By Steve Oh ; Original post at Malaysiakini
May 23, 11, 3:33pm
I want to thank Malaysiakini for publishing the letters from Malaysian Yong Vui Kong who is on death row in a Singapore jail. Yong Vui Kong deserves a second chance and society cannot make the double mistake of making him a victim again by his execution. There is no benefit in taking away the life of one whose story of abuse, poverty and deception is typical of those whom life dealt a cruel hand.
No one denies he is guilty of the crime. No one criticizes the Singapore government of doing anything wrong if it executes Vui Kong. The law against drugs trafficking is clear – you deal in drugs you get caught you face the mandatory death sentence.
There are those who believe mandatory death sentencing for drugs has not worked and is also unjust. There are those who oppose capital punishment for any crime even murder. But for Vui Kong it is a futile debate because time is running out for him.
The Singapore government takes a strict approach to law and order and will not tolerate drugs trafficking. Like Malaysia it will not stop hanging those who are found guilty of the crime. Despite the appeals of their governments Singapore and Malaysia have hung foreigners found caught drug trafficking.
But mercy is greater than the law. There are mitigating circumstances to consider because justice cannot be justice if it is not exercised with mercy when all is considered.
Vui Kong grew up in extremely difficult circumstances and he was no big time drug peddler. He was at best at the lowest rung of the dirty drugs trade – a courier.
The problem with mandatory death sentencing of drug offenders is it is done without mercy. If human society exists without mercy and punishment is meted out to criminals without mercy than the human race is no longer human. It is no better than the animals who know nothing of mercy and live by the law of might.
Yet compassion is what makes us human.
The cases of several young Australian men and women convicted for drug smuggling into Bali is well publicised. Three men were convicted and sentenced to death. But recently one named Scott had his sentence reduced to life imprisonment by the Indonesian judge. A death sentence commuted to life has happened before in Singapore and many other places.
What relief it gave to Scott’s father who had faithfully visited his son in prison and did all he could to save his son’s life. A death sentence does not take away only one life but the lives of many around the one punished. Life in an Indonesia prison is no picnic and a life sentence is still a long stay in jail. But where there is life there is hope.
The recent polls results in Singapore must send a message to the Singapore government that the big stick approach to governance may not always work. The Singapore Prime Minister has himself apologised to Singaporeans for his government’s mistakes. It is worthy of a leader to apologise. And it will be a mistake to hang Vui Kong.
It has always been said that Singapore is all body but without soul. I am not sure if this is entirely true because I know that Singapore society can be caring and the Singapore government does more than many other governments for its people. But to those who make the observation perception is everything. Hanging Vui Kong will only affirm that perception.
But what the critics mean is probably that there is an aspect of its administration that lacks the human touch. There is only cold and calculated adherence to the rules without any provision for discretion and in the case of mandatory death sentencing there is only a stony wall of rejection of any hint of mercy.
Now is the time for Singapore to show mercy to one like Vui Kong whose death will achieve nothing except harden the hearts of those who think the country has lost touch with its humanity, who believe there is a place for compassion and that more will be achieved by sparing Vui Kong who has shown he is no hardened criminal but one who is remorseful and regretful of his crime.
He knows there is no one to blame but himself. He is resolved to his fate. Should he not be given another chance, after all he was relatively young and naïve when he was arrested? It can happen to anyone. The son of the Western Australian police chief was recently convicted for a drug offence.
If youth had known better I am sure he would never have touched the stuff or be duped into being a mule. The crime of youth is their naiveté and the law must make a provision for their rehabilitation because we are after all human and fallible.
Who has not been foolish and done something regrettable in their youth?
Mandatory death sentencing laws have proven not to stop any crime and the data on the number of people executed for death trafficking that those who research such matters provide may prove the point. But my purpose in writing is not to debate something that may not be relevant to Vui Kong now.
I write because I believe that the Singapore government can show it has a human heart and that sparing Vui Kong’s life will not open a floodgate of drug-pushers into the island state but open our hearts to a government that believes in compassion.
Ultimately we all die but it would such a shame to not spare one life that will prove to be more useful and beneficial to society alive than dead.
I think of his grieving mother whose story is one of jagged tragedy from painful poverty and adversity who least deserves to have another dagger pierce her heart if Vui Kong goes to the gallows.
I appeal to the Singapore government and the Malaysian government to do all they can to spare the life of this young man. To err is human but to forgive is divine. And mercy must triumph over judgement.