Singapore's laws on drug trafficking are extremely harsh. Mandatory seath penalty is imposed for possession of small amounts of drugs. Under the Misuse of Drugs Act[Link], a person possessing small qualities of drugs is presumed to be trafficking it unless proven otherwise. The mandatory death penalty has been imposed recently on a poorly educated Malaysian, Yong Vui Kong. who was running errants for his mob boss when he was a teenager (19yrs old). It doesn't matter that he could've been 'forced' into it by the mob or that he was poor or that he was a teenager - the death penalty is mandatory for the amount of heroin he was carrying. Vui Kong had 47 grams on him. I wonder if he even knew that possessing 30 grams of heroin carries the death penalty - in China he would have been spared because it takes 50 grams for death penalty to be imposed. We can argue whether death penalty is right or wrong but even those who support the death penalty have to admit that our laws are harsh ...so harsh that we have one of the highest, if not the highest, execution rate per capita in the world
The problem with extremely harsh laws is that you have to apply them equally to every one and that for practical reasons is very difficult. The system has to be equally determined to prosecute someone from a wealthy country where the same crime carries a far lesser punishment. The death penalty in Singapore will trigger a big outcry in the home country, accusations of human rights violation, and protests by its leaders. Death penalty for 47 grams of heroin is quite shocking for people in many countries.
One of the issues Shadrake examined in his book is whether the law has been applied equally in all cases involving drug possession - rich and poor, people from different countries. You may think that now that charges have been brought against him, he has the chance to offer proof to substantiate what he wrote. That would be true if he was charged for criminal defamation in which case, his lawyer can defend him by showing that what he wrote is true. However, he is charged for 'contempt of court'. In Singapore, you can only legally say that our judicial system is just and all it takes for them to prosecute is for you to write something contrary to that. Alan Shadrake will be found guilty of those 'contempt of court' charges unless he can prove he did not write his book, "Once a Jolly Hangman" - at this point it doesn't matter what he wrote is true or not:
"I submit that the ‘inherent tendency’ test does not meet the standard of rationality required by Article 14. First, when the test is applied, it does not matter whether there is any truth in the utterance by the alleged contemnor. A court may convict so long as it takes the view that the utterance poses some hazard, even if slight, to the administration of justice."
- Freedom of Speech and Contempt by Scandalizing the Court in Singapore
British journalist accused of contempt of court [Link]
Friday, 23 July 2010 19:26
Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the contempt of court charges that have been brought against British freelance journalist Alan Shadrake in connection with his new book, “Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock.”
Freed on bail last night, Shadrake is due to appear before the Singapore high court on 30 July.
The press freedom organisation has seen a copy of the complaint brought against Shadrake by the attorney-general’s office. It consists of just a series of biased and malicious allegations that show that the case is an abuse of judicial authority.
The complaint says that parts of the book, which is about Singapore’s use of the death penalty, “contains imputations against the independence and integrity of the Singapore judiciary”. In evidence, it quotes around 20 passages which for the most part contain widely-known facts about Singapore’s justice system.
“He was very tired and shaken when he was released,” Shadrake’s lawyer, M Ravi, told Reporters Without Borders. “During our interview, he broke down in tears because of the pressure he had been under during the interrogations sessions. The police questioned him again today for several hours. My client insists that everything he wrote in his book is true.”
Shadrake is facing a possible two-year jail sentence and a heavy fine if convicted. Reporters Without Borders calls on the British government to do everything possible to get the Singaporean authorities to drop the charges. In response to a question from Reporters Without Borders, a Singaporean diplomat in London confirmed that Shadrake would have to remain in Singapore “to assist the police" with their investigation.
Shadrake was released from the headquarters of the Singaporean Criminal Investigation Department at 11.30 pm on 19 July after payment of 10,000 Singaporean dollars in bail. He spent a total of 39 hours in police custody, during which he had to sleep on the floor of his cell and was interrogated for several hours at a stretch about his book.
The police have confiscated his passport and mobile phone.
20 July 2010