Thursday, December 9, 2010

Vui Kong - One Year On

Vui Kong was scheduled to hang in the morning of 4th Dec 2009. Exactly one year ago on 8th Dec, he was given the nod by the high court to appeal for his case. He has since outlived his original execution date by more than a year. Vui Kong has had several stay of execution since then and is awaiting the appeal of the High Court's judgement on judicial review, scheduled on the week commencing 17th Jan 2011.

This post is a tribute to the tireless effort of all the various organisations around the world, such as The Online Citizen, Save Vui Kong Campaign Malaysia and Amnesty International who have selflessly contributed over the past 12 months to make this possible. It is also a thank you call to those who have supported the Save Kong Campaign or have signed the petition. Those 100,000 signatures wouldn't have been possible without those who cared.

M. Ravi, human rights lawyer
In particular this post goes out to Vui Kong's counsel, M. Ravi who has been in the campaign against the mandatory death penalty for traffickers, and have worked pro bono for his clients in the past, many times forking out his own money for his court fees, paperwork, client's funeral, families' expenses, overseas trip to appeal to his clients' government. The list just goes on.

It used to be that Ravi had very limited time to prepare for his clients' case, and would overwork himself, simply because it was just him and him alone who had the conviction to press on in his pro bono work for prisoners on death row, a place which no other lawyers in Singapore dared to tread.

During these years, Ravi has come under fire from the mainstream media, who have tried ways and means to character assassinate him. But he has weathered all these and continues to fight tooth and nail for the very values he believes in - humanity.

It is not an easy journey for Ravi, when his clients often regard him as their closest friend during the time leading up to their execution. He has had to see several of his clients mercilessly executed by the state for drug trafficking, such as Vignes Mourthi, Shanmugam Murugesu and Amara Tochi. They did not have a last minute stay of execution like Vui Kong did.

Will we see more lawyers like M. Ravi speaking up against these miscarriage of justice? Only time will tell. After all, it takes more than just courage to rise up against the stoic machinery of the state. It's a conviction and a deep sense of empathy that made Ravi to do what he does. For now, Vui Kong, who has since repented and turned to religion, sits in his cell in Changi Prison clutching at the glimmer of hope that his counsel gave him one year ago.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

From Save Yong Vui Kong! 为杨伟光请命

The 'Banduan Akhir Di Sel Akhir' play is starting tomorrow and Vui Kong's Counsel M. Ravi will be present during the gala show. Tickets for tomorrow show have sold out :-) Good news is tickets for the Monday-Thursday shows are still available. So come and support Vui Kong and the Anti-death penalty campaign. Any enquiry, kindly contact Aisling or Davina at 03-7955268 or email at

Monday, October 4, 2010

Please Mr President!

This track was written by me and my friend, Selin, to appeal for Vui Kong, a young man who at 18, was caught being in possession of 47grams of heroin and who is sentenced to be hung in January of next year. It is our hope that the President will consider his attenuating circumstances and be merciful enough to grant him clemency.

View his story here,

Through this song we also hope to raise awareness among Singaporeans that the death sentence is not something which we should simply accept because it's the LAW. The law is meant to maintain justice and order, but in some cases, the law may also be unjust and immoral: Singapore has the highest rate of death sentences amongst all the developed nations and also quite possibly the only developed country in the world to have no minimum wage. What does that say about the law and the law-makers in Singapore?

Deborah Lee,

  Please Mr President! by meowmeowproject 

Please Mr President!

Coz I keep on fighting on my own
And so much blood is shed without a sound

Wats up you
Jaded people
Wake up
It’s time to listen
To your hearts
And not the herd
Break up your tunnel vision
Your apathy don’t cost a thing
And neither does your love
So turn your head
face the pain
Ain’t no shame
In speaking up
Speak up

This man was 18
And now he’s going to be hung
When his whole life
Was strife staring down
The barrel of a gun.
Manipulated now you hate him
Living large like kings
His life snatched
47 g of smack he had to sell to live

Buddha called his name
His heart broke, he changed
No guns, no fights, no lies
But still the games the same

His dear mama, decrepit,
Beggin pleading on her knees
The hot roads scorching her soul
while authorities sip tea

coz I keep on fighting on my own
And so much blood is shed without a sound
And so many heads are turned away
When will they learn

For chasing the dragon
You’ll get hung on a noose
While politicians live it up with nothing to lose
Stealing billions, eating taxes
While the rich are getting richer
All this bullshit that they’re feeding’s
Straight-up blowing up my richter
Are they protecting the people
Or just protecting themselves?
If they’re so great
Why don’t they set the stage
With basic morals?
Coz an eye for an eye
Makes the whole world blind
And some compassion ‘stead of hatred
Would keep our own souls alive

coz I keep on fighting on my own
And so much blood is shed without a sound

‘Please Mr President
I beg you to forgive him
My son has never known his father
And his life was strife and anger
He never asked for much just
Wanted to keep on believing
Keep on fighting for a 2nd chance in living

coz I keep on fighting on my own
And so much blood is shed without a sound
And so many heads are turned away
When will they learn

Its their own lives they take
It’s their own lives they take
It’s their own lives they take

In speaking up (Speak up)
Speak up (Speak up)

Please Mr President!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Youths for Second Chances

We Believe in Second Chances is a youth initiative in Singapore formed in Sept 2010. The group was formed through inspiration from the story of Yong Vui Kong who was sentenced to hang for drug trafficking and is awaiting the gallows in Changi prison. In this video a bunch of young Singaporeans come together to spread their message of forgiveness, to give people who have made mistakes in the past a second chance.

Through dance and music, these youths paint a picture of what could have been possible when a young person grows up in a different environment and are not subjected to the drug baron's manipulation of youths who come from broken families. There must be punishment for those who did wrong, but there must also be a path for people to change, just like the Yellow Ribbon Campaign which aims to give convicts a second chance in life. Many of these convicts have rehabilitated successfully through this program.

Everyone of us were young once, and everyone of us deserves a second chance, including Yong Vui Kong, who was only 18 years old when he was arrested. He has since been in jail for nearly 4 years. A folly committed as a teenager should never lead to eternal damnation by premature termination of life via judicial hanging.

Vui Kong has promised that he would take up the fight against the trade of drug trafficking and the recruitment of young drug runners. Through this, he could possibly save many lives in the future, including those destroyed by drug addiction. Is there really no chance of recourse for Vui Kong, a repentant individual? Is it necessary to kill a sheep to scare the herd, when capital punishment as compared to imprisonment as a sentence has not been proven to reduce drug trafficking?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Vui Kong's story in a play produced by Amnesty International M'sia

Banduan Akhir” is a story inspired by the real story of Yong Vui Kong, a Malaysian boy who is facing the Death Penalty in Singapore.

 In 2007, the 18 years old boy from a broken family in Sabah was arrested with 47 grams of heroin and sentenced to Mandatory Death Penalty. 

Since then, Vui Fung, a Malaysian girl is struggling for her brother, Yong Vui Kong from the Death Penalty. For more than 3 years, she's facing with a lot of difficulties from the authorities to save her brother. 

Nevertheless, with Ravi, the prolific Human Rights lawyer in Singapore, both of them 'believe' that something can be done to save Yong Vui Kong's life. 

This 50 minutes drama will potray the dark hours of Yong Vui Kong facing the cruel Death Penalty.

Contact:: 03-79552680 /

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Be part of the Save Vui Kong Campaign Volunteer

Amnesty International Malaysia is going to have ‘Banduan Akhir‘, a special theatre performance, in conjuction with the ‘World Day Against the Death Penalty’.

The play which will be staged for five nights from the 10th -14th October 2010 is in English and Bahasa Malaysia but there will be subtitles provided. The performance will be held at Black Box Theatre, Level G2-01, Block A5, Solaris Dutamas 1, Jalan Dutamas 1, Off Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur.

This production looks at issues surrounding death penalty and is inspired by the story of Yong Vui Kong, a Malaysian boy facing the death penalty in Singapore. In 2007, the 19 year old boy from a broken family in Sabah was arrested with 47 grams of heroin and sentenced to death. The play follows the struggle of his sister, Vui Fung and M. Ravi, the human rights lawyer in Singapore, to have Yong Vui Kong’s death sentence revoked.

Amnesty Malaysia is persistently campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty and would be honoured and greatly appreciative if you could attend this production and offer your support to this demonstration of the fundamental right of every Malaysian and global citizen, the right to life. An issue such as this should be discussed freely and without restrictions, and this production will give opportunity for discussion and creation of awareness.

Save Vui Kong Campaign will be part of the supporting group for this performance.

We need minimum 7 volunteers for each day's performance

Date : 10th October-14th October.

Venue : Black Box Theatre, Map, Level G2-01, Block A5, Solaris Dutamas 1, Jalan Dutamas 1, Off Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur.

Time : You will be asked to be there at 6pm to help set up-until approximately 10pm.

Choose any day you can volunteer : Its five nights and you can choose which day that you are free to help us.

Briefing : A simple briefing will be held on 9th October 2010 (Saturday), time at 10am.

Amnesty International Malaysia and Save Vui Kong Campaign would be honored and greatly appreciative if you could join us in this event by be a volunteer. Kindly confirm your participation with Lim Tuan Chun at or by calling 03 7955 2680.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Vui Kong gets to see his next birthday

In a court ruling on 31 Aug, Vui Kong gets another stay of execution from the High Court when it ruled that the date for appeal of the High Court's judgement on judicial review will be on the week commencing from 17 Jan 2011.

Vui Kong, who will be 23 in January next year, will have spent almost 4 years in prison after his incarceration.

The average waiting time for convicts in death row in recent years have reduced dramatically as the court processes become more efficient.

The judges seem to have a compassionate streak to give Vui Kong's lawyer another 4 months to prepare and Vui Kong another 4 months to continue his daily ritual of prayers and maintain a tiny sliver of hope that one day, the Singapore President can grant him clemency.

Before passing the judgement, trial judge Justice Choo Han Teck summoned both the defence and presecution into chamber and asked the prosecution if they would consider reducing the charge given the relatively young age of the drug offender, who was not even 19 at the age of the offence. The prosecution declined and the death sentence was handed to Vui Kong.

On 14th May, the Court of Appeal duly rejected Vui Kong's first appeal. But it acknowledged that the mandatory death sentence is considered a cruel, degrading and inhuman punishment.

The judges seem to favour giving Vui Kong a second chance, but they are unable to because of the lack of discretion due to the mandatory nature of the death penalty applicable to drug traffickers.

This is unfortunate, because day in and day out these judges see criminals, some sentenced to death, others not. High court judges should be given the powers to decide whether a person has committed a crime so heinous that he/she deserves the death sentence.

Malaysia has had a minister speaking up about abolishing the death penalty recently, when would it be Singapore's turn?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Yong Vui Kong: I'll be active in anti-drug campaign if clemency granted

If clemency is granted from Singapore President Sellapan Ramanathan, Malaysian drug trafficker Yong Vui Kong said that his greatest wish would be to join the anti-drug campaign and guide other young people on the edge to return to the right path.
He said, "I'm not afraid of death anymore! However, I hope to try my best helping more people learn the Buddha dharma before I die."
Yong was sentenced to death after being convicted of drug trafficking when he was 18 years old. Over 100,000 Malaysians had signed to support a petition requesting clemency for Yong from the Singapore President.
"If the presidential clemency is granted, what I would like to do the most is to tell the world about the danger of drugs and how sinful drugs are," said Yong.
Yong had written a letter earlier in the prison to thank the over 100,000 Malaysians who had signed to support a petition requesting clemency for him from the Singapore President.
Read more: Sinchew Daily

Friday, August 27, 2010

What is Vui Kong doing all these while?

Vui Kong, remorseful but hopeful to live and contribute to society

Vui Kong has been brushing up on his English. In his possession is a Chinese-English dictionary and some Buddhist texts. He tries his best to learn English, a new language to him, for the purpose of communicating with his lawyer.

Periodically he pen letters to his family and friends, sharing religious teachings, gratitude and encouragement. He wakes up early every morning to meditate.

When the court granted him a stay of execution last December, one of the first people to pay Vui Kong a visit was his lawyer, M. Ravi. During the meeting, Vui Kong presented him a gift – a picture that had taken him weeks to complete. He would kneel for hours as he drew. The picture is a colourful interpretation of one of the manifestations of Lord Buddha, standing at the gates of hell, saving souls from eternal damnation.

“He is remorseful and feels he should be severely punished,” his brother Yun Leong explained, “but he wants to live so he can continue seeing us, seeing our mother again. He wants to keep learning and meditating and being a better person.”

Latest updates at Vui Kong's journey.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Vui Kong’s family pleads at Istana

The family of Yong Vui Kong has been working hard these past two months – hitting the streets in both Singapore and Malaysia to collect signatures for a petition begging President SR Nathan to spare Vui Kong’s life.

Activists in Malaysia have rallied to their cause. By 10 am this morning, the campaign had collected a total of 109 346 signatures. Among those who signed were 44 Members of Parliament and 15 senators in Malaysia.

Vui Kong’s father and six siblings delivered the petition and signatures to the Istana earlier today. They were accompanied by Sabah MP Datuk Chua Soon Bui, some close relatives, as well as lawyers M Ravi and Ngeow Chow Ying.

Read more at The Online Citizen

Until the very last second.

"You may leave now"

At first I thought I had misheard, or at the very least misunderstood. We had just trudged uphill in the oppressive Singapore heat for 15 minutes, the family laden with binders, boxes and stacks of papers. Everyone was covered with a sheen of sweat. And that was only just the tiniest fraction of what the Yong family had been through.

For them, and the many activists who have supported them, today was the culmination of at least 2 months worth of tireless, persistent effort. Yong Vui Kong's family was on their way to submit the 109,346 signatures they had collected for the petition appealing to the President, and the Singapore government, for clemency. These signatures had been collected on the streets of Sabah and West Malaysia, as well as in Singapore and online.

While his siblings and close relatives had been walking the streets of Malaysia stopping everyone and anyone who would listen, Yun Leong – who is working in Singapore – had been going out on the streets alone during every lunch break, collecting signatures for the petition. He singlehandedly collected about 317 signatures. He was sick today, with a sore throat that made it difficult for him to speak. He said it'd been a long time since he'd slept well. But he was determined to keep fighting for his brother's life. And today he was going to submit all these precious signatures at the Istana, in the hopes that 109,346 voices would be enough.
But at the back gate of Istana – yes, they weren't allowed to submit the petition at the main gate facing the main road – the security officer of the Istana was brusque and businesslike. He, assisted by a colleague, accepted the petitions, turned on his heel and left, only pausing to say, "You may leave now."

Read more.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Malaysian campaigners gather nearly 100,000 signatures for Vui Kong

The Save Vui Kong Campaign flagged off in early July with the aim of collecting 100,000 signatures for a petition due to be submitted to the Singapore President, S.R. Nathan on the 24th August 2010.

As of today, it has nearly hit its target, gathering a total of 96,622 signatures, in a nationwide campaign organised both online and on the streets.

Together with Vui Kong's lawyer M. Ravi, the campaigners will hand over the petitions tomorrow morning, 9.00am at the Istana.

Read more at 2ndChance4Yong.

Monday, August 2, 2010

On Sunday, more than 150 people turned up at Speakers’ Corner to support the petition for clemency for death row inmate, 19-year old Malaysian Yong Vui Kong.
Despite the drizzle, both young and old were there to add their signatures to the call for clemency. The event was organized by the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty campaigners (SADPC) and The Online Citizen (TOC).
A total of about 150 signatures were collected and these will be added to the Malaysian campaigners’ petition which will be forwarded to the president of Singapore later this month.
Read more at The Online Citizen

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Boy's Mother

Lianian Films: The Boy's Mother

We visit on our third day in Sandakan. She looks surprised to see so many of us. But we're even more taken aback by the state of her little two-bedroom flat. Vui Fung had told us earlier that she lives alone. We'd half-expected her home to be gloomy and untidy. But the place is immaculately kept. Clean, and bright and airy. There are photos of her children and grandchildren everywhere. A large, framed family portrait takes pride of place in the living room.

We're all nervous about meeting her. Terrified we'd somehow let slip what she must not be told – that Vui Kong, her youngest son, sits on death row. We'd all heard her heartbreaking story. We know of her mental illness, her struggles as an impoverished single mother, her visit last year to Changi Prison, to see Vui Kong just two days before he was originally scheduled to hang. He had told her he was going away to seek penance for his sins and that he would never ever return.

That narrative had confused me back then. Did she really buy the story? Surely, a mother must know?

Meeting her now, I finally understand why Vui Kong felt he had to protect his mother from the truth. It is impossible to have a conversation with her. She hardly says a word. Doesn't acknowledge anyone's questions. It is as if she's living in her own little bubble, a bubble you dare not burst. Vui Fung blames it on anti-depressants.

"They make her sleepy and slow."

But her older kids don't want to wean her off the pills – they're afraid she might sink back into depression and try to kill herself again.

The previous day, we'd visited their old house, a two-storey building in the middle of an oil palm plantation. No one lives there now. It's where the family keeps their unwanted junk.

Inside a room full of odds and ends, Ravi (Vui Kong's lawyer) found an old cupboard full of children's things. Her children's things. Vui Kong's mother had carefully preserved his old textbooks. Primary 1 to Primary 4. He'd dropped out of school after that, to find work in the city.

We found Yun Leong's report card. He was an excellent student. If only he had kept on studying. We found an old school t-shirt and tiny shorts. All meticulously packed away.

“My mother never visits this house now,” Vui Fung told us. “Too many bad memories.”

The flat is overflowing. Full of relatives and community leaders and other well-wishers. Sabah MP Chua Soon Bui drops by for a visit. She is a warm woman, dynamic and committed and full of ideas.

“Let's take your mother out tomorrow,” she tells Vui Fung. “ We'll go for a walk in the orangutan sanctuary!”

We are all sceptical at first. What good would it do her to go see a bunch of monkeys? But it turns out to be an excellent suggestion.

She is carefully dressed for the excursion. A pretty top. Silver sandals. Ravi remarks that it's clear there's a part of her that wants to live and live well. She bothers. She's not given up on herself.

It's a lovely day for a walk. But we're afraid she might be bored. It's hard to tell. She doesn't say anything. Doesn't tell anyone how she feels. We wonder if she'd rather be at home.

But then, after the walk, we go to a coffee shop for kopi and cakes and a relative remarks that in her youth, Vui Kong's mum loved karaoke. The revelation sets Ravi off. He starts singing a Chinese ditty – something he learnt in the army. None of us know the song. But there is a flicker of recognition in her eyes. She smiles, and then breaks out in laughter. Laughter. It is infectious. We join in, amazed.

There's a suggestion to go eat durians. Sabah's best. We look at Vui Kong's mum.

“Durian?” Vui Fung asks her tentatively.

“I want to eat durian,” she says in Hakka. A complete sentence.

All of us who were there that day still talk about that outing. Her laughter. The way she attacked those durians. We talk about how she makes you instinctively want to protect her. We talk about the awfulness of the whole situation, the way her lips trembled when she looked at that family portrait.

Surely, she must know.

Vui Kong writes movingly about his mother in his clemency petition. She's one of the reasons he cites for his decision to deliver those drugs. He says he wanted to help pay her medical bills. It's easy to dismiss his assertion as a desperate attempt at justifying his actions. But then you meet her. You see what her illness has done. And you see flashes of the person that used to be, before life destroyed her spirit. And you understand how an illiterate 18-year-old kid could have gone down that path.

He was young and he was foolish. But he thought he was doing his best. For his mum.

The Online Citizen and the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign are organising a gathering in support of Yong Vui Kong this Sunday. We're planning to go and hope to see you there too.

Time: 4pm to 6pm
Where: Speakers' Corner, Hong Lim Park

If you think the boy deserves a second chance, please sign the online petition here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Malaysia government writes to Singapore President for clemency for Vui Kong

Update from CNA: MFA confirms clemency appeal letter received for convicted Malaysian drug trafficker

SINGAPORE : Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has confirmed that it has received a letter of appeal for clemency for convicted Malaysian drug trafficker Yong Vui Kong.

It said the letter of appeal is from Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman.

MFA said the letter has been referred to the legal authorities.

Yong, 22, was convicted and sentenced to death last year. - CNA/ms

Source: The Star

THE Foreign Ministry sent a letter to the Singapore government last week to plead for clemency for young Sabahan Yong Vui Kong, who was sentenced to death in the city state for drug trafficking.
Deputy Foreign Minister A. Kohilan Pillay told senator Datuk Saripah Aminah Syed Mohamed that the letter from Wisma Putra was addressed to the President of Singapore for his consideration.
“Yong’s family had also written to the President of Singapore,” he said.
Yong, 22, was convicted on Jan 7 last year for trafficking in 47gm of diamorphine, a capital offence under the Singaporea Misuse of Drugs Act.
Yong was arrested on June 13, 2007. He was 18 when he committed the offence.
The last day for Yong to file his petition for clemency is Aug 26, after which he may be hanged at any time.
In his reply, Kohilan also said two Malaysians, convicted of drug trafficking in China and Japan respectively, had their sentences reduced.
In the case of Umi Azlim Mohammad Lazim, who was also sentenced to death by a High Court in Guangzhou, China, her death sentence was reduced to life imprisonment.
The former Universiti Malaysia Sabah student from Kelantan was found guilty of trafficking in 2.983kg of heroin in Shantao airport, and was sentenced to death on May 15, 2007 at the age of 23.
In the case of Raja Munirah Iskandar Shah, who was convicted of trafficking in 690.8g of syabu in Narita International Airport in 2006 at the age of 21, her sentence was reduced from seven years and four months to six years and nine months.

Yong Vui Kong’s counsel, Mr M Ravi has filed in the Judicial Review in High Court on 21 July 2010.

The hearing is scheduled on this coming Wednesday, 28 July 2010 at 10am at the High Court of the Republic of Singapore.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Good Fight

Lianian Films: The Good Fight

My heart leapt when I saw this status update on Vui Fung’s Facebook page a couple of weeks ago:

“I try my best to face all of this… I never wanna try to hide it again…”

It was a huge step for her - this shy, awkward girl who hates being in the limelight, hates talking to strangers, hates making a fuss of anything. I messaged her. She told me she had decided to be brave. She would stand up, speak out, do everything necessary to help save her brother, Vui Kong.

This past week, she showed me she meant what she said.

Thursday, she attended the launch of the “Save Yong Vui Kong” campaign in her hometown, Sandakan. Sat up front with her brother’s lawyers and some other Very Important People, handed out petition forms, and didn’t once try to shy away when the press asked her questions.

Friday, she hit the streets with activists, politicians, friends and some relatives. At first, she hung back, approaching only the people she knew, urging them to sign a petition in support of her brother’s plea for a second chance. Twice, she nearly chickened out. We could tell it was incredibly stressful for her. She'd never ever been an activist. And this was her brother she was fighting for. So much was at stake. There was a look of panic on her face each time she walked up to a new person.

But she pressed on. And as the day progressed, she got bolder and started approaching everyone and anyone she came across - aunties at the market, kopitiam ah peks, old makciks drinking tea, teachers, shopkeepers, random strangers… they all signed the petition. She even managed to smile when people pointed at her and exclaimed, “You’re the sister!”

She collected more than 30 signatures that day. We congratulated her. “Not enough,” she said.

On our last evening in Sandakan, she came to our hotel with a laptop and a stack of photographs. There were dark circles under her eyes. We told her to go home and get some rest. But she said there was one last thing she had to do.

She wanted to write to President Nathan. And she wanted to combine her letter with photographs of Vui Kong, her family and other supporters. It was 11pm when she started work. She was cranky and nervous and jittery - terrified the President would be put off by her bad grammar, her inability to properly express herself. We told her to calm down and write from her heart. She shooed us away.

She drafted and redrafted the text. Didn’t sleep all night. And when we woke up, the letter was nearly done. Nearly. She fussed over punctuation marks, and sentence structure. Wrote and cancelled paragraphs. Glued, and unstuck photographs.

She only stopped to accompany us to the airport. There, she found a quiet spot, ordered us to go sit somewhere else, and continued working. She finished just before the final call. As we said goodbye, she asked if we thought the President would even bother reading what she had written.

I paused, searched for words, told her the truth, "I don't know, but I hope so."

But she seemed not to have heard me. Her mind was already racing ahead. "More signatures," she said. "We must collect many more signatures."

Please support Vui Fung's fight to save her brother's life. Sign the petition here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

TOC: Save Vui Kong Campaign kicks off in Sabah

TOC: Save Vui Kong Campaign kicks off in Sabah


 Malaysian politicians and activists have started the campaign to save 22-year old Vui Kong from the death sentence in Singapore. The event kicked off with a press conference held in Sandakan, Sabah, the hometown of Vui Kong. Sabah Member of Parliament, Datuk Chua Soon Bui, and Vui Kong’s lawyer, Mr M Ravi, were present to lend support to the campaign. So were Vui Kong’s younger sister, Vui Fung, and older brother, Yun Leong, as well as dozens of relatives and supporters.

Datuk Chua said: ”This campaign is for humanity. It is above politics. We appeal to the state government to intervene and support us.”

Datuk Chua also pointed out that Yong can give back to society by reaching out to young people who might be vulnerable to drug traffickers. Rather than kill him, he should be allowed to repent and share his story.
Campaigners will hit the streets of Sandakan tomorrow (23 July, Friday) to appeal to the public to support their cause. They hope to collect 100,000 signatures by August 23. (To sign the petition, please click here.)
Vui Kong has until 26 August 2010 to file an appeal for clemency with the Singapore president. As there is only about a month before the deadline for the clemency appeal, TOC will carry news and reports of the campaign as and when they happen.

Here are some pictures from Sabah of the press conference in Sabah on Thursday.
M Ravi (with MP Chua): ”He is not a criminal. He is a victim of poverty.” During the press conference in Sandakan, Ravi explained how Singapore’s Law Minister K Shanmugum’s comments about Yong had prejudiced his clemency appeal. ”We are here on a united front to save this boy from being unfairly executed.”

Ngeow Chow Ying, Yong’s Malaysian lawyer: ”Everyone’s life is precious and worth fighting for. Yong Vui Kong is still so young. He comes from an impoverished background. He deserves a second chance. He can be a strong anti-drug advocate. Who doesn’t deserve a second chance?”

“The death penalty is a controversial issue, but the fundamental question is, can it solve problems? What purpose does killing this boy serve? What problem does it solve?”

Stephen Wong Tien Fatt, Sandakan community leader: ”Everyone knows Yong Vui Kong committed a crime. He knows that too. He is repentant. He deserves a second chance.”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Vui Kong's letter to mum

The letter Vui Kong wrote to his mum on her birthday

In the letter Vui Kong told his mum that the brothers have been visiting him in prison. He talks about the benefits of practicing Buddhism, his Buddhist beliefs and how he recommends good books to his brothers whenever he finds one. 

Campaign Launched for Vui Kong - 2nd Chance

From 2ndchance4yong

July 21, 2010
Youthful folly led an 18-year-old to drug-trafficking. Today, at 22, he pledges his remaining life to campaign against drug-trafficking and drug abuse. Should his life ends tomorrow to deny him and others like him a second chance?

The Save Vui Kong Campaign (SVKC) today calls upon elected representatives and members of the public to plead to His Excellency Singapore President Sellapan Ramanathan to grant clemency to death convict Yong Vui Kong.

Yong may be hanged anytime after this 26 August if his plea for clemency is rejected.
Unfortunately, his right to seek clemency under the Singapore’s Constitution has been compromised by statement of the Hon. Minister of Law K. Shanmugan.

Even before his clemency plea is officially filed, Mr Shanmugan was quoted to have told the press: “Yong Vui Kong (who was sentenced to hang for trafficking in 47g of heroin) is young. But if we say, ‘We let you go’, what’s the signal we’re sending? We’re sending a signal to all drug barons out there: Just make sure you choose a victim who’s young or a mother of a young child and use them as the people to carry drugs into Singapore.”

Singapore’s Unrecognized Ally in Anti-Drug Campaign

The real signal Singapore is sending should Vui Kong be pardoned is exactly the opposite to what Mr Shanmugan has second guessed.

Vui Kong is a completely changed person after his arrest. He has found his spiritual salvation in Buddhism and vowed to use his remaining days to counsel lost souls like he once was and to campaign against drug-trafficking and drug-abuse.

Vui Kong who just want to redeem his past sins is actually an unrecognized ally of the Singapore Government in the latter’s anti-drug campaign. Executing him will not stop the next drug trafficker, just like the execution of previous traffickers did not stop Vui Kong, who was illiterate and did not know even about the death penalty.

Keeping Vui Kong alive may however may. He will do whatever he can to get his message of regret and redemption out to many young lives and saving them from drugs.

A second chance for Vui Kong is therefore also a second chance for many others out there.

What the Elected Representatives Can Do
All 222 members of parliamentarians from the Dewan Rakyat, 69 sitting Senators and 60 state assemblypersons of Sabah are invited to personally make their plea. We have prepared a card for them to sign and mail it back using a stamped self-addressed envelope by next Friday (31 July 2010). Concerned state assemblypersons from other states are welcome to join. We will then present these personal plea cards together to the Istana – Office of the President of Singapore.

What the Members of the Public Can Do
Members of the public can go online to endorse a petition to the Singapore president at SaveVK/petition.html. They can help the campaign further by printing the petition and signature form (available in three languages) to collect signatures from families, friends, colleagues and even strangers. The URLs for downloads are kl6t1gf5ss
(English Version) ibce9v8kcd
(Mandarin Version) daqymy6vtu
(Bahasa Malaysia Version)

Completed signature forms should be mailed to reach the address below by August 22 

“Save Vui Kong” Campaign
Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
Jalan Maharajalela,
50150 Kuala Lumpur,

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Yong Vui Kong's Journey

Yong Vui Kong's Journey
An account of Yong Vui Kong's life

Vui Fung, Vui Kong, Ah Lun, Yun Leong with their mother

Yong Vui Kong, born to a family of 6, went through a turbulent childhood when his parents divorced while he was very young. As a result his mother had to raise the kids singlehandedly. 

Being a dishwasher she brought home RM$200 a month, and the family had to scrap by at the most basic sustenance level. 

Eventually this paved the way for Vui Kong's departure from their hometown of Sabah, East Malaysia to the big city of Kuala Lumpur. 

 Vui Kong with brothers during happier days

In 2002, Vui Kong the country boy left Sabah for KL, bringing nothing but him and the desire to make it big. 

A young and rebellious Vui Kong

He was described by his family as "rebellious", often mixing with bad company and getting into trouble. Yet, Vui Kong would be the apple in his mother's eyes. He treated his siblings well, especially Vui Fung who would often relate how much Vui Kong doted on her, even though he would sometimes throw his temper at home when things were not going well for him. 

Vui Fung (Fung Fung) with Vui Kong 

But all these was not meant to last. 

Vui Kong worked as a kitchen hand in KL, but was later introduced to a gang, whose boss showered him with 5 star hotel stays and treated him to meals he could never be able to afford. 

Vui Kong mixed with the wrong company, which eventually sealed his fate

Eventually Vui Kong went from debt collecting to "delivering gifts". These gifts turned out to be drugs. At that young and impressionable age, Vui Kong had no idea that the penalty for trafficking of drug was mandatory death. 

The "gifts" that Vui Kong delivered to Singapore

At 18, Yong Vui Kong was conscripted for National Service. He would later return to KL back to the same boss who provided him with work and lead him on to be a drug runner. 

Vui Kong would later shuttle back and forth Singapore and Malaysia several times until he was caught in June 2007 with possession of 47g of heroin. Yong was 18 and a half years old at the time of arrest. Singapore drug laws stipulate mandatory death for 18 years and above. Vui Kong faced certain death the moment he was caught by narcotics officers. 

Vui Kong, represented by state-assigned counsel Kelvin Lim, was trialed in Singapore High Court. 

Justice Choo Han Teck found Vui Kong too young to be dealt with the mandatory death sentence

Before passing the judgement, trial judge Justice Choo Han Teck summoned both the defence and presecution into chamber and asked the prosecution if they would consider reducing the charge given the relatively young age of the drug offender, who was not even 19 at the age of the offence. The prosecution declined and the death sentence was handed to Vui Kong.

Yong's then defence counsel, following the common practice for almost all capital cases for drug trafficking, was preparing to take the case to the Court of Appeal. 

Kelvin Lim, under specific instruction from his client, withdrew the Appeal.

Changi Prison customary photo taking session before execution

At this point in time, Vui Kong's sister, Fung Fung, had already bought a shirt and pants for her brother. It is customary for prisoners on death row to don on their best in a bizzare and morbid prison practice - photos of the prisoner in various poses will be shot and the pictures will be sent to the convict's family after the execution.

"I don't want to lie to save myself."

Vui Kong instructed his lawyer to withdraw the appeal

Why did Vui Kong withdraw the appeal?

Apparently, he was under the impression that a High Court Appeal could only work if there are new evidence to prove that he was innocent of the charge, and he thought that the only way out was to lie to be able to save himself. 

After taking up Buddhism as his religion while in prison, Vui Kong did not want to lie which was a sin according to Buddhist beliefs, he therefore instructed his counsel to withdraw the Appeal. 

Vui Kong did not know that he involuntarily extended his stay in this world by withdrawing his own High Court Appeal, the only legal lifeline available to him.

Because of this withdrawal, the high Court hastened the execution process and ordered Yong to be executed on 4th December 2009.

M. Ravi intervenes

M. Ravi holding a picture of a Buddha like figure drawn by Yong while in prison

Singapore human rights lawyer Madasamy Ravi got wind of Yong's case. He promptly took over the case from Yong's counsel Kelvin Lim after a court hearing.

Ravi submitted a clemency appeal to the Singapore President, but on 20th November, it was rejected by the Istana.

Yong was granted a rare last minute stay of execution

Two days before Yong's scheduled execution, Ravi made an application for a stay of execution for Vui Kong pending a High Court hearing for an appeal. The Court of Appeal had previously not heard Vui Kong's case as his defence lawyer had withdrawn it.

Vui Kong broke down in court when he heard his execution on Friday was stayed

 The judge decided that he was not in the position to make the decision for the Court of Appeal, granted the stay of execution for Vui Kong. Vui Kong, who was present in court, broke down and cried when he heard the news.

Vui Kong Finally meet his mother after two years of incarceration

A day after the court's decision, Yong met his mother, who came to Singapore accompanied by his siblings. Upon seeing his mother, Yong knelt and bowed to her three times in a show of respect. 

Vui Kong's mother still does not know that her son had been sentenced to death.

For fear that she may commit suicide due to suffering from chronic depression, Vui Kong's family had kept his fate away from her. The only idea she has of why her son is in jail is that "he had committed a very serious matter and that he will be gone for a very long time in order to atone for his sins and will not return unless he has attained self fulfillment". 

On 8th December, Vui Kong received a 2nd stay of execution, this time from the Court of Appeal. The stay of execution was in effect until the Appeal was presented and debated in court. The court gave the defence much needed time to prepare the case, and activists more time to campaign for it. 

Yong outlived his original death sentence for a full 4 months. This was something he never saw coming on the eve of his execution.

Campaigns to save Vui Kong

Singapore Anti Death Penalty Campaign flyer

Ravi, in the months after the court's decision to grant the stay of execution, set off to do his research, pro bono. He engaged the help of Queen's counsels in London, dug up the various developments in other Commonwealth countries on the mandatory death penalty and at the end compiled an appeal submission 5 volumes thick. 

London team of lawyers who provided valuable research and help: Parvais Jabbar, Edward Fitzgerald QC, M. Ravi and Saul Lehrfreund

On 15th March the high Court convened for Vui Kong's appeal. After both sides presented their cases and arguments, the judges praised M. Ravi for the effort he had put into his submission and thanked him for providing the court with an update on current international practices with regards to the death penalty. They decided to reserve judgement on the hearing until further notice. (credits to TOC)

"The court acknowledge that the mandatory death sentence is considered a cruel, degrading and inhuman punishment," - Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong

On 14th May, the Court of Appeal duly rejected the appeal. But it acknowledged that the mandatory death sentence is considered a cruel, degrading and inhuman punishment. 

In June, Vui Kong's counsel M. Ravi made a trip down to KL in an attempt to rally the Malaysians together over the case. 

There was a buzz initially when the Malaysian online media carried Vui Kong's story, but it fizzled out after a week or two. 

Umi Azlim, the Malaysian girl sentenced to death for drug trafficking

In 2007, Umi Azlim was sentenced to death in China. Curiously, she had a sentence commuted to life imprisonment after the Malaysian government appeal to the Chinese government citing compassionate grounds. 

Vui Kong received no such attention from the Malaysian government.

No Political Mileage 

"Probably because he presents no political mileage. He is first of all a (Malaysian) Chinese, and a Sabahan." 

But the Malaysian media had their ways. many online media outlets, especially MalaysiaKini, ran a media blitz over Vui Kong's case and nudge the Malaysian government to do something to help the boy who was facing the gallows overseas. 

Ravi with MP Tian Chua and Malaysia's Foreign Minister Anifah Aman (Photo: TOC)

But all was not lost. On 3rd July it was announced that PKR's MP Tian Chua would table a debate on Vui Kong's case in Parliament the following Monday. It was rejected by the Speaker of Parliament, but a press conference was held and Malaysia's Foreign Minister was present. 

 "After all, I am a Sabahan too” - Malaysia's FM Anifah Aman pledged to assist in Yong's case

He told Ravi and the Malaysian press, “All things aside, if I save one life it will give me great satisfaction. After all, I am a Sabahan too”, referring to the Malaysian state where Yong comes from. (Credit: TOC)

After his statement, almost all media outlets in Malaysia carried the news. 

Malaysian activists promptly got to work to set up a site, 2ndChance4Yong, to campaign for Vui Kong.

For the first time, Yong did not just have to rely on Singapore, he had the support of the people from his country as well. 

 Give Life 2nd Chance

The campaign for Vui Kong, Give Life 2nd Chance, was launched and the petition gathered over 3000 signatures in a few days. The campaign also rallied Malaysian Parliamentarians together to show support for a President clemency to spare Yong's life based on compassionate ground. 

Ngeow Chow Ying, Syed Husin and Tunku Abdul Aziz

Malaysians brought it a step further. On 21 July, Malaysian lawyer and campaign coordinator Ngeow Chow Ying, together with Dewan Negara senators, came together for a press conference to plea for clemency for Vui Kong and rally Malaysians' support.

She said, "We understand Singapore, like Malaysia, has a strict policy against drug trafficking which carries a mandatory death penalty. However, given that the constitution allows clemency plea for persons sentenced to death means that no sentence of capital punishment is by default excluded from reconsideration for a second chance."

Soon after, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman wrote to Singapore President S.R. Nathan, requesting clemency on compassionate grounds. The President did not reply to the letter.

Give Vui Kong a Second Chance

Increasingly, Singaporeans were getting aware that judicial hangings for drug trafficking were done in the name of the people. On Aug 2, more than 150 people turned up at Speakers’ Corner to support the petition for clemency for Yong Vui Kong.

The family had to walk to the back of the Istana to submit the clemency petition 

The Save Vui Kong campaign saw more than 109 346 signatures collected over the span of more than a month. These signatures together with a formal clemency petition, were submitted to the President at the Istana on 24 Aug 2010.

 The family, together with Sabah Member of Parliament Datuk Chua Soon Bui, faced curt security officers who merely took the piles of signatures and repeatedly told them to leave. Deflated, disappointed and anxious, the family walked back in tears.

Protest outside S'pore High Commission

Yong’s original deadline for filing his Petition for Clemency to the President was 26 August. It was feared that he would be hanged soon after that deadlineIn the face of imminent execution of Vui Kong, Malaysian lawyers and parliamentarians rallied together and protested outside the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur on 26 August. 

One of the lawyers and Malaysian Member of Parliament, S. Manickavasagam said if Yong Vui Kong is hung, they will come in a big group and bring a coffin box to be placed in front of the High Commission. 

Another stay of execution for Vui Kong, left

The Singapore Prisons Department in a letter dated 25 Aug 2010 replied Yong's lawyer M. Ravi that he would be granted an extension to file his clemency appeal to the President. The confirmation of extension comes as a relief to Mr Ravi who had repeatedly asked the SPS for the confirmation since 18 August. 

What was Vui Kong doing all these while? 

Vui Kong, remorseful but hopeful to live and contribute to society

Meanwhile, Vui Kong had been brushing up on his English. In his possession is a Chinese-English dictionary and some Buddhist texts. He tries his best to learn English, a new language to him, for the purpose of communicating with his lawyer. 

Periodically he pen letters to his family and friends, sharing religious teachings, gratitude and encouragement. He wakes up early every morning to meditate.  

When the court granted him a stay of execution last December, one of the first people to pay Vui Kong a visit was his lawyer, M. Ravi. During the meeting, Vui Kong presented him a gift – a picture that had taken him weeks to complete. He would kneel for hours as he drew. The picture is a colourful interpretation of one of the manifestations of Lord Buddha, standing at the gates of hell, saving souls from eternal damnation.
“He is remorseful and feels he should be severely punished,” his brother Yun Leong explained, “but he wants to live so he can continue seeing us, seeing our mother again. He wants to keep learning and meditating and being a better person.”

To be continued...
Updated 27th Aug 2010