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 eighth letter:
我的家人也住得很远。还好，有两个哥哥在新加坡的酒店里工作。他们向公司申请星期一放假来看我。我听哥哥说，这么多年来，每个星期一，他都会见到一位妇人，拐着拐着， 头发由黑变白，来看她的家人，可能是孩子吧。 还有，律师也说过，有一位死囚的爸爸，每个星期一的凌晨三点，从新山驾摩多过来，为了赶在最早的时间看他的儿子。
The Eighth Letter: The Power of Support
I have heard a story.
There is a young man, he committed an offence and was sent to prison. For a long time, his family did not visit him. Whenever he saw that other inmates had their families to bring food for them, he felt unhappy and blamed his parents.
One day, the prison warden told him that someone had come to visit him. When he entered the visitor room, he saw his mother, she was dirty, shoes broken, and her feet full of blisters. She was carrying an urn of ashes.
He came from a poor family, his father was a farmer. Their home was very far away from the prison. In order to gather enough money to see him, his father worked too hard and died as a result. His father’s last wish was to see his son. Therefore, his mother carried his father’s ashes and walked all the way to see him.
I heard that this is a real life story, and it has been made into a movie.
Here, every Monday, is the family visiting day for death row inmates.
My family also lives far away from here. Luckily, I have two brothers who work in a hotel in Singapore. They have applied for leave from work every Monday so that they can visit me. I heard from my brother that over the past few years, he sees a woman every Monday, walking slowly, hairs turning from dark to white, to come to visit someone, maybe her son. And, my lawyer also told me that a father to a death row inmate wakes up at 3am every Monday, rides on his motorcycle across the Straits, so that he can see his son as early as possible.
Thus, we are considered lucky death row inmates.
In fact, when we are marked as “death row”, what are our wishes? Allow me as a death row inmate to tell you. Our wish is to have our family’s concern and support. This, I have; during these days in prison, I have my brothers, Yun Leong and Yun Chong’s company, and the relationship between us has improved.
It is very difficult for me to express our feeling on how much we look forward to visits. I am grateful to my family. I must utilise my remaining time fruitfully, study hard and be a good man, in order to repay them.
But I know that a lot of death row inmates do not have anyone to come and visit them, maybe other than their lawyers. Even lawyers only visit them once in a long period of time. Especially those inmates who are not Singaporean. Maybe their families do not know that they are here being locked up. Maybe their situation is like the story of the young man I mentioned above. Maybe even if they are dead, their family will not find out. I am sadden by these facts.
I said I am a lucky one, I am grateful. I know that my family had given me a lot of support. They did not give up on me.
My sisters, and other relatives and friends, they went out to the streets to ask for signatures from strangers, to plead to the President to grant me clemency. They did not ask that I be released from prison, but to spare my life so that I will not be hanged.
My younger sister is only 19 years old, she is always afraid to talk to strangers, yet she mustered the courage to do it. My brother, whenever he had his two-hour break, stood at Orchard Road asking for signatures. I know that it is hard for them, it is difficult. They are also often being scolded. There are people who scold them, asking why they should help me, saying that they should be ashamed of me, saying that I deserve to die. Because of me, my family has to go through this kind of stress, I really don’t know what to say.
Sometimes I think to myself, the families of other death row inmates, are they facing the same stress? Would it be because of this, they give up on them, to the point of disowning them? If it would, then I believe that whether it is the family or the death row inmate himself, they must be very tormented. Because I am in the same situation, I can almost feel their difficulties and the torture. Amithaba.
In the eyes of many, we who have been locked up must be a big evil, not worth mentioning. But our families are not. They have to face the fact that we are going to be hanged to death, it is already very torturous, and cruel thing.
If a death row inmate does not have concern from his family, friends and the society, coupled with the fact of not having a strong faith, then maybe before he is executed, he is already dead in his heart.
A lot of death row inmates know that they are going to die, they lose their will to live; and their families who pray for them day and night, do not know what to do. As a result, they will think there is no more hope, and slowly give up on their own life, and their family also treats them as being already dead even before they are executed.
Yes, a lot are like that.
Maybe it is my fate with the Goddess of Guang Yin, maybe it is the luck I gathered from the good deeds I did in my previous life, or maybe like what my father said, my life is “tough”, I have the opportunity to find faith in Buddhism teachings, this makes me strong spiritually; plus, I have a good lawyer, and most importantly, I know that there are those in the society who plead for me, I know that they have forgiven me and they care for me, and are also giving my family the support they need, all these add to my confidence in life.
Life is precious, I learned.
Yong Vui Kong