When you’re involved in a death penalty case, you’re always aware of the ticking clock. Time is running out. There might be no tomorrow, no next week, no next year. Life events like birthdays are no longer just one more landmark to celebrate – they’re tinged with sadness and uncertainty, because who knows if there will be another?
And that’s just how I feel. I can’t even begin to imagine how the family of a death row inmate feels. I can’t even begin to imagine how the inmate himself feels. I don’t think anyone can.
One weekend in January this year, a small group of us gathered over lunch. We chatted, we laughed, we ate. It was just like any other gathering of friends, but that weekend all our thoughts were going to a young, scrawny-looking boy sitting in a cell in Changi Prison. Most of us had never actually met or spoken to him, but it hardly seemed to matter.
We lit candles on a cake and sang a birthday song to Yong Vui Kong that day, and many of us wrote about/to him. We put the finishing touches on a birthday banner, which he eventually got to see for a brief moment in court. I don’t think anyone actually mentioned it, but I know that the thought passed through each of our heads at some point or other: could this be Vui Kong’s last birthday cake?
It’s almost been a year now, and Vui Kong is still with us. A message has been sent out through a volunteer who visited him: “Vui Kong said to tell all of you, thank you. For standing by him, for believing in second chances and for fighting so hard. Let’s hope for an even bigger miracle next year.”
We Believe in Second Chances and the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) are jointly organising ‘Happy Birthday, Yong Vui Kong‘ at Hong Lim Park on 15 January 2012 to mark Vui Kong’s 24th birthday. We’d all really appreciate – just as we know Vui Kong will – if you all came to show your support for the campaign to save his life. The fight is not over; Vui Kong has not yet received an answer to his appeal for clemency.