The event, titled “The elected President is not a rubber stamp”, is in response to the High Court’s decision on 13 August with regards to Mr Ravi’s application for a judicial review on the powers of granting clemency. Mr Ravi’s application was made after the then-Attorney General stated that: “Although in theory it is the President who exercises the prerogative of mercy, in fact it is the Cabinet that makes the decision”.
Justice Steven Chong’s judgement agreed and said such powers “rests solely with the Cabinet.”
The judgement has raised questions of the role of the elected President and whether the Cabinet has “usurped” the President’s powers with regards to granting clemencies.
Referring to the government’s hardline policy against drug trafficking, Mr Ravi said this was precisely why “politicians cannot decide clemency process because [their] decisions are influenced by policy and not mercy.”
“Why call it ‘power’ when .. you say the President has no discretion? Why even use the word ‘power’?” Mr Ravi asked, referring to the term “presidential clemency power”.
Mr Ravi again referred to what the Law Minister, Mr K Shanmugam, had said at a public forum in April before the Court of Appeal handed down its decision and before Yong had submitted his clemency appeal to the President – “Yong Vui Kong is young. But if we say ‘we let you go’, what is the signal we are sending?”.
“You take the clemency petition and what do you decide? Die. Even before clemency petition presented, he says die,” Mr Ravi said.
“We will petition the President .. under Article 100 of the Constitution to convene a Constitutional Court … Why is this important? … Cabinet has usurped those powers [of the President].”
“The elected President, when he convenes the Constitutional Court, he uses the State’s resources, he has immense amount of resource, and you have the best experts in the world to come before the Constitutional Tribunal to deliberate.”
Also speaking at Speakers’ Corner was The Online Citizen’s Chief Editor, Mr Andrew Loh. Referring to the court’s judgement, Mr Loh said it made “no sense” to him. Referring to the provisions in the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA), he said: “There’s a whole host of presumptions (in the MDA), at the end of which, if you are found guilty, you die. Full stop. You don’t get 20 years, you don’t get life imprisonment, you don’t get all that. You die. And it is the same people who constructed this law that now have the final say on clemency.”
Press reports on past clemencies have given the impression that it was the President which had the power to grant clemencies, Mr Loh said. “For example, President Wee Kim Wee has pardoned three people… People have written to him to thank him personally for granting the clemencies. But now we know that is all not true. He didn’t do anything at all.”
Participants at Speakers’ Corner were then urged to sign the letter to the President to convene a Constitutional Court. Copies of the letter were made available to the participants. About 50 people among the crowd signed the letters and they will be posted to the President on Monday.
Also, Mr Ravi wrote to the Singapore Prison Service last week to ask it to confirm that the deadline for Yong to submit his clemency appeal has been extended, as Justice Chong had “invited” the Prison Service to do, in light of the appeal which will be lodged with the Court of Appeal with regards to Justice Chong’s decision on the powers of clemency.
The Singapore Prison Service has yet to reply to Mr Ravi.
Yong’s original deadline to submit his appeal to the President ends this Thursday, 26 August. He could be hanged anytime after that.
Separately, the campaigners to save Yong Vui Kong from being hanged, have collected close to 100,000 signatures – both online and from Malaysians on the streets in Sabah – which will be handed to President Nathan this week.
Video of Sunday’s event at Speakers’ Corner:
Some pictures from Sunday’s event.
Pictures by Damien Chng.
Pictures by Han Thon: