I was touched by a video titled ‘ Yong Vui Kong’s Family Plead for his Life’, which goes viral.
A group of people wearing the T-shirt with slogan ‘Give life a 2nd Chance’ gathered outside the Istana. After passing over piles of petition signatures to the President’s security, Yong Vui Kong’s father, brother and sister kneeled down and cried. They pleaded the President to give mercy to Vui Kong, to grant him clemency and spare him from the death penalty.
This scene struck me, and pained me. I could understand their sorrow if I were in their position.
Yong Vui Kong was about to be hanged, and they had to save him….
Yong Vui Kong is a Malaysian from Sabah. He is sentenced to death for trafficking 42.27 grams of heroin into Singapore in 2007. He was only 19-year-old then. Anyone caught with more than 15 grams of heroin faces mandatory death penalty in Singapore.
In the video titled ‘Yong’s story’, Vui Kong’s brother – Yong Yun Leong, told us about Vui Kong.
Yong Vui Kong grew up in Sabah countryside. Yong’s family is poor, and parents are divorced. Her mother brought up four children by herself. He has two elder brothers and one younger sister. Vui Kong stopped his studies at a young age, and left for Kuala Lumpur to work when he was just fourteen.
Vui Kong first worked as a kitchen hand, later he started selling pirated CDs. And it was during this time that he started hanging out with gangs. His ‘boss’ tempted him with money, bought him nice clothes and treated him dinners at hotels. Vui Kong felt he was rich and powerful under his new ‘boss’.
Vui Kong needed money. Vui Kong’s mother suffers from depression, and he wanted the money to pay for his mother’s medical fees.
Working under his new ‘boss’, he first helped him to collect debts, later he helped to deliver ‘gifts’. ‘Gifts’ refers to drugs which are gift-wrapped.
Yun Leong pleaded in the video. He knows drug trafficking is a serious crime and Vui Kong deserves to be punished. But death penalty is cruel because Vui Kong is a 1st time offender, and was only a naive 19-year-old boy at that time. And because of this silly mistake, there is no turning back, and it is tragic.
Yun Leong said the law in Singapore should look at Vui Kong’s case in different angles. They should judge his case based on his family background, his personal story, the fact that he was tempted by his ‘boss’ and was being controlled by him.
Faith transformed Vui Kong
Yun Leong said Vui Kong understood the meaning of freedom and the pain of losing now that he was in prison. Vui Kong slowly embraced Buddhism, started chanting and meditation. He has been a vegetarian for 6 years. Vui Kong’s personality changed after he was exposed to Buddhist’s thinking. Vui Kong is now a good kid whom the wardens and his Master doted on.
“I feel that every young person needs faith. Only with faith can you save yourself, because a good religion, no matter if it’s Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism, teaches you what is right and what is wrong. This, to me, is extremely important. When I was a rebel, I didn’t have faith, and so I went astray and followed a path from which there is no return.
Studying Buddhism teaching allows me to understand about gratitude, and about what courage is. To me, this is the biggest experience I gained.
With a soul that found faith, we will be at peace, content, happy, free and full of hope, now, in the future and in the afterlife!”
After taking up Buddhism while in prison, Vui Kong did not want to lie to save himself. And he once instructed his counsel to withdraw the appeal.
Vui Kong’s mother does not know about his death sentence. When her mother came to Singapore and visited him in prison. Vui Kong told her mother to give up on him, and not to think about him, he would be leaving with his Master to seek enlightenment. He does not want her mother to be worried about him, and live well.
Vui Kong drew pictures of Lord Buddha standing at the gates of hell, saving souls from eternal damnation. He understood what he did was a sin, and he is now having his retribution. He is remorseful and his greatest wish is to join the anti-drug campaign and guide other young people back to the right path.
Below is an extract from a letter Vui Kong wrote about The Importance of Education
: (translated into English, and published on http://secondchances.asia/the-tenth-letter-drugs-and-the-death-penalty/)
Now, I don’t want to make any more mistakes. Every day I read a lot of books, learning new things like English, and I keep meditating.”
“If the presidential clemency is granted, what I would like to do the most is to tell the world about the dangers of drugs and how sinful drugs are.” Yong said.
Rethinking about the use of the mandatory death penalty on drug couriers
Vui Kong’s boss, Chia Choon Leng was once faced with 26 drug-related charges. But the charges were dropped due to the difficulty to obtain evidence. The alleged mastermind is still enjoying freedom. But those ignorant, naive young boys he controlled are facing death because they helped him to deliver the drugs. It is time we rethink about the use of the mandatory death penalty on drug couriers.
Below is an extract from a letter Vui Kong wrote about drugs and the death penalty: (translated into English, and published on http://secondchances.asia/the-tenth-letter-drugs-and-the-death-penalty/)
In November 2012, the Singapore parliament has made amendments to the mandatory death sentences in drug trafficking.
(ii) the accused has substantively assisted the Central Narcotics Bureau (“CNB”) to disrupt drug trafficking activities within or outside Singapore, or the accused proves that he was suffering from such abnormality of mind that it substantially impaired his mental responsibility for committing the offence.
But the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking kingpins and organisers of syndicates maintained.
Give Vui Kong a 2nd chance
Recently, the Central Narcotics Bureau had issued certificate of substantive assistance to Yong Vui Kong, for his effort in assisting the CNB to disrupt drug trafficking within and outside Singapore. Vui Kong might be spared the death penalty.
Below is the Statement from M Ravi, lawyer for Yong Vui Kong:
Perhaps there are people who think that he is like another piece of scum that should be wiped off.
“Punishment and Justice must always include MERCY” – Sister Susan Chia
(Carer of the Nugyens family – Van Tuong Nguyen, a Vietnamese Australian, was hanged to death on 2 December 2005, for trafficking 396.2 g of heroin into Singapore)
Life is to be cherished. Give life a second chance.