I have a new Facebook friend. Her name is Yong Vui Fung and she is Vui Kong’s little sister. She’s just 20 this year. Slightly older than Vui Kong when he was caught. And every time I look at her, I think about what her brother must have been like when he first ventured out into the world on his own.
She’s just a girl. Shy and giggly, awkward and earnest, prone to tears – she can’t help crying whenever anyone talks about Vui Kong.
She doesn’t like heavy traffic, is overwhelmed by the big city, clings onto Yun Leong whenever they have to cross a busy street. The first time she took a plane was when she flew to Singapore last year. She hated the experience. The air pressure hurt her ears and gave her a headache. She could barely afford the airfare. But she had to be here. Vui Kong was petitioning the President for clemency and she’d come to give him support.
She visited a second time on the 1st of December. Flew in with her mother and elder sister. Vui Kong had been told he would hang on the 4th and Vui Fung had come to say goodbye. More importantly, her brother had begged the family to let him see his mother one last time.
And then, of course, the unthinkable happened. I cannot adequately describe the expression on Vui Fung’s face when she heard that Vui Kong had been granted a stay of execution. Hope and relief. Tears. She’d been assigned to take his ashes home to Sabah. Was afraid she would not be able to go through with it.
I look at Vui Fung and I think about her brother when he first left home for KL. He was, is just a boy. What did he know of the big city? Or of the gangs that run its underbelly? He would have trusted anyone who showed him kindness, the skinny youth who barely made enough to pay for a place to sleep.
We want to kill him to make a point. To keep our streets safe, our children addiction-free. As if we don’t deal with drug lords. Or launder their cash. Allow their kids to attend our schools. Provide them with medical facilities. As if we are not hypocrites.
Vui Fung doesn’t know any of this, of course. All she knows is that her brother did a bad thing. She finds it hard to express herself. Doesn’t know what to say when you ask how she feels. She’s mad at him. She’s sad. She wonders why he did what he did. He was stupid. He was an idiot. He was just taking instructions. She knows he’s very sorry. She’s sorry too. She wonders why he must die.
“But what about his boss? Or the other guy who got caught? ”
No one has answers.
She spends a good half-hour shopping for a card after Vui Kong’s Court of Appeal hearing on the 15th of March. Then she sits by herself in a coffee shop writing and re-writing a thank-you note to the lawyers helping her family. She’s grateful and bewildered. Doesn’t understand half the legal jargon that’s just been bandied around in court. But mostly, she is terrified. She’s barely 20. Death seems like such a frightening concept.
We become Facebook friends shortly after she flies home to Sabah. The first time she messages, she asks after our dog and tells us about her search for a new job. Then she says sorry. Sorry. For the trouble she, her brother, her family, have put us through. Sorry. And then she talks about her plans to look for work in Singapore. She wants to be close to Vui Kong.
“But my heart is not ready,” she says. “I am scared.”
I’m scared too. And my heart is heavy. Because of this girl. Because of what could happen next. Because of what all this says about us. Because she’s just a child.