From Singapore to Sabah: Vui Kong’s Mother

The following is part 4 of a series written from Sandakan, Yong Vui Kong’s hometown in Sabah, East Malaysia, by Second Chances co-founder Kirsten Han:

When Lianain Films went to Sandakan to shoot Yong’s Story in 2010, they paid a visit to Vui Kong’s mother. You can read Lynn’s blog post here. She writes about the little flat where she lives, about the anti-depressants that make her live as if in a bubble, about the fact that she still hasn’t been told that her youngest son is on death row.

Lynn took some photos of Vui Kong’s mother for her blog post. I don’t have any photos for this post; we didn’t get to meet her on this trip to Sandakan.

“My mother is in Kota Kinabalu,” Vui Fung tells us when we first meet up for breakfast.

Nyuk Yin, the oldest sister, lowers her voice and adds, “I was worried that something would happen in these three months. So I sent her to an aunt in Kota Kinabalu. In Sandakan, she’s alone in the day because we all have to work. I didn’t want her to be alone if something should happen.”

If something should happen. No one says it aloud, but judging from the sad nods around the table, everyone understands that Nyuk Yin is referring to Vui Kong.

It’s been almost five years since Vui Kong was arrested. His petition for clemency had been submitted last year. The President of Singapore usually issues a reply within three months – or so we understand – but nothing’s been heard for such a long time. Not just for Vui Kong, but for other cases like Cheong Chun Yin and Roslan bin Bakar too.

Everything is in limbo and no one knows what to think. Amidst all this uncertainty, the children do what they can to protect their clinically depressed mother from the painful truth.

When she went to visit Vui Kong in prison in 2009 – just before his original date of execution – he told her that he was only serving a short sentence, and that he would then be going to study Buddhism. He told her not to worry, but that they would never meet again.

According to Nyuk Yin, that’s still what she believes; that her son has gone to study the Buddhist scriptures. No one has told her the truth, because no one knows how she’ll react. She’s no longer living alone – her eldest and youngest daughter have moved in to be with her – but she still has to be on her own during the day.

On 12 May, NTV7 is broadcasting a documentary on Vui Kong. The first thought everyone has is whether his mother will see it. It’s decided that she probably won’t be watching NTV7 where she is. The sisters heave a sigh of relief.

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