|Vui Kong and his mother|
It's been awhile since I have written in this blog. Since January, there hasn't been much news on Yong Vui Kong's case to update everyone with. The verdict for his last appeal (17 January 2011) will be delivered on 4 April 2011. I'll be there, hoping for good news. Anyone who wants to send a message to him (no matter whether you did or not the last time 'round), feel free to send it to webelieveinsecondchances[at]gmail[dot]com. We'll do our best to get it passed on to Vui Kong.
Apart from Vui Kong, though, I learned about two "new" death penalty cases in the past week alone. I would have blogged about them sooner, but I wanted to find out more and collect my thoughts before I wrote anything. It's always hard to wrap my head around the thought that more people might die just because we decided that they should.
Last Thursday I made a trip to Johor Bahru, my first time in years. I went to visit Cheong Kah Pin, the father of Cheong Chun Yin (Ah, a 27-year-old man on death row in Singapore. (The report I wrote about his case is here on The Online Citizen.)
|Cheong Chun Yin|
Cheong has exhausted all his appeals. He has already filed his clemency petition to President S R Nathan in January. The President is expected to reply by the end of April. If his petition is rejected, Cheong can be hung as early as the second week of May.
His father, Mr Cheong, is at the end of his rope. He is a hawker, opening a makeshift stall at the night markets, and sometimes the morning market as well. These days, he tells us, he tries his best to work as much as possible. It's not because he needs the money, but because he cannot stand sitting alone in the house he used to share with his son, the only child who stayed with him after he divorced his wife years ago.
He struggles to make sense of what has happened. "I cannot accept this," he keeps saying. "Just like that, my son's life is going to be taken."
Right now, his son is alive. He is in jail, but alive. He can visit him every Monday, talk and keep him company for some time. But if the petition gets turned down... one Friday morning his son is going to be removed from his cell and taken to the gallows. At 6am on that morning, a father will lose his son, an able-bodied, healthy son who had been so close to him through all the ups and downs of the years gone by.
|Mr Cheong, talking to us about his son|
Does this seem right to you? Who are we punishing now?
|Atiqah and her little daughter|
At the same time, I'm also reading about the case of Noor Atiqah M. Lasim. Her situation is reversed from that of Vui Kong and Ah Yin – instead of a Malaysian on death row in Singapore, she is a Singaporean on death row in Malaysia. It's a stark reminder that both countries are in the minority of nations in the world who have the mandatory death penalty (MDP) for drug trafficking, a situation that anti-death penalty activists in both countries are trying to change.
Atiqah's friends and family say that she was misled and tricked by her Nigerian boyfriend, and that the drugs that were found in her possession did not belong to her. She is yet another unwitting mule who must now pay the price. This is not a new story. So many have already fallen into this situation. So many have already lost their lives because of it. And still it goes on.
Atiqah's supporters have started their own blog, Save Atiqah, and are trying to raise more money for the legal expenses that will be incurred as they fight for her life in the courts. I admire the strength in her family and friends and their determination to save their loved one, and hope that Second Chances will be able to help them in some way.
Vui Kong, Ah Yin and Atiqah are only 3 of the many, many people who have either been executed, or have been sentenced to death. Their lives hang in the balance, not because of illness or accidents or injury, but because we, represented by our country's laws, condemn them.
We are told that the death penalty is necessary because it deters people from trafficking drugs, keeping our streets and families safe. But my question is this: how many more need to die? It clearly can't be that effective now, or we wouldn't have cases like Vui Kong, Ah Yin or Atiqah. The effectiveness of the death penalty should have put an end to such occurrences. So how many more need to lose their lives before the death penalty really stops drugs, or we realise that it is time for a change?
Yes, Vui Kong, Ah Yin and Atiqah have made mistakes in their lives. Judging from the situations they are in now, they've probably made some pretty big ones. But how many of us haven't made any mistakes ever, big or small? Are the mistakes they made enough to give us the right to say, "YES, YOU SHOULD DIE"? Can we not find it within ourselves to say, "You made a mistake, but you should have the chance to try again and to redeem yourself"?
I hope that both the Singaporean and Malaysian governments will be able to be merciful and compassionate enough to give these people a chance. But I know that my single wish, my single hope, will not be enough to persuade them. I hope that you will join me and support the campaigns and activists who are trying to stimulate debate on the mandatory death penalty, and who are doing their best every day to get a second chance for Vui Kong, Ah Yin and Atiqah.