Through all of this, I cannot help thinking, “What about Vui Kong?”
Since his last appeal hearing on the 17th of January, Vui Kong has been on death row in Changi Prison, waiting for his verdict. Waiting, waiting, while Singapore moves on.
I'm not saying that the bread-and-butter issues aren't important. However, we need to also remember that the mandatory death penalty, and Vui Kong's case, also reflects upon the country we call home. So, as a young Singaporean and first-time voter, I decided to email the different political parties and ask them about their stance on the mandatory death penalty.
These are the parties I emailed:
People's Action Party (PAP)
Singapore Democratic Party (SDP)
Reform Party (RP)
National Solidarity Party (NSP)
Socialist Front (SF)
Singapore People's Party (SPP)
Worker's Party (WP)
Both email addresses I tried for the Singapore People's Party bounced back, so perhaps they never got my message. Apart from that, though, I received replies from two parties: SDP and RP.
SDP's reply was short and simple:
The SDP's stand on the mandatory death penalty for drug peddlers is clear: We don't support it.
RP stated that they would abolish the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking, and attached a past press statement:
The Reform Party Calls For Abolition of Death Penalty for Drug Trafficking
The Reform Party is heartened by the recent stay of execution granted to Yong Vui Kong, a convicted drug trafficker, pending a final appeal. However his chances of a reprieve are slim since the law prescribes the mandatory death penalty for anyone convicted of bringing more than 15g of heroin into Singapore.
Singapore’s use of the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking offences is out of step with its aspiration to be a first-world nation and has no place in a civilized society. Those executed have been overwhelmingly from the poorer, more vulnerable sections of society and in several disturbing cases (e.g., Iwuchukwu Amara Tochio) they do not appear to have had any knowledge of what they were transporting. The Reform Party calls for the abolition of the death penalty for drug trafficking offences and, in Yong Vui Kong’s case, for the commutation of his sentence to a lengthy prison term. There is no evidence that the death sentence has more of a deterrent effect than a life sentence.
I personally am against the use of the death penalty in all but the most extreme circumstances. Once carried out, it is impossible to reverse and give life back to someone who has been the victim of a miscarriage of justice whereas other penalties permit the possibility of redress. I recall the case of Zainal Kuning, Mohammed Bashir Ismail and Salahuddin Ismail who confessed to a murder in 1989 and would have been convicted and sentenced to death at their trial in 1992 were it not for my father’s, the late J.B. Jeyaretnam, efforts in forcing the prosecution to re-examine the physical evidence and reveal that it implicated another individual and not his clients. If they had been executed and subsequently it had been discovered that another person was guilty of the crime it would have been too late to make amends and for justice to be served.
The Reform Party
As part of We Believe in Second Chances, I am glad that these two parties are against the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking. I am glad that if it were up to them, Yong Vui Kong would not needlessly lose his life.
I hope that the other political parties will not shy away from this issue. It is not just enough to talk about the economy or industry. This is also our chance to set a new direction for Singaporean society, and help us move towards being a more compassionate, merciful country.