Dear Vui Kong

This blog entry is for Yong Vui Kong, a young man currently sitting on Singapore’s Death Row. His appeal hearing takes place tomorrow, 17 January, at 10am, at the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court. This letter is part of a blog-a-thon organized by We Believe in Second Chances.

Dear Vui Kong,

I am not much of a blogger. I started a blog in August 2009, and so far it only has three entries.

Each of them, I wrote because I was motivated to say something, and could not rest till I expressed it in words.

Today, I am writing my fourth entry, for you.

We Believe in Second Chances organized a blog-a-thon and I attended, even though I wasn’t sure what I was going to say.

While I was there, I read the booklet that your sister lovingly put together as an appeal to President Nathan. It was filled with plenty of photographs of you and your family – lots of warm smiles – and it was both heartwarming and heartbreaking to see these images and read the emotional appeal.

Damien and Kirsten also brought a birthday cake, and we all sang Happy Birthday to you, and blew out the candles together after making a wish – for your freedom, and that of the others on death row.
I hope that it brings you some joy to know that there are people out here, whom you have never met, who are concerned about you and wish you and your family well.

I spent some time thinking about this – how it is that we can develop an attachment, or some deep concern for another, despite the separateness of our lives.

Up till last year, I was never particularly involved in the anti-death penalty movement. But the more I read, the more disturbed I became. I started to follow the stories on The Online Citizen, and attended several of the events, including one where your brother and your MP from Sabah spoke.

I was drawn to your story, and when I saw the photograph of your family kneeling outside the Istana , that image haunted me. I felt a deep and heavy ache in my heart, mixed with growing anger at how my country was behaving.

How could a life – a life cherished by self, and also by others – be taken away, so thoughtlessly, so cruelly, by legislators?

The death penalty is an issue that frequently leads to fierce debates, and I have read arguments from both sides.

But in my mind, there is no justification to kill another (it’s murder, no matter what you call it). If we recognize our human-ness, then we are fully aware that we are beings capable of shameful crimes and reproachful behaviour. But we also have an immense and remarkable capacity to change – to feel remorse, to take steps to repent, to demonstrate kindness and compassion even in the most hateful of circumstances.

I am moved by the love and tenacity of your family, and the strength you have demonstrated over the long and difficult years you have spent on death row.

It does not matter to me what statistics my country’s legislators sprout, in a vain attempt to convince me that they have a right to do what they are doing to you and your family.

I do not care if people say that I am simply swayed by emotion in my support for this campaign to save you, and show support for you and others in your situation.

For that is precisely what binds us together in this crazy, cruel, confusing world – moments where we appreciate beauty, demonstrate empathy and love mercy.

Despite the difficult circumstances you are in, I hope that you feel comfort, love and an abiding peace in your heart.

Happy 23rd Birthday Vui Kong!



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