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 tenth letter:
The Tenth Letter : Drugs and the Death Penalty
You once asked me to write about drugs and the death penalty, but I said that I did not have the right to discuss such an issue because I myself have been sentenced to death because of a drug offence. Also, I had not really thought too deeply about this question.
You asked me again about this issue.
Everyone here has been sentenced to death. Most of them are sentenced to death for drug offences. There are some who are older, but most of us are young. They have all been through their trials and lost their appeals. Some are waiting for responses from the President, others are just waiting for their “time” to come. They all have their own stories.
My brother mentioned another inmate; his name is Chun Yin. I believe the newspapers have reported his case before. Every Monday Yun Leong will see Chun Yin’s father. Once, outside the prison, Chun Yin’s father even asked Yun Leong to sign his petition.
My lawyer Mr Ravi also mentioned him before. His story is like this: after Chun Ying’s parents divorced, Chun Yin stayed with his father, helping his father run stalls selling clothes and VCDs in morning and night markets. He got to know a regular customer. This regular customer convinced him to go overseas and bring gold bars into Singapore. All the arrangements were made by this customer. But it turned out that hidden in the bag were not gold bars, but drugs. Chun Yin did not know that it was drugs hidden in the bag until the police ripped open the lining. He told the court all the details of the matter, and also revealed the identity of the customer and his phone numbers. But the judge did not believe him. My lawyer told me that the police had not done their best to trace this customer, and the judge did not think that it was important.
I am not a lawyer, but I cannot understand, why didn’t they trace this man? Often it is because of people like him that we are in such a situation. If this man was found, wouldn’t we be able to find out if Chun Yin was telling the truth or not? Chun Yin is currently locked inside here, how can he find the truth himself?
I am beginning to wonder, are there really people who have been wronged? Are all the sentences really fair? If a person has been wronged and hanged, isn’t it very tragic?
I have mentioned my next-door inmate before. He was very young, and he has already died. We talked about a lot of things. He never mentioned his case, but I feel that he was a very naïve, very ignorant kid. He could not face death. That morning at 3am, he was dragged out. His crying really made my heart ache. I kept chanting, hoping that his suffering would be decreased. I wonder, how could a person like him be a drug trafficker out to harm society?
After that time, I told the warden that even though I am at fault, so is the person who was behind the scenes making all the arrangements for me. I wanted to stop him from harming more people, so I told the police who this person was. I don’t know what happened next. I heard from the lawyer that he has been detained, but there is no evidence, so he has not been charged.
There is still one more thing that I must talk about. About 2 months ago, there was another inmate. He was older. His appeal was successful and he has been released. I asked my lawyer why; isn’t it very difficult to appeal? Isn’t it true that only a few people win their appeals? The lawyer told me that the Court of Appeal’s decision is like this: this person brought in many different types of drugs, and one of these was heroin. He told the court that he did not know that one of these drugs was heroin. The court believed him and said that he really didn’t know he was carrying heroin, and so he was released. The lawyer even jokingly told me, if only Chun Yin had said that he knew he was carrying drugs, just not that the drug was heroin, he might have had a chance.
My lawyer also takes the opportunity to explain to me the law regarding drug offences, saying that as long as drugs are found on you guilt is presumed, and if you are carrying more than a certain amount you will be presumed to be trafficking, etc. I don’t fully understand, but I think that this is very important. Many people don’t know about this, and because they fall on the wrong side of this law, they are sentenced to death.
Learning about these cases, I find it very strange. How is it that the court can believe this person but not that person; what is the standard and attitude adopted towards drug cases and the death penalty? My lawyer has tried to explain it to me, but it is too complicated and I don’t quite understand, so I don’t dare to talk about it here.
I suppose what I can say here is to encourage all the readers to go and understand this law!
**Note: The man Vui Kong mentioned to have won his appeal did not get acquitted. He only had his death sentence overturned, and received a different sentence.