Sunday, July 10, 2011

Letter 1: A Letter From Death Row

A letter from death row
Yong Vui Kong
Apr 22, 11

Sabahan Yong Vui Kong, 21, is on death row in Singapore for drug trafficking. Malaysiakini is publishing Yong's final letters to Yetian, a member of the Save Vui Kong Campaign, in the next 12 weeks as he faces death.

Dear Yetian,

Thank you for your letter, and thank you for giving me a platform and the strength to tell my story. This is my first letter. I hope to let everyone know what my life is like in prison.

First, let me introduce myself. My name is Yong Vui Kong. In early 2011, I celebrated my 23rd birthday in prison. I wasn't alone during my birthday. Lots of friends on the outside were also celebrating with me.

Why am I in jail? It's because I helped traffic drugs into Singapore. I was caught when I was 19. It's been a few years now. I am a death row inmate, and by right, I should have been dead long ago. But a lot of people have been helping me, and that's why I'm still alive today. If it wasn't for all these people, I think I'd have left this world long ago.

My mother doesn't know I've been sentenced to death. I've told her I'll be going to a far away place to seek enlightenment. I told her not to worry about me. She believed me.

Let me now tell you about my life inside here.

I get up at around 4 every morning. I don't have an alarm clock because I don't need one. I've gotten used to this routine, and it has not changed these past few years. Even the prison wardens know I am an early riser. They see me getting up each morning via the CCTV inside my cell.

After washing up and brushing my teeth, I'll spend time studying the (Buddhist) scriptures until 7am. After that, I'll meditate quietly until 9am. Some people might think I'm just trying to kill time, but in my heart, I believe it's better to make full use of my time than to just let it slip away.

I do not fear death

At 9am, I have breakfast. I don't eat the same things as the rest of the inmates. Even the wardens know this and will only deliver vegetarian meals to me.

Vegetarianism has become a habit for me. The benefits of vegetarianism is something you have to experience yourself. I can tell you it's a good thing, but you might not believe me. I encourage everyone to give vegetarianism a try.

In the past, when I knew I was going to die soon, I couldn't stop crying because I was scared. But the Buddhist priest who visits me every week has taught me not to fear death.

Earlier this year, a friend inside left us. Before he left, I chanted for him. He left peacefully.

Until I die, I'll use my time wisely to counsel people and tell them not to choose drugs.

Over the past few years, my relationship with my older brother, Yun Leong, has improved a great deal. We used to fight over all kinds of things.

But now, our relationship is much improved. If not for his help, you wouldn't be reading this letter now. I am really grateful to him. He visits me every Monday. We chit chat and he listens to me talk about Buddhism.

How many more Mondays will we have?

In the past, my rebelliousness made my brothers very unhappy. Now that I'm a changed person, my brothers feel much better. I think that's the least I can do.

Not enough time to learn everything

Actually, I'm doing very well in prison. The wardens show me a lot of respect. Whenever my brother visits, they would unshackle me and we'd bow to each other. My brother tells me they hold me in high regard. I am humbled to know that.

In my spare time, I study the scriptures. I'm afraid I won't have enough time to learn everything. I don't even think there's enough hours in a day for me to study. A lot of people think that it must be tortuous for me to spend an extended time in prison, but I feel good because I can make full use of the time to learn. I feel very fulfilled.

I like to chant. But because of the strict rules inside prison, I can't use normal meditation beads. That's because they're afraid I'll sharpen the crystal beads and use them to kill myself. My priest is very thoughtful. He used flour to make little beads, strung them up and gave them to me. I use them when I chant.

Suicide? I've never thought of it. Life is to be cherished, not squandered.

Yetian, thank you. I'll stop here today. Amitaba.

YONG VUI KONG, a Sabahan, was sentenced in November 2009 to death for drug trafficking. He was 19. On April 4, Yong lost his final appeal against a mandatory death sentence. He will be executed in three months unless he is granted clemency by Singapore's president.

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