"...whether or not contained in any substance, extract, preparation or mixture, shall be presumed to have had that drug in possession for the purpose of trafficking unless it is proved that his possession of that drug was not for that purpose
.....Any person who is proved or presumed to have had a controlled drug in his possession shall, until the contrary is proved, be presumed to have known the nature of that drug.
..... The presumptions provided for in this section shall not be rebutted by proof that the accused never had physical possession of the controlled drug. "
-Misuse of Drugs Act[Link]
My friend's fear of being hanged if drugs are found on his car is not unfounded. There is no need for the prosecutors to provide proof that he is a drug trafficker. He is guilty of trafficking unless he can prove otherwise. He is presumed to have knowledge of the drugs unless it is proven otherwise. Think about it.....how does one go about proving that he has "no knowledge" of something? This set of laws violate what ordinary folks think of as a basic principle of justice - "innocent until proven guilty". Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, you're guilty until proven innocent.....not only that, once you're found guilty death penalty is mandatory if the drugs involved exceeded certain thresholds. For such a harsh irreversible punishment, shouldn't a person's guilt be proven "beyond reasonable doubt"? Shouldn't a judge have the discretion to decide on the death penalty?
In the case of Vignes Murthi, the main evidence given was from an investigating officer who was under investigation for rape, sodomy and bribery. The laws make it easy to prosecute suspects on little evidence. Malaysian human rights acitivists asked if Singapore authorities have been "callous" and indifferent to human life.....
In the past, there was little awareness among Singaporeans of how the death penalty was used. There was little reporting on the papers on the specifics of various cases and Singaporeans were largely ignorant of what went on. Thanks to activists, the Internet and Alan Shadrake, many Singaporeans are forced to rethink what they once accepted. Over the years, our authoritarian govt tweaked the laws trading away justice for expediency without anyone to oppose them. I remember clearly when the bill to lower the threshold of drugs for mandatory death penalty was put up, the main justification given was that authorities found it difficult to presecute suspects and send them to the gallows because they were caught with drugs smaller than the existing thresholds. Today, we have Yong Vui Kong, a poor and lowly educated young man, sentenced to death for 47grams of heroin - a crime he committed when he was just 19 years old. In communist China, it would have taken 50 grams of heroin for the death penalty to be imposed. While other countries have abolished or seek to abolish the death penalty to create a more humane society, the govt went in the other direction to expand its use and we ended up with one of the highest, if not the highest, execution rates per capita in the world.
Some argue that the harsh laws are necessary to protect our society. Is that true? Every year thousands of our best talents emigrate to countries where death penalty has been abolished or used only in heinous crimes such as murder. Many emigrate to these places because they believe these are good places to raise their children. The death penalty shouldn't be used to compensate for the lack of expediency of law enforcement agencies. Singapore is a developed country and we have the means to do away with unnecessary executions if we better our ability to fight crime.