With 21-year-old Malaysian drug mule Yong Vui Kong likely to face the gallows in Singapore this year (pending a final appeal) for importing 42 grams of heroin I was bemused to read about the following case in the Straits Times:
Madhuri Jaya Chandra Reddy, a 21-year-old Indian national, has been found guilty of strangling a prostitute who was seven months pregnant and stuffing her body beneath the bed of a hotel room in Geylang, Singapore's red light district, before bringing another prostitute back to the room and having sex with her on the same bed.
While murder, like drug trafficking, carries the mandatory death penalty, Reddy received the relatively lenient sentence of 17 years in jail and 12 strokes of the cane.
The reason: prosecutors accepted his guilty plea of "culpable homicide" (similar to manslaughter) rather than push for a murder charge that would have sent Reddy to the gallows if he was found guilty.
Reddy claimed in court that the woman had tried to attack him by approaching him with a clenched fist following a dispute about whether he had to pay for another round of sex, according to Channel News Asia.
Without out having sat in on the proceedings it is impossible to judge whether this was the case. What is clear is that the Singaporean prosecutors and judge showed Reddy a certain level of leniency by not pursuing a murder charge and by not giving him the maximum life sentence applicable for those found guilty of culpable homicide.
My point is not to cast doubt on the outcome of Reddy's trial but to demonstrate the extreme disparity between how the justice system has treated Reddy, who killed a pregnant woman in a heinous fashion, and Yong, who smuggled a small amount of drugs into Singapore.
Although Yong's appeal is likely to fail, there is still time for Singaporeans to put pressure on their government to show a naive, low-level drug mule the leniency that has been accorded to a callous killer.