The sentencing of Singapore-based British DJ Ye Ming Yuen to 24 strokes of the cane and 20 years of imprisonment has purportedly sparked tensions in diplomatic relations between the Republic and the United Kingdom.
29-year-old Mr Ming’s sentence was determined based on two counts of ‘repeat drug trafficking’ – one of 69g, and the other of 60g of cannabis.
Another offence included drug trafficking of 15g of crystal meth.
Mr Ming’s original charge could have resulted in the death penalty being carried out against him. However, the charge was dropped, as the authorities found that the net weight of drugs in his case was below 500g, according to the Daily Mail.
The UK’s The Independent reported that his initial arrest in Singapore took place in August 2016, after which he was convicted for seven drug-related offences.
In an unsuccessful bid to quash his caning and jail sentence, Mr Ming reportedly said: “I was misled in my youth, in an environment surrounded by drugs, to fall into the dark lure of addiction, oblivious to the hold it had on me.”
“Should a shorter sentence be imposed, it would allow me to remain useful in society,” he added.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office condemned the sentencing, stating that it strongly objects to “the use of corporal punishment, such as caning, in all cases”.
A spokesperson from the Singapore High Commission in London, however, reiterated the Republic’s well-known hardline stance against drug-related offences: “Singapore deals with the drug problem comprehensively with the strictest enforcement, coupled with the severest of penalties to protect the welfare of the public and our collective aspiration to live and raise our children in a safe oasis.”
Family expresses concern and apprehension over authorities’ treatment of DJ Ming, unable to comprehend “how he got such a long sentence”
Alex Yuen, 70, told the Daily Mail that his son had “suffered a ‘mental breakdown” prior to his arrest.
“The court must therefore find Ming not guilty by diminished responsibility,” said Mr Alex, adding: “I think he turned to drugs because he was put under lots of pressure at private school”.
“It was very competitive,” said Mr Alex Yuen regarding his son’s time at Westminster School, “and they pushed the students a lot”.
He also cited peer pressure as the reason behind Mr Ming’s involvement in drugs.
“He went with the wrong crowd. He did many things because he wanted acceptance. Instead of realising his talents, being recognised and accepted for what he could achieve, he became a slave to pleasing other people and that’s why he did the things he did,” lamented Mr Alex.
Mr Ming’s family also revealed that they are only allowed to visit him twice a month, and that “the only furniture he has in his cell, where he spends 22 hours a day, is a bamboo mat”.
‘If you asked me, would I be surprised if I received a message tomorrow, next month, that he has been found stabbed in prison, I would say of course not. It is surprising that he hasn’t been,’ he said, regarding his son’s detention in Changi Prison.
“Both Ming and I know that he committed an offence. He just can’t understand how he got such a long sentence,” said Mr Alex, who added that “the prosecution tried to make out that he was unremorseful and had no respect for law”.
Mr Ming’s mother Melina Yuen revealed to the Daily Mail that she and the rest of his family “didn’t even have the chance to say goodbye properly”.
“There is no family support and he is so far away,” said Mdm Melina, adding: “He puts on a very brave face but, as his mother, he speaks to me and I know how he feels … He is very worried.”
His younger sister, a 28-year-old development manager, also spoke to the Daily Mail, saying that “The authorities do not give advance warning of caning, which is mentally torturous. It could happen any day”.
Mr Ming’s present case is not his only brush with the law. Previously, he was wanted by London Metropolitan Police’s headquarters Scotland Yard for his alleged involvement in a driving licences scam, in which he reportedly admitted that he had “manufactured fake documents and sold them to pupils”, according to the Daily Mail.