“The President may only exercise the clemency power in favour of an offender in circumstances where the Cabinet has advised him to do so. Where the Cabinet has advised him not to grant a pardon, there is no provision under either Article 22P or elsewhere in the Singapore Constitution that confers upon the President the power to act in his own personal discretion contrary to the advice of the Cabinet.”
And that was it. Vui Kong’s appeal was dismissed. His legal avenues in Singapore have been exhausted. He now has three months to submit his clemency petition to the President. The President who the Court of Appeal just said has no power. (You can read more about the verdict here.)
How can this be right? What does the President do, then?
We were disappointed, disheartened, upset, angry, frustrated. How can the life of a boy be treated as if it were of no significance at all? How can the Court of Appeal not see the injustice in this system? And through all this, where is the President? Does he have nothing to say for himself?
When things like that happen, it is so easy to be discouraged, and to feel like there is no more good in the world. The trick is to not let it get you down, but to keep moving forward and not give up. And the way I do that is to remember that there are good people too. I see them around every day – people who will give their time and energy to help others, people who care and aren’t afraid to show it. They show me, every time, that all is not lost. That it is far from over. That there is always going to be hope that we can be better.
The taxi driver with a big heart
Tired and in a rush to get home and write up my report, I decided to take a taxi home from work. The driver and I started talking. I told him about what I had been up to, about Vui Kong’s verdict. He was horrified to learn that the President has no power in granting clemency; it went against what he had believed all along. He was also very upset to hear about Vui Kong, such a young boy on death row. “He can change, he’s already sorry, it’s such a waste to hang him!” He said it again and again.
“We are still fighting to get him a second chance,” I said.
The driver fell silent for awhile. Then he asked, “How do you spell his name?”
“Y-O-N-G, V-U-I, K-O-N-G.”
He nodded to himself, committing it to memory. “Okay. After I drop you off, I can go to the Soka Centre at Telok Blangah. I will chant for Vui Kong. Change the bad to good. I can chant for him, and maybe it will help him. Give him a second chance. Chanting is very good, you know. It will be good for him. Yong Vui Kong. Okay, I remember.”
We reached my destination. I pulled out my wallet to pay him. He pointed at the meter. “I’m not going to count in the fuel surcharge. You are helping Vui Kong. I support you. Now I will go to chant for him.”
By the time I met Liyana, she was already out of the tent in Sembawang Park and living in a shelter. Her family were struggling to make ends meet every month, facing the threat of eviction, with nowhere else to go.
Things have improved for Liyana now, although they’re still difficult. But Liyana isn’t letting it get her down, and she’s doing all she can to help her family get through this. She’s started MommaMiia Creations, a little business selling handmade jewellery and accessories, as well as gorgeous pop-up cards and scrumptious cake and marshmallow pops (oh gosh, I can’t get over the yum-ness of the cake pops).
A few of us went to visit her at her stall in Orchard Central’s weekly flea market. We told her about Second Chances joining the Sunday Eclectica flea market at The Pigeonhole because we want to raise money for the Save Atiqah campaign. And despite her own troubles, she jumped at the opportunity to help. “I’m a mother. How would any child feel about losing her mother?” she says.
The going might be tough. It might take a long time. People might tell us to give it up, that we’re just fools chasing the impossible. There might be a lot of crap in this world.
But never, ever forget – there are good people too. And as long as they are around to fight the good fight, it’s not over.
Subscribe via Email