The “Stubborn Windbag” Clarifies
May 1, 2015, 4:37 pm
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign

Fact: I have never said that crimes should go unpunished. However I am of the opinion that we need to peel the layers and discover the roots of these crimes, as heinous as they may be, and find a more holistic solution that will heal the society and victims, reform the perpetrators, and give us better knowledge on how to prevent such crimes from happening. Calling for blood and thinking that it is justice, is in my opinion not only a simplistic view which doesn’t help to solve any problems, but also a very contradictory position to have.

Indeed, murder and terrorism are heinous crimes against humanity. However some of those who are vehemently against these crimes, have spoken in favour of the most premeditated form of murder in which every single procedure is carefully timed and measured with the intention to kill, i. e., capital punishment. That sounds similarly heinous in itself, and I personally hold the principles behind “an eye for an eye” with utter contempt.

How about applying Urie Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory (of human development), as one of the ways to identify possible causes of crimes instead? Crimes, do not simply occur overnight. Alienation, harsh circumstances in the early years, abuse, trauma, discrimination, and extreme moments of desperation, along with low resiliency and the inability to seek for adequate options or in reality, the lack of options in itself, are some (note: I said, “some”) of the reasons that lead to crimes. It may be really easy for many of us to say that “Person A should have know better than to do this,” or “Perseverance is a value that Person B should embrace, instead of resorting to this”, but let’s remind ourselves that our lived experiences, realities, and challenges, might be entirely different from the ones whose crime we have condemned.

Of course, no one is obligated to agree with me. All I ask for is for everyone to reflect on, and question their personal stance once in awhile, before sending me death threats, spreading untruths, or send me emails with sexist remarks everytime I release a statement against State murder. Not that they actually bother me in the way that they were intended to, but I just feel that the time that was spent typing a death threat could have been spent on cognitively enriching activities such as reflecting, deconstructing (of personal thoughts), and further reading.

Urm… perhaps before hitting “send”, a grammar or spell-check might make your messages a little less hilarious.

“I wish you die by some thugs chop you into numarous peaces you uneducated bitch?!?!?!”

I nearly replied with an edited version.



Thoughts upon witnessing the passing of a death sentence
April 20, 2015, 11:10 pm
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign

death-penaltyAt the High Court this morning, Court 6C appeared more crowded than usual. It was then I realised that besides the re-sentencing of Cheong Chun Yin and Pang Siew Fum, it was also the day of sentencing for Michael Anak Garing and Tony Imba.

Anxious faces could be seen, and I was too, a bundle of nerves. Silently, I wished that everyone would go home with a sense of relief. I distracted myself by looking at what the security officers were doing, and tried to eavesdrop on the chatter between the lawyers present and the Prosecutors. Then we were called to rise as Justice Choo Han Teck took his seat.

Then the first process of the day began.

The microphones did not work too well, so we had to lean forward to hear what was going on. It did not help that my brain was having a conversation on its own – “Which one of the accused is Michael, and which is Tony?”, “Will we receive bad news today?”, “Chill woman, focus!”, and “Why am I suddenly so sleepy?”.

My heart sank a little when Tony, the second accused, was asked to stand. It is usually not a good sign for the first accused. Justice Choo announced that Tony would be sentenced to life imprisonment, and 24 strokes of the cane. Then, the Court was asked to rise for the sentence of death to be read out.

The mood was sombre. Everyone was silent, but I thought I could hear a sniffle from the row behind me. Michael’s death sentence was then passed.

“… you are hereby sentenced to be taken from here to a lawful prison and then to a place of execution where you shall be hanged by the neck until you are dead…”

Despite the fact that I have been on the campaign for 6 years now, that was actually the first time I was present in the courtroom when an individual was sentenced to death. I am still overwhelmed by how that moment felt, but I am unable to articulate it well enough to fully describe the intensity of it all.

Certainly, the victims did not deserve to be harmed. However, two wrongs do not make one right. State murder is still murder, and even more deliberately planned than the original crime, which was robbery with hurt (which led to the death of their victim). Michael, 26, is younger than me, and if all other avenues become exhausted in due time, he will no longer have a future or a chance to make amends in any other ways… for the noose is already halfway on its way to his neck.



A brief update
April 19, 2015, 4:18 am
Filed under: Singapore, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign

Originally posted on Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign:

Number of executions in 2010:…

Number of executions in 2011: 4

Number of executions in 2012:…

Number of executions in 2013:…

Number of executions in 2014: 2 (July 2014)

Number of executions in 2015: 1 (April 2015)

20 April 2015 – Cheong Chun Yin‘s case will be reviewed in the Supreme Court at 9.30am.

View original 3 more words



Joint Statement Regarding the Re-sentencing of Yong Vui Kong
November 15, 2013, 1:24 am
Filed under: Singapore, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign

November 14, 2013, Singapore – The Singapore Anti-death Penalty Campaign and We Believe In Second Chances welcome today’s decision by Justice Choo Han Teck to spare former drug mule Yong Vui Kong from the gallows. It has always been our position that Yong, a young, first-time offender, deserves a second chance. We are relieved he will not have to pay the ultimate price for his mistake. However his punishment remains a heavy one – Yong will now have to serve a life sentence and receive 15 strokes of the cane.  

 

Today’s verdict was possible because of recent changes to Singapore’s death penalty regime. While we are glad that the amendments have given judges a restricted amount of discretion where they used to have none, we would also like to echo Justice Choo who on October 25, 2013, pointed out that the new law might be problematic in providing defendants a fair process in meeting requirements that need to be fulfilled, before they are eligible for a re-sentencing hearing.

 

Under the amendments, the death penalty is no longer mandatory for those convicted in drug trafficking cases if the accused is no more than a courier and if the prosecution certifies that he or she rendered substantial assistance to the Central Narcotics Bureau. 

 

The Court only determines whether the two requirements are met after the accused person is convicted. 

However, as Justice Choo noted, if evidence relating to whether the accused was a courier is introduced after he is convicted, there is a possibility that this could contradict the court’s original findings or even cast doubts on the accused’s guilt. 

 

Disallowing this evidence on the other hand, might prejudice the accused, making it impossible for him to prove he was just a courier. 

Justice Choo suggested that an alternative would be to make it a rule that evidence be produced at trial. However, this puts the accused in a tough position – in order to make the claim that he was just a courier, he must first admit he was trafficking drugs.

 

Either way, the accused person may potentially be disadvantaged in being able to discharge the burden of showing that the requirements have been met. This is unacceptable, especially since the punishment is mandatory death.

We note that this problem would not persist should full discretion be given to judges to decide on the punishment, and we reiterate our calls for this to be so.

 

We also question whether the caning of those who have already received a life sentence, is necessary. As Yong’s lawyer, M Ravi, pointed out in Court today, his client is “a pale shadow of the person he was four years ago. He has little fat. He is weak and frail.”

 

Given Yong’s poor health, we hope that the Prison or the Courts will be extra vigilant in meting out any punishment to him. Moreover, it is important to note that only 33 jurisdictions around the world allow the caning of convicted offenders. Most civilised countries consider the punishment to be a barbaric one. 

 

Furthermore, we would like to point out that the deterrent effect of the death penalty over alternative forms of punishment is unproven. Furthermore, the penalty is an irreversible punishment at the end of a process, which is subject to the fallibilities of humans. We may be able to release innocent persons from prison, but we cannot reverse their executions.

 

Finally, we join Yong’s family in expressing our deepest gratitude to his lawyer, M Ravi, for working so tirelessly and selflessly for his client these past four years. We know it has not been an easy journey and we are glad he never gave up. 

 

– end –

Contact information

 

Singapore Anti-death Penalty Campaign – rachelabsinthe@gmail.com

We Believe In Second Chances – contact@secondchances.asia

http://singaporeantideathpenaltycampaign.wordpress.com/statements-and-press-release/2013-2/joint-statement-regarding-the-re-sentencing-of-yong-vui-kong/



Half the battle won
September 19, 2013, 1:07 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign

Photo credit: Han Thon

“Give Vui Kong a Second Chance” (2010) – Photo credit: Han Thon

When I received the news that Vui Kong will be issued the Certificate of Co-operation on Wednesday, I was close to tears. After 4 years of working on the campaign, which has been a roller-coaster ride between hopefulness and frustration, this feels like half a heavy load lifted from my shoulders… what a relief, in a lot of ways!

This is certainly great news for the loved ones of Vui Kong as well as the campaigners past and present, who have been working on this campaign since 2009. Special mention has to go to M Ravi, who has worked tirelessly and passionately, exploring all legal possibilities. Without him, Vui Kong and many others on death row might not have been here with us today and no amendments to both the Penal Code and Misuse of Drugs Act might have seen the light of the day. I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Vui Kong and his family, as well as Ravi for what has been achieved today in this particular case. I would also like to congratulate the loved ones of Subashkaran Pragasam, the other death-row inmate who will be issued the Certificate of Co-operation.

For Vui Kong and Subashkaran, this is half the battle won and we await the good news that will result from the review, especially in the case of Vui Kong because I strongly believe that he stands a good chance to have his death sentence commuted.

However for advocates against both the death penalty and mandatory death penalty, work for us continues until the day we are rid of both. We shall pat each others’ backs and shake each others’ hands in encouragement and solidarity today for we have seen some results no matter how slight, and get back to our work as usual when morning breaks. ;)

Note: I must reiterate though that as much as I am hopeful that Vui Kong and more death-row inmates will see their sentences commuted to life imprisonment, I do not welcome the addition of judicial caning as part of the deal. 

Further reading:

A 4-year campaign to save a life



Court commutes Fabian Adiu Edwin’s death sentence to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of cane – a hopeful but mixed beginning
July 19, 2013, 9:39 am
Filed under: Singapore, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign

19 July 2013

sadpc_logoThe Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) is encouraged to learn that Fabian Adiu Edwin, a 23 year old Malaysian from Sabah, had his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment on 16 July 2013. We express dismay, however, at the 24 strokes of cane he will additionally receive as punishment.

Fabian, then 19, was part of a duo involved in the fatal robbery of a security guard in 2009. He was convicted of murder and given the mandatory death sentence for causing skull fractures that led to the latter’s death.

Under the recent amendments to the Penal Code and Misuse of Drugs Act which provides for judicial discretion in the sentencing of murders (among other crimes), High Court judge Chan Seng Onn reviewed the case and re-sentenced Fabian to life imprisonment and 24 strokes of the cane, citing Fabian’s youth at the time of the offence and sub-normal intellect as mitigating factors.

Fabian’s commutation marks a hopeful, if mixed beginning for the series of death sentence reviews to take place since the amendments were introduced in November last year. As more cases are reviewed in the coming months, we look forward to more positive developments. We hope that the caning of Fabian will not be accepted as legal precedence, or as substitute for the death sentence.

We at SADPC are committed towards the complete abolition of the death penalty as it is a cruel, inhumane and vindictive act that does little in practice to serve justice. Further, while SADPC has not traditionally campaigned against judicial corporal punishment such as caning, we reject it on the same grounds.

With this, we strongly urge the government to be forward-looking and, as many civilised societies that abolished the death penalty and judicial corporal punishment have, consider alternative forms of punishment that protect the human rights of both convicts and victims. We must not continue the practice of killing or inflicting physical pain on another human being in the name of justice or maintaining public order.

For media enquiries, please contact the following:
Rachel Zeng
Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign
rachelabsinthe@gmail.com

Further reading:

URL of statement: http://singaporeantideathpenaltycampaign.wordpress.com/statements-and-press-release/2013-2/court-commutes-fabian-adiu-edwins-death-sentence-to-life-imprisonment-and-24-strokes-of-cane-a-hopeful-but-mixed-beginning/



Fabian Adiu Edwin – The first death-row inmate to get his sentence commuted under the new law
July 18, 2013, 2:14 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign

On Tuesday 16 July 2013, Fabian Adiu Edwin became the first death-row inmate to get his sentence commuted after his case was reviewed at the High Court under the new amendments to the Penal Code and Misuse of Drugs Act, which allows judges to exercise judicial discretion by taking mitigating factors into consideration. In his judgment, High Court judge Chan Seng Onn considered Fabian’s young age at the time of his crime and his sub-normal intellect as mitigating factors and re-sentenced him to life imprisonment, plus 24 strokes of the cane.

Now I have been following this case since it was first reported in 2009. To a legal layperson like me, it was clearly a robbery gone wrong and in addition, Fabian’s sub-normal intellect should have granted him diminished responsibility. However when he was tried and sentenced in 2011, judge Chan disagreed with the Defence that Fabian should be tried with the consideration of diminished responsibility as the Defence could not produce evidences that he was suffering from an abnormality of mind at the time of the crime. Judge Chan also found inconsistency in Fabian’s statements when asked if he had intended to hurt the victim. Therefore, Fabian was found guilty of culpable homicide and was sentenced with the mandatory death sentence under 300(c) of the Penal Code. His co-accused, Ellary bin Puling, was found guilty of robbery with hurt and escaped being sentenced with the mandatory death sentence as judge Chan did not find common intent between Fabian and Ellary.

While I am genuinely grateful for the decision to overturn Fabian’s death sentence, I am dismayed by the fact that he will still have to face 24 strokes of the cane. In my opinion, caning constitutes torture and in a first world country like Singapore, we should be more enlightened about that fact and look towards alternative and humane ways of punishing and rehabilitating criminals. Furthermore, Fabian has been certified to be of sub-normal intellect and was said to be lowly educated, which could have contributed to his gross misconduct. Looking at all his circumstances, Fabian obviously falls within the marginalised. Do we want to become a country that treats the marginalised in such a barbaric and inhumane manner?

Well I think we seriously need to reflect on that.

Further reading:

Migrant workers facing capital punishment in Singapore: Use alternate sentence in place of death sentence

Court reviews sentence for murder under new laws




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