Malaysian Law Minister not aware of Yong’s case

Andrew Loh

Malaysia’s “de facto Law Minister”, Mohd Nazri Aziz, says he is not aware of Yong Vui Kong’s case, Malaysian news portal Malaysiakini reported yesterday.

“Nazri (left), who is a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, claimed that it was the first time he had heard about Yong. When details were given, Nazri simply said that Malaysia will not interfere in its neighbour’s legal processes,” Malaysiakini said.

Yong, a 22-year old Malaysian, is currently in Singapore’s Changi Prison’s death row. He was arrested in 2007 for trafficking 47g of heroin from Malaysia into Singapore. He was to be hanged on 4 December last year. His lawyer, Mr Madasamy Ravi, successfully obtained a stay of execution two days before Yong’s scheduled execution. Mr Ravi later made a challenge in the Singapore Court of Appeal (CA) against the constitutionality of the mandatory death penalty. The CA dismissed this appeal on 14 May.

Mr Ravi is shocked by the Malaysian minister’s nonchalant attitude towards the case and is urging the Malaysian government to take the case up with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the grounds that the Singapore government has compromised Yong’s constitutional rights to a presidential hearing on his clemency appeal, which Mr Ravi is planning to submit to the president shortly.

Singapore’s Law Minister, Mr K Shanmugam, had publicly commented on Yong case one week before the Court of Appeal was to hand down its decision on Yong’s appeal on 14 May. The minister had said, “Yong Vui Kong is young. But if we say ‘We let you go’, what is the signal we are sending?” This remark by the Law Minister, who is a member of the Singapore Cabinet, potentially seals Yong’s fate since, according to the Attorney General of Singapore, “although in theory it’s the President who exercises the prerogative of mercy, it is the Cabinet who makes the decision”.

“The key issue surrounding the matter was the fact that Yong was denied the clemency process when it was filed in December last year,” said Mr Ravi.

“The denial of due process to a helpless Malaysian citizen who is facing imminent death in a few weeks, calls for immediate attention from the Malaysian government to file a complaint at the International Court of Justice,” Mr Ravi told Malaysiakini. “Otherwise, what is the ICJ for then?”

The Malaysian minister in charge of Law, Nazri Aziz, “claimed that it was the first time he had heard about Yong”, reported Malaysiakini.

To this, Mr Ravi said, “The minister (Nazri) is sending a dangerous signal to the Singaporean government for treating Yong’s case in a brazen manner.”

He urged the minister to study details of his press conference on June 10 at the Bar Council in Kuala Lumpur where he had listed the legal issues of the case.

Mr Ravi repeated his call, which he had made at the abovementioned press conference, on the Malaysian government to file a “complaint at the ICJ and obtained a stay of Yong’s execution until the ICJ decided whether he is being unlawfully punished under the Singapore Constitution and other local laws.”

Meanwhile, Mr Ravi has filed an application with the Singapore courts for a Judicial Review regarding Yong’s clemency appeal and constitutional matters pertaining to the case.

Activists of a anti-death penalty group reported that the Singapore courts have granted a waiver to the $20,000 security deposit which is required under the law in filing such an application.

The Online Citizen understands that Yong has until August to file his clemency appeal to the president.

In Singapore, the mainstream media continue to avoid reporting the details of Yong’s case or the issues raised by Mr Ravi.

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Pictures from Malaysiakini.

Read also: Lawyer urges Malaysian government to intervene in death row case.

And: Counsel holds out hope for youth on death row in Singapore by the Inter Press Service.