'Govt aware Yong could escape gallows, but changes to law made for society's benefit'

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. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS
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. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

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 here.

"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.

"It was a case that seemed to fit within the changes we were making but we made those changes because it was in the interest of society as a whole."

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 resentencing.

Earlier on Thursday, Yong, 25, became the first convicted drug trafficker to be given a chance under the new law. He was re-sentenced to life imprisonment and 15 strokes of the cane by the High Court.

Judges now have the discretion to impose life terms and caning on drug couriers who substantively assist the Central Narcotics Bureau.

Mr Shanmugam said that the lifting of the mandatory drug penalty is to provide an incentive for drug couriers 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, they are not going to cooperate," he noted.