The family of Yong Vui Kong has been working hard these past two months – hitting the streets in both Singapore and Malaysia to collect signatures for a petition begging President SR Nathan to spare Vui Kong’s life.
Activists in Malaysia have rallied to their cause. By 10 am this morning, the campaign had collected a total of 109 346 signatures. Among those who signed were 44 Members of Parliament and 15 senators in Malaysia.Vui Kong’s father and six siblings delivered the petition and signatures to the Istana earlier today. They were accompanied by Sabah MP Datuk Chua Soon Bui, some close relatives, as well as lawyers M Ravi and Ngeow Chow Ying.
The family was not able to hand the petition to guards at the front gates of the Istana and had to use an alternative entrance 15 minutes away. The group walked uphill, in the blazing heat to this other gate where they were met by Security Officer, Corporal Marcus Chong [picture, right]. He took the files of signatures and told the family, “You may leave now.”
Vui Kong’s father, Mr Yong Kwong Keong, had prepared a personal message for President Nathan. Corporal Chong was asked to help pass this on but declined to do so, instead asking repeatedly for the family to vacate the area.
Mr Yong broke down in tears and the family knelt down in front of the gates. They remained there for several minutes before guards ordered them to leave.
At a press conference held later, Mr Ravi expressed disappointment over how the Yong family was treated at the Istana . “We are also faced with the unfortunate circumstance that we have to go to the Istana,” he said, “even though the courts have said that the President has no power.”
Datuk Chua urged President Nathan and the Cabinet to give Vui Kong’s case due consideration before making a final decision. She also questioned a decision by prison authorities to deny her request to visit Vui Kong on Monday. The Online Citizen understands two of his aunts were also denied access, although a cousin was granted entry.
“I feel the authorities should be more human,” Datuk Chua said. “This case is a special case. We don’t know how long before [Vui Kong’s] life is terminated. The family members and I came here just to see Vui Kong. We feel this is not too much to ask.”
The deadline for Vui Kong to submit his clemency appeal to the President is Thursday, 26 August.
However, when handing down his decision on Mr Ravi’s application for a judicial review of the clemency process, Justice Steven Chong had “invited” the Singapore Prison Service to extend the stay of execution as he said he expected Mr Ravi to appeal his judgement.
Mr Ravi has requested confirmation of the extension from the Prison Service, however, as of Tuesday, 24 August, he has yet to receive a response.
Vui Kong was arrested in June, 2007. He was 18 and a half years old then. The Singapore courts subsequently sentenced him to death for trafficking 47g of heroin into Singapore. He was originally scheduled to hang on 4 December last year, but since then, his lawyer, M Ravi, has managed to obtain two stays of executions.
In the past few weeks, the Yong family, as well as campaigners in both Malaysia and Singapore have worked round the clock, organising public forums and collecting signatures online and on the streets, to appeal to President Nathan to spare Vui Kong’s life.
Several non-governmental organisations are backing the campaign. These include the Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia, Amnesty International Malaysia, Lawyers For Liberty, Amnesty Hong Kong and the Singapore Anti-death Penalty Campaign.
The Malaysian government added its voice to the call for clemency when it sent a letter of appeal to Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on July 29. The Singapore government however has yet to respond to the letter. A spokesman for the ministry told the media that “[the] letter of appeal has been referred to the legal authorities.”
The campaign to save Vui Kong does not end today. “We will continue to collect signatures until the President makes a decision,” said Ms Ngeow.
“As long as there’s time, even if there’s just one second left,” said Yun Leong, “we will all still work hard for Vui Kong.”
Petition to spare trafficker’s life delivered to Istana
Zakir Hussain & Rachel Lin, Straits Times, 25 Aug 2010
A PETITION with a bundle of signatures gathered on the streets and online was delivered to the Istana yesterday morning, calling on President S R Nathan to spare the life of convicted Malaysian drug trafficker Yong Vui Kong.
It was presented by a group of 12 of Yong’s family members and supporters. Police officers from the Istana Security Unit received the petition outside the Istana’s Cavenagh Road entrance.
The group, which included the Member of Parliament for Yong’s constituency in Sabah, met at Plaza Singapura at 9am.
Most wore T-shirts with the words Give Life a Second Chance, the slogan for the Save Vui Kong Campaign.At 10am, they walked to the Istana’s Cavenagh Road entrance, carrying a box, files and bundles of paper bearing 109,346 signatures.
These had been gathered over the past two months on the streets of Yong’s home state of Sabah, as well as in Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and online.
There were 43,446 Sabahans who signed the petition; 32,719 in Peninsular Malaysia; and 331 in Singapore. The other 32,850 signatures were gathered online.
A dozen journalists and photographers from Singapore and Malaysian Chinese media were present outside the Istana.
After the petition was handed over at the Cavenagh Road entrance, Yong’s father, three brothers, three sisters and two relatives knelt in front of the security officers. The officers urged them to leave.
Yong’s parents divorced when he was a child and he was raised by his mother.
Speaking in Mandarin, Yong’s father, Mr Yong Kwong Keong, 59, said he hoped his son would get a second chance.
‘I wasn’t able to take care of him when he was young,’ he said.
The MP for Yong’s Tawau constituency, Datuk Chua Soon Bui, said she hoped the President and Cabinet would give the petition due consideration.
Yong’s case has attracted attention among human rights activists here and in Malaysia. Last month, the Civil Rights Committee of the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, together with human rights group Suaram, formed the Save Vui Kong Campaign.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman also sent a clemency plea to the Singapore Government last month.Yong was convicted by the High Court in 2008 of trafficking in 47.27g of heroin and was sentenced to death. The Court of Appeal turned down his appeal in May, and he was given until tomorrow to file a plea for presidential clemency.
Yong’s lawyer M. Ravi also applied to the High Court to seek judicial review of the clemency process, arguing that the process by which the President grants pardons – on the advice of the Cabinet – is flawed. But the court dismissed the application on Aug 13, saying the power to pardon lies with the Cabinet and not the President.
But it invited the Prisons Department to extend the deadline for Yong’s clemency petition till after the Court of Appeal had reached its decision on the dismissal.
Mr Ravi has not heard from Prisons on the extension. He plans to appeal against the dismissal and has till Sept 12 to do so.
SINGAPORE – The six Malaysian siblings were split up when their parents divorced two decades ago but they reunited yesterday in Singapore. They wanted to petition for their brother’s life.
The family of convicted drug mule Yong Vui Kong went to the Istana with about 109,000 signatures, canvassed online and on the streets, mostly from Malaysia, to appeal for clemency for Yong.
After submitting the petition to officials at the Istana’s Cavenagh Road entrance, they were asked to leave as the grounds were a gazetted area. But the family, including Yong’s 58-year-old father, knelt at the entrance for several minutes instead.
Vui Fong, the youngest child at 20, told reporters later: “I hope the President of Singapore will give my brother a second chance … at his age.”
Yong, 22, was convicted in 2008 for trafficking in 47 grams of heroin into Singapore. His clemency appeal against his execution expires tomorrow.
However, High Court Judge Steven Chong had invited the prison authorities to extend the deadline so that Yong could appeal against a Court ruling two weeks ago that the power to grant pardons rests with the Cabinet, not the President, under the Constitution.
Lawyer M Ravi said he would continue to fight Yong’s case. He has until Sept 12 to file the appeal.
On Monday, Yong’s family visited him in prison and said he was in high spirits. Fourth sibling Yun Leong, 26, said: “Until the very last minute, we won’t give up.”