Zulfikar bin Mustaffah is a Drug Addict but NOT a Drug Trafficker!

Posted by under News on 1 June 2001

Yasmin binte Mustaffah, whose brother Zulfikar bin Mustaffah sits in prison awaiting the death sentence, reiterates her brother's innocence. By recommendation of Amnesty International, she got in contact with Think Centre and implored the Centre to disseminate her case to the public.

According to Yasmin, the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) made a tactical error by arresting her brother, the so-called "trafficker", even before he delivered a parcel containing drugs. Why was CNB waiting to ambush and arrest the suspected "trafficker" who was only serving as a courier even before evidence was found in his possession? A courier gets arrested by CNB and now faces death, but the actual "trafficker" gets off scot-free!

Next, the CNB tried to prove the case - by circumstantial evidence that Zulfikar, at the moment of arrest, had $4,000 in his pocket. Zulfikar claimed he won a 4-D prize of $3,000 and went to Bukit Batok Central (at Bukit Batok MRT Station) to collect his winnings. A check by CNB with Singapore Pools revealed he did not claim the money. Later, they informed CNB that he did claim the money, but at another location in Bukit Batok Central, not the one at Bukit Batok MRT Station. While CNB has agreed to return the money to the family, the delay in accurate information by Singapore Pools did not help, as CNB had already concluded that Zulfikar did not collect any winnings. In reality, Zulfikar collected his winnings from another location and this did not come about at the trial. Why did CNB make such a mistake, she asked. Why was this piece of information not revealed earlier?

Now, Zulfikar faces death! Based on this new facts, should there be a re-trial? And if so, will it influence the verdict?

If drugs are found on you, will the law identify you as a drug trafficker even if it was there without your knowledge? Zulfikar was merely delivering a package as a courier, and did not ask what it contained.

Yasmin pleads in her clemency to the President of Singapore, S. R. Nathan, "I ask you Sir not only as the President of Singapore but as a humanitarian please do not kill my brother because of this mistake and his bad judgement."

The vulnerable, poor, lowly-educated and naive Zulfikar faces the death for his gullibility and possibly the mistakes make by CNB officers. He has been convicted of a crime he did not commit.

Is it fair and just for Zulfikar to face the death sentence? You decide! If you think justice ought to be done, send your appeals by referring to the earlier article by Amnesty International here.

Read the plead for clemency to the President of Singapore below.

Yasmin Mustaffah
Blk 221, Boon Lay Place
Singapore 639098

3rd April 2001

The President of Singapore
Istana House
Orchard Road
Singapore 0922

Dear Sir,

RE: Clemency Appeal for Zulfikar Bin Mustaffah

I do not know where am I to start this letter to you when I must write about the life and death of my brother Zulfikar but I must try as his life now lies in your hands.

My brother, Zulfikar Bin Mustaffah, was sentenced to death by the Singapore High Court early this year. He was arrested last year for the offence of drug trafficking having been found in possession of a package that contained about 70 grams of Heroin. However his being in possession of such a package is not so straightforward a situation.

I believe that Zulfikar's story is not uncommon. He was a vulnerable man with a history of drug addiction. He was sought out by others (the real traffickers) and used by them for their own gains knowing that he was naive, out of work and therefore needed to earn money.

Zulfikar was to deliver the package to a man on behalf of another. In this respect he was acting only as a courier in the same way as any major company like DHL or FedEx. He did not know the contents of the package. The CNB have confirmed that they could find no evidence to show that Zulfikar had done anything more than carry the package.

Zulfikar took the package and agreed to deliver it to a man unknown to him but who would pay him when it was delivered. He had no reason to question the contents of the package this was a delivery job nothing more. To him this was a way to make some small amount of money as he was out of work at the time.

As we know the CNB was waiting at the delivery point because they already had the recipient of the package under surveillance. When Zulfikar arrived they arrested him, unfortunately they had also already arrested the man they were watching before the package could be delivered. The chance to prove Zulfikar was only a courier was lost and so was the chance to connect the real suspect with the drugs. This man is now free.

Because Zulfikar could not identify the intended recipient of the package and give the CNB their conviction of the real trafficker he was himself arrested and charged with the crime when all he had done was try to deliver a package.

What I gather from the trial hearing is that it does not matter if you are partly involved, fully involved or indeed not involved directly at all, as long as the drug is found on you. The law then will identify you as a drug trafficker even if the drug is there without your knowledge.

Nothing in life can be so black and white. People involved at high level in organised syndicates, those who plan and profit from drug trafficking, are treated the same as poor couriers or even unfortunate users more guilty of making mistakes, bad judgement and stupidity than crime. In such cases is it right to take a man's life because of his mistake. We should all learn from our mistakes not face death because of them.

Drug traffickers are surely those who make money on the back of other unfortunates, usually poorly educated and unable to protect or stand up for themselves.

As far as Zulfikar is concerned it has been confirmed that he has never been previously under suspicion or surveillance by the CNB. Likewise he has never been suspected or considered capable of trafficking and surely has no profit or trappings the organised traffickers have, he has no property or car.

During Zulfikar's trial much was made of an amount of money found on him some S$4000. This was used to imply that he was in fact dealing in drugs. Zulfikar explained that the money was in his possession mainly as a result of a S$3000 4D win. The prosecution obtained a document from the Singapore Pools company saying that he had not collected any winnings from specifically the MRT station 4D outlet in Bukit Batok Central.

This is not surprising as he did not collect the winnings there. Singapore Pools have now submitted clarification clearly stating that Zulfikar was a winner and did collect his winnings at another Bukit Batok Central outlet. This confirmation letter is attached. CNB have now agreed to return this money to the family as the origin of it is proven to be as Zulfikar had said. He did not lie.

Given that this significant part of the prosecution evidence, used to support the case that Zulfikar was a drug trafficker and not just an innocent courier, has now been proven to be false, I suggest now that there must be much doubt about the conviction of my brother for this offence.

Zulfikar may be many things. He is not well educated, only to secondary 2, he has had drug addiction problems and he has made poor decisions but he is not an evil or bad person and he is not a drug trafficker.

He agreed to deliver a package from a dubious source to another without checking the contents or even asking what was inside.

This was his mistake and now he must die because of it.

I ask you Sir not only as the President of Singapore but as a humanitarian please do not kill my brother because of this mistake and his bad judgement. There must be sufficient doubt about the role of Zulfikar in this matter to at least order that the facts be examined again before the ultimate and final punishment is brought down on my brother. At worst he is guilty of bad judgment and he has been an addict but he is not a drugs trafficker.

I believe whatever I am to write to you that the chances of release for him from the death sentence are very small. You probably receive and read clemency appeal letters every day, written full of pain and sorrow, pleading and grief, even anger and guilt but none I believe succeed in the clemency appeal. Maybe only a one in a million chance so far. I think you have a better picture of the percentage saved with this appeal from you.

It is difficult for me not to think that this clemency appeal is a fruitless exercise but I must try for my brother.

To help explain and support further the circumstances surrounding my brother's case I have attached some further details of his life and character.

His Difficult History


Zulfikar is the second child of Mustaffah & Kalsom born a Singaporean. My mother was always the sole bread winner in my family. My father was as a father in hiding, escaping from the responsibility and reality of life. Our father offered no parental support or guidance and found many ways not to be around with his family. I hardly can recall any memory of my childhood with him. We were more afraid of him, frightened and avoiding him.

My father also had a drug addiction problem and had faced time in jail. With such a male role model in his life Zulfikar clearly had a bad start in life. The responsibility of raising us up, educating us, feeding us and caring for us fell solely to my mother. My mother has little education and had to do a lot of general work and hard labour to feed her children each month. Although she is illiterate in English, and living in Singapore, she did well in raising us up with no support to best of her ability. It was definitely not easy for her to cope with daily life under such circumstances and having three children to feed.

Childhood Days

Due to the fact that our family was not set up correctly, our childhood was full of unhappy times and I do not believe gave us a good start in life. Our upbringing was a day to day existence rather than with aims and proper guidance to tell us what is right and wrong. There was little encouragement and support and we three children were often lonely and shameful.

Zulfikar was always known as a quiet boy since he was young. Probably there are not much opportunity for him to express his feeling and thoughts. This perhaps is the start of every depressed person looking to define and find their place in the real world.

Despite our family situation Zulfikar attended Boon Lay Primary School and did well in his primary school education. He was involved in the school scout teams actively and was a good student.

Teenage period

His problems began when he was in secondary school. We lived in Boon Lay which at the time was known as a 'black area' for drug. Zulfikar attend Yu An Ching Secondary which is located in Jurong unfortunately also known for its reputation as a drug area. He completed school to secondary 2 level. At that time he was exposed to drugs and became addicted.

By the time we realised this it was too late and he had been involved with the law and been served with a juvenile order. Being a teenager as we all know is already hard enough on a young person add to this Zulfikar's poor living environment and lack of adult support then it is not so hard to understand the basis of his vulnerability to abuse by others for their own gain. Zulfikar had nobody who much tried to reach him guide him and help him to appreciate and understand the real meaning of life and his place in it.

Unfortunately Zulfikar continued to be a drug addict. This resulted in him dropping out of school during his secondary 3 level. He received little by way of counselling to help or advice to understand and guide him. I have the impression that his school was more than happy to be rid of him rather than to take time to support, advise and educate him.

I guess this is an unfortunate side effect of the pressure in the education system in Singapore or public school, to produce only good quality, top, educated student which means it's better to dispose of the bad & rotten ones who cause problem and bring bad names to school.

The probation monitors assigned by the Ministry of Community Development during this time did not really help much. As far as the probation programme are concerned, it was not of much success to what I can say.

At this teenage period, the state of the mind of anyone is not fully developed yet certainly not enough to be called mature with understand and acceptance of the realities of life. Constant and powerful peer pressure normal by the time young people reach their teens only added to Zulfikar's problems. The influence of friends tends to become stronger than that of family particularly in relation to drug use. At this period, a problem teenager should have never be left alone deserted in his deep thought.

Adulthood Period

Ever since he dropped out of school, he has unfortunately spent approximately 75-80% of his time going in and out of the Drug Rehabilitation Centre trying to cope with the addiction problem. To "Rehabilitate" means the process of improving and becoming again a better person as before. Unfortunately I can not see that this process has worked in the case of my brother.

Zulfikar has been in and out of these institutions since he was about 14 or 15 years old. Now he is 32 years old, some 15 to 17 years life behind bars in detention and rehabilitation. Half of his lifetime gone. His life has been full of stress and confusion. This can only lead a person to a position of dissolution and dislocation from normal society. The normal learning processes we get from our surroundings and the balance it brings to a character have been denied to Zulfikar.

There are more and more inmates repeatedly being admitted into the Centre again and again. How well has this Rehabilitation Centre perform with it's main function? If you have inmates going in and out repeatedly again and again, well I think that this is not only the problem of drug addicts in person but perhaps it is becoming the problem of the rehabilitation centre.

I tried to get a statistics to show you the no. of inmates admitted again and again but again data were made confidential and I do not get a full co-operation from this organisation. Why? Is this one of the way to improve?

Society Acceptance

Normally, once you have been in detention gaining employment is not easy. The perception of society on former inmates is full of discrimination. Is there any way for you to change this? Unfortunately today's reality with such a situation only serves to drive the person further away from normal society and makes re-entry into our communities more difficult if not impossible. It further destroys and weakens the person's mental resolve when he is faced with this discrimination.

Zulfikar is born and spent 99% of his time in Singapore. That makes him a true native Singaporean. However his history and his life experiences has meant that he has not been considered even for entry into our own country's National Service. As said in the advert by Mindef: "They said I'd be a man, what I became was more human".

The opportunity has been denied to Zulfikar who have bad record in Singapore. He has not had even the opportunity to become a man in such a sense of the word. He has been rejected not only by his father but by his Country as well. How then can we expect him to understand the right path to take.

He has had no good fortune, no support and help and now he is convicted of a crime he did not commit. No other people other than his family can stand to support his case and believe him. It is too easy to believe that he is a liar, although we have proved that he is not. With all this against him his Country now wants to kill him for something he did not do. Simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Now is the final time for clemency from you. Zulfikar's life is in you hand. Please have mercy not only to him but also to those who are in the same faith like him.

The Law is being set by you and only you have the power to apply balance, judgement and compassion to it. We are all human. I emplore you to give life to my brother and allow for him to make something from it now. Do not let him die before he has the chance even to make any use of it.

All religions believe that there are always room for forgiveness. God is always the greatest and can hear you. As you are his instrument now to decide if Zulfikar can live or die, I hope you are able to hear our pledge, our sorrow, our pain, our agony, our loss and the torture to not only him but to those who love him.

It is all in your hands now.

Yours sincerely,

Yasmin Mustaffah
Zulfikar's sister

Sources and Relevant Links:

AI Singapore: Imminent execution, Zulfikar Bin Mustaffah, aged 32, unemployed
30 May 2001

Think Centre Death Penalty Case Gets an Airing in Parliament
19 July 2001

Think Centre Zulfikar bin Mustaffah to be Hanged this Friday
27 September 2001

AI Singapore: Further information on Imminent execution, Zulfikar Bin Mustaffah

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