Yong Vui Kong is a death row inmate in Singapore. He was arrested at age 19 with 47.27g of heroin, convicted of trafficking and sentenced under the Mandatory Death Penalty. His final appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on 4 April 2011. He can now only plead for clemency from the President (acting on the advice of the Cabinet).
If the President does not grant clemency to Vui Kong, these will be the last 12 letters he will ever write.
The following is the fifth letter:
The Fifth Letter : The Honest Law
Yetian, I am counting your letters. This is the fifth letter, so I can still send out seven letters. I have seven more chances to put my feelings into words, to thank everyone for taking time out of their busy lives to help me and Yun Leong. For letting me write down my thoughts, thank you all.
In this fifth letter, there is a lot that I want to say. When a country becomes a successful country, it is because there are very good leaders, very good laws and very good citizens.
Just like our country, because we have leaders who are not bad, and we have laws, the most important thing is we have very good citizens. If we don’t have such kind-hearted citizens, no one would know about my case.
When a person makes a mistake he will have to be punished, and we need to follow the law. I made a mistake in Singapore, and so they want me to suffer the consequences of the law. I feel that this is justified, because they are following the law of a good country.
I have told you before that I was very afraid of being executed. When I heard the judge say that I had to face capital punishment, I was very scared and didn’t know what to do!
At the time, my lawyer told me that I would have to make an appeal. At the time, I was already studying Buddhist philosophy, and I knew that Buddhism says that we cannot lie. I really believed that appealing meant that I would have to lie, and stand up in court to say that I was not guilty. I didn’t want to do that because I know I have done wrong, so I finally decided to withdraw my appeal.
If we cheat others, we might be able to escape death, but when we do die, we will be punished in Hell : isn’t it very painful?
In the end, my brother Yun Leong helped me engage a new lawyer. He said that it was very important to appeal my case. At the time I did not really understand, so he explained a lot about matters regarding the death penalty and the law, and I let him do as he saw fit.
My lawyer explained to me that I could ask for clemency, and commute my death sentence into life imprisonment. This way, I can stay inside the prison and study Buddhist scriptures, and also see Yun Leong regularly. But I have heard that because of this matter, there are many people quarrelling. I don’t wish for it to be like this.
I am working hard to learn English and to read my case, because I want to know more about the law in Singapore.
I finally understood on point, which is : the law was made by Man. Since it is made by Man, Man can also change the law. For example, some laws with the death penalty.
I think, I must use the mentality of the death row to understand the future of a death row inmate. I am reminded of my fellow inmate who was forcibly dragged out for execution, and I am pained, because he was not yet mature. I wonder, did he really have to die?
Yetian, you told me that our Home Affairs Minister and Law Minister publicly agreed to consider the death penalty, but they have not yet taken any action, maybe because they are busy with other national affairs. But I believe that as high-ranking officials they will fulfil their commitments.
I wrote many letters, but Yun Leong said they only received a few. Maybe many of the letters were stopped by the prison, not allowed to be sent out, or maybe because my case and many other death penalty cases in lawful Singapore, are being monitored, so they are very careful with my letters : but I am very honestly telling everyone, my letters contain all my feelings, and I hope that everyone, brothers and sisters, can read my letters.
Before I end, I would like to encourage everyone who has the opportunity to have a religion to study religion. After becoming a Buddhist I understood that lying is a very serious thing, so I will not lie and will honestly tell everyone my story. I hope that Singapore can hear my story.
Even if my case does not look good, in the future there may be many more cases, so isn’t prevention very important?
This letter will be published just one day after Vesak Day, right? Even though it is past, I hope that I can wish everyone a happy Vesak Day, and wish everyone health, peace and happiness!
Yetian, thank you.
Note from Yetian
Vui Kong’s case is a very important example. The UN only has two countries with the mandatory death penalty; how does this benefit Malaysia and Singapore? This is something that we must consider very carefully.
If the death penalty can save people, and prevent drug trafficking, then why is it that while we are executing people, the number of drug offences continue to rise? This is something we must think about.
There are many things that we have to reconsider. We cannot just keep insisting on one way!
Vui Kong has also mentioned that many of his letters were confiscated by the prison. These letters have been exchanged via Yun Leong when he goes to visit Vui Kong.