A meeting with Mr Cheong Kah Pin

Cheong Chun Yin’s family submitting the clemency petition on his behalf in April last year (2011)

By Rachel Zeng

I met up with Mr Cheong Kah Pin, father of death row in mate Cheong Chun Yin, at City Square (JB) on Sunday. It was one of the most heart-wrenching meetings I have ever had with a family member of an inmate on death row. He seemed to have lost some weight but compared to the last time I have seen him, he appeared slightly more optimistic about Chun Yin.

While I am glad that the announcement of the proposed changes towards the mandatory death penalty in Singapore has given him some hope, I cannot help but feel terribly saddened by how the whole situation with Chun Yin had affected him. Fortunately for me, he was talking to me in Mandarin, a language which requires 100% of my listening skills. Due to that, I managed to fight back my tears as I was too busy trying my best to understand every single word and respond to him in the same language than let my emotions overwhelm me.

Here are some of Mr Cheong’s words, translated as accurately as I can possibly manage, into English. I did not take a photo of Mr Cheong because I did not think it was appropriate as I did not meet him with the intention of interviewing him nor did I told him that I will be sharing my experience of the meeting on my blog.

At the Beginning

“I couldn’t sleep when he was first arrested. I would be up til about 3 to 4am in the morning. I would then travel to Singapore on my motorbike. I waited outside Queenstown Remand Centre until I was able to see him. Yes I did not sleep at all, I couldn’t… I saw him everyday and I was so worried. He was too trusting, too helpful and it has landed him into trouble. He did not want me to worry and told me that everything will be alright. He kept saying that… even til now… and I hope he will really be alright now that the law will be changed.”

Mr Cheong’s Hopes

“All we hope for is for him (Chun Yin) to live… and I wish he can come back to us soon. I am old, my health is not in good state… all I wish for is to have him back while I am still here. He is innocent you know… he trusted his friend and he ended up becoming a scapegoat. How can an innocent boy like that whose only mistake was being too naive, be hanged? I hope Singapore will really give him another chance… Hope he will be back to us soon… because I do not know how long I will be around.”

A Note of Appreciation

“I am really thankful that people have come round to help us. Mr Ravi has been very helpful. Thank you (to the campaigners) for all your concern too… thank you for everyone’s help…”

Well, will Chun Yin be free from death row? I certainly hope that he will be.

While we aim to achieve a drug free society, we cannot deny the fact that there will always be youths who will unknowing fall into the trap of becoming an unwitting drug mule due to their naivety. Chun Yin thought that he was helping his friend to bring gold into the country.

Besides that, he fully co-operated during the investigation process and gave the investigators the contact details of “Lau De” – something that was never followed up by the investigators, and which according to the judge, was immaterial.

No, this shouldn’t be the case. All investigations must be thorough and leads provided by the ones who are being investigated must be followed up with, especially when it is a capital crime. Hanging drug mules will never solve the drug problem because the syndicates will forever prey on those who are naive, ignorant or financially desperate to run on fire for them. If drug operations are not crushed, there will always be another Vui Kong or Chun Yin, unaware of the risk or the actual items they are carrying across the customs.