Category Archives: Roslan bin Bakar

The Death Penalty – Is this justice?

Kirsten Han /

Troy Davis

As I am writing this, it is being announced that Troy Davis has been executed, time of death 11:08pm (time in Georgia). Despite affidavits from witnesses recanting their statements, despite allegations of testimony extracted under duress, despite doubt cast on his guilt for about two decades, despite campaigns and protests all over the world, Troy Davis is dead.

Activists, campaigners and followers of his case say that this is the perfect example of all that is wrong with the death penalty.

From what I’ve seen since I’ve been involved with the anti-death penalty campaign, I have to agree. The death penalty in itself is manifestly unfair. And although we saw the injustice in Georgia today, there is injustice to be found within many death penalty cases all over the world.

Yong Vui Kong – On death row while his boss walks

In Singapore, Yong Vui Kong’s case is one that has been fairly high profile, out of all the death penalty cases. He has been on death row since 2008, and is now in the final stage of the process, awaiting a response to his clemency petition submitted to the President. If clemency is denied (and not one clemency has been granted in the past 12 or so years), he will be taken from his cell one Friday morning and hanged by the neck until dead at 6am, for a crime he committed when he was barely 19 years old, poor, naive and illiterate.

Meanwhile, we received news that the man who had recruited Vui Kong is being detained under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act.

NOTE: The Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act, or CLTPA, allows for people to be detained without trial if there is suspicion that he/she has been involved in criminal activity. However, if there is insufficient evidence to charge that person, he/she must be released.

This point was brought up by Ms Sylvia Lim of the Workers’ Party in Parliament last year. Then-Defence Minister Wong Kan Seng confirmed that someone from the same syndicate as Vui Kong (whom we now believe to be his boss) is detained under the CLTPA.

Strangely enough, Mr Wong said that the CLTPA is used when there is “a lack of evidence that can be adduced in court, typically because witnesses are unwilling to testify for fear of reprisals”. But how can this be the case when it comes to Vui Kong’s boss? Haven’t we already got a witness – Vui Kong himself – in custody?

Vui Kong with his mother.

In fact, Vui Kong is not the only witness we had in custody. There used to be another boy in the cell next to his. His name was Robin Low, but Vui Kong called him Xiao Hu (??). Xiao Hu was also from Sabah, from a similarly disadvantaged background. Xiao Hu had been recruited by the same man who had recruited Vui Kong.

Xiao Hu has already been executed, dragged out of his cell screaming and crying one Friday morning.

It is incredibly unfair that while the recruiter is being detained without trial and will probably soon be released due to “a lack of evidence”, drug mules at the bottom of the food chain like Xiao Hu and Vui Kong are waiting for death. Vui Kong says that no one had ever even asked him about his boss, or whether he would testify against him. And so the man will walk, while Vui Kong waits to be hanged.

I am not saying that Vui Kong’s boss should also be executed. But I ask you this: is this justice? Is this what Singapore calls “a tough stance on crime and drugs”?

Cheong Chun Yin – “Immaterial” that investigators did not make “adequate efforts”

Cheong Chun Yin

When Cheong Chun Yin was arrested for drug trafficking, he was shocked. He had been under the impression that he was smuggling a some gold bars for a friend wanting to evade tax. He had been so sure that he wasn’t committing any serious offence that he left a photocopy of his passport and his travel itinerary in the suitcase when he handed it over in Singapore.

During interrogation, he cooperated fully with the investigating officers. He gave them the name of the man – “Lau De” – who had convinced him to go to Burma, who had arranged all the travel details and the handover of the suitcase. He described the man’s physical appearance, and even gave them the contact numbers he had used to get in touch with this man.

The officers made no attempt to trace this man to corroborate Chun Yin’s story or investigate further. In the written judgement of his trial, Judge Choo Han Teck said that it was “immaterial that the CNB did not made adequate efforts to trace Lau De or check on his cell-phones.”

When it is “immaterial” whether “adequate efforts” have been made during the investigation before a punishment as final and irreversible as the death sentence is passed, can we really say that justice has been served?

Roslan bin Bakar – Arrested a month after the fact without any drugs on him

Roslan bin Bakar

Roslan bin Bakar was arrested at his step-brother’s house a month after the alleged crime, with no drugs on him. He was charged with drug trafficking based on the testimony of three others who had been seen at the scene and arrested on the day of the crime. Up till today his story has been consistent – he had not even been there, and had nothing to do with it.

During the trial, Roslan provided an alibi that was backed up by his step-brother. However, Judge Choo Han Teck did not believe it, saying that his step-brother “appeared a little too anxious to provide an alibi.”

Although officers of the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) had been monitoring everyone’s movements, not a single CNB officer could testify that Roslan had been at the scene. A fourth man, Norzainy, who had been arrested with the others testified that Roslan had not been there. However, the judge said, “I am mindful that Norzainy was trying his best not to identify Roslan, but his denial, inserted in the rest of his evidence and that of the others, strengthened the prosecution’s case against Roslan.”

Of those who testified against Roslan, one had his capital charged reduced, and admitted that “the reduction of the [capital] charge acted as an inducement for him to testify against Roslan.” Another had his capital charge withdrawn with a discharge not amounting to an acquittal.

Just like in Troy Davis’ case, there is too much doubt in Roslan’s, and very little explanation as to why the State is so eager to execute while questions remain. We’ve tried looking, but we haven’t been able to find any written judgement from the Court of Appeal explaining why Roslan’s appeal was denied. His sister, who had been at the verdict, does not remember any oral judgement either.

Vui Kong, Chun Yin and Roslan are not the only ones either. Singapore has hanged so many people. Going through court documents and case files, so many causes for concern can be highlighted. It makes me wonder – how many have we killed while doubts remain?

All three cases mentioned here are in the final stages of the process. All it takes now is a rejection of their clemency petitions (as decided by the Cabinet), and a death warrant signed by the President. And if they are executed, they would have been killed in the name of all Singaporeans. But will we be able to say that justice has been served, or that we are effectively dealing with our problems?

Roslan’s family writes to the President

Roslan bin Bakar was arrested on 18 July 2008. He was convicted of trafficking 96.07g of diamorphine and 76.37g of methamphetamine and sentenced to death on 22 April 2010.

Roslan maintains his innocence to this day, saying that he had not been at the scene of the crime. He was convicted mostly based on testimony, and not concrete evidence. He says that the others who testified against him only testified to escape the capital charges themselves. More can be read about his case here and here.

His sister, Haminah, and her son Afiq wrote the following letters to President Tony Tan, urging for Roslan’s case to be looked at again.

Dear Honorable President, Mr Tony Tan 

I am writing in on behalf of my whole family. We come from family of middle income, and due to financial difficulties, I can’t afford to engage a proper lawyer to represent my brother – Roslan Bin Bakar, who has been charged with trafficking and sentenced under the Mandatory Death Penalty.

The whole family would like you, Mr President, to evaluate, in your own wisdom, the case.

Our family would like to bring up a few of the flaws concerning the Investigation. If my brother had been there at Choa Chu Kang, why is it a fact that not a single CNB officer had given evidence that he had been at the scene?

Based on the case raised in the submissions my brother was not given a fair evaluation and consideration by the learned Judge. There isn’t any evidence concrete enough to penalized my brother and sentenced him to death.

I beg you, Mr President, that you will not allow your Cabinet to hang an innocent person.

In believing that my brother is innocent, my whole family urge Our Honorable President to appeal for a retrial of the whole case, and to grant us aid to engage a proper lawyer to represent him strongly in court.

Yours sincerely
Haminah and Family

I am Afiq. I am 15 years old and Mr Roslan bin Bakar is my uncle. I am here to write to you about my feelings towards his death penalty. I feel that it is unfair because he did not deserve it.

Evidence did not point to him, the drugs were not with him when he was at his step-brother’s house. The CNB only used my uncle’s friends’ words to blame him for the possession of the drugs. Oral evidence is usually very difficult to believe because we humans tend to LIE. How can a CNB officer even use oral evidence to point to my uncle and say the drugs belong to him? They did not even see my uncle when they caught his friends with the drug.

If I was caught with something illegal and I said that it was your loved one who did it, would it not be stupid to trust my story?

My uncle wasn’t caught with the drug, his friend was caught with it. My uncle’s bank account didn’t even reach $100. If they checked his bank account and he was hoarding 5 or 6-digit numbers then I would have to admit that he might be involved, but his bank account says otherwise.

Why did the judge sentence him to death without even considering that the oral evidence could be wrong? I’m 15 years old and my teachers taught me that if there is a problem, don’t pick sides. Listen to both parties then decide which is wrong and which is right.

All I hope is that the judge can look into this matter again, and may the President have mercy. God bless him.


An Open Letter to Presidential Candidates

Dear Presidential Candidates,

My name is Kirsten Han, and I am one of the co-founders of We Believe In Second Chances. I was very encouraged to see my fellow campaigner Priscilla present at The Online Citizen’s Face 2 Face 2, to be able to speak with all of you on the death penalty. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for sharing your opinions on this issue.

For the first time in 18 years, Singaporeans will be able to vote for their Elected President. Many of us hope for an independent President who will be able to represent Singaporeans. But for another group of people (both Singaporean and non-Singaporean), this election takes on a darker significance – for them, the people of Singapore will be electing the man who will very possibly be signing their death warrants.

To Mr Tan Kin Lian and Mr Tan Jee Say, we at Second Chances are very heartened to hear about your concerns with the President’s powers (or lack thereof) in the granting of clemency.

To Dr Tony Tan and Dr Tan Cheng Bock, we hope to be able to engage with you and draw you into a deeper discussion to see the our concerns, shared by a number of other Singaporeans.

At present, Second Chances is trying to raise awareness of and campaign for three death row inmates: Yong Vui Kong, Cheong Chun Yin and Roslan bin Bakar. All three have exhausted all legal avenues, and are at the clemency stage. Their petitions have been submitted; all that is left is for the response to be given.

As a presidential candidate, there is a very real possibility that you might be the one to be giving this response, telling these three men whether they can live or die.

Yong Vui Kong is 23 years old this year. He had been arrested at the age of 19 in possession of 42.27g of heroin. Unlike Ahmad Zahir Ismail, a gang member who was spared from jail and caning earlier this month, Vui Kong was sentenced to death under the Mandatory Death Penalty.

Vui Kong is now repentant, and has spent the past 4 years studying, meditating (he is now a devout Buddhist) and trying his best to atone for his mistakes within prison walls. He is not asking for acquittal and release. He is only asking to be allowed to live, so that he may continue in his self-improvement and meditation.

Cheong Chun Yin was charged with trafficking in over 2kg of heroin. However, he maintains to his day that he had been under the impression that he was only smuggling gold bars for a friend from the pasar malam where he worked. He also cooperated fully with the investigating officers, giving them details and even the phone numbers of the man who had arranged the whole job for him.

However, the investigating officers made no attempt to trace this man. The trial judge also ruled that it was “immaterial” that the officers did not make “adequate efforts” to do so.

Like Chun Yin, Roslan bin Bakar also continues to insist upon his innocence even though he is at the last stage of the process. Besides the testimonies of others, there was no concrete evidence proving that Roslan had been at the scene. Roslan also provided an alibi. His mother and step-brother testified in support, but the judge did not believe them.

For Vui Kong, Chun Yin and Roslan, this presidential election is more than just who is the most independent, or who is endorsed by this or that group. This is their very lives at stake.

Dr Tan Cheng Bock, you said at the forum that you would have to “take into account whether if we do away with the death penalty… all those people, all the murderers, all the drug addicts… I don’t know whether clemency for these people is really justified or not because I got to think of the general population.”

As a viewer, the point you made appears to imply that you are considering the issue from a “death or acquittal” standpoint, which is a misconception held by many. However, none of the anti-death penalty campaigners have asked for an inmate to be fully acquitted (unless evidence has proven that he/she is innocent).

In fact, even if he could grant clemency on his own, the President can only commute the death sentence to life imprisonment, and cannot acquit the inmate. Therefore, convicts would still be separated from the general population by life imprisonment. Would this still be harmful to the general population? Must there be death before Singapore can be safe?

You also say – “If we just do away with the death penalty I want to know really what impact is gonna go…”

Conversely, there is no concrete evidence to show that the death penalty acts as an effective deterrent against crimes like drug trafficking. Second Chances believes that it is important to back up arguments for the death penalty with real research and statistics. This is why we are calling for a moratorium so that a study can be done.

To Dr Tony Tan, as a viewer I must confess that I still find your views upon the issue of the death penalty and the President’s powers in granting clemency to be unclear. Although I agree that we must respect Parliament, I would still be most interested to hear your personal opinion on this issue. I know that the Constitution doesn’t allow you any discretion in clemency proceedings, but I also want to know that my President is a compassionate person who will think twice before agreeing to take away another person’s life.

I thank all four of you for entering this race and giving Singaporeans a choice of President for the first time in 18 years. The death penalty remains as one of the major issues concerning the office of the President, and it is one that Second Chances hopes you will give serious consideration to.


Kirsten Han
Co-founder, We Believe in Second Chances