This is just one more example of so many things that are wrong with Singapore’s justice system, and of governance generally.

British Weekly: Alan Shadrake makes bail in Singapore

Former British Weekly writer faces two years’ jail for questioning death penalty ‘injustice’


Alan Shadrake, a veteran English journalist who was a fixture in Santa Monica’s expat community for almost two decades,  was out on bail on Monday after his arrest in Singapore for penning an expose of that country’s death penalty practices.

The 75-year-old  author was  arrested on Sunday and could face two years in jail for defamation after writing a book alleging institutionalised injustice in the city state’s legal system.

Singapore’s Attorney-General has now served Shadrake with a contempt of court order, saying that his book – Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock – impugns the impartiality, integrity and independence of the judiciary.

Shadrake told reporters he was freed after a local activist posted bail of 10,000 Singapore dollars ($7,240) for him.

“I’m feeling pretty shaken at the moment,” said Shadrake, whose case is to be heard in court on July 30, his lawyer M. Ravi said.

Speaking later to reporters after his release, a haggard-looking Shadrake said he had hardly slept “since they dragged me out of bed” the morning after launching his book in a private function.
“I’ve had a few hours of sleep on a very hard floor and I’ve been sitting at the desk being interrogated all day long explaining all the chapters of the book and going through the history of the book, my research, why I did the book.”

His passport has been impounded to prevent him from leaving Singapore until the case is resolved.

Amnesty International earlier urged Singapore’s government to immediately release the elderly author.

“Singapore uses criminal defamation laws to silence critics of government policies,” Donna Guest, Amnesty’s Asia Pacific Deputy Director, said in London.

“The Singapore government should release Shadrake at once.”

She added: “If Singapore aspires to be a global media city, it needs to respect global human rights standards for freedom of expression… Singapore should get rid of both its criminal defamation laws and the death penalty.”

Amnesty International said last year that Singapore was “estimated to have one of the highest per capita execution rates in the world.”

It said Singapore had executed at least 420 people since 1991, adding that the number was probably higher as “not all sentences and executions are reported publicly”.Singapore, which has one of the lowest crime rates in the world among its five million population, has retained the death penalty since its days as a British colony. Convicts are still executed by hanging.

According to Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper, Once A Jolly Hangman alleges that foreigners and the wealthy are less likely to receive the death penalty.

The book, which has now been removed from bookshops in the city, also carries an interview with Singapore’s former chief executioner, Darshan Singh. In an article Shadrake wrote for The Australian newspaper in 2005 – but which has since been removed from its website – Singh is “credited with being the only executioner in the world to single-handedly hang 18 men in one day – three at a time”.

Shadrake has enjoyed a rich and varied career in journalism, dating back to his days as a Fleet Street correspondent in West Berlin in the 1960s, where he numbered among his drinking buddies  two giants of postwar American journalism, Harry Reasoner and Dan Shaw. His experiences in the spy infested, cloak-and-dagger world of  Berlin at the height of the Cold War gave him a lifelong taste for intrigue which served him well as he subsequently became a master of the Fleet Street scoop. In the 1970s he turned to writing books, scoring a spectacular success in writing the first authorized biography of Bruce Lee in cooperation with the martial art legend’s wife, Lynda.

He moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1980s and quickly became a fixture at Ye Olde King’s Head pub in Santa Monica. From 1990 to 2003 he wrote the popular but contentious “Shooting From The Lip” column for the British Weekly. After a few years in  Las Vegas, where he enjoyed continuing success as a freelance writer for publications across the world, he moved to Singapore, after falling in love with a Singapore woman who he met on a press junket. For the last couple of years he has divided his time between Singapore and Indonesia.

According to a source in Singapore who is actively involved in the country’s democratic movement, the government have agreed to release Mr. Shadrake on bail, and a group of his supporters have banded together to raise these funds.

Fore more breaking news, visit the Singapore Democratic Party’s facebook page at:

Latest: Alan Shadrake being released now; to be charged tomorrow

Alan Shadrake is being released now. He's been detained over 39 hours. An activist is on his way to post bail. Amount is unknown. The British author will be charged in court tomorrow. Charges are unknown.

Source: Singapore Anti Death Penalty Campaign FB Group

Monday, July 19, 2010

Where to buy Alan Shadrake's Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock

Following the ban of the book by the Singapore Media Development Authority, sgdeathpenalty has received many enquiries on where to purchase the book.

Unfortunately, it is not available in Singapore bookstores as it has been plugged by the authorities, but you can still buy it from all major Malaysian bookstores and through the web.

As of recently the book has seen 4 print runs and has topped the charts to become a bestseller in Malaysia. The bulk of sales are seen in Johor Bahru bookstores, just across the Singapore-Malaysia border.

The Singapore Media Development Authority has stated that the book is not banned but bookstores are adviced to seek their own legal advice if they want to carry the book. MDA's strategy is to soften the impact of an outright ban to make it a prohibited item, therefore directing unwanted curiosity to the book. Yet, when the book was first sold in Kinokuniya bookstore in Singapore, authorities engaged in Communist-styled strategy by calling the bookstore and demanding Once a Jolly Hangman to be removed from the shelves.

Like the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China, which calls Chinese media outlets to removed potentially sensitive news materials on the web, Singapore's MDA have use the soft-authoritarian approach to local bookstores such that no trace are left behind. Unfortunately for MDA, their sinister approach can only work to a certain extent in the 21st century of the Internet.

The MDA continues to be ambiguous to bookstores about carrying the title which it has viewed to be as contempt of court. By leaving the guesswork to bookstores, it is hoping that they will take the safer option to not sell the book. Singaporeans' curiosity continue to be stroked as the authorities continue to allow a one sided view of the issue, while not allowing them to read the book and make their own judgement.

With this in consideration, Once a Jolly Hangman is as good as banned even though they try to claim that it isn't. We implore readers to make their own judgment and write their own reviews after reading the book which may be purchased at the following stores.

Buy Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock by Alan Shadrake at these online stores:

New addition: MPH Online

New addition: Goodreads

New addition: eBay


Mary Martin;jsessionid=78D817AFCAD8ACBC90FDB71DEE6272F6?mEntry=119535

For Malaysians
It is possible to order Alan Shadrake’s latest book by contacting the publisher by telephone and also by e-mail (though it is NOT possible to order it online outside of Malaysia). The publisher can courier the book to you.

GB GerakBudaya Enterprise Sdn Bhd (637869-A)
11, Lorong 11/4E,
46200 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia.
Tel: +603 – 7957 8342
Fax: +603 – 7954 9202
Email: sird at

For Singaporeans driving to neighbouring Malaysia:

Lot J3-10, 11, 12, Level 3,
Johor Bahru City Square,
106-108 Jalan Wong Ah Fook,
80000 Johor Bahru, Johor.
Tel: (607) 228 1988 (call to check for availability)
Business hour: 10.00 am - 10.00 pm 
Latest Update: MPH JB has stocked up their inventory with Shadrake's book and it is now available.

G73B, Ground Floor, Mahkota Parade,
No1, Jalan Merdeka, 75000 Melaka.
Tel: (606) 283 3050 Fax: (606) 283 3003
Business hour:
10.30 am - 10.00 pm (Sun - Thur)
10.30 am - 10.30 pm (Fri & Sat)


Alternatively, the book can be found in the National Library online catalogue. Whether the book is actually on the bookshelf of the Lee Kong Chian Library is unknown, but its status has been "In Process" for months now, a clear sign that there has been orders to halt the release of the book into the archives of the massive reference section of the National Library.

Physical Description   xvi, 219 p., [12] p. of plates : ill. ; 23 cm.
Other Contributors  Strategic Info Research Development.
Search by Subjects  Justice, Administration of Singapore.
 Law Political aspects Singapore.
 Singapore Politics and government

Branch Location Date Call Number Status
Lee Kong Chian Reference Library RSING 23-06-10 English 347.5957 SHA In Process
Lee Kong Chian Reference Library RSING 23-06-10 English 347.5957 SHA In Process