by: Kirsten Han
additional reporting by: Azhar Jalil/
The 46-point petition asks that Yong, a Malaysian citizen, be granted clemency based on the following mitigating points:
• his exceptionally harsh upbringing,
• his youth and easily manipulated at the time of offence (Yong was 19-years-old), and
• the remorse and reform he has shown since his arrest with a strong prospect of rehabilitation
Yong’s lawyer M Ravi argues that the long delay between sentencing and execution – currently at two years and eight months – has helped to justify commutation in other jurisdictions.
The appeal notes that this has been an “unique and exceptional case”, underscored by how Yong’s trial has helped clarify local law while questioning the constitutionality of the mercy process here.
Yong, now 23-years-old, was arrested in 2007 and convicted of trafficking 47g of heroin into Singapore. Under the Mandatory Death Penalty stipulated in the Misuse of Drugs Act he was sentenced to hang.
The President has about three months to respond, under the advice of the Cabinet.
The Yong letters
Included in the petition are separate letters from Yong and his elder brother Yong Yun Leong pleading for mercy from President S R Nathan.
“I fully realise my mistake and I am truly repentant over my smuggling of drugs in the past. I have earnestly changed,” Yong writes.
The petition submitted that Yong is “filled with remorse” and has become a devout Buddhist and strict vegetarian, keeping a clean record in jail while learning to write English and Mandarin.
“The thing is that I have been able to display through my behaviour that the sincerity was true,” he says.
Yong’s siblings regularly visit and have been “completely amazed by his metamorphosis”.
In his own letter Yun Leong writes of his brother’s filialness to their mother, who suffers from clinical depression and has been kept uninformed by the family of Yong’s death sentence for fear of a mental breakdown.
“Vui Kong has wishes and hopes – that he can see his mother again. However how are our family members going to do this?” Yun Leong says.
The petition includes details about Yong’s life, saying that he had been born to an impoverished and broken family with his mother struggling to raise seven children alone after divorcing.
As a child, Yong lived on his paternal grandfather’s plantation where their family was “harshly exploited by his grandfather and worked in his estate without a salary”.
The petition then says that Yong left home at 12 to seek work and ended up in Kuala Lumpur, where he fell in with gangs and leading to his involvement with a gang leader known as “Big Brother”.
“Big Brother” treated Yong well, but also threatened and tempted him into becoming a drug mule which ultimately led to his arrest.
The petition pointed out that before and during Yong’s trial, the trial judge had called both parties into chambers and remarked that Yong was only 19 at the time of the offence.
The prosecution refused to consider reducing the capital charge to a non-capital charge.
Yong was sentenced to death on November 14, 2008. He appealed against the sentence a year after, and submitted a constitutional challenge to the mercy process on July 21, 2010.
On August 25, 2010 Yong’s family presented to the Istana a petition containing nearly 110,000 signatures from Singapore and Malaysia.
Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong dismissed Yong’s final appeal and upheld his sentence on April 4 this year.