Monday, 23 September 2013

Drug Couriers May Escape Singapore Gallows

Singapore gives two drug mules a chance to leave death row

Yong Yun Leong (left) and Yong Yun Chung (centre), the brothers of convicted Malaysian drug trafficker Yong Vui Kong, leave the High Court with lawyer M Ravi, in Singapore on April 4, 2011. Yong Vui Kong, on death row for drug trafficking had what could be his final appeal thrown out on Wednesday by the city-state's highest court.
AFP News - Yong Yun Leong (left) and Yong Yun Chung (centre), the brothers of convicted Malaysian drug trafficker Yong Vui Kong, leave the High Court with lawyer M Ravi, in Singapore on April 4, 2011. Yong Vui Kong, on death row for drug trafficking had what could be his final appeal thrown out on Wednesday by the city-state's highest court

Two drug mules on death row in Singapore were given the chance to escape the gallows on Wednesday after helping in anti-narcotics efforts.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers said on Wednesday that public prosecutors would certify that Singaporean Subashkaran s/o Pragasam and Malaysian Yong Vui Kong have “substantively assisted” the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) “in disrupting drug trafficking activities within and outside of Singapore".

Subashkaran, 29, and Yong, 24, who face the death penalty for drug trafficking, could therefore find their sentences reduced.

Article: Drug trafficker in S'pore becomes the first to escape death penalty
Article: Singapore eases death penalty policy
Article: Death penalty change came from review, not activists: Shanmugam
Article: Singapore urged to end all executions
Article: Online media keeps alive debate on death penalty
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Drug Couriers May Escape Singapore Gallows

Malaysian protesters gathered outside the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur in 2010 to urge the neighboring country’s government to pardon Yong Vui Kong from the death penalty for drug trafficking

Two convicted drug traffickers on death row in Singapore, including a Malaysian citizen, may escape the gallows after prosecutors ruled Wednesday that they had provided substantive assistance to police in fighting narcotics-related crime.

The decision means the men may become the first drug couriers in Singapore to have their death sentences retroactively commuted, after the Southeast Asian nation relaxed sentencing guidelines for lower-level drug trafficking in January.

In a statement, the Attorney-General’s Chambers said it would certify in court that Yong Vui Kong – a 24-year-old Malaysian – and Subashkaran Pragasam – a 29-year-old Singaporean – had “substantively assisted the Central Narcotics Bureau in disrupting drug trafficking activities within and outside Singapore.”

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Yong Vui Kong happy for 2nd chance: M Ravi

As activists, both Singaporean and foreign, heave a sigh of relief that the Attorney General’s Chambers has issued a Certificate of Cooperation to death row inmate Yong Vui Kong, how does the now 25-year old Vui Kong feel about it?

Vui Kong was sentenced to hang for trafficking in 47.27g of heroin into Singapore in 2008. All his appeals were dismissed and he has since exhausted all his legal avenues to plead against his sentence.

It was only through a change in the law on the mandatory death penalty in Singapore in 2012 that he now has an opportunity to be spared.

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2 drug traffickers may be spared mandatory death penalty

Mr Yong Yun Leong (centre), brother of convicted Malaysian drug trafficker Yong Vui Kong, presents a petition to a policeman at the Istana on Aug 24, 2010, calling on President SR Nathan to spare Yong's life after he was sentenced to death for trafficking heroin in 2008. Yong Vui Kong may be spared death after all, after he received a certificate of cooperation for assisting the Central Narcotics Bureau. -- ST FILE PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

Two convicted drug traffickers may be spared the death penalty following recent changes to drug laws here, after prosecutors said on Wednesday the two men had assisted the authorities in investigations.

Subashkaran Pragasam, 29, and Yong Vui Kong, 24, will be issued certificates that say they have substantively helped the Central Narcotics Bureau to disrupt drug trafficking activities, said the Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) in a statement. This means they are eligible for a life sentence, which the court can hand down instead of hanging, if they can prove that they only played the role of couriers.

Subashkaran and Yong are the first two persons awaiting capital punishment who the Public Prosecutor has decided to issue certificates of substantive assistance to under the amended Misuse of Drugs Act, said the AGC.


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Two convicted drug traffickers may be spared death penalty

Two men currently on death row for drug trafficking may be spared the death penalty after they were deemed to have substantively helped the Central Narcotics Bureau in disrupting drug trafficking activities within and outside Singapore.

Yong Vui Kong was convicted by the High Court in 2008 of trafficking 42.27 grammes of heroin and given the death sentence, which is mandatory for offences involving more than 15 grammes of the drug.

Subashkaran Pragasam was sentenced to death in October last year for trafficking 186.62 grammes of heroin.

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Will this be the beginning of a compassionate justice system in Singapore?


The Online Citizen reported a little piece of good news lately: two Certificates of Cooperation were awarded to two people - Yong Vui Kong and Subashkaran s/o Pragasam. The former’s probable release from death row (which will be determined by the courts), aided by human rights lawyer M Ravi, was hailed as a significant achievement by anti-death penalty activists online.

In a sense, power has been vested in the courts so that they can now commute the death sentences of people who, due to their socio-economic circumstance and other difficulties, were susceptible to manipulation by drug lords and other criminal masterminds.

Whether this was a cause of the campaigns of activists - one that has been the hallmark of The Online Citizen and has defined its past activism - or whether this was a cause of the Ministry of Law deciding that some leniency and compassion would be acceptable to a society that condones the damage done by drugs is a point of contention.

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Anti-death penalty lobbyists have a duty to inform public about Yong Vui Kong's case

The anti-death penalty campaigners have been using Yong Vui Kong as a test case for their anti-death penalty cause. I presented my arguments here - Attn: Campaigners for Yong Vui Kong who is on death row - govt offers lifeline, so grab it! 

In the above article, I argued that the govt has presented Vui Kong a chance to live - on condition he tells on his boss, Chia Choon Leng and have him sentenced to death instead. This of course puts anti-death penalty campaigners in a bind. To save Vui Kong, they have to work towards having another criminal hanged - a life for a life, which is against the very principle of the anti-death penalty campaign in the first place.

The tardiness and total silence from the anti-death penalty group was very unnerving for all who have been following Vui Kong's case, hoping to see that an amicable end could be reached. The anti-death campaigners, who have been very loopy and evasive for years, shifting goalposts from anti-mandatory death penalty campaigning to anti-death penalty campaigning, as well as giving bits and pieces of material facts along the way which they previously withheld, did not help build any trust the public might have in them

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Well Done M Ravi

Lawyer M Ravi is 'the go to guy', for people on the wrong end of the Govt's stick

Lawyer Madasamy Ravi has always been in the news, usually for representing clients with some 'beef' against the Govt, defending human rights and occasionally for some 'antics' he pulls off, as a result of having a 'bi-polar disorder'. He may not be among the best or top echelon of lawyers here and probably doesn't have a long experience of practising law, but there is 1 quality he possesses that no one can begrudge him, and sets him apart from many other lawyers, even the senior ones. That quality is his tremendous energy and determination to fight for the best possible outcome for his clients.

No case highlighted this quality more than the matter of PP (Public Prosecutor) v Yong Vui Kong, a 25 year old Malaysian. To recap: In 2006, Yong then an 18 year old, was already involved with unsavoury criminal elements in KL. Soon he became a drug courier for this syndicate (although he denies he knew he was delivering drugs) and was making multiple deliveries to Singapore. However his luck eventually ran out and he was arrested by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) sometime in June 2006.

After analysis the drugs was determined to be heroin and weighed in at around 48 gm. Actually the initial amount was much larger I believe, normally in heroin trafficked here, almost 90 % of it are impurities and other elements. For the purpose of the Law, only the pure heroin content is taken into consideration. So his amount trafficked was probably in the range of 400-500gm prior to analysis, which reduced it to 48 gm of pure heroin. For 400gm, that would cost in the several thousands on the street, thus it was indeed a substantial amount he trafficked.

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I first encountered Vui Kong’s case back in 2008 & was immediately struck by the injustice 

Later on, I sat in court to hear the constitutional challenge of the mandatory death penalty 

With Singapore’s track record , it seemed like only a miracle could save Vui Kong It’s thrilling to see that the miracle has indeed happened

Like could only happen in a hollywood movie

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A 4-year campaign to save a life

Before he passed the death sentence on Malaysian Yong Vui Kong in January 2009 for drug trafficking, trial judge Choo Han Teck reportedly summoned the prosecution and defence into his chambers and asked the prosecution if it would consider reducing the charge to a non-capital one, given that Yong was only 19-years old then.

The prosecution declined – and Yong was subsequently sentenced to death. It was, under the circumstances, the only and mandatory sentence judge Choo could mete out.

Two days before Yong was scheduled to be hanged on 4 December 2009, his lawyer, M Ravi, made a last ditch attempt to have Yong’s execution stayed.

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Half the battle won

Photo credit: Han Thon
“Give Vui Kong a Second Chance” (2010) – Photo credit: Han Thon

When I received the news that Vui Kong will be issued the Certificate of Co-operation on Wednesday, I was close to tears. After 4 years of working on the campaign, which has been a roller-coaster ride between hopefulness and frustration, this feels like half a heavy load lifted from my shoulders… what a relief, in a lot of ways! 

This is certainly great news for the loved ones of Vui Kong as well as the campaigners past and present, who have been working on this campaign since 2009. Special mention has to go to M Ravi, who has worked tirelessly and passionately, exploring all legal possibilities. Without him, Vui Kong and many others on death row might not have been here with us today and no amendments to both the Penal Code and Misuse of Drugs Act might have seen the light of the day. I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Vui Kong and his family, as well as Ravi for what has been achieved today in this particular case. I would also like to congratulate the loved ones of Subashkaran Pragasam, the other death-row inmate who will be issued the Certificate of Co-operation.

For Vui Kong and Subashkaran, this is half the battle won and we await the good news that will result from the review, especially in the case of Vui Kong because I strongly believe that he stands a good chance to have his death sentence commuted.

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Yong Vui Kong receives Certificate of Co-operation

Yong Vui Kong, a Malaysian man who has been living on Singapore’s death row since he was convicted of trafficking narcotics into Singapore in 2008, when he was 19 years old, will have another opportunity to make his case in Court as to why he should be spared the death penalty

Pursuant to recent amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act, Mr Yong has received a Certificate of Cooperation from the Public Prosecutor. Such a certificate indicates that the young man has provided such substantive assistance to the Central Narcotics Bureau as to disrupt drug trafficking activities in Singapore or abroad, and he will therefore be considered to receive an exemption from the Mandatory Death Penalty.

“This news comes as a tremendous relief to me,” stated Mr Yong’s lawyer, Singapore human rights activist, Mr M Ravi. “It has been nearly four years now, that we have been fighting to save Vui Kong’s life.”

Yong Vui Kong has been the subject of an international campaign against Singapore’s Mandatory Death Penalty [“MDP”] scheme, whereby persons found in possession of narcotics in certain amounts are deemed traffickers by the Courts, and sentenced to death by hanging. Two days prior to Mr Yong’s scheduled execution in 2009, his execution was dramatically stayed as a result of a Constitutional Challenge to the MDP brought by Yong’s lawyer, Mr Ravi, along with an international team of lawyers to include UK Queen’s Counsel, Mr Edward Fitzgerald.

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2 drug traffickers may escape death for helping CNB
Subashkaran Pragasam, 29, and Yong Vui Kong, 23, who are currently on death row for drug trafficking, may eventually be spared the death penalty after they were deemed to have “substantively assisted the Central Narcotics Bureau in disrupting drug trafficking activities within or outside Singapore”.

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) informed their lawyers today (18 Sep) that the Public Prosecutor will certify this to the High Court. Subashkaran and Yong will each be issued a certificate of substantive assistance. This means they are eligible for a life sentence instead of death by hanging. The High Court will make the final judgement in each of their cases.

AGC said if Subashkaran and Yong can prove to the High Court that they were traffickers who only played the role of a courier, under the revised Misuse of Drugs Act, the prosecution will leave sentencing to the discretion of the court.

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