Death row case: S’pore’s media buries its head

Andrew Loh

On 5 July, the lawyer for Malaysian Yong Vui Kong, paid a visit to Malaysia to seek help from the authorities there for his client. Yong Vui Kong is currently on death row in Singapore’s Changi Prison after having been found guilty of drug trafficking.

Mr Madasamy Ravi, Yong’s lawyer, has been fighting a battle the last nine months or so to have his client’s sentence commuted. He has so far successfully applied for two stays of execution for his client from the courts. His plea to the Court of Appeal on 15 March was finally dismissed and Yong’s sentence was upheld by the courts.

Mr Ravi’s trip to Kuala Lumpur was to urge the Malaysian government to intervene on Yong’s behalf on the basis that the Law Minister of Singapore, Mr K Shanmugam, has prejudiced Yong’s constitutional right to make an appeal for presidential clemency. The Law Minister had, one week before the Court of Appeal handed down its decision in May, referred to Yong Vui Kong by name when he made certain remarks in a public forum.

When asked by a member of the public about the death penalty, the Law Minister said: “Yong Vui Kong is young. But if we say ‘We let you go’, what is the signal we are sending?”

According to the then-Attorney General, Walter Woon, when making his submissions at the Court of Appeal in March, it is the Cabinet which decides on clemency petitions and not the president. He further emphasized that “the president has no discretion in this matter.”

This is the background to Mr Ravi’s visit to Kuala Lumpur and why he is seeking Malaysia’s help to save his client from being hanged.

The clemency process, he feels, has been compromised or prejudiced. The Law Minister is a member of the Cabinet which decides on clemency appeals (as the Attorney General explained). The Law Minister’s remarks – which effectively or potentially seals the fate of Yong Vui Kong even before Yong submits his clemency petition to the president – is what Mr Ravi takes issue with.

On his trip to KL, Mr Ravi met with the Foreign Minister, the Law Minister, the deputy foreign minister, leader of the opposition, Datuk Anwar Ibrahim, Mr Lim Kit Siang, Mr Tian Chua and several other Members of Parliament from all sides of the political spectrum.

Mr Ravi also held a press conference there.

All the main Malaysian media have picked up the issue, both in print and online.

Yet in Singapore, the media’s coverage has been scant.

The Straits Times carries a report by Agence France Presse (AFP) – on page A17 of the paper on 7 July, two days after the press conference in KL.

The Today paper also carried an AFP report – all five sentences of it – on page 26 of its 7 July edition.

The Straits Times did not even correct AFP’s mistake in saying that Yong was convicted of trafficking “42.27g” of heroin. The correct figure is 47.27g.

Neither of the two reports mentions Mr Ravi, nor his reasons for his trip to KL. Neither carries any pictures of the day’s event. There is also no mention of the Singapore Law Minister, Mr K Shanmugam, nor the Attorney General, Mr Walter Woon, and their earlier remarks which are the basis for Mr Ravi’s appeal to the Malaysian government.

In other words, the Straits Times and Today’s reports have avoided reporting on the reasons for this latest turn of events in the case of Yong Vui Kong.

One can only wonder why.

Singaporeans, it seems, are kept in the dark by our media on matters which are serious, important and which should be aired for public debate.

Instead, what we have here is a shameful covering up of issues which perhaps are potentially embarrassing to our government, especially our Law Minister and our former Attorney General – nevermind if a boy’s life hangs in the balance.


Read also:

Media’s silence on Yong Vui Kong a national shame – The Online Citizen Editorial.

Prejudicing a fair trial – Pritam Singh.


Here is the Straits Times report, buried on page 17:

Here is Today’s report, on page 26:

Here are some Malaysian newspaper reports:

Online reports:


Malaysia online reports:

The Star Online:


Free Malaysia Today:



Asian Correspondent:

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