Sunday, July 10, 2011

Letter 8: I Like Mondays

Letter from death row: I like Mondays
Jun 10, 11 10:00am

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 few weeks as he faces death.

Here is a story I've heard.

There was a young man who was sentenced to jail. For a long time, his family did not visit him. Whenever he saw the families of other inmates who brought food for their love ones, he felt bitter about his parents.

One day, the prison warden told him that someone had come to see him. When he went to the visitors room, he saw his mother - dirty, shoes broken, and her feet full of blisters. With her was an urn filled with ashes.

You see, this young man came from a poor family. His father was a farmer and their home many thousand miles from the prison. In order to save enough money to come to see him, his father worked very hard - so hard that he died as a result.

His father's last wish was to see his son. His mother eventually decided to walk all the way to the prison. And she brought along his father's ashes.

Here, in my prison, Monday is family visit day for death-row inmates.

My family also lives far away from here - in Sabah. Luckily, I have two brothers who work at a hotel in Singapore. Every Monday, they apply for leave so that they can visit me.

I heard from my brother that over the past few years, he often see another visitor - an old woman. She is slow in gait and her hair almost white. She comes to visit someone in prison, perhaps her son.

And my lawyer also told me of a death-row inmate's father, who wakes up at 3am every Monday to ride his motorbike across the Causeway so that he can see his son at dawn.

Thus, we are lucky death-row inmates.

Our last wish?

In fact, when we were consigned to the death row, what really was our wish? Allow me, as a death-row inmate, to tell you.

Our wish is to have the support from our family. This, I have. During the many days when I spend in prison, I have the company of both my brothers - Yun Leong and Yun Zhong. Because of that, our relationship has improved.

It is very difficult for me to express my feeling on how much I look forward to Mondays. To my family, I am very grateful. I must thus utilise my remaining days fruitfully - study hard and be a good man to repay all their gratitude.

But I know a lot of other death-row inmates do not have anyone to come and visit them, other than their lawyers. Even their lawyers only visit them once in a long period of time, especially those who are not Singaporean.

Maybe their family does not know that they are here - all locked-up and about to die. Maybe their situation is like the story of the young man I mentioned earlier. Maybe even if they are dead, their family will never know. I am greatly saddened by this.

So I am the lucky one. I know that my family has given me a lot of support, and they did not give up on me.

My sisters, relatives and friends went to the streets to get signatures from those whom they do not know to plea to the Singaporean president to grant me clemency. They did not ask that I be released from prison, but simply to spare my life so that I will not be hanged.

My younger sister is only 19 years old. She is often afraid to talk to strangers, yet she summons the courage to do it. My brother, whenever he has his break at work, would stand in Orchard Road to petition passer-bys.

I know that it is hard for them. They are often scolded. There are people who chided them, asking why they should help me. They say my brother should be ashamed of me, and that I deserved to die.

Indeed, because of me, my family has suffered. I really don't know what else to say.

Families tormented

Sometimes I think to myself, the families of the other death-row inmates are also suffering. Would it be because of this, they have given up on them to the point where they disown them. Because I am with them too, I can almost feel their pain and torture.

In the eyes of many, those of us who have been locked up must be an evil not worth mentioning. If a death-row inmate does not have the support of his family, friends and the society - couple with the fact that if he does not have a strong faith - then maybe before he is executed, he is already dead in the heart.

A lot of death-row inmates are resigned to the face that they are going to die. They lost their will to live, and their family who pray for them day and night, does not know what else to do. As a result, they slowly give up on them and treat them as if they already dead even before they are hanged.

Yes, a lot are like that.

Maybe it is my faith in the Goddess of Guan Yin, maybe it is the luck I have 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 discover Buddhist teachings. This makes me strong spiritually.

Also I have a good lawyer, and most importantly, I know that there are those out there who petition for clemency for me. I know that they have forgiven me and they care for me.

Life, I have learned, is precious.

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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