Yun Leong looks like he’s shrunk. He’s lost maybe five pounds since December. There are bags under his eyes. He sounds tired.
“It’s been tough,” he says. “Chinese New Year was not good.”
“How’s your family?”
“And your mother?”
He pauses. “She still asks about him.”
Him. Vui Kong. Her youngest.
“She still doesn’t know?”
“No. She’s been told she’ll never see him again. But she doesn’t know he was caught with drugs, or that he’s been sentenced to death.”
The pressure on Yun Leong must be overwhelming. No wonder he looks so gaunt.
We’re meeting just days before Vui Kong’s hearing before the Court of Appeal. His lawyer’s working round the clock, preparing to challenge Singapore’s mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking. It’s a staggering undertaking – stacks of papers, huge bundles of authorities, hours and hours of research. You wonder if the two brothers understand what’s happening.
“My brother’s been learning English so he can read all the documents,” Yun Leong says. “It’s very complicated but he’s determined to understand what’s going on. He’s also meditating a lot. He tells me I should meditate too.”
“So, do you?”
He laughs – the first time you’ve ever seen him do that.
“I try, I’m always trying. But I’m just too busy, you know?”
And then he changes the subject. Pulls out a piece of paper from inside his bag.
“Vui Kong wanted me to give you this.”
It’s a little surreal, receiving a letter from death row. But the message is upbeat. There isn’t a hint of self-pity. No plea for mercy. Rather, the boy thanks everyone for their generosity and support.
“I made a mistake because I was uneducated and didn’t know better…I am thankful I wasn’t put to death on the 4th of December.”
They’d as good as given up last year. The family had even made funeral arrangements and were in the midst of saying their final goodbyes. But then the unthinkable happened. Vui Kong’s lawyer succeeded in getting not just one, but two stays of execution.
You wonder what will happen at the next hearing and a knot forms in your throat. Yun Leong senses this. He tells you his brother’s in a good place now. Very calm, very focused. He’s ready to face the worst, but hoping for the best. He’s incredibly strong.
“Unlike our little sister, who still can’t stop crying.”
“For me,” he says, “for me, I’m hoping for a miracle.”
Yong Vui Kong’s hearing before the Court of Appeal will take place on the 15th of March, 2010.