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Law Minister’s comments prejudicial to Yong Vui Kong’s clemency appeal

Posted by theonlinecitizen on July 12, 2010

The following is the press statement from Mr M Ravi, lawyer for Yong Vui Kong, in response to the Law Ministry’s comments on Yong’s case.


Cabinet should not usurp Elected President’s Constitutional powers

Background and summary

1. This press release is issued in response to the statement from the Ministry of Law regarding the death sentence for Yong Vui Kong.

2. Law Minister Mr Shanmugam first commented directly on Yong’s case on 9 May 2010, stating that “Yong vui kong is young. But if we say ‘We let you go’, what is the signal we are sending?”. These remarks were made at a public event and widely reported in the Singaporean media.

3. In a subsequent statement on 9 July 2010, the Ministry of Law asserted that Mr Shanmugam’s remarks were justified as the Government’s policy is “matter of public importance”. Additionally, the Law Ministry took the opportunity to further prejudice the clemency process by highlighting prejudicial information based on charges that were never brought against Yong. These make clear that Cabinet intends to reject my client’s clemency petition even before it has been filed.

4. The consequence of these statements is as follows:

a. There has been an egregious breach of the Constitution as the President, not Cabinet, is supposed to make clemency petition decisions.

b. A Cabinet Minister (Mr Shanmugam) and his Ministry have made public statements referring to my client by name, evincing a plain desire that my client be executed regardless of the clemency process.

c. The crux of the issue is that it is clear that Cabinet cannot play any further role in the clemency process as it has obviously prejudged Yong’s case.

“The President does not have a discretion in this matter”

5. One key concern for my client is that the Attorney-General Walter Woon is on record saying that, “Although in theory it is the President who exercises the prerogative of mercy, in fact it is the Cabinet that makes the decision”. He made this submission in the Court of Appeal. The AG also said, unrebutted, that, “The President does not have a discretion in this matter.”

6. This flies directly in the face of the Constitution which confers the power of clemency on the Elected President himself, and clearly states that Cabinet’s powers are only to advise the Elected President on the exercise of the prerogative. This extraordinary revelation has only come to light as a result of the disclosure made by the Attorney-General in his submissions before the Court of Appeal in Yong’s case.

7. This revelation is startling as clemency petitions are submitted to the Elected President on the assumption that the Constitution is followed in letter and spirit. Cabinet’s exercise of the Elected President’s Constitutional prerogative amounts to a usurpation of the Elected President’s clemency powers conferred on him expressly under Article 22P of the Constitution.

The Law Minister’s remarks

8. The Law Minister’s prejudicial comments were made even before the Court of Appeal had passed judgment. The Court had to decide the very issue of whether it is constitutional to execute a convicted person without considering his youth or other personal circumstances. On 9 May 2010, the Law Minister commented that, “Yong Vui Kong is young. But if we say ‘we let you go’, what is the signal we are sending?” Even before the clemency process is initiated, it is clear from these comments that Yong’s youth and other personal circumstances would count for nothing in the clemency process.

9. As a result of all the above factors, I am confident that there will be a judicial ruling which restores to the President his decision making powers on clemency petitions under Article 22P of the Constitution. However, even if this is done, it cannot erase the prejudice displayed by the body which the Constitution says must advise the President. The views of Cabinet on the merits of Yong’s case have been publicly aired before his current petition has even been received. His youth and personal circumstances have been ruled ineligible for consideration even though these are the very things which the Elected President can take into consideration.

The President must pardon

10. The only way in which the Constitution can be observed in relation to my client is for the Elected President to peremptorily pardon him in order to assuage the gross procedural and substantive improprieties that have taken place in this case. The Elected President must now pardon my client or the Court must grant my client’s application for judicial review where there has not been and cannot be a proper clemency process.

M Ravi,

Counsel for Yong Vui Kong
Dated 11 July 2010


7 Responses to “Law Minister’s comments prejudicial to Yong Vui Kong’s clemency appeal”

  1. Jerry Siong said

    This M Ravi lawyer very skilled. Not once in his letter does he use the word “drug” or “trafficking”.

    • Constitutionality said

      Which is precisely the point. Now this has become an issue that is broader than the life of a single drug trafficker. A breach of constitution is a cause for concern among all Singaporeans. Thank you M Ravi for protecting our constitution and exposing the lack of clear separation of powers that is the pillar of any functioning democracy.

  2. […] Petition for clemency of Yong Vui Kong denied   15 comments July 12, 2010: Law Minister’s comments prejudicial to Yong Vui Kong’s clemency appeal […]

  3. George said

    Ravi is a man with courage of conviction. Time Singaporeans give notice to govt that it should obey the very law they imposed on Singaporeans.

    Laws are made to serve men not to subjugated them. A law falls into automatic disrepute when its interpretation is subject to insidious manipulation and the whims of the power that be. No one is obliged to follow the law when the very ones who made it has no compunction about disregarding it.

    The President of Singapore should be the one and seen to be the one who decides whether the case deserves his clemency. There is no room or provision for ‘safety in numbers’ for the cabinet collectively to spare the President of the heavy burden of deciding. The President like it or not must do his duty according to his conscience and take of the issue. It is not his duty to follow or abide by the opinion of the cabinet or any other person or persons. That is what a Presidential Pardon is all about. It is his prerogative not to be encumbered by legal issues as a Presidential Pardon is beyond and above that to serve any purpose, meaning or make any difference to the person appealing.

  4. Jerem said

    The signals ought to be interpreted based on the following tests:

    1) Is this a fair sentence?
    2) Does it encourage future juvenile from commit the crime?

    Ask yourselves;

    1) Is he totally blameworthy for the mess he is in?
    2) Does he know what he is doing ?
    2) Would execution of juvenile would prevent future kids from falling into the same crime?

    If the answers to above is no; then the Law Minister Mr Shanmugam and those who has power to release him but did not has blood on his hand.

    All, sleep well then and sweet dream.

  5. […] one leading the PAP Govt’s charge to UPR on 6th May), K. Shanmugam (who is also a lawyer), publicly commented in 2010 with regards to Yong Vui Kong, he got away scot free without even a slap on the wrist. This is not […]

  6. sueing said

    Every human got father and mother…do not be happy and laugh to see innocent human to be killed as WE ALL KNOW KIILING AND TAKING HUMAN life is totally against humanity. WE all having children too…just because the human made LAW said killing an innocent human as for the sake protecting 3.2 million population…AS the law goes not only ONE but many many will be killed. KILLING HUMAN having greatest repercusion in life….what happen if our own children being killed, are we rejoicing to see our children killed, definitely we be feeling the same suffering like YONG VUI KONG case. IF WE CONTINUE TO TAKE INNOCENT HUMAN LIFE, THEN WE CAN REST ASSURED, BAD THINGS CAN HAPPEN ONE DAY TO THE WHOLE NATION….HUMAN NOWADAYS MODERNISE AND USING EVERYTHING BY LAW, NO FEELING, NO SYMPATHY, NO COMPASSION, BUT WE REMEMBER WHAT HAS HAPPEN SUDDENLY TO MANY COUNTRIES RECENTLY TO JAPAN, HUMAN FORGET EASILY,,,,IF HEAVEN PUNISH THE COUNTRY,, THE SUFFERING AND PAIN IS IMMEASURABLE,,,,DO GOOD BEGETS GOOD,,IF KILLING AN HUMAN REPRESENTED GOVERNMENT CHOSEN BY THE PEOPLE, THE REPERCUSION ONE DAY IS LIKE DUST FLUNG AGAINST THE WIND…WE SHOULD NOT REGRET WHAT WE HAVE DONE…..HEAVEN LAW IS FAIR AND COMPASSIONATE…

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