Changes to law 'for benefit of wider society'

Changes to law 'for benefit of wider society'
Relief: From left, Yong Yun Leong, the older brother of Yong Vui Kong; lawyer M Ravi; and Yong Yun Chung, another brother of Vui Kong.

SINGAPORE - The Government was aware that drug mule Yong Vui Kong could escape the gallows when it proposed lifting the mandatory drug penalty, said Law Minister K. Shanmugam on Thursday.

But it went ahead with the changes for the benefit of the wider society, he told reporters on the sidelines of a gathering of Commonwealth foreign ministers in Sri Lanka.

"We were certainly aware of the possibility that he could be one of those to benefit from the changes, because we know that he had given some information which led to the arrest of someone else more senior in the hierarchy and that had helped us," Mr Shanmugam said.

The minister was responding to a question on whether the high-profile nature of the Malaysian's fight against the death penalty was a factor in his re-sentencing.

Earlier on Thursday, Yong became the first convicted drug trafficker to be given a chance under the new law.

The 25-year-old was re-sentenced to life imprisonment and ordered to be given 15 strokes of the cane by the High Court.

Judges now have the discretion to impose life sentences and caning on drug couriers who substantively assist narcotics enforcers.

Mr Shanmugam emphasised that the change was to give drug couriers an incentive to help the authorities nab bigger fish.

"If he knows that the more he tells us, the more certainty he will face a death penalty, he is not going to cooperate," he noted.

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