His life is in the hands of a few men

Vui Kong's family kneeling in front of the Istana to plead for mercy

Many Singaporeans have been campaigning to save the life of Yong Vui Kong. His story, the court trials and appeals – both to the Court of Appeal and the President – have been reported and documented. You can read about these here.

Appeals and pleas have been made to the authorities, namely the government and the president, by Vui Kong’s family, friends, supporters and especially by Mr M Ravi, Vui Kong’s lawyer. Ravi, who is also a good friend of mine and one whom I am truly proud of, has fought Vui Kong’s case for some 3 years now.

Vui Kong made his last appeal in July, beseeching then President Nathan to give him a second chance. Since then, Singapore has had a new President following the August Presidential Election.

Normally, from what I am given to understand, a clemency appeal would be decided on within 3 months. It has been 5 months now since Vui Kong’s appeal in July – and there is no word from the government or the President.

I am not sure what to make of this. Several reasons could lie behind the delay:

  1. President Tony Tan, who succeeded President Nathan, could perhaps be discussing with the Cabinet to relook the mandatory death penalty, under which Vui Kong was sentenced to death for trafficking heroin.
  2. President Tan, being a Christian, perhaps is reluctant to sign off on the death warrant so soon after having assumed office.
  3. The Cabinet could be consulting with legal experts on how the Misuse of Drugs Act could be tweaked, and hence is hesitant in rejecting Vui Kong’s appeal. (The Court of Appeal had judged that it is the Cabinet which has the authority to decide on clemencies, and not the president.)
  4. The Cabinet could be considering a moratorium but is looking at the consequences of this.

The delay could be for any reasons. We can only offer conjecture.

The arguments and pleas have all been made. There is little else for anyone to do to try and save Vui Kong.

His life is in the hands of a few men.

When I first came to know of his case in Oct/Nov 2009, I didn’t even know about the MDA, or the mandatory death penalty, and how these worked. I don’t think many people did. But having campaigned for Vui Kong, we realised how vicious these laws were.

What doesn’t help is the government giving only one explanation why drug trafficking must be dealt with not with the death penalty per se but with the mandatory death penalty.

This means judges do not and are not allowed to consider mitigating factors.

In short, if an accused is found to have a certain amount of drugs on him, he is considered to be trafficking and consequently, the mandatory death penalty applies.

It is that straight forward – except that it raises many questions. I shall not deal with these here as they have already been dealt with.

To be honest, some of us have prepared ourselves for the worst – that Vui Kong’s appeal will be rejected by the Cabinet. If this happened, he will be hanged shortly after such a decision.

I have no more words, to be honest, to say to try and appeal to the Cabinet. Words fail me when I know that the only issue which matters to the Cabinet is not the life of a young man (Vui Kong was 19 when he was arrested in 2007), but the dubious claim of deterrence which the mandatory death penalty is suppose to serve – a claim which many have debunked and disproved.

If Vui Kong is hanged, I can only conclude that the Cabinet is an unfeeling one – that its claim to want a compassionate society is nothing but hot air coming out of the chimney of political vents.

For how can we hang someone so young, practically a teenager, whatever the crime he has committed?

I can’t and will never be able to understand how grown men, intelligent and undoubtedly with well-developed consciences, are able to be at peace with themselves as the noose is tied around Vui Kong’s neck and the trap door opened for him to “hang by the neck till you have breathed your last.”

I will never be able to understand all this.

We Believe In Second Chances, a group headed by 3 young Singaporeans – Kirsten Han, Priscilla Chia, Damien Chng – will be holding an event to coincide with Vui Kong’s 24th birthday. It is as follows:

Venue: Speakers’ Corner
Date: 15th January 2012
Time: 4pm

More details here.

Please do try and attend this. I will be there as well.

As we prepare for the new year, spare a moment to think about Vui Kong who sits on death row, and has been since 2007.

Solitary detention.

23 hours a day.

For four years now.


One thought on “His life is in the hands of a few men

  1. I just can’t help thinking that maybe more people or even MPs would have make a plea for him if he had turned to Christianity instead of Buddhism. Or maybe if he had a VIP as a relative or even a NMP as a mother.

    Sometimes it helps, you know. That is the sad reality of our politics.

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