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]

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Malaysia: Weighing the death penalty

Malaysia’s efforts to seek clemency for Yong Vui Kong, who is on death row in Singapore for a drug trafficking offence, have raised questions about maintaining capital punishment in the country.
SINCE he was arrested for drug trafficking in Singapore three years ago, Yong Vui Kong has turned over a new leaf. He has taken to Buddhism and is always meditating, says his lawyer M. Ravi. He has shaved his head and is also teaching his fellow prisoners the precepts of Buddhism.
“The guards say they have never seen anyone as caring as Yong,” adds Ravi.
Before he was arrested, Yong only spoke in Chinese. Now he can speak Malay and English and according to Ravi, he wants to be an advocate against drug abuse.
Yong, now 22, was sentenced to death on Jan 7 last year for the crime he committed when he was 18. He is now on death row. Last week, the Singapore Prisons Department extended the deadline for him to file a plea for presidential clemency. The deadline was initially set for last Wednesday.
Yong’s case has attracted a lot of attention and there is a Save Vui Kong campaign to petition for his life to be spared. Even the Malaysian government, through the Foreign Ministry, has sent a letter to the Singapore government pleading clemency for Yong.
There is a hint of irony in Malaysia’s efforts to seek clemency for Yong, however, as the death penalty or capital punishment is also used in this country.
In Malaysia, the death penalty carried out by hanging is mandatory for crimes such as murder, possession of firearms, waging war against the King and drug trafficking.
Recently, there have been suggestions that even those involved in baby dumping, ending in the death of the baby, should be tried for murder.
But human rights practitioners have maintained that the death sentence is the ultimate denial of human rights and should be abolished entirely.
According to Amnesty International, 18 countries were known to have carried out executions in 2009, ending the life of at least 714 people.
(This figure does not include the thousands of executions that were likely to have taken place in China, which refuses to divulge figures on its use of the death penalty.)
Away with death: South Korean human rights activists protesting against capital punishment in Seoul. Human rights practitioners have maintained that the death sentence should be abolished entirely. – AFP
In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) called on states which maintain the death penalty to establish a moratorium with a view to abolition and in the meantime, restrict the number of offences for which it punishes and to respect the rights of those on death row. It also called on states which have abolished the death penalty not to reintroduce it.
In Malaysia, those who support the abolition of the death penalty include Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz.
“If it is wrong to take someone’s life, then the Government should not do the same. It’s ironic and not correct,” he tells Sunday Star.
Some countries would not extradite a wanted person if it is known that the person would be facing a death sentence if he was sent over, Nazri says.
Inhumane act
Another anti-death penalty advocate is Nora Murat, director of Amnesty International Malaysia, who insists that it is time to do away with this punishment. It is cruel, inhumane and degrading, among others, she says.
“People say no to stoning but say yes to the death penalty. If we value life, there is no way we can condone murder,” she stresses.
Nora: ‘If we value life, there is no way we can condone murder’
Human rights lawyer Edmund Bon says most countries are now moving away from capital punishment.
In 1977, only 16 countries had abolished the death penalty for all crimes. As of December 2009, that figure stood at 95. Of the 58 countries that have retained it, only 18 are known to have carried out executions in 2009.
“The criminal justice system is not perfect. We shouldn’t be playing God. We must be consistent with international human rights standards,” says Bon.
But whenever there is a spate of heinous crimes such as the rape of children, there will always be someone suggesting the death penalty.
In fact, even lawyer Karpal Singh who is known to be against it shockingly called for the death penalty to be introduced for child rape a few weeks ago.
The general public usually feels the same way for such crimes.
Even in Switzerland, there are campaigners who want murder involving sexual abuse, particularly of children, to be punishable by death. (Switzerland abolished the death penalty 70 years ago.)
“It is very natural for people to feel outraged by such crimes. This response involves anger towards the perpetrator,” says psychologist Dr Goh Chee Leong of Help University.
Retired Court of Appeal judge Datuk Mahadev Shankar believes the death penalty should be repealed for offences that are out of sync with the public conscience and where it has proven to be ineffective as a deterrent.
He cites examples of drug offences, where the possessor is a proven addict, and certain firearms cases.
But for heinous crimes, he is all for capital punishment.
“In outrageous cases like the Canny Ong murder where there were absolutely no mitigating circumstances, it would be a mistake to abolish the death sentence which must deter even if it contains an element of retribution,” he says in an e-mail interview.
But Nora says that no crime, no matter how heinous, warrants the death penalty.
“Politicians will say that the rakyat (people) want it, but they should be able to make hard decisions,” she says.
But what about the families of the victims who were murdered? Wouldn’t they want the death penalty on the convicted perpetrator?
“Human beings are emotional,” says Bon.
“If their child or friend was accused of such a crime they wouldn’t be saying such a thing. They would be fighting hard to release their family member.”
Nora, who believes that the concept of forgiveness is much larger than revenge, says there are other forms of punishment such as life imprisonment.
“I can understand their feelings but you can’t condone murder especially if you have just lost someone yourself,” she says.
Lawyers for Liberty’s N.Surendran adds that the death of the perpetrator would not ease the grieving process.
In fact, he says, there are many cases worldwide where families of murder victims do not want the convicted perpetrator to be executed.
Bon also points out that in Malaysia, any form of murder carries a mandatory death sentence. There are no mitigating factors (such as a crime of passion or killing done while blinded by rage) to reduce the sentence, he says.
“This is a breach of fair trial rights and the judges’ hands are tied,” says Bon, adding that an Indian court ruled a similar mandatory provision to be unconstitutional in 1983.
It is the same for drug trafficking where the act specifies a mandatory death sentence if the perpetrator is found to have more than a prescribed limit in his possession. For example, those caught in possession of 200g of marijuana or 15g of heroin are automatically handed the death sentence.
“We are hanging people based on presumptions (that they are trafficking),” says Bon.
This may be one of the reasons why the conviction rate for drug trafficking crimes is relatively low, says a well-placed source.
He explains that judges are generally reluctant to send someone to the gallows and would use the slightest doubt to throw away the case (such as not knowing the contents of the package).
“If there was no mandatory death sentencing, then maybe the conviction rate would be higher,” he argues.
Mahadev admits that in drug cases where the margin of the quantity exceeded the maximum permissible, the mandatory death penalty did not sit easy with the judicial conscience. This is especially so where the offenders were mules or addicts themselves.
Former High Court and Court of Appeal judge Datuk K.C. Vohrah says his family could always sense when he was dealing with a trial involving capital punishment. He would usually be quiet and look worried as he pondered the facts of the case.
“You had to be vigilant to ensure that fairness prevailed with accordance to law,” he says.
Vohrah says that he and several other judges would deliver a speaking judgement when they handed the death sentence.
“Everything that you needed to know about how we came to the decision was written down before the judgement was delivered,” he says.
The burden on judges became even heavier after the jury system was abolished in 1995, says Vohrah. (In the jury system, the fate of the accused rested upon seven people.)
“It was so terrible that I never wanted to do those sorts of cases again. Before I went up to the bench to deliver the decision, I would pray to God that I did the right thing. I would ask for blessings for the accused if he were convicted. It was a terrible burden,” he says.
Another former Court of Appeal judge, Datuk Shaikh Daud Shaikh Mohd Ismail, says passing the death sentence was not a pleasant thing to do.
He remembers the first time he had to do it.
“Just before the sentence, I adjourned the court. When I went up, my knees were shaking and I found it hard to utter the first words. After delivering it, I was sweating all over,” he recalls.
He says it became subsequently easier to deliver, although there was always fear in doing it.
“With a stroke of a pen, we are taking a person’s life. I didn’t like it at all but the law is there and there is nothing that you can do about it,” he says.
“On reflection, it is better not to have it.”
Then there is the issue of insanity. Recalling a case where the medical report of one mental hospital differed from the other, Bon says he is not convinced of the mental health regime’s ability to identify or categorise different forms of mental illnesses.
“If there was no second opinion, we would lose the case and end up hanging an insane person,” he says.
Surendran also believes that capital punishment draws attention from the real problem, which is crime prevention. One of the reasons the death penalty is bandied about is that it will act as a stern deterrent.
“Malaysia is still a transit for the drug trade and murders still happen. This lulls people into a false sense of comfort,” says Surendran, who also highlights that in drug trafficking cases, only the mules are caught while the kingpins and drug lords generally get away scot-free.
“The strata of people caught are usually from the lower income groups, marginalised and unprivileged backgrounds.”
Take Yong, for instance. He comes from a broken family and left home at 12 to work.
Surendran says it would be better to seek the underlying causes of the crime and for better police work.
The wait to be executed is also another form of cruelty, he says. According to a prisons official, those sentenced to death could wait up to four years from the date of their sentencing before the execution is carried out (after the various appeal stages).
Irreversible move
Another, and the most important, aspect about the death penalty is its irreversibility once the sentence is carried out.
Most lawyers agree with the fact that there is no such thing as a perfect criminal justice system and that mistakes could be made.
In short, someone could be wrongly punished for something that they did not commit.
Surendran points out the case of 23-year-old Vignes Mourthi from Perak who was hanged for drug trafficking in Singapore in 2003.
The former machine operator was convicted based on a hand-written transcript of a conversation he had with an undercover officer.
The undercover officer, however, was facing allegations of rape, sodomy and bribery at the time he gave the evidence. This fact was not presented to the court at the trial. (The officer was subsequently jailed for 15 months for bribery.)
Vignes, who was jobless and recovering from an accident when he was arrested, said he had been duped into delivering packages which he believed were incense stones.
“If we make a mistake, we can’t undo it,” says Surendran, citing the case

Friday, August 27, 2010

Give Vui Kong a Second Chance! campaign

A youth-led, youth-oriented campaign is being launched in Singapore, celebrating life and second chances.

Damien Chng and I (Kirsten Han) are currently working on a campaign targeting the youth of Singapore which will tie in with the campaign to save Yong Vui Kong, the 22-year-old boy on death row. We want to focus on being young, enjoying life and being allowed to try again when we fail. We believe that just as we all have made mistakes and been forgiven, Vui Kong too should also have a second chance.

Give Vui Kong a Second Chance!

You can read more about Yong Vui Kong here:

We are now on the lookout for young people who believe that Vui Kong should be given a second chance to get involved with campaign.

We are also going to shoot a campaign video to raise awareness and get the ball rolling. We are looking for bands, breakdancers, artists, skateboarders, athletes, cheerleaders, etc. to feature in this short campaign video. We hope to shoot this video sometime in the week of 30 August - 5 September.

We also welcome any other youths who would like to help out with this campaign.

If you would like to get involved, or if you would like to find out more, please do not hesitate to get in touch either by Facebook message, direct messaging on Twitter (@kixes), email ( or via my blog ( [I’m an Internet junkie so you can say that I am super-contactable.]

Please get in touch if you would like to be involved, and please share this message via any means you can (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, bebo, blogs, SMS, etc. etc.)

- cheers, kirsten

Klik4Malaysia: Coffin for S'pore High Commission if Yong is executed


The Singapore High Commissioner refused to meet members from Lawyers 4 Liberty and the MPs who gathered at the High Commission today although they have made prior appointment to see him regarding Yong Vui Kong's case.
However one of the members of Lawyers for Liberty, Fadiah Nadwa Fikri submitted the second memorandum to the First Secretary of the High Commission of Singapore, Walter Chia to be handed to the Singaporean government. The memorandum is to protest on the denial of due process of Yong Vui Kong and to call for his life to be spare.
Kapar MP S. Manickavasagam, Teluk Intan MP M. Manogaran, SUARAM Representative Cynthia Gabriel and Lawyers 4 Liberty, including N. Surendran, Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, Latheefa Koya, Murnie Hidayah, Eric Paulsen, Syuhaini Safwan and Renuka Balakrishnan protested in front of the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur today.
S. Manickavasagam (pic right) said if Yong Vui Kong is hung, they will come in a big group and bring a coffin box to be placed in front of the YongVK260810xSingapore High Commission. He warned the Singaporean government that they are serious.
"I am shameful of the Foreign Minister Y.B. Dato' Sri Anifah bin Haji Aman and he should put more pressure against the Singaporean government. Don't hang a young 18 year old boy. Give him a chance," he said.
M. Manogaran said the clemency of power has been cut off by the Singaporean government which is not acceptable.
"The extenuating circumstances should be taken into consideration, and he should be given chance to turn over a new leaf. I call upon the Malaysian government, Members of Parliament and Senate of Malaysia to take a more assertive stand on this, and not just give statements of record" he said. He also added that he is disappointed with the Foreign Minister and the government's stand on this, for not taking a more serious and assertive stand on Yong Vui Kong's life.

MP Kapar: We will bring a coffin box to be placed in front of SG High Commission

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

FIDH calls for presidential pardon for Vui Kong

 Paris - Kuala Lumpur, 25 August 2010 - The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), representing 164 organisations across the world, calls on the Singaporean authorities to uphold the right to life, as enshrined in international law, and urges HE S. R. Nathan, President of Singapore, to exercise his constitutional power to grant a pardon to Mr. Yong Vui Kong, a 22-year-old Malaysian national, who has been sentenced to death by hanging. 
Mr Yong, from Sabah, Malaysia, was 19 years old when he was arrested on 13 June 2007 in Singapore for drug possession and was later charged with trafficking 47.27g of diamorphine under Section 5(1)(a) of the Misuse of Drugs Act. He was convicted by the Singapore High Court in 7 January 2009 and sentenced to death by hanging (1). In December 2009, Mr Yong appealed against his sentence but not his conviction, admitting his action was wrong and in violation of the law. In a trial marred by public comments by executive officials, undermining the independence of the judicial proceedings, his appeal was dismissed on 14 May 2010 by Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong. At this final stage in the proceedings, Mr. Yong’s only escape from the gallows is a presidential pardon commuting his sentence from execution to life imprisonment, on the advice of the Cabinet, pursuant to Article 22(P) of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore.

Several mitigating factors point towards the appropriate use of a presidential pardon in this case. Mr. Yong was born into a disadvantaged and vulnerable family situation. After his family moved to the estate of another family member, where Mr. Yong and his mother were repeatedly abused, Mr. Yong moved on his own as a youth to Kuala Lumpur. In addition, Mr Yong is repentant for his crime and has openly recognised his wrong-doing. He has consequently embraced Buddhism while incarcerated and has been educating his fellow inmates as well as the wider public on the destructive nature of drugs, hoping to use his remaining days to provide positive guidance to young people like himself.

FIDH opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a cruel, inhuman punishment that violates one of the most fundamental human rights: the right to life. In addition, our Organisation wishes to underline that execution of drug traffickers both in Singapore as well as in other parts of the world has had no apparent or proven deterrent effect on drug trafficking. Despite Law Minister Shanmugam’s words to the contrary, there is no empirical data supporting the deterrence effect of the death penalty for drug crimes, especially among indigent and vulnerable sectors of society. In this particular case, FIDH invites the Singaporean authorities, in particular President Nathan, to consider Mr Yong’s repentance, background, and the positive message his rehabilitation and reform can send to young people around world in commuting Mr. Yong’s sentence to life in prison. To this end, FIDH strongly urges a presidential pardon be granted to Mr Yong and calls the Singaporean government to take concrete steps towards abolishing the death penalty.

Monday, August 23, 2010

President urged to convene constitutional court

TOC: President urged to convene constitutional court

“Not a single clemency in the last 11 years,” lawyer for Yong Vui Kong, Mr M Ravi, told the crowd at Speakers’ Corner on Sunday.
The event, titled “The elected President is not a rubber stamp”, is in response to the High Court’s decision on 13 August with regards to Mr Ravi’s application for a judicial review on the powers of granting clemency. Mr Ravi’s application was made after the then-Attorney General stated that: “Although in theory it is the President who exercises the prerogative of mercy, in fact it is the Cabinet that makes the decision”.
Justice Steven Chong’s judgement agreed and said such powers “rests solely with the Cabinet.”
The judgement has raised questions of the role of the elected President and whether the Cabinet has “usurped” the President’s powers with regards to granting clemencies.
Referring to the government’s hardline policy against drug trafficking, Mr Ravi said this was precisely why “politicians cannot decide clemency process because [their] decisions are influenced by policy and not mercy.”
“Why call it ‘power’ when .. you say the President has no discretion? Why even use the word ‘power’?” Mr Ravi asked, referring to the term “presidential clemency power”.
Mr Ravi again referred to what the Law Minister, Mr K Shanmugam, had said at a public forum in April before the Court of Appeal handed down its decision and before Yong had submitted his clemency appeal to the President – “Yong Vui Kong is young. But if we say ‘we let you go’, what is the signal we are sending?”.
“You take the clemency petition and what do you decide? Die. Even before clemency petition presented, he says die,” Mr Ravi said.
“We will petition the President .. under Article 100 of the Constitution to convene a Constitutional Court … Why is this important? … Cabinet has usurped those powers [of the President].”
“The elected President, when he convenes the Constitutional Court, he uses the State’s resources, he has immense amount of resource, and you have the best experts in the world to come before the Constitutional Tribunal to deliberate.”
Also speaking at Speakers’ Corner was The Online Citizen’s Chief Editor, Mr Andrew Loh. Referring to the court’s judgement, Mr Loh said it made “no sense” to him. Referring to the provisions in the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA), he said: “There’s a whole host of presumptions (in the MDA), at the end of which, if you are found guilty, you die. Full stop. You don’t get 20 years, you don’t get life imprisonment, you don’t get all that. You die. And it is the same people who constructed this law that now have the final say on clemency.”
Press reports on past clemencies have given the impression that it was the President which had the power to grant clemencies, Mr Loh said. “For example, President Wee Kim Wee has pardoned three people… People have written to him to thank him personally for granting the clemencies. But now we know that is all not true. He didn’t do anything at all.”
Participants at Speakers’ Corner were then urged to sign the letter to the President to convene a Constitutional Court. Copies of the letter were made available to the participants. About 50 people among the crowd signed the letters and they will be posted to the President on Monday.
Also, Mr Ravi wrote to the Singapore Prison Service last week to ask it to confirm that the deadline for Yong to submit his clemency appeal has been extended, as Justice Chong had “invited” the Prison Service to do, in light of the appeal which will be lodged with the Court of Appeal with regards to Justice Chong’s decision on the powers of clemency.
The Singapore Prison Service has yet to reply to Mr Ravi.
Yong’s original deadline to submit his appeal to the President ends this Thursday, 26 August. He could be hanged anytime after that.
Separately, the campaigners to save Yong Vui Kong from being hanged, have collected close to 100,000 signatures – both online and from Malaysians on the streets in Sabah – which will be handed to President Nathan this week.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

TOC: Past Presidents powerless, never actually decided clemencies?

Choo Zheng Xi -
Singaporeans are justifiably shocked to discover that Singapore’s Elected President has absolutely no discretion to grant clemency.
For years, the media, defense lawyers, and the general public have been deliberately given the impression that the President had some role to play in clemency. The latest High Court judgment makes clear that in all these years of the clemency process, the President has merely acted as a rubber-stamp.
Grants of Presidential clemency are rare in Singapore, but not actually unheard of. Since Singapore’s independence, seven clemencies have been granted.
Two were granted in the term of Benjamin Sheares, one under Devan Nair, three under Wee Kim Wee, and one under Ong Teng Cheong.
Each letter from the President’s principle private secretary rejecting or accepting clemency includes the words: “after due consideration and with the advice of the Cabinet” (emphasis added). The clear implication is that the President has considered, or applied his mind to whether or not to grant clemency.
A Straits Times report covering the death of President Wee Kim Wee in 2005 was written completely on the assumption that the President played some role, indeed a major role in the grant of clemency to Koh Swee Beng in 1992. Koh was originally supposed to hang for murder.
The article, about Koh’s mother who stood at the Istana weeping on the death of President Wee, begins:  “THIRTEEN years ago, he spared her son from the gallows” and ends with a quote by Koh’s defense lawyer Mr Peter Fernando:  “The family was so grateful to the President”.  Koh’s mother is quoted as saying “He was a really good person. I can never repay him for what he has done. But I wanted to pay my respects to him and thank him one last time”.
According to the AG and High Court, Madam Koh’s adoration for the late President Wee was completely misguided! President Wee had absolutely no discretion in the matter, and did not have a say in whether her son lived or died, he merely signed off on Cabinet’s decision!
Earlier in 1992, President Wee Kim Wee had also pardoned a second person, Madam Sim Ah Cheoh, who was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to hang.
In a Straits Times report on 23 March of that year, the paper announced that “it was also the first time President Wee Kim Wee exercised his powers as Elected President in intervening, on the recommendation of the Cabinet, in a case where a person was found guilty of an offence punishable by death and had exhausted all other ways of appeal.” (emphasis added)
All these years, when petitioners have sent appeals for clemency to the Istana, they have believed that they were making personal appeals to invoke what in English law is known as the “sovereign’s high prerogative of mercy”.
This was what the mother of condemned man Mathavakannan thought in 1998, when she made a highly personal appeal to President Ong Teng Cheong to spare her son: “My son is my world, my life and the very essence of my existence … If the death sentence is carried out, it would also be my death sentence because the sorrow of the loss of my only son would surely kill me.”
President Ong heard her plea, and granted Mathavakannan a commutation to life imprisonment.
According to Justice Steven Chong and the Attorney-General, President Ong had nothing to do with it.
According to them, it seems that The Straits Times got it wrong, but there was no denial from the Cabinet that the Elected President actually had absolutely no discretion in this matter.
If Cabinet has all along been deciding clemencies, how can it be that Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong so grossly mistook the number of executions in that year by seven times the actual number when questioned on the BBC’s Hardtalk in 2003? Has Cabinet really been the one making the final choice all along?
The only person capable of clearing this mess up is President Nathan, empowered under Article 100 of the Constitution to convene a Constitutional Tribunal to ascertain the limits of his powers to grant clemency. Ong Teng Cheong did exactly that in 1995 by convening the tribunal to clarify if he could withhold assent to Constitutional Bills passed by Parliament aimed at circumventing his powers.
Unless President Nathan acts, he will go down in history as the one President who not just never granted a single clemency, but also sat back and let Cabinet curtail his powers.
Addendum: President S R Nathan’s second term is coming to an end, no clemencies have been granted under his watch.
An event at Speakers’ Corner is planned for this Sunday, 22 August at 4pm, with regards to the matter. Details will be announced soon.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Statement by SADPC regarding the judgement of Singapore's High Court on 13 August 2010

Statement by SADPC regarding the judgement of Singapore's High Court on 13 August 2010

The Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) wishes to express its deepest disappointment over the judgement of the High Court on Friday, 13 August 2010, stating that the President has no discretion in clemency appeals and that the Cabinet has sole authority in the matter.

We have also found it very disquieting that the Court regards the remarks by the Law Minister as not being pre-judicial to the clemency process.

Furthermore we are not too pleased to learn that Mr. Siew Kum Hong, former Nominated Member of Parliament, has put on record that the whole process has been fair to Yong Vui Kong. 

We sincerely invite Mr. Siew and anyone who disagrees with us on this issue to feel free to turn up at our future forums and events to have their contrary views in line with the Minister's heard. 

Further information:

Rachel Zeng, 

Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign

President has no discretion in clemency appeal (Full report)

“I therefore hold that the President has no discretion under the Constitution, and specifically under Article 22P, to grant pardons,” High Court Judge Steven Chong said. “The power to do so rests solely with the Cabinet.”

Justice Chong handed down the ruling on lawyer M Ravi’s application for a judicial review of the President’s powers in granting clemency on Friday.

Mr Ravi had applied for a judicial review to ascertain where the powers to grant clemency lie. Specifically he asked the courts to decide on certain remarks by the then-Attorney General, Mr Walter Woon, made in March 2010, and comments by Law Minister K Shanmugam, made in April this year.

Mr Woon had said, during the appeal of death row inmate Yong Vui Kong : “Although in theory it is the President who exercises the prerogative of mercy, in fact it is the Cabinet that makes the decision”.

The Law Minister’s remarks  - “Yong Vui Kong is young. But if we say ‘we let you go’, what is the signal we are sending?” – made in April, before Yong’s submission of his appeal to the President, had prejudiced and compromised Yong’s constitutional right to an appeal for clemency, Mr Ravi argued.

Read more at The Online Citizen.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Activists cry murder over Singapore hanging

By Teoh El Sen
KUALA LUMPUR: Anti-death-penalty activists have asked the Singapore government to admit that it wrongfully executed a young Malaysian in 2003 and demanded that it release British writer Alan Shadrake, whose latest book sheds new light on the case.
“Singapore has murdered an innocent person in cold blood,” said N Surendran of Lawyers for Liberty in reference to the hanging of M Vignes, who was 21 when he was arrested in 2001 on suspicion of drug trafficking.

Surendran was speaking to reporters outside the Singapore High Commission, where his organisation and the Civil Rights Committee of the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall had submitted a memorandum demanding the abolition of the death penalty and a halt to all pending executions.

Vignes was hanged in Changi Prison on Sept 26, 2003. Shadrake is awaiting trial for criminal defamation and contempt of court for allegations he made in his book against the Singapore government.
He was arrested a day after the launching of the book, Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock.

“Alan's book revealed a shocking truth,” Surendran said. “We now know the key witness in Vignes's trial was himself being investigated for rape, sodomy and later convicted of corruption."

'Crucial facts'

Surendran said Singapore authorities had maliciously concealed these "crucial facts" from Vignes's lawyer, M Ravi.

"Worse still, when Ravi asked Chief Justice Yong Pung How whether an innocent man could be hanged because of procedural matters, he replied 'Yes, the answer is yes’. This is as if the CJ has himself strangled him with his own hands."

The memorandum was submitted to the High Commission’s first secretary, Walter Chia. It demanded that the Singapore government:
  • acknowledge the miscarriage of justice that led to the execution of Vignes;
  • clear Vignes’s name and make amends to his family;
  • institute immediate reforms in the Singapore judiciary to ensure Singaporean judges appreciate and respect human life and liberty;
  • take appropriate action according to the Singapore Constitution against Chief Justice Yong;
  • halt all pending executions in Singapore and commute death sentences to imprisonment; and
  • withdraw all pending criminal charges against Shadrake and apologise for his wrongful arrest and imprisonment.
Speaking to reporters, Vignes' father, V Mourthi, said he still felt as if his son was alive.

"I know he is innocent,” he said. “I want to know what the Singapore government is going to do about this. I hope the truth will finally come out.”

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

TOC: Father of Vignes Mourthi seeks redress for son’s hanging in S’pore

Father of Vignes Mourthi seeks redress for son’s hanging in S’pore 
Mr Mourthi Vasu today went to the S’pore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur to seek redress for his son’s hanging in Singapore. Vignes Mourthi, who was 21-years old when he was arrested in 2001 for drug trafficking, was hanged in S’pore in 2003.
Mr Mourthi was accompanied by Mr Surendan of Lawyers For Liberty who handed over a memorandum of protest to the 3rd secretary of the Singapore High Commission.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Malaysian MPs and senators call for Yong to be spared

The Online Citizen: Malaysian MPs and senators call for Yong to be spared

Andrew Loh –

On Friday, 31 Malaysian Members of Parliament and 11 senators gave their support to the Save Vui Kong campaign. Yong Vui Kong is a 22-year old Malaysian who is currently on Singapore’s death row after being convicted for drug trafficking.
[Picture left: Vui Kong, extreme right, as a young boy.]
The backing from the MPs and senators for the campaign comes at a time when there is growing awareness and support for Yong in Malaysia. According to the “Save Vui Kong Campaign” activists, the MPs include 21 Pakatan MPs, including DAP’s Karpal Singh, and eight MPs from Barisan Nasional, the ruling coalition.
MP for Sabah, Datuk Chua Soon Bui, said Yong can give back to society by reaching out to young people who might be vulnerable to drug traffickers. Rather than kill him, he should be allowed to repent and share his story, she said on 25 July. (See here) Datuk Chua said a number of people in the district of Tawau have joined in the task to gather signatures. She herself would conduct her own rounds for the same purpose, she added.
Malaysia wrote to the Singapore government in July to appeal for clemency for Yong. “We sympathise with what had transpired and will do everything possible within our powers or diplomatic means to solve the problem,” Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said.
Campaigners have so far collected 14,000 signatures from members of the public in Malaysia. An online petition has garnered almost 15,000 signatures to date. A blog has been created for the campaign: Save Vui Kong.
Besides the politicians’ support, non-governmental organizations have also lent their voices in the bid to save Yong from the gallows. These include the Malaysian Bar Association, The Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia and Amnesty International Malaysia.
Yong’s family has also made its own appeal to the President of Singapore, SR Nathan.
In Singapore, activists took to the city’s Speakers’ Corner last Sunday to add their voices to the clemency plea. A Facebook photo project urging Singaporeans to show their support through pictures have also been set up.
In the meantime, the lawyer for Yong, Mr M Ravi, filed an application for judicial review with the Singapore courts on 22 July. Mr Ravi’s application argued that the clemency process has been so prejudged that the court should issue an order of prohibition to prevent the execution and the clemency process from moving ahead. Mr Ravi’s application cites the Singapore Law Minister’s remarks in a public forum and the Law Ministry’s later press statement on the matter as having “irreversibly tainted the clemency process with apparent bias”.
Mr Ravi’s application also argued that the Elected President’s powers under Article 22P of the Constitution has been usurped by Cabinet in advance of the clemency petition being received. (See here for a fuller report.)
Judgement on the application is pending.
The media in Singapore, however, have played down the issue and the Malaysian campaign to  save Yong has hardly been reported.
Yong has taken up Buddhist studies while in prison and has pledged, if he is given a second chance, to use his time to counsel those who, like him, have fallen victim to crime.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What are you so afraid of?

A blogger writes after reading Alan Shadrake's book: 


Are you afraid that people will read about Singapore’s investments in Burma and its alleged links to internationally known drug lords? (It’s already on the Internet, see
 here and here).

Are you afraid that people will make judgments about how Julia Bohl, a German citizen and known drug trafficker, had her sentence lessened after the amount of drugs she was found with was reduced after “further laboratory tests” (from 687 grams to 281 grams)?

Are you afraid that people will start questioning the sting tactics of the Central Narcotics Bureau, when an informant in the book alleges that sometimes small time drug mules are encouraged to smuggle larger amounts by undercover officers – amounts that lead to death by hanging if caught?

Are you afraid of international condemnation when it becomes public knowledge that there were cases when drug offenders with signs of significant intellectual impairment were not given special consideration?

Are you afraid of the scandal when it is revealed the son of a former High Court judge was arrested for consuming cocaine – in addition to the revelation that he managed to serve time at home with an electronic tag?

Are you afraid of public outrage when we read about the case of Vignes Mourthi, who was hanged largely based on the account of a key witness who was also concurrently being investigated for charges of corruption, rape and sodomy? (Only this key witness, a senior officer, was not tried till a year after Mourthi was hanged)

Are you afraid that when we read vivid descriptions of the hanging process, the agony of waiting as you hear the sounds of others being executed, the securing of arms and legs to ensure there is no struggling, the careful measuring required because “if you get it wrong the head would go one way and the body the other”, the suspension of bodies for 20 minutes to ensure death (or until the body stops writhing), the engorged faces, the swollen, protruding tongues, the bulging eyes, the neck covered with lacerations… we will be haunted by the thought of the approximately 1,000 times our renowned executioner Darshan Singh (now retired) has carried them out?