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.