Yong Vui Kong wrote in his petition for clemency: “I fully realise my mistake and I am truly repentant over my smuggling of drugs in the past. I have earnestly changed.”
The Death Penalty News Blog which featured Yong Vui Kong’s “last letter” written in July 2011 attracted more than a million page views. Over 100,000 people have read and signed the petition for clemency. Many more who have been moved by his plight, have taken time to write to our president. Those concerned people came from all walks of life and of all ages.
Never before in the history of Singapore has a death row inmate received so much attention. Never before have so many videos and articles been published pleading for his life. Never before has the constitutionality of the death penalty been so ably argued in our courts than in the case of Yong Vui Kong. Never before has the death penalty been debated so extensively in our courts and in public. And never before has the presidential power to grant clemency been challenged and determined in our courts. There are many “never befores” in the case of Yong Vui Kong. Whether he lives or dies will have an impact on many of us, not least, the ministers and the president who ultimately will decide his fate.
When we turn the pages of our newspapers and chance upon a face of a person executed the day before, we hardly spare a thought about that person or how his family who had to collect his lifeless body in the morning will cope with his death. We don’t know the person and we don’t care. It is his family’s problem, not ours. But with so much having been written and filmed about Yong Vui Kong and his family, I doubt we will remain indifferent. How could we? He is a person we know but have not met.
Yong Vui Kong has been on death row for more than 5 years. He was nearly executed many times in the past and he understands more than anyone of us, how precious life is.
I am sure the young people who are preparing to celebrate Yong Vui Kong’s 24th birthday this Sunday, 15 January 2011 at Hong Lim Park will feel sad but at the same time they must also feel hopeful, that he will be given a second chance. This is the second time that they are celebrating his birthday at the park. He is so near to them and yet so far away. If only he could be taken to Hong Lim for the celebration for just a few hours.
Will Yong Vui Kong be given a second chance?
The Yellow Ribbon Project in Singapore was launched in 2004 by our former President, Mr S R Nathan. Its mission is “to engage the community in accepting ex-offenders and their families, giving them a second chance at life and to inspire a ripple effect of concerted community action to support ex-offenders and their families.” Mr Nathan said:
“Although they have made a mistake in life, they deserve a second chance. We all make mistakes, we all come out the better for it.”
Yes, from all accounts, Yong Vui Kong has repented his crime and has reformed. He has now come out “the better for it”. He is now a devout Buddhist and you can see that from his writings and drawings. He was nearly executed several times during the past 5 years. Some of us may know that just before a person is hanged, he is counselled, weighed and measured, photographed in his best clothes and if he agrees to donate his organs after death, he is medically examined and tested. Yong Vui Kong must have gone through all those tests several times and felt so close to death. In his “last letter” he talked vividly about other death row inmates who at the dawn of death, became inconsolable.
The Yellow Ribbon Project believes that “HOPE CAN ONLY RESTART IF WE GIVE THEM A SECOND CHANCE.” Yong Vui Kong was not given a second chance before. When during his trial the High Court judge, out of compassion, suggested to the prosecutor to give him a chance because of his young age (he was then 18 years old), the prosecutor declined to do so. It saddens me that the prosecutor had such a hard view on his case and I wonder what was the reason since Yong Vui Kong was a first time offender and this fact alone would have been a very importantl consideration for reducing a charge to a lesser offence.
Yong Vui Kong’s birthday will be celebrated with sadness this Sunday. But that sadness will not be without hope – the hope that our ministers will be compassionate and merciful, that they will grant the clemency petition of Yong Vui Kong and our president will announce his pardon before the Lunar New Year. Even though I have not met Yong Vui Kong, I am confident that given a second chance, he will make good the remainder of his life. From his writings, drawings and his faith, he will inspire our young. Like Glenn Lim who is now a leader and a motivational speaker, Yong Vui Kong will be an excellent motivational speaker and a leader too. He may also be a great religious teacher, having gone through the most harrowing experience of living in the dark shadow of death and having embraced Buddhism. He will be a great asset to our society and his contributions will be tremendous. Yes, I have faith that this young man will do our country proud if given a second chance.
At Hong Lim Park on Sunday, 15 January 2012 at 4 p.m. Give Life A Second Chance activists celebrate Yong Vui Kong’s 24th birthday. If you can spare the time, do join in the celebration. If not, do spend a minute in silence for him on that day. Thank you.
Other posts on Vui Kong Birthday
Vui Kong – the turning point? by Andrew Loh
Happy Birthday, Vui Kong by Rachael Zeng