On Friday the 14 May 2010, Mr Chan Sek Keong, the Chief Justice of Singapore, ruled that Yong Vui Kong, a 22 year-old Malaysian from the state of Sabah, be hanged. My task is not an easy one. By Article 22(p) of the Singapore Constitution, such a petition is submitted to the President who makes his decision on the clemency.
We now know, thanks to an astounding revelation made by the Attorney-General in the course of his arguments in this case, that “although in theory it’s the President who exercises the prerogative of mercy, it is the Cabinet who makes the decision.” What is so startling about this disclosure is that Article 22(p) of the Constitution clearly states that:
…such sentence has been confirmed by the appellate court, the President shall cause the reports which are made to him by the Judge who tried the case and the Chief Justice or other presiding Judge of the appellate court to be forwarded to the Attorney-General with instructions that, after the Attorney-General has given his opinion thereon, the reports shall be sent, together with the Attorney-General?s opinion, to the Cabinet so that the Cabinet may advise the President on the exercise of the power conferred on him by clause (1).
Just to recap, my client was ordered to be hung on 14th May 2010. He has a right to seek clemency. The President has the right to commute his sentence. The President’s decision is made according to Article 22(p) of the Constitution. The most Senior Law Officer of the State is on record as saying that it is the Cabinet that makes the decision. You might think that nothing can be much worse that that. The Attorney-General himself enunciates a distortion of the Constitution. You would be wrong, it gets worse, far worse, just a few days before the Court of Appeal was to hand down its decision, none other than the Law Minister, a key member of the Cabinet made a public statement to a question by a Constituent that: ”
Yong Vui Kong (who was sentenced to hang for trafficking 47g of Heroin), he 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. 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.
Now you understand why I need your help. We all know that drug trafficking attracts the mandatory death sentence in Singapore and Malaysia. That is not an issue here. What we have thought is that after you have been sentenced to death by the Court you could try to persuade the President to commute your sentence. What we now know is that the President does not decide the petition, the Cabinet decides it. And in Yong Vui Kong’s case, the senior Cabinet minister has said he should hang even before he has presented his petition. Now that we know that the Cabinet makes the decision and now we know that at least from a key member of the Cabinet why the clemency process has been tainted with biasness and is rendered ineffective.
The reason I have come to Malaysia is to ask for your help in making clear to the Singapore government that you will not tolerate the execution of a young Malaysian boy in this case because he has been denied an opportunity to persuade the President to grant the clemency. He cannot even look for a real decision by the President but only by Cabinet. But Cabinet has already spoken and said no. This offends the rules of natural justice, due process, and the Constitution which itself grants the right to seek clemency from the President.
What I would like this young man’s country to do is to exercise its sovereign powers on behalf of its own national who is being denied elemental fairness. As a sovereign state, Malaysia has to invoke the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for a determination whether the conduct of Singapore constitutes a violation of local and international law and seek a judgment thereupon. This is the least that Malaysia can do for one of its national who is about to be treated unlawfully at the hands of the Singapore state. Malaysia must act swiftly on behalf of its national who is about to be killed.
10th June 2010
Human Rights Lawyer