Kota Kinabalu: News of Singapore easing the death penalty policy has raised hopes in the family of death-row inmate Yong Vui Kong.
His younger sister, Yong Vui Fung, 22, said her family was very happy to learn of the abolition of the mandatory death sentences in some drug trafficking and murder cases.
The Singapore parliament has passed legal reforms abolishing mandatory death sentences in these cases, giving fresh hope to dozens of inmates awaiting execution.
"There was a glimmer of hope when we first heard about Singapore's intention to do away with the death penalty. Now it has become a reality.
"Hopefully, the court will commute Vui Kong to life imprisonment as petitioned by us all these years," she said, when contacted.
The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) in Singapore had said in a statement that for drugs offences, courts can impose a life term if the accused is found to be "only a drug courier" or "suffering from such an abnormality of mind that it substantially impaired his mental responsibility for committing the offence".
Vui Fung said it was most unfortunate that a drug baron had taken advantage of her brother's youth, lack of education and ignorance of the law for his personal gain.
"My family and I want justice to prevail. We have been praying very hard for this to happen," she said.
Yong Vui Kong was convicted in 2008 at the age of 19 for trafficking heroin.
Yong was due to have been executed on December 4, 2009.
According to Vui Fung, although the visits to Yong became less frequent in recent years, she had been corresponding with him on behalf of the family.
"For update, we even sent him pictures of family members, especially our mother. Only last month, we wrote to him asking how he was getting on, and he replied," she said.
"I'm very optimistic, I have hope. He's just a drug courier who has been used," his brother Yong Yun Leong said.
Before the reforms, judges had no choice but to impose the death penalty on anyone convicted of murder or trafficking in drugs above specific volumes.
Judges now have discretion to impose life imprisonment on a person convicted of murder if that individual "is not found to have intended to cause death", the AGC said.
The public prosecutor must also certify that a convicted offender has "substantively" helped the anti-narcotics police disrupt drug trafficking activities within Singapore or overseas, the AGC said.
The AGC, which oversees all criminal prosecutions, said it will meet with the lawyers of 34 people facing execution for murder and drugs offences, who can now apply to be re-sentenced.
Defence lawyers will also be invited to find out if their clients would like to help the Central Narcotics Bureau fight trafficking or undergo psychiatric tests in support of such applications.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean rejected calls to abolish the death penalty - also applicable to kidnapping and firearms offences - saying it was still necessary to deter serious crimes.
--Courtesy of The Daily Express