Based on past experience, efforts to save Yong Vui Kong, who received the mandatory death sentence in Singapore for drug trafficking, face an almost impossible battle.
It is a case that absolutely screams out for compassion: a foolish, confused and handicapped youth ill-used by faceless drug kingpins. His appeal for clemency has already been rejected by the president of Singapore who ought to have used his office to mitigate the appallingly harsh law under which Yong was convicted despite the small amount of drugs he was found in possession of.
Singapore's Law Minister is reported to have said: ‘Yong Vui Kong is young, but if we say, we let you go, what is the signal we are sending?’ One might reply that it will signal there is still a shred of mercy left within the island’s justice system.
And can the minister really be so unforgiving that commuting the sentence to life imprisonment is equated to ‘letting you go?’
Perhaps the minister is alluding to the possibility that drug kingpins will be encouraged to use young persons as couriers if Yong is not executed. But this is to imagine that drug kingpins, contrary to everything we know about them, actually care about the fate of their mules.
To think that the island will be flooded with drugs if one less person is executed or the law made more discriminating is indeed a case of paranoid thinking. If the upbringing, decency and education of ordinary Singaporeans are to be so easily toppled by a few thoughtless drug mules, it is not a very strong society is it?
That fact that there have been a never ending series of executions for drug offences in Singapore shows clearly that, as a deterrent, their existing laws fail miserably. Studies show that would-be offenders are influenced more by their assessment of the chances of getting caught rather than by the harshness of the penalty if caught.
Young people especially are often not mature enough to make the correct judgement so it's no use telling them that they have been warned. Is it right for society to require them to forfeit their lives for a single act of rashness, greed or stupidity?
The present case recalls that of Nguyen Van Tuong, a young Australian hanged by the Singapore authorities in 2005 for heroin trafficking despite the strongest appeals for clemency made by the Australian prime minister, Australian federal and state parliaments, the Pope, the New Zealand PM, many others and a loud clamour from the Australian public.
Tragically, the doors of hope are likely to close upon Yong Vui Kong one by one. As the hangman prepares the ropes for yet another judicial murder of a hapless young man, Singaporeans should reflect on the sort of society they live in and how their high standard of living can coexist with a primitive and pitiless justice system.
The sad truth is that most of them would not even have heard of this case.