Hang the drug mule, release the ringleader?
By Rachel Zeng
This is a story of two very different people working for the same criminal organisation. Although they belong to the same organisation, their roles are very different and so is their fate.
The first person is the boss and the other is a boy who ran criminal errands under the instruction of his boss(es). The former is a Singaporean well known to the authorities possibly as the person behind many drug related activities whereas the other is a small fry from Malaysia, one of the many who is dispensable. Both were arrested at the same time but they are facing very different destinies.
Ever since his arrest, the boss has been held in detention under the Criminal Law (Temporarily Provisions) Act (CLPTA), with initial charges withdrawn due to the ‘difficulty of the evidence’ and is likely to be released in 1 or 2 years’ time. The boy however, being the one caught in the act of drug delivery in a deal arranged by the boss, has been sentenced to the Mandatory Death Penalty (MDP) under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Honestly here is the message I am getting: it seems fine to detain a mastermind of a criminal organisation and hang his mules while his organisation continues its criminal activities and more drug mules (desperate for money thanks to poverty, plain naive or duped) are being offered as sacrificial lambs to create the illusion that one drug deal gets screwed up, one mule hanged = Singapore is on its way to being drug free.
So… this is the law? Then Lady Justice must be crying tears of blood now, that is if she is of flesh and blood.
Anyway yes, the above is the story of Chia Choon Leng and Yong Vui Kong (pictured here) but I hope that the story will not end this way. At the same time, I hope that it raises questions and concern from our society regarding what I personally see as possible imbalances in criminal law and judgement.
A Criminal Motion has been filed on Friday (27 Jan 2012) in Singapore’s Court of Appeal by M Ravi, the lawyer of Vui Kong. In his affidavit, the Attorney-General (AG) might have violated Artical 12(1) of the Constitution of Singapore which guarantees to all persons the equality before the law and equal protection of the law.
First of all, why is there a ‘difficulty of the evidence’ when Chia was identified by Vui Kong in his recorded statement and court statement as the one who had organised the drug delivery that he had made (ref: MR-1, MR-2 and MR-6 in Ravi’s affidavit)? Secondly, even if Vui Kong was unwillingly to identify Chia in court for the safety of his family, it does not mean that there are no evidences pointing to the fact that Chia was part of the operative wing of the organisation because according to Wong Kan Seng in his reply to Sylvia Lim’s query (ref: MR-5 of the affidavit), he mentioned the existence of ‘strong and reliable intelligence implicating an individual of such a drug syndicate’. So why is it impossible to charge Chia based on the evidence(s) gathered by the ‘strong and reliable intelligence’ to put him on trial? Important witnesses like Vui Kong should be protected with anonymity and should not be placed in situations whereby they willingly withhold themselves from stepping up as witnesses due to their worries of possible harm to people dear to them.
How can we claim that equality has taken place when Chia, the person who organised drug deals (and will possibly continue doing so) gets away in due time while his little runners (Vui Kong was and is not the only one) were and are killed ‘in the name of law’? I do not see any equality here (neither do I see equality in R Ramalingam‘s case too) and I think that the Court of Appeal should think through before they dismiss Ravi’s argument because we are talking about life and death here, and especially that of a young man who is just 24.
I am not hoping that Chia ends up facing the gallows and neither am I saying that Vui Kong should not be punished. My hope is for Vui Kong’s death sentence to be commuted and replaced with imprisonment, as well as for the Court of Appeal to realise the imbalance of the law (this is how I see it).
I am against the death penalty (which has been repeated ad nauseam) and I think it should be replaced with a more rehabilitative method of incarceration instead. I also believe that every alleged criminal should be given a proper trial and any form of detention without trial should be abolished. I also think that the legal system should be constantly re-examined, in a quest to strive for better equality and real justice in the name of law (that’s how I put it as a layman I guess).