Wednesday, August 24, 2011

An Open letter to the Candidates of the 2011 Singapore Presidential Election

Appealing for a Compassionate Singapore

An Open letter to the Candidates of the 2011 Singapore Presidential Election

August 24, 2011

Dear Presidential Election candidates,

We are the family members of death convict Yong Vui Kong. We are writing this letter to you because you may be the face representing all Singaporeans as the president.

We are extremely guilty and sorry that Vui Kong has harmed Singaporeans for being tricked into drug trafficking. After embracing Buddhism in jail, Vui Kong has since repented. He has vowed to dedicate the rest of his life to counseling prisoners and educating the public about the perils of drug trafficking. He wants to contribute to Singapore’s battle against drug trafficking as his redemption.

The pious Vui Kong sees death penalty as his karma and is not afraid of dying. He however cannot let go of our mother who has suffered depression for years.

We however don’t have the wisdom as Vui Kong does. We are just normal human beings. We cannot see our loved one walking to the gallows in calmness. We want him to live. Every morning, we are grateful that Vui Kong is alive for another day. However, every day, we are also worried that he may just leave us the next day.

Dear PE candidate, like you and all the Singaporean, we hope our loved ones can live in a peaceful and happy life for as many years as possible. Vui Kong’s wrong could have harm the loved ones of many Singaporeans.

If executing him can best protect the loved ones of every Singaporean, we will not dare pleading to you and Singaporeans to forgive and pardon Vui Kong. However, the execution of so many drug mules before Vui Kong did not prevent him from doing the same. He simply did not know that trafficking drug could cost him his own life.

Executing Vui Kong may deter some people who already know of death sentence as the mandatory punishment for drug trafficking. However, Vui Kong living to tell his life lesson and regrets can educate more who are ignorant of the consequences. Commuting Vui Kong’s death sentence is not letting him go scot free. He will have to spend the rest of his life being barred, deprived of freedom while his peers pursue their life dreams.

Will lifelong imprisonment be an incentive for people to commit crime? Will people not learn from a young man who has to grow old in prison and tell his regrets day in day out? Vui Kong’s vow to live a new life has moved more than 110,000 in Malaysia and Singapore. Why are we so adamant that he cant touch more lives and save them from the peril that destroys his own?

Dear PE candidate, some people says Singapore’s achievement and prosperity are built on an uncompromised upholding of laws and rules. We fully appreciate Singapore’s success and fully respect Singapore’s sovereignty.

But let us say this out loud: executing a fully repentant person is not about protecting Singaporeans from the peril of drugs. It’s all about asserting authority. It’s all about telling the world that Singapore’s law will not bend to the extent the constitutionally-enshrined right of seeking pardon is effectively non-existent.

Dear PE candidate, such Singapore will be feared but not loved.
Such Singapore protects elites with good up-bringing, but denies the unfortunate subalterns hope.
Such Singapore may triumph in the race of Globalisation but will also land the losers in such race in despair.
Such Singapore does not allow you to make mistake.
Such Singapore cannot afford the luxury of giving an unfortunate life a second chance.
Such Singapore smiles with the winners but shies away from the losers.

Dear PE candidate, the Singapore that will execute Vui Kong is an efficient but cruel Singapore, perfecting Social Darwinism. We hope you represent another Singapore – a Singapore that is both wealthy and compassionate. We hope you will pardon Vui Kong if you are elected as the President.

A wealthy but compassionate Singapore will give Vui Kong, who was driven to drug trafficking by lack of education and love but who now does everything he can to prevent others from making the same mistake, a second chance. The same second chance that ordinary Singaporeans who lose out and err in competition need and deserve.

Vui Kong is embodiment of both human imperfection and the hope that we can improve.

Dear PE candidate, if you are elected as the President,please don’t execute this humanly hope with your signature.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,
The families of Yong Vui Kong

Sunday, April 24, 2011

MKini: Let Vui Kong live, he deserves a second chance

Let Vui Kong live, he deserves a second chance
your say'It is sad that young drug mules are the ones hanged, when not even one of those drug lords has ever been caught.'

A letter from death row

Zz2XX: Prison is all about reform and I don't how executing someone will reform anyone. Yong Vui Kong, and before him Van Tuong Nguyen (hanged in 2005), have repented for what they have done.

Sadly Vui Kong will be hanged even though he has reformed. We are now living in 2011 and not 1511, I cannot understand why the death sentence is still being used. Throughout human history has the death sentence solve/reduce any crime?

Vui Kong was a teenager when he committed his offence so he truly deserve to be given a chance to live. Let him spend his life behind bars for what he did.

It is sad that young drug mules are the ones hanged, but not even one of those drug lords who supply them with the drug to traffic has ever been caught and hanged.

DontPlayGod: I know the law says everyone must pay for his crime, but we must also take into account Yong's age and his upbringing, which was an upbringing devoid of parental and societal guidance as he had left home at a young age.

Mr Singapore President, he was young and had no guidance and no love. He should be given another chance as he has truly repented.

Soul: I believe everything happens for a reason. Drug trafficking is wrong and anyone caught deserved to be punished as it destroys lives. But if the person has repent and has chosen an enlightened way of life, what good will it do by condemning him to death? What are we trying to prove here?

If releasing Yong is out of question, hopefully a life sentence of doing community service can be taken into consideration. It will give him the opportunity to guide others who has chosen the wrong path. There are so many people out there who are lost and misguided. I guess that is what is meant to be...

K Raveendran Nair: At the age of 19, Yong definitely knew nothing about the law. While he is facing the death row, his handler is enjoying his life of luxury derived from drug money. He deserve the second chance and people shall rise to say no to death penalty.

Myop101: As much as we want to free this young man who have repented, one must not forget that drug abuse brought death to many people. It is drug mules like Yong Vui Kong that keep the trade going. Unlike Yong who have an avenue to share his story, many drug addicts out there died without having their stories told.

We know he is young and reckless (aren't we all young once) but he will not be the last. The question we should ask ourselves is, when do we let go and treat a person as an adult and be responsible for his actions?

The penalty is harsh but how do the state or the community explain to the parents, siblings, spouses, children, relatives and friends when their loved ones die from drug abuse? It is not a perfect deterrent tool but mandatory death sentence do strike fear in the hearts of many.

I feel really sad when those like Yong has to die for their crimes but there is only so much we can say or do if we look at the other untold stories.

Docs: Sad. Especially when you think that lesser humans have committed hideous crimes, slip through the grasps of the justice system but here we have a person that has the full weight of the justice system placed on him for committing a crime of lesser value.

But then again, life was not meant to be fair. I don't condone the death sentence as my personal belief is that the "no man has the right to take the life of another". For example, if a person murders another person intentionally, he is sentenced to death by the state as punishment for taking one's life.

So who is going to judge the state for taking a life when Yong has not "killed" another?

Loyal Malaysian: The Singapore and Malaysian drug laws are based on the use of power of fear to deter other potential drug pushers. That Yong has lost his final appeal is not a surprise. Let's hope he will be granted clemency.

But it is heart-warming to read the changes in him and how he has internalised the Buddhist teachings he has been exposed to. Yes, we have man-made laws but there are also universal laws that all of us are subject to, whether we believe in them or not.

Ong Guan Sin: I fought back my tears reading this on a Good Friday weekend in Singapore. I imagine Vui Kong himself is not aware that he is in the process of saving more lives by highlighting the very cruelty of death penalty.

We are part of the society which think it is okay to take away life of those who committed to serious crimes, when in this case it vividly highlights that we are killing the vulnerable who are exploited by shadowy masterminds. A death for a death has no place in any modern society. Stop the killing.

Changeagent: Mr Singapore President, please consider the fact that this young man was only 19 when he committed the crime. But by all accounts, he is now wiser and would be very unlikely to re-offend. I am sure the prison wardens would vouch for his changed and reformed character.

Before you say, 'rules are rules', understand that rules are man-made and can always be reversed so long as there is genuine regret and true contrition. As Kuchikoo said, don't play God, lest you be judged yourself.

GO4CHANGE: Death sentence is not cruel when we have put ourselves in the shoes of the victims of the perpetrators. It is just a necessary evil to prevent human evil behaviour. This should serve as a good warning to watch your children from the day they were born until you breathe your last.

Maintain strong ties within the family to keep communication lines open and prevent agony stories like this from happening. May God bless Vui kong for his repented life.

Don'tLeaveName: I am lost of words and have only tears for VK (Vui Kong). To Mr President, please give VK a second chance. He is a role model to other inmates there and he is an asset by guiding other inmates to take the right path. To VK, God is with you all the way. We pray for you.

Geronimo: As adults, we too have many failings in our lives. What's more if you are 19 when you are not wise to the world as yet. At 19, we are subject to peer pressure and when you are caught in a "too old to be young and too young to be old" time space, it puts us in a confused state.

Parents can only do that much bringing up a child, but when that child reaches 19, how much more can the parents control and discipline him? So for this very young man, there was a slip-up in his life, but does it mean he has to pay with his life? It is fine that a law is meant to be followed to the "t", but what about compassion?

If the person is above 21 (adulthood that is), I don't think many people bothered. Perhaps the Singapore government should reconsider that since he was caught with the pending act of destroying lives, why not sentence him to community service for a period of time to re-build the lives of some unfortunates?

Such rehabilitation would be a much better option than the hangman's noose.

Raveen: By embracing forgiveness, you embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy. Forgiveness doesn't mean that you deny the other person's responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn't minimise or justify the wrong.

You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life. Death penalty only removes forgiveness from our soul.

Mc Farland: I felt so sorry for this young man. I can't help my tears from flowing as I can relate to so many young people who are also misguided these days. Just look at the school gangsterism that is happening around us.

This young man should be given a second chance. He has learnt his lesson well and should do very well to educate other young people. Let's pray for forgiveness all round.

Bhajnik Singh: I do not know what caused this young man to follow the path he had taken but whatever the reason, it is wrong to have done what he did. The law of the land, however harsh, must be respected.

Many offenders repent and search for enlightenment in the confines of their cells. I believe from what I read, he has. To those who have the power to save his life I ask you, "What good will come from his execution as opposed to what good he will do to contribute and rehabilitate the lost souls in your prisons". To forgive is divine.

MyMsia: Dear Mr President, the society at large should share the guilt for what he did. I beg you, Mr President, to show mercy for this child.
The above is a selection of comments posted by Malaysiakini subscribers. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

SecondChances: Vui Kong's letters

Letters from Vui Kong – The First Letter: Prison Life

Yong Vui Kong is a death row inmate in Singapore. He was arrested at age 19 with 47.27g of heroin, convicted of trafficking and sentenced under the Mandatory Death Penalty. His final appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on 4 April 2011. He can now only plead for clemency from the President (acting on the advice of the Cabinet).

If the President does not grant clemency to Vui Kong, he is likely to be executed within this year.

Vui Kong will be writing 12 letters to a friend outside prison. The following is the first:

The First Letter: Prison Life

Dear Yetian,

Thank you for your letter, and thank you for giving me a platform and the strength to tell my story. This is my first letter. I hope to let everyone know what my life is like in prison.

First, let me introduce myself. My name is Yong Vui Kong. In early 2011, I celebrated my 23rd birthday in prison. I wasn’t alone during my birthday. Lots of friends on the outside were also celebrating with me.

Why am I in jail? It’s because I helped traffic drugs into Singapore. I was caught when I was 19. It’s been a few years now. I am a death row inmate, and by right, I should have been dead long ago. But a lot of people have been helping me, and that’s why I’m still alive today. If it wasn’t for all these people, I think I’d have left this world long ago.

My mother doesn’t know I’ve been sentenced to death. I’ve told her I’ll be going to a far away place to seek enlightenment. I told her not to worry about me. She believed me.

Let me now tell you about my life inside here.

I get up at around 4 every morning. I don’t have an alarm clock because I don’t need one. I’ve gotten used to this routine, and it’s not changed these past few years. Even the prison wardens know I am an early riser. They see me getting up each morning via the CCTV inside my cell.

After washing up and brushing my teeth, I’ll spend time studying the scriptures until 7am. After that, I’ll meditate quietly until 9. Some people might think I’m just trying to kill time, but in my heart, I believe it’s better to make full use of my time than to just let it slip away.

At 9, I have breakfast. I don’t eat the same things as the rest of the inmates. Even the wardens know this and will only deliver vegetarian meals to me. Vegetarianism has become a habit for me. The benefits of vegetarianism are something you have to experience yourself. I can tell you it’s a good thing, but you might not believe me. I encourage everyone to give vegetarianism a try.

In the past, when I knew I was going to die soon, I couldn’t stop crying because I was scared. But the Buddhist priest who visits me every week has taught me not to fear death.

Earlier this year, a friend inside left us. Before he left, I chanted for him. He left peacefully.

Until I die, I’ll use my time wisely to counsel people and tell them not to choose drugs.

Over the past few years, my relationship with my older brother, Yun Leong, has improved a great deal. We used to fight over all kinds of things. But now, our relationship is much improved. If not for his help, you wouldn’t be reading this letter now. I am really grateful to him. He visits me every Monday. We chit chat and he listens to me talk about Buddhism.

How many more Mondays will we have?

In the past, my rebelliousness made my brothers very unhappy. Now that I’m a changed person, my brothers feel much better. I think that’s the least I can do.

Actually, I’m doing very well in prison. The wardens show me a lot of respect. Whenever my brother visits, they’d unshackle me and we’d bow to each other. My brother tells me they hold me in high regard. I am humbled to know that.

In my spare time, I study the scriptures. I’m afraid I won’t have enough time to learn everything. I don’t even think there are enough hours in a day for me to study. A lot of people think that it must be tortuous for me to spend an extended time in prison, but I feel good because I can make full use of the time to learn. I feel very fulfilled.

I like to chant. But because of the strict rules inside prison, I can’t use normal meditation beads. That’s because they’re afraid I’ll sharpen the crystal beads and use them to kill myself. My priest is very thoughtful. He used flour to make little beads, strung them up and gave them to me. I use them when I chant.

Suicide? I’ve never thought of it. Life is to be cherished, not squandered.

Yetian, thank you. I’ll stop here today. Amitaba.

Vui Kong
16 April 2011

A banner for Vui Kong on his 23rd birthday.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Save Vui Kong Campaign Press Statement

Save Vui Kong Campaign
5 April 2011
Save Vui Kong Campaign (SVKC) is disappointed with the Court of Appeal’s decision on Yong Vui Kong’s application for judicial review.
Ironically, Vui Kong now has to plea to the Cabinet vis-a-vis the President for clemency, knowing very well that his plea will be rejected, as the Law Minister Mr K Shanmugan has made it blantantly clear in his statement, which states ‘Yong Vui Kong, he is young, but if we let him go, what is the signal we are sending.”
The Court of Appeal ruled that this statement is only a reflection of the “legislative policy” on drug, thus, does not amount to a pre-determination on Vui Kong’s clemency. With the highest due respect, we disagree.
Besides specifying Yong Vui Kong in his statement, the Law Minister’s statement seems to also indicate that it is the government policy that no one will be spared of his/her life when drug is involved, whether the victim is a “young person or mother of a young child”.
After the Court of Appeal’s decision, it is now clear that the Cabinet who made such policy also decides on Vui Kong’s plea for clemency, as the President MUST ACT ON THE ADVISE OF THE CABINET in this respect.
With this in mind, what can Vui Kong expect the Cabinet will decide on his plea for clemency?
It is therefore a mockery  that the Constitution grant the convicted person the right to a plea for clemency, especially in drug related offences, where in reality, the Cabinet who decide on clemency had already decided that no one escape the gallows.
We wish to stress again that it is the right of a person condemned to death to receive a fair and impartial clemency proceeding. It is an important process where due process and rules of natural justice must apply.
Vui Kong will, despite this decision, present his petition for clemency to the President, and we urge that the Cabinet and the President shall grant him clemency by commuting his sentence. It is not too late to correct the wrong.
Save Vui Kong Campaign will continue to plea for Vui Kong. Vui Kong is remorseful, he has learned his lesson and he wish to redeem his sin by educating young people like him not to follow his path, not to fall into victim of the drug barons. He has been punished for his mistake.
Save Vui Kong Campaign believe granting Vui Kong clemency is in line with Singapore’s interest including the strict policy against drug trafficking. His receiving clemency will not encourage more young persons to engage in the drug trade, as the honourable Law Minister suggests.
Save Vui Kong Campaign (SVKC)
For further inquiries, please contact Ngeow Chow Ying at or 016-673 1909 / Tan Hui Chun at or 019-2287 626.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


The Think Centre and the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign find the verdict announced by Singapore’s Court of Appeal highly disappointing. We also find it daunting that the President of Singapore has no apparent right to decide against the advice of the Cabinet regarding the granting of clemency appeals.

There is no value in the state execution of Yong Vui Kong. The reason that there are still drug mules carrying drugs into our country proves that the Mandatory Death Penalty (MDP) has failed to serve as a deterrent. While drug mules are being hanged, the masterminds of such drug syndicates get away scot free.

The government of Singapore actively advocates for chances to be given to former convicts and to help them rejoin the society under the Yellow Ribbon Project.  We do not see how it cannot be extended to Vui Kong and the rest of the drug mules who are mostly marginalised youths who were led astray.

The Singapore government should listen to the call from its young citizens and the people in the world who are moving towards more humane ways to deal with non-violent crimes rather than imposing mandatory death penalty for drug mules.  The UN General Assembly has called on member states to establish a moratorium on executions as a step towards the abolition of the death penalty.  A total of 109 countries voted in favour of the resolution, while 35 countries voted against and 41 abstained. (UNGA 21 December 2010).

We call on the government to declare an immediate moratorium on all death sentences and to commute Yong Vui Kong’s sentence.

Contact Persons:
Sinapan Samydorai (Think Centre)

Rachel Zeng (SADPC)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Vui Kong's appeal verdict at 3pm

It has been such an emotional journey for the campaigners on the legal front and on the ground, both in Singapore and Malaysia. Tomorrow, the Court of Appeal in Singapore shall deliver their final verdict at 3pm (Monday). Please come in solidarity if you can, for Vui Kong, his family and his legal counsel M Ravi, who has been working tirelessly for the last two years.

We want Vui Kong to live, we have been campaigning for it since we heard about the case. Groups came together in unity for this campaign and we grew together as we worked together.

I hope that Vui Kong will be able to hold his mother’s hand, converse and laugh with his siblings and pursue his work in his newfound faith, without the confines of bars and glass panels. May he touch the grass again, free from the noose.

Vui Kong, we are with you. Please stay alive.

Blogger writes last minute petition to Singapore President to plead clemency for Vui Kong

From Lilyevangeline

Hello, and for all those who do not know about Mr. Yong Vui Kong, he is a 23 going on 24 year old Malaysian-Chinese young man who have been prisoned in Singapore because he was found to be carrying 47.27g of heroin. The Singapore government has sentenced him to death. Please, take the time, to watch this video which should be shared and played again and again all over the world.

This is the letter which I have just wrote to the president of Singapore and the law minister of Singapore.

Your Excellency SR Nathan and Mr Minister Honorable K Shanmugam,


I am writing you a letter of petition in regards to Mr. Yong Vui Kong, 23, which I have just discovered on via FreeAlanShadrake about an hour ago. 

In 2003, I was educated in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia about Amnesty International and what it does for humans in this world. As a fifteen year old student, I was involved in volunteer work in an Amnesty International movement week project in raising awareness and carrying out presentations and speech to raise funds for human rights and freedom to Melbourne Language Centre students, teachers and staff members. I also wrote a letter in petition to plead for a case on the release of a separated immigrant parent and children in Australia to the former Australian Senate of South Australia, Her Excellency The Honorable, Amanda Eloise Vanstone, who is now the current Australian ambassador to Italy. I then received a personal signed reply on behalf of Senator Amanda Vanstone within a few weeks, and the granted release was made known to the public via report on the 18:00 Channel 9 news, Australia’s national TV broadcaster.   

In 2005, Mr. Nguyen Tuong Van, 25, who was a classmate of an acquaintance, was punished to death by your country's law. 

In 2010, Mr. Alan Shadrake, 76, was captured, for publishing a book on his views on your infamous country's law, i.e. the death penalty. Amnesty International Asia Pacific Director, Mr. Sam Zarifi, comments the following on Mr. Shadrake's case:
  • “This judgement creates a chilling effect on freedom of speech, for Singaporeans and foreigners alike,”
  • “Singapore’s criminal prosecution of Shadrake only underscores the country’s poor record of respect for freedom of expression,”
  • “Singapore is answering criticism by jailing its critics,” 
  • “Alan Shadrake’s sentence is a major step backwards for freedom of expression in Singapore.” 
  • “By penalizing Alan Shadrake, Singapore has drawn even greater global attention to its lack of respect for freedom of expression,”

I have no relations to Mr. Yong, Mr. Nguyen, or Mr. Shadrake. I have not read Mr. Shadrake's book, and believe I have no need to because my concern is not on his views but on your country's law, none other than, the death penalty itself. 

Quoting from Singabloodypore, "On 9 May, Singapore's Minister for Law, K. Shanmugam, claimed that the mandatory death penalty is a deterrent that has saved thousands of lives, according to The Straits Times. Speaking with respect to Yong's case, he said, "You save one life here, but ten other lives will be gone." 

I also quote from a video ( where Mr. Yong's lawyer said that the law minister made a public statement saying, "But if we say we let you go, what's the signal we are sending?"

The message that I am getting from cases such as the above, is that Singapore does not know how to handle drug related crimes, other than killing the one caught with more than 15g of heroin. 

I acknowledge the fact that you have a good intention in trying to warn people not to do drugs, which ruin lives. I am very proud of Singapore as a great international city and am very proud of its policemen and the army. However, don't you think this way of thinking (death penalty) resembles a terrorist's mindset? Terrorists terror people by killing those found to break their laws, in public, so that everyone in their territory will get their warning and message loud and clear on what not to do. 

I understand that it is not always a pretty world and humans are always going to make mistakes until the end of time, and you are just trying to make the best decision for the majority. My heart is broken and it goes to all who are in line of death penalty wherever they are, and I am truly disappointed and upset to say that, in this case, your best is not good enough for this human race. I humbly say this to you as one human to another, that although we may be different in our roles in this society and cannot exist without the other, please do the job in your role as a government of a nation to come up with an effective and a humane solution to your problems, and please, stop killing humans. 

Not everyone make good decisions in life, not all were born with equal strengths, and not all is a good contribution to the society. But everyone have the right to live, and everyone deserve to be spared and educated. 

My parents always taught me that no one in the classroom will raise their hands to say that they want to be a crook, or a criminal, a thief, or a murderer, a drug addict or a sex addict when teachers ask them, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" But there will always be such people in this world. 

Let us form a stronger, more intellectual society by improving citizens of the world through a higher quality of education and a higher quality of social wisdom and understanding. The amount of good people in the society cannot and should not be preserved in a stagnant way, but the amount should always be improving and moving forward in its very quality. The only way good can increase, is not by stopping evil, but by infusing and raising up intelligence, diligence and human morals, values and virtues, in the power of transforming people's lives who have been rampaged by the leaks and holes in an imperfect society that depends on an imperfect system in an imperfect world in a reality that is every so often far from being perfect, and that includes both me and you. We are never perfect, and never have been. We can only always be improving, and better than yesterday. 

Isn't this how the Singapore I know and love should also be? Majulah Singapura.

Yours sincerely,
Lily Evangelene

Did you know about the story of Mr. Nguyen Tuong Van? He was only 25 years old when Singapore took his life away for trying to carry drugs into Australia, caught while transiting in Singapore.

Please, take your time to write in just as I have. Your voice will change this world.


His Excellency SR Nathan
Office of the President
Orchard Road, Istana
Singapore 0922
Fax: 011 65 6735 3135
Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister for Law:
The Honourable K Shanmugam
Ministry of Home Affairs
New Phoenix Park
28 Irrawaddy Road
Singapore 329560
Fax: 011 65 6258 0921
Salutation: Dear Mr Minister


His Excellency Yong Guan Koh
High Commissioner for Singapore
c/o Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tanglin
Singapore 248163
Fax: 011 65 6474-7885

The Straits Times
1000 Toa Payoh North
News Centre
Singapore 318994
Fax: 011 65 6319 8282

As you can see, I am terribly upset. I have no more to say and all will be said in my prayers. Life is God-given, and each has a right to live. Let God be the judge. Enough said. May God have mercy on all.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Vui Kong's verdict scheduled

The Singapore Court of Appeal will convene at 10am next Monday, 4th April to pass judgment on Vui Kong's appeal of the High Court's judgment on judicial review. As President SR Nathan has admitted that the powers to decide clemency for death row convicts rests on the Cabinet and not him, Vui Kong may have exhausted the last of his lifeline and his life may hinge on the decision of the CoA's verdict this coming Monday. 

We have also heard that since Vui Kong's appeal started, there has been an unofficial temporary stay of execution for all prisoners on death row, pending the decision of the court on Yong's case. If the verdict goes south, then we may well see a Changi gallows bloodbath in a scale not seen since the Pulau Senang uprising in 1965 when 18 men convicted of murdering a prison warden were hanged in a single Friday morning, 

To give Vui Kong, his family and his counsel moral support through this difficult period, please visit the official Save Vui Kong Facebook page. 


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Aljazeera Documentary - Yong's Story

In Singapore anyone caught with more than 15 grams of heroin faces a mandatory death penalty. No extenuating circumstances can be taken into account by the legal system and this, argues the UN special rapporteur, is a violation of human rights.

Now, the conviction of one young Malaysian man, Yong Vui Kong, sentenced to death after being found guilty of heroin trafficking, is forcing Singaporean courts to re-examine the law. Madasamy Ravi, Yong's lawyer, is fighting to make legal history as he takes Yong's story to the Court of Appeal.

Already his client's death has been postponed twice. Meanwhile Yong's brother, Yun Leong, is preparing the family for the possibility that Yong will hang. As Yong languished on death row in Singapore's notorious Changi Prison, filmmakers Lynn Lee and James Leong spent time with his family and legal team, watching the unfolding case of Yong Vui Kong.

In the following account Lynn Lee shares her views on Yong's story.

At first it was just a name. Yong Vui Kong. We first heard it in 2009, at a forum on the death penalty in Singapore. Yong Vui Kong. We were told he was a convicted drug mule from east Malaysia. He had been caught with more than 15 grams of heroin. He would most likely hang before the year was up. We shook our heads, made sympathetic noises. But really, it was just a name.

And then we saw him in person. A skinny kid in an oversized orange jumpsuit seated behind a glass enclosure, surrounded by prison guards. And the awfulness of his situation hit home.

We were told he had converted to Buddhism, had vowed to be good. We were told he was holding out hope for a second chance. It was hard not to root for him.This kid was going to die for a crime committed when he was just 19. He looked so helpless, frail almost, inside the sterile courtroom. It was hard not to feel sorry for him.

Over the months, as Vui Kong's lawyer obtained one stay of execution after another, tens of thousands of people rallied to his cause. These were supporters who had never even seen him in person. They went out in force, collecting signatures in support of a petition for a second chance for the kid. They blogged, made banners, composed songs, organised protests and sent hundreds of messages to his family members. They amazed us with their commitment and energy.

But why? Why this particular death row inmate and not anyone else? Singapore regularly hangs people for drug trafficking. So what makes Yong Vui Kong so special?

Perhaps it is his personal story, the awfulness of his past. He grew up in extreme poverty, dropped out of school when he was just 11. He was barely literate when he was caught - a lowly cog in a shadowy syndicate. He was so very young. He is so very sorry now.

It is hard to overstate the significance of Yong Vui Kong's case. It has forced many in Singapore to think about the fairness of the mandatory death sentence.

The government has vigorously defended its stance, with the law minister himself questioning the cost of letting a drug mule like Vui Kong go. The Court of Appeal here has also held that the mandatory death sentence is not unconstitutional.

But still, the debate rages on, and we suspect, it will do so for some time to come. 

In the meantime, the family continues to hold on to hope. No one expected in 2009, when Vui Kong's lawyer first walked into court requesting a stay of execution, that the kid would still be alive today in January 2011. But he is. And the story has drawn more attention than anyone thought possible. One of the reasons could be because of the numerous complex legal issues that the case has thrown up.

As Vui Kong's lawyer puts it, the battle is far from over. The judges have yet to release their decision on the latest challenge - a request for a judicial review of the law minister's statements and the president's powers.

For the family, it must be nerve-wracking, this ding-donging between hope and despair. Onlookers like us will perhaps never understand their anguish. But should the kid die, we too would be devastated. We would grieve not in the way the family would grieve. We would grieve because of what killing someone like Yong Vui Kong says about us, about the country we live in, about what we are willing to sacrifice, in exchange for our sense of security. 
For more information about Yong Vui Kong read Lynn's blog.

Yong's Story can be seen from Tuesday, January 25, at the following times GMT: Tuesday: 2230;Wednesday: 0930; Thursday: 0330; Friday: 1630; Saturday: 2230; Sunday: 0930; Monday: 0330; Tuesday:1630.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy Birthday, Yong Vui Kong

From Lianianfilms:Happy Birthday, Yong Vui Kong

Happy Birthday in advance, Vui Kong. When we first heard your name, we never thought you’d live to see 23. Never, at one stage, thought you’d even see 22. But here we are, three weeks into 2011 and you’re still alive. Hope is still alive.

Today, a bunch of us got together to sing you a birthday song and blow out a few candles on your behalf. Ravi said a prayer for you and all the other death row inmates inside Changi Prison right now. We hear you’ve been counseling quite a few of them.

Some people think it’s bizarre, outrageous even, that we should care so much about a drug trafficker. Kirsten and Damien, the two young Singaporeans behind the “Second Chances” campaign, have received countless hateful comments from strangers, simply because they believe you should live. Apparently, there are better things to do than fight for a criminal. Maybe so. But we are fighting for much much more.

Your case has reignited the debate over the mandatory death penalty here and given some Singaporeans at least, a chance to consider their stance on justice, fairness and mercy. It has forced me to think about the kind of society I want to live in.

There are many here who feel people like you deserve death because would-be addicts need to be protected. “Think of the lives he destroys when he brings in drugs,” they say. As if those who inhale, snort or shoot up have no choice in the matter at all.

There are no numbers to show that the MDP prevents drug trafficking. No studies to demonstrate that it works. How on earth did we get stuck with this kind of law? Is it effective, simply because the powers that be say so?

Because of you, we’ve learnt that Singapore’s constitution doesn’t protect her people against inhuman punishment. Because of you, we’ve also discovered thateveryone who’s ever appealed to the President for clemency, was really just barking up the wrong tree. It’s all a little confusing right now. I’m sure you never thought in December 2009 when you went to Court, that you’d live to learn all these things. But you have, and you’re still alive today. And for that, we’re all grateful.

Yun Leong tells me your mother visited you again in December last year. I wonder how she felt seeing you behind that glass wall? Did she ask why she wasn’t allowed to touch you? Does she know she’ll probably never be able to give you a hug again? Was she bewildered, surprised, angry? How does one begin to explain those strange prison rules to her?

In the end, I think, this is what puzzles me the most. We have already punished you, severely punished you for your crime - a non-violent, first offence. The best you can ever hope for is a lifetime in jail. You will in all likelihood, never be able to blow out candles on your own birthday cake, or celebrate Chinese New Year with your family, or do something as simple as hold your mother’s hand. And yet, there are people who say that such a punishment is just not good enough. Not harsh enough. What kind of vengeful, medieval society do we live in? What does killing you say about us?

A few days ago, we sat with Yun Leong on a bus as it trundled towards Changi Prison. Your brother is amazing. I cannot tell you how moved I am by his steadfast love for you - the way he sacrifices all his precious off days just to go visit you in jail. He’s never once given up on you, and neither has the rest of your family. They’ve seen how much you’ve changed, how far you’ve come. They’re all rooting for you.

We told Yun Leong about our birthday plans for you and his face lit up.

“Thank-you,” he said. “The best birthday gift my brother could ever have would be the chance to keep living.”

I struggled for an answer. Couldn’t find any. Unfortunately, we’re not the ones with the power to grant you that gift. But for your sake, and ours as well, I hope we’ll be here again next year, and the year after, blowing out more candles, singing songs and eating cake on your behalf.