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Singapore’s law minister justified the city-state’s tough stance in imposing the mandatory death penalty for drug traffickers, arguing it would be wrong if they got off cheaply because of mitigating factors like youth, a media report said Monday.
Minister K Shanmugam was referring to the pending case of Malaysian Yong Vui Kong, 22, who was sentenced to death for smuggling about 47 grams of heroin in 2007, but challenged the constitutionality of the ruling.
Although Yong was young, it would send a wrong signal to let him go, Shanmugam said Sunday, the Straits Times newspaper reported.
“We are sending a signal to all the drug barons out there: Just make sure you choose a victim who is young, or a mother of a young child, and use them as the people to carry the drugs into Singapore,” the minister said.
Singapore’s Court of Appeal still has to decide on Yong’s fate.
The case had attracted the attention from groups opposed to the death penalty, like Amnesty International.
At an appeal hearing in March, Yong’s lawyer argued the mandatory death penalty for all drug crimes involving more than 15 grams of heroin was unconstitutional, as it gave the judges no chance for taking into account mitigating factors.
The attorney-general, however, dismissed the arguments, saying that the sentence was constitutional as it was in line with the laws passed by Singapore’s legislature.
Shanmugam said Sunday the mandatory death penalty has been critical in Singapore’s successful fight against drugs, given its position as an air and sea hub in South-East Asia, one of the global heroin production centres.
Most countries had lost the fight against drugs, he added.
“But you won’t have human rights people standing up and saying: ‘Singapore, you have done a great job, having most of your people free of drugs’,” the report quoted the minister as saying.