To: President SR Nathan
Orchard Road, Singapore 238823
I write to you with regards to Yong Vui Kong, a Malaysian who has been convicted of drug trafficking and who is being incarcerated at Singapore Changi Prison’s death row.
As your Excellency is aware, Vui Kong was only 19-years old when he was arrested in Singapore’s Orchard Road in 2007 for trafficking. He was subsequently charged under Singapore’s Misuse of Drugs Act and sentenced to death in 2008.
It has been four years since his arrest and incarceration and many things have happened. The courts have denied all his appeals and have upheld the death sentence.
Activists (including those in Vui Kong’s country and home state of Sabah), ordinary Singaporeans and his lawyer have been campaigning for mercy from your office to be shown to Vui Kong this past year or so.
As one who is intimately involved in some of these campaigns, I would like to plead with you, Mr President, to grant Vui Kong a reprieve and to commute his death sentence.
Vui Kong has been on death row for almost four years – an extremely severe punishment in itself for someone so young. Vui Kong has seen his fellow death row inmates taken from their cells to the death chamber. He has heard their cries and their screams. He too has tried to help these inmates overcome their fear in their final hours. The experiences of having to witness such terror for someone so young must be traumatic.
Yet, for Vui Kong himself, by all accounts – even from those who keep watch over him in prison – has changed. No longer is he that wayward teen who cared for no one but himself. Indeed, testimonies from those who are closest to him, including prison guards and family members, indicate that Vui Kong has matured, has realized his mistakes, and has accepted responsibility for his actions.
He has availed himself to study, learning both the English and Chinese languages while in prison. Vui Kong never could speak, read or write either of these two languages previously. The purpose of his doing this is so that he could communicate and be of help and service to as many people as possible.
He has also taken to the practice of meditation and has embraced Buddhism and its teachings of peace and doing good.
Vui Kong has said that if he were given a second chance, and his sentence commuted, he would dedicate the rest of his life to helping young people like him – uneducated, illiterate and poor – to stay away from crime.
Your Excellency, I urge you to consider these things which Vui Kong has undertaken these past four years. These reflect his sincerity in wanting to turn from his ways. Indeed, Vui Kong has turned from his mistakes.
As a Singaporean, I fully support the Government’s Yellow Ribbon Project which gives inmates and convicts second chances to make good. One such as Mr Glenn Lim, who was caught with more than 500g of cannabis in 1994 – a statutory amount which warrants the same mandatory death penalty - and was given a second chance. Mr Lim has used this second opportunity to the full and is today a highly effective and recognized trainer and counselor for teens at risk.
Government ministers have praised his work and Mr Lim has won several awards for it, both locally and internationally.
I am certain that Vui Kong, if given to mentorship under someone such as Mr Lim – who by the way has said he is willing to take Vui Kong under his wings – will be an invaluable asset to the Government’s strategy to curb the inflow of drugs into Singapore.
I support the Government’s tough stance against drug trafficking and drug abuse. It is to the credit of our men and women of the police force at the frontlines – the entry points, especially – that Singapore is relatively safe from the menace of drugs.
However, I also believe, as a Singaporean, that there is room for mercy in a case such as Vui Kong’s. I believe that Singaporeans are a rational and merciful people who while supporting the death penalty also would take into consideration certain factors in individual cases.
And I am also confident that they will support your excellency’s granting of clemency in Vui Kong’s case. Vui Kong has exhausted all the legal avenues available to him. His last appeal will be to your excellency.
As the office which represents all Singaporeans, I urge you, Mr President, to show mercy to Vui Kong and commute his death sentence, and allow him an opportunity to be included in the Yellow Ribbon Project.
Such a decision by your excellency will show that while we retain a tough stance against drugs, we also are humane and are able to show mercy when it is deserved.
And I humbly submit that Vui Kong is one who deserves a second chance and that he will indeed embrace it and make full use of it to help others avoid falling into crime like he did.
I plead with you, Mr President, to show mercy and grant Vui Kong a reprieve.
You can also write to the President at this address: [email protected]