Diary of the night vigil VI

Johnny Hoe
29 Nov 06

It was a drizzly and cold evening at the Queenstown Remand Prison. The streets near the prison were dim and the air felt heavy. I felt heavy-hearted that three of my friends who dared to stand up to an unjust law were being punished for their beliefs and conviction.

As I approached the foreboding building, I saw from a distance a few flickering candles. These little candles did more than illuminate the damp, dark night. They warmed my heart. Then I saw three little figures running around. I looked harder and realised they were Dr Chee’s three wonderful kids. It was at that point that the heaviness in my heart lightened. The sight of these innocent children playing outside the prison walls and the tiny but bright flames called up bitter-sweet emotions.

I have known Dr Chee for many years now, long before he has kids. I know that this or any other imprisonment will not deter him from speaking out against injustice. He will stand up and act for the people when no one else dares to do so. I only wish more will have such courage.

A few people whom I had not met before joined us late into the night. We met a 71 year old man walking out of the prison gate at about 8pm. He was surprised to see us there with the burning lights. We chatted. He told us that he had been sentenced to six weeks in prison for renting out a room in his flat to illegal immigrants. He had not known that they were illegal as the transaction had gone through an agent. His only folly was to have trusted the agent. He had slept on the concrete prison floor. Only a thin straw mat separated him from the sharp cold that seeped into his worn-out body.

So much for a gracious and caring society that the government has aspired Singapore to be.

Dr Chee’s two year-old son and I became fast friends when he took me frog-exploring in the wet field outside the prison. He looks like a carbon copy of his father.

I’m not sure if my three friends know that we’ve been out there every night since Thursday waiting for them. But I do know that my being here is the least I can do to tell the government that I want freedom, justice and democracy in my country.

Keep vigil with the 3 prisoners of conscience

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