Singapore's Mandatory Death Penalty: Yong Vui Kong

Yong Vui Kong is on death row in Singapore, arrested at age 18 for carrying 1.5 ounces of heroin. Singapore's law provides the death penalty for anyone caught with more than 15 grams of heroin (Kong had 47) and provides no exceptions.

His dedicated family (particularly his brother and sister) and his attorney Madasamy Ravi, a Singapore human rights lawyer and member of the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network, have done a herculean job so far of keeping the case in the courts. The end is now here, but he still could be saved.

Al Jazeera made the excellent video above telling the story, I hope you will all watch. [More...]

His siblings collected 109,000 signatures,and Yong Vui Kong now has 10,000 supporters on Facebook for their Give Yong a Second Chance Campaign. They were delivered to the President.

After losing an appeal, and a clemency bid, on January 17, the Court of Appeals in Singapore heard argument in the latest appeal and took the matter under advisement.

M. Ravi argued that the process of clemency, which was denied by the President last December, had been prejudiced by public statements made earlier in the year by the Minister of Justice in favour of his execution. The Court of Appeal reserved judgment which means that the decision could be delivered any time and Yong executed if the appeal is rejected.

Vui Kong, now 23, "is at immediate risk of execution unless the Malaysian authorities and others press Singapore’s President to grant clemency.

In Singapore, even though clemency is a power of the President, it is the cabinet that decides. And a member of that cabinet came out for Kong's execution in an op-ed published in the paper the same day as his appeal hearing. Thus, his clemency is not being determined by a fair and unbiased panel.

The Malaysia Foreign Minister previously intervened to request that Singapore's President commute Yong's death sentence.

As to how Vui Yong got involved with drugs:

Vui Kong worked as a kitchen hand in Kuala Lumpur, but was later introduced to a gang, whose boss showered him with 5 star hotel stays and treated him to meals he could never be able to afford.

...Eventually Vui Kong went from debt collecting to "delivering gifts". These gifts turned out to be drugs. At that young and impressionable age, Vui Kong had no idea that the penalty for trafficking of drug was mandatory death.

...Vui Kong would later shuttle back and forth Singapore and Malaysia several times until he was caught in June 2007 with possession of 47g of heroin. Yong was 18 and a half years old at the time of arrest. Singapore drug laws stipulate mandatory death for 18 years and above. Vui Kong faced certain death the moment he was caught by narcotics officers.

As to his background:

He grew up in extreme poverty, dropped out of school when he was just 11. He was barely literate when he was caught - a lowly cog in a shadowy syndicate. He was so very young. He is so very sorry now.

If Vui Kong is spared the death penalty, the ramifiations will be great.

Many within and without the legal fraternity have long argued that the use of the death penalty to stop drug smuggling is otiose and that the only way to wipe out the menace is through coordinated enforcement action by all affected nations on the drug barons operating out of Southeast Asia.

...[T]he mandatory death penalty... is inhuman and falls disproportionately on the poor and disadvantaged.

Here is the petition to save Vui Kong.

His lawyer explains the process here. He adds:

In Singapore, the war for abolition cannot be won solely in the courtrooms. It has to be part of the struggle to build an independent and supportive press, integral to the effort to re-empower the local bar, and most importantly to win the hearts and minds of citizens whose eyes have been too long closed to the most fundamental questions of civil and political rights.

And please share the video, which first aired three days ago on al Jazeera. There are Facebook pages here and here.

Singapore and the U.S. are among the few countries using the death penalty. But Singapore's is worse, because it is mandatory and presumes knowledge and intent to distribute from the fact of possession of anything over 1/2 ounce, relieving the Government of its burden of proof.

Help save Vui Kong.

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    Just finished watching (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by kenosharick on Sun Jan 30, 2011 at 10:32:08 AM EST
    and am pretty speechless. As bad as our system is, this is so much worse.  Please keep us posted Jeralyn.

    Hmmm... (none / 0) (#2)
    by BeetJuice on Mon Jan 31, 2011 at 12:58:37 PM EST
    Only one comment? I'm guessing if this was an attractive white female there would be more comments.