URGENT: Petition to grant clemency for Yong Vui Kong
15 August 2010 11:35 pm
FORUM-ASIA, together with its members in Malaysia and Singapore, SUARAM and
Think Centre, and other NGOs, appeal for your support in campaigning for clemency for Yong Vui Kong, a Malaysian arrested in Singapore for drug trafficking when he was 18 years old. On January 2009, the Singapore court delivered the death sentence to Yong, which is the mandatory penalty for drug trafficking in the country. Yong has exhausted his appeals and he can now only escape execution if the Singapore President grants clemency. Singapore human rights lawyer, M. Ravi, is campaigning for and assisting Yong in the case. The deadline for his clemency application to the President of Singapore is on 26 August 2010.
We urge you to support the online petition campaign to grant clemency to save Yong Vui Kong, and to state our objection to death penalty as a cruel and inhumane form of punishment that is against human rights.
For more details about the story of Yong Vui Kong and the background of his case, please click this link of a site which is dedicated to the campaign for a second chance for Yong Vui Kong.
You can also read the letters of Yong sent to his family in the website.
You can also read an earlier statement of FORUM-ASIA about this case.
Please help forward this appeal as widely as possible to your own network of organizations and individuals. Your support would be much appreciated.
Yong Vui Kong, a 22 year old young man from Sabah, is about to be hanged in Singapore.
On 13 June 2007, Yong, then 18, was arrested and later charged with trafficking drugs. He was carrying 47.27g of diamorphine, a controlled drug, and an offence under section 5(1)(a) of the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185), which carries a mandatory death sentence. He was convicted on 7 January 2009.
He initially appealed against the decision, but later withdrew his appeal since he believed that doing so meant had to lie in court. He does not want to lie. This is the first time in Singapore history that a person convicted to death has withdrawn an appeal.
He in fact admitted that he had carried the drug for his “big brother”. He was told by his “big brother” that was nothing serious. Having no knowledge of the severe consequences, he took the path of no return.
He then filed a petition to the President for clemency. This application was however rejected. The State sent a letter to his family to prepare for his funeral whilst Yong donated his organs to the State.
Before he was due to be executed on 4 December 2009, his mother flew from Sandakan to see him. Nobody has mentioned to his mother about the death sentence. She simply cannot take the blow. She suffered from depression and had once attempted suicide a few years back. Even now, nobody said anything about the death sentence in front of her. All she knows is her son is in trouble in a foreign land.
Yong had embraced Buddhism and is a completely changed person. He told his mother that he is going to a place and will not return.
On 2 December 2009, Mr Ravi, a new counsel, obtained access to him and convinced him to appeal. He agreed to appeal against the sentence and not the conviction. This is a case to challenge the mandatory death sentence in Singapore. This challenge had failed.
The following day, Ravi filed an application in court for leave to pursue the appeal and to seek a stay of execution. On the same day, the Court of Appeal allowed the stay of execution, and subsequently allowed his application on 31 December 2009.
Yong Vui Kong’s appeal against the sentence was heard by the Court of Appeal, he challenge that the mandatory death sentence for being inhuman and unconstitutional. It was dismissed on 14 May 2010.
Since the appeal was dismissed, Yong has a right to again seek for clemency from the President. This is his final chance at relief. Pursuant to Article 22(p) of the Constitution, the President has the power to commute his sentence, from death sentence to life imprisonment, in accordance with the advise of the Cabinet.
On 9 May 2010, even before the Court of Appeal gave its verdict, the Law Minister of Singapore, K. Shanmugam was quoted in a newspaper as saying, “Yong Vui Kong (who was sentenced to hang for trafficking 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… [to] 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. With the sympathy generated after these people are caught he added, there will be a whole unstoppable stream of people coming through as long as we won’t enforce our laws”.
Shanmugan specifically mentioned Yong Vui Kong by name, and had literally said that this boy must be hanged. He made the statement before Yong’s appeal was heard. Even if the judge’s decision was not tainted with this remark from the law minister, it has basically shut the door for his clemency petition.
In practice, even though the Constitution gives the the power of clemency on the President, his decision is decision based on the advise of the Cabinet. By the Law Minister’s remark, the Cabinet seems to have decided against a clemency for Yong Vui Kong before even hearing him out.
The Law Minister’s statement therefore has a far-reaching implication on Yong’s case. It has interfered with the rules of natural justice, due process and Yong’s constitutional right to seek clemency from the President.
By doing that:-
- The Minister has denied Yong Vui Kong’s right to seek clemency even before he presented his petition to the President
- The clemency petition even if presented, has been tainted with bias and Yong cannot even look forward to a real decision by the President.
- The Minister’s statement may have usurped the President’s power under the Constitution.
Yong’s counsel is preparing to file a case in Singapore to declare that the Law Minister’s remarks had deprived Yong of his life and liberty. Whether that can be successful or not, we will have to see.
Yong’s counsel has also written to the High Commission of Malaysia in Singapore to seek assistance. No positive actions were seen until after 5 July. After a meeting with the Malaysian Foreign Minister on the same day, they agreed to write to the Singapore government to plea for this young man.
The last day for Yong to file petition for clemency is on 26 August 2010, after which he will be hanged at anytime.