Friday, May 14, 2010

IHRA expresses deep regret over court's decision to retain mandatory death penalty for Yong Vui Kong

For immediate release
Singapore’s decision to maintain mandatory death penalty for Yong Vui Kong criticised by the International Harm Reduction Association
Friday, 14th May 2010, (Singapore, Singapore)--The International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA) has expressed its deep regret at the decision of the Singapore Court of Appeals to retain the mandatory death penalty for drug offences, a judgment that forecasts the execution of Yong Vui Kong for an offence committed while he was only a teenager. Yong Vui Kong today lost his appeal against his conviction in 2008 of smuggling 47 grams of heroin into Singapore.

“Today’s unfortunate decision places Singapore on the extreme fringe of the international community by keeping the country as one of the few that impose a mandatory death sentence for drugs,” said Rick Lines, Deputy Director of IHRA and the co-author of a forthcoming international report on the death penalty and drug offences being released next week. (1)

“Numerous UN human rights monitors have found both the mandatory death penalty generally, and the death penalty for drugs specifically, to violate international human rights law. We regret that the Court has chosen to support a practice that not only violates human rights, but that serves no demonstrable criminal justice purpose.”

The mandatory death penalty for drugs was introduced in Singapore in a 1975 Amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1973. Subsequently, Singapore earned a reputation as one of the highest per capita executioners in the world – with the vast majority of the condemned being drug offenders. According to Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs, between 1999 and 2003, 110 of 138 executions were carried out for drug offences.

Next Monday May 17 IHRA is releasing a report The Death Penalty for Drug Offences – Global overview 2010 to be officially launched on the opening day of the 19th session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, taking place in Vienna next week.

The report is the first detailed country by country overview of the death penalty for drugs, monitoring both national legislation and state practice of enforcement. The report points out that of the states worldwide that retain the death penalty, 32 jurisdictions maintain laws that prescribe the death penalty for drug offences, Singapore being one of them.

Singapore has a mandatory death sentence for anyone found guilty of importing, exporting or trafficking in more than 500 grams of cannabis, 200 grams of cannabis resin or more than 1,000 grams of cannabis mixture; trafficking in more than 30 grams of cocaine; trafficking in more than 15 grams of heroin; and trafficking in excess of 250 grams of methamphetamine.


Notes to Editors
(1) Death penalty for Drug Offences – Global overview 2010, Patrick Gallahue & Rick Lines © 2010 International Harm Reduction Association

Further information:
Michael Kessler, IHRA Media relations

The International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA) is the leading organisation promoting a harm reduction approach to all psychoactive substances on a global basis. IHRA exists to prevent the negative social, health, economic and criminal impacts of illicit drugs, alcohol and tobacco for individuals, communities and society. IHRA combines a public health and human rights based approach to reduce drug-related harms. It builds strategic alliances and partnerships with national and international organisations, supports the engagement of people affected by drugs and alcohol, promotes the human rights of affected populations and counters their marginalisation and stigmatisation.

Holding on to hope: Vui Kong's hearing

Later today, Yong Vui Kong's appeal will be heard in Supreme Court.

Reality tells me not to be hopeful, but if we don't hold on to hope then what do we have to hold on to? Recent comments by Law minister Shanmugam include a total misrepresentation of the effects of mandatory death penalty or the abolition of it, oversight of statistics and research, and complete misunderstanding of what makes a First World country First World.

I am embarrassed that we have the death penalty, mandatory or otherwise. Legalised murder does not make us first world; it makes us very close to the jungle.

I do not want to raise my children in a country that leads its citizens believe that if someone is in the wrong, it is okay to kill them. Of course, it is worse when Mandatory precedes the punishment. But even the most fair trial that results in death is unfair. Nothing is fair when a life is devalued to that extent.

Later today, Yong Vui Kong's appeal will be heard in Supreme Court.

I am hoping against all hope for a miracle. I refuse to believe that our system is as far gone and soulless as this. I refuse to believe that they will kill a kid who got mixed up with the wrong crowd. I refuse to believe that a civilised society allows this.

I'm not going to wish Vui Kong luck - I don't believe it is luck that he needs. But at the very least I hope he feels us all holding him in our thoughts, words, prayers and hopes.

Vui Kong, Stay Strong.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Reporters Sans Frontières - Open Letter to PM Lee Hsien Loong

Dear Prime Minister,

A foreign news organisation has yet again been forced to apologise to you and your father and pay you a large sum of money for publishing an article you did not like. This time it is the New York Times Co. that is a victim of this double punishment because of a compliant judicial system that always rules in favour of you and your family in all the lawsuits you bring against foreign news media...

read the full letter here...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Singapore Dino: Singapore Govt. & Burma

Singapore Dino: Spare us the fake disappointment: S'pore govt is such good friends with Burmese junta

The Singapore government released this statement in response to the rejection of Aung San Suu Kyi appeal by the junta's court.

"It is of course very disappointing that her appeal did not succeed. A dialogue among the Myanmar authorities, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political groups ahead of this year's elections offers the best prospects for national reconciliation and the long-term political stability of Myanmar. We believe that all Myanmars, irrespective of political affiliation, must share these goals which are also in the interests of the entire region. We thus hope that the Myanmar authorities will, in their own interests, allow her to participate in the political process in a meaningful way as soon as possible.

We understand that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyers intend to make a "Special Appeal" to the Supreme Court as the last stage of the appeals process. We trust that this will be heard expeditiously. We should not give up hope for a different result until the legal process has run its entire course."

I think that our government can spare us the fake disappointment. It is no secret that the government has extensive ties with the Burmese junta and its cronies. There is even evidence that Singapore supplied weapons to crush rebellions and provided a safe haven for the generals to stash their loot stolen from the Burmese people.

This report by Jane's Intelligence Review in 1998 details the weapons and other materials supplied by Singapore.

1. Exporting rockets, mortars and ammunition manufactured under licence by Chartered Industries (predecessor of Singapore Technologies) without export clearance from Sweden in 1988.

2. Exporting anti-tank guns and grenade launchers originating from Belgium and Israel using a company known as SKS Marketing in 1989.

3. Brokering illegal sales between Burmese military and weapons dealers.

An article published in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2007 detailed the extensive ties between Singapore and Burmese cronies. Major points highlighted were:

1. Providing Burma with a cyber-warfare centre to spy on dissidents

2. Training Burma's secret police

3. Providing weapons through Singapore Technologies

4. Allowing junta cronies to open shell companies in Singapore to launder money

5. Providing a safe haven for druglord Lo Hsing Han's son to operate a "trading" business and another crony Tay Za to run his Air Bagan airline and enrol his son in an international school here.

And as the ultimate insult to Aung San Suu Kyi, the government honoured the soldier illegally occupying her rightful position as Prime Minister, Thein Sein, with an orchid named after him.

So the government cannot talk crap about being "disappointed" with the verdict by the sham court when it is happily in bed with the junta.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Free Burma Campaign Singapore statement on the 2010 Burma elections (Media release)

Free Burma Campaign Singapore statement on the 2010 Burma elections (Media release) « Free Burma Campaign Singapore


Today, February 12, marks the 63rd anniversary of the Union Day of Burma. To commemorate this important date, Free Burma Campaign Singapore (FBCSG) is issuing a statement with regards to the upcoming 2010 elections.

We call upon the regime to respect the voices and choices of the people by carrying out a free and fair election. Before the elections take place, we insist that the regime meets three crucial benchmarks:

1. The immediate release of all political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
2. National reconciliation: Inclusive dialogue with key stakeholders from democracy groups and ethnic nationalities, including a comprehensive review of the 2008 Constitution.
3. Total cessation of the systematic abuse of human rights and criminal hostilities against ethnic groups, political activists, journalists and civil society.

These benchmarks must be fulfilled before the elections in order to provide equal opportunities for opposition politicians and Burmese society at large. The elections cannot be presumed free and fair without first meeting these conditions.

We at FBCSG also express concern at the fundamentally flawed structure of the Constitution, which binds the electoral process and beyond.

A high proportion of parliamentary powers is allocated to the military; any proper mechanism for the protection of human rights is lacking. Any election that takes place without a thorough review of the Constitution will not bring about any political and social change in Burma.

Contact us at

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Defining Graciousness - Tampines Rental Flats

1. Gracious: behaving in a pleasant, polite, calm way
2. Gracious: having the qualities of great comfort, beauty and freedom made possible by being rich

HDB says it is building rental flats for the poor and needy, and some residents are dismayed that the quality of their neighbourhood may decline, safety may be compromised, "smokers and drinkers may gather at the void deck" and the view and breeze may be blocked. What a gracious attitude.

It was quite disappointing to hear what some residents had to say. The people I do agree with, however, are the residents who are in an uproar not due to a diminished breeze but because of the lack of consultation from Tampines GRC MPs. If something was being built in my backyard, I'd appreciate a bit more than a notice in the lift lobby.

With the recent news of three opposition parties keen to contest Tampines GRC,it would make sense for the current MPs to work towards maintaining their positions.

Instead, this move has left many residents very unhappy, with one saying, "Mr. Sin should have had the decency to consult his constituents, but he conveniently bypassed us."

Mr Sin, a Tampines GRC MP, said that "consulting the residents...would have led to the premature release of price-sensitive information affecting people's decision to buy or sell flats in the area".

I understand this to mean that they predicted residents would be opposed to the rental flats and didn't want a sudden selling spree to decrease the value of the flats. Maybe they also feared that if the information was known, sales of the flats might be affected.

UPDATE: TODAY reports that Mr Sin assures residents, "the peace won't be disturbed, the quality of the estate won't be hurt". If that's the case I wonder why residents were not informed and assured of this beforehand.

So from the recent HDB issues, we can conclude that:
- Under the current conditions, existing HDB flat owners were not consulted about major changes to their estate.
- Neglecting to consult residents is okay as long as MPs give their delayed assurance in response to an uproar.
- Singaporeans who vote against what they are unhappy with are daft.
- If an opposition party wins, flats will "no longer be of any value".

A simple analogy: If your boyfriend is going to leave you for another girl, calling him stupid is not the best way to win him back. Carrying out renovations on his house without telling him about it is not a good idea either. And badmouthing the other girl doesn't put you in a better light.

Monday, February 8, 2010

SFD's Direction for 2010

A gathering at Dr. James Gomez's place on Saturday, 6 February 2010 was the first Singaporeans for Democracy meeting after being officially approved as a political association by the Registry of Societies.

There was a report in Today about how the group was gazetted as a political association, complete with opinions from political analysts.

SFD's response to these comments went unpublished, which I found quite disappointing. Well, Walter Fernandez says no need, means no need. It's good that we have the internet at our disposal these days.

SFD will have a flagship event this year, the Singapore Human Rights film festival, while working on recruitment drives and fund-raising. More details about becoming a member can be found here.

The core of what SFD stands for stems from our National Pledge - mainly, 'to build a democratic society, based on justice and equality'. We've said it so many times, at school, on National Day, hands on hearts.

Originally written in 1966, it's about time to take a step towards those words; it's about time we make those words count.

Here's the video we recorded at the meeting on Saturday about the future of SFD.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

When Your Life Depends on a Presumption

Because possession is presumably trafficking.

In Singapore, a person presumed to be trafficking a stipulated type and amount of drug receives a mandatory death sentence - no questions asked.

Heroin – more than 15 grams
Cocaine – more than 30 grams
Crystal Meth – more than 250 grams
Cannabis – more than 500 grams
Cannabis mixture – more than 1000 grams
According to Central Narcotics Bureau

If you're found with less, e.g. 3 grams of Cocaine, the burden of proof that you're not trafficking is on you. This has led me to question the technicalities of key points in this whole equation: mandatory, trafficking, possession, presumption.

Mandatory - according to the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, describes something which must be done, or which is demanded by law.

So, more than 30 grams of Cocaine, the law demands that you're hanged. More than 3 grams and the burden of proof is on you - DP if you can't prove you weren't trafficking.


According to the Misuse of Drugs Act,
Presumption concerning trafficking
17. Any person who is proved to have had in his possession more than —

* see Part III (17) for full list of drugs and amounts

- whether or not contained in any substance, extract, preparation or mixture, shall be presumed to have had that drug in possession for the purpose of trafficking unless it is proved that his possession of that drug was not for that purpose.


Basically, possession is deemed trafficking unless you can prove otherwise. Which brings us to another important factor: what constitutes possession?


Presumption of possession and knowledge of controlled drugs
18. —(1) Any person who is proved to have had in his possession or custody or under his control —
(a) anything containing a controlled drug;
(b) the keys of anything containing a controlled drug;
(c) the keys of any place or premises or any part thereof in which a controlled drug is found; or
(d) a document of title relating to a controlled drug or any other document intended for the delivery of a controlled drug,
shall, until the contrary is proved, be presumed to have had that drug in his possession.


A word that keeps coming up is presume.

According to the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary,
Presume - to believe something to be true because it is very likely, although you are not certain.

So it comes down to this.
The punishment for drug trafficking: A person found with drugs, or with access to a premises where drugs are found, can and/or will be hanged as is demanded by law because it is very likely that he/she owned, had control of and intended to traffic the drugs, although no one can really be certain.

Or, to keep it simple:
DP for drugs in Singapore = When your life depends on a presumption.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Young PAP - Platform for women and youth?

There was an article in The Straits Times today about the recent surge in Young PAP members - over 1,000 to be exact.

On the very same page is an article on how Singaporeans for Democracy has successfully received approval for its registration.

A quick search on facebook showed that Young PAP (YP) has over 2000 members, while the newly approved Singaporeans for Democracy (SFD)has over 500. This is heartening considering YP has been around for more than ten years and SFD has officially been around since Tuesday.

What I take issue with from the article is this:

"A new trend among the newcomers is the large number of women, a change the male-dominated organisation is proud of, said Mr. Ismail.

Almost 45 per cent of the recruits are women, partly a result of YP urging its male members to coax their wives, girlfriends or sisters to be members."

Fortunately, women now have a place in politics as our brave, smart boyfriends, husbands and brothers have "coaxed" us. After all, if you join YP it means you're a chio bu, right?

"The YP also has, according to some netizens, another pull factor: Pretty girls. One netizen highlighted recently several "chiobu" - a Hokkien slang for pretty girl - in its executive committee and among its members.

MP Teo shrugs it off: "I don't know how the ladies feel, but I think it's quite flattering. If they join us, then they join. If they are good-looking... that's a plus!"

If YP had any intention of using their recent statistics to portray themselves as a platform to empower youth and women, this is an epic fail. It's flattering to be seen as a chio bu and a girl, instead of an informed, intelligent member?

Or perhaps I speak too soon. Let's give the 45 per cent some time to check with their male significant others/brothers how they should feel about this.

While checking the Young PAP facebook page today, I came across something I didn't know. The PAP cheer is strangely similar to our national anthem. My extensive research into Majulah Singapura recently made this information very surprising.
Had to say something so I joined for comment-making purposes, bracing myself for "is now a fan of Young PAP" comments.

How did our National Anthem become the PAP Party Cheer?
This makes me really sad.
Government and Country is not the same thing.

First of all.

This is blog no. 3.
The first has been abandoned, the second is still very much active but I've been meaning to set up another where I can talk about things other than music and personal issues.

Online revolution and all.

It really is about time.