Vui Kong is spared, but Malaysia’s death penalty still looms over 964 others

After a lengthy four year appeal, Sabahan Yong Vui Kong today escaped the gallows to have his death penalty commuted to life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane. 25 year old Yong formerly acted as a drug mule to smuggle drugs from Malaysia to Singapore.
 
He was 18 and a half years old when he committed the offense, barely falling within Singapore’s mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking. Last November Singapore amended its Misuse of Drugs Act to allow the judge discretion in sentencing if particular conditions are met, i.e. the offender was only a courier, cooperation substantially with investigations. 
 
Yong is a beneficiary of this change to the Singaporean law.
Yong’s high profile case has put the death penalty in the spotlight once again. Malaysia is one of the 58 countries in the world that still practice corporal punishment, an issue which I have raised in Parliament several times.
From the Parliamentary replies which I have received, as of 10 June 2013, there are 964 offenders who have been sentenced under the death penalty. This shows a marked increase from the 696 death row prisoners as of 22 February 2011. Between 1960 and February 2011, Malaysia has executed 441 persons.
The Singaporean court in the case of Yong Vui Kong acknowledged that the mandatory death sentence is considered a cruel, degrading and inhuman punishment. It is time that this is also recognised by the Malaysian court.
 
I call upon the Malaysian government to emulate Singapore and amend our laws to allow discretionary sentencing in cases of mandatory death sentences with a long term view to abolish the death penalty. 
 
The government must make good its promise in October 2012 when then de facto Law Minister Nazri Aziz announced that the Attorney General’s Chambers would consider imposing jail terms for drug offenses, instead of the death penalty.
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