Monday, November 21, 2005

Our House

Today, I'd like to talk a little about Nguyen Tuong Van. In case you've been hiding under a rock for a while, he's the 25-year old Australian Viet who's about to be hanged in Singapore for smuggling 396g of heroin.

The Australian government's been trying its hardest to plead for clemency, with everyone from John Howard to Alexander Downer chipping in to try to persuade the Singaporean government not to hang the guy.

Obviously, it's not working. You didn't really expect the Singapore government to just go "Oh. No hanging? Oh, okay, sure thing" did you? Of course not; both sides know what has to happen. And y'know what I think? Good on them; everyone's playing their parts and in a few weeks, this whole mess will be over.

If I seem insensitive, do forgive me; I confess I don't even know the guy. What I do know is this, though: Singapore cannot afford not to hang him, for a few reasons.

Firstly, it must establish that anyone who traffics more than the "allowed" amount of drugs will be hanged. Anyone. Whether you're black, white or asian, Singaporean or Australian, you will receive the mandatory death penalty.

Secondly, it must show that the law will not succumb to external pressure. Once you're in our jurisdiction, you either play by our rules, or suffer our penalties. And no amount of pleading and prodding will help you.

Thirdly, the law must be upheld. A law is not a law if there isn't absolute certainty that penalties for infringement will be carried out. For example, there's no point having a law against corruption if corruption is tolerated. You know what I'm talking about.

What I really enjoy reading, though, is reports/opinions that state with absolute certainty and steadfast conviction that capital punishment is ineffective as a deterrant. Most of these then go on to point at "examples" like trafficking in Indonesia, and heroin production in Afghanistan.

Now, I don't know about Indonesia and Afghanistan, but in Singapore, you can be hung for drugs, murder, kidnapping, treason and firearms. Ever wonder why you can't just buy dope off the street in Singapore, like you can in Melbourne's Chinatown? Or why we don't get that many murders, or kidnappings? How about robberies involving guns? So yeah, I don't know about all those other countries, but it certainly seems to be working for us.

Also, is it just me, or have a lot of Australians been arrested for drug smuggling lately? Just from recent memory I recall the Corby chick in Indonesia, the so-called "Bali Nine", and that other Australian lady who was bouncing back and forth between Canada and the Carribean. What's up with that?

Anyway, this Nguyen guy. Some people say he should be let off the noose because he's a really decent guy. Apparently, he agreed to be a "mule" to pay off his twin brother's drug-related debts. Others are saying he should be given leniency because he confessed to the crime. The second one's a little ridiculous since he was pretty much caught with the drugs strapped to his body.

Now I'm not saying it wasn't a really noble thing for him to do, risking his own life for his brother's. Hey, that's what blood's about, right? It's the epitome of brotherhood: placing your brother's life before your own. He really is a genuine hero.

The only problem is that he knew. He knew what was going to happen if he got caught. He understood the risks he was taking, yet he chose to go ahead anyway. And while I admire his courage, he has to face the consequences of his decision. Hell, that's what makes it so admirable in the first place.

So yes, honour him as a good brother and a brave hero, but let him face the consequences of his choice.

And let it forever stand as a testimony to all: Our house, our rules. No negotiation.

Other opinions: UncleBeng, Dodge, an Australian

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7 comments:

dodge said...

the media coverage also sealed his fate, its now become a pride issue, if singapore buckles, it goin to show that they are australian's laperdoodle

said...

Believe what you want but you can find dope in singapore... u can find other drugs in singapore too like marajuana and speed and crystal meth... so it guess even thou how clean singapore wants to be... regardless of what everyone thinks YES there is still corruption. In Govts there will alwaes be politics and in that, there will alwaes be corruption no matter what. Humans are not robots. But i totally agree that once u step into Spore's turf, u need to follow their rules. They specifically tell u when u are on the plane, when u reach SG soil... there will be death penalty for drug trafficking.

Priscilla said...

I am of the opinion that no matter how futile the effort may seem, an accused deserves the right to a defense down to the very end. If this Nguyen dude can get powerful allies to help with his appeal, why not? I agree that it is unlikely that the Singapore courts will cave in to the pressure, as the Michael Fay case has illustrated, but it seems to me Nguyen could use all the help he can get.

Scott said...

Believe what you want but you can find dope in singapore... u can find other drugs in singapore too like marajuana and speed and crystal meth... so it guess even thou how clean singapore wants to be... regardless of what everyone thinks YES there is still corruption. In Govts there will alwaes be politics and in that, there will alwaes be corruption no matter what. Humans are not robots.

Can you still find it around? Sure you can. No matter how tight the net is, some small fish will slip through, after all. The point, however, is that it isn't as common.

Is drug abuse a problem in Singapore? Drug abuse is a problem everywhere; that's why we have drug rehabilitation centres. But you don't see people shooting up or smoking pot, and most folks don't know where you can get it. Hell, I don't know where you can get it.

Is there corruption in Singapore? Hell yes. It'd be naive not to think so. But it hasn't permeated the upper echelons of authority. People still go about their lives in fear of the CPIB, knowing that if you get caught for corruption, you're pretty much screwed.

Problems exist, but they're not prevalent.

Scott said...

I am of the opinion that no matter how futile the effort may seem, an accused deserves the right to a defense down to the very end. If this Nguyen dude can get powerful allies to help with his appeal, why not? I agree that it is unlikely that the Singapore courts will cave in to the pressure, as the Michael Fay case has illustrated, but it seems to me Nguyen could use all the help he can get.

Sure, he does; we should all give it our best shot till the last. That's what I meant by "everyone's playing their parts".

The Singapore government is playing theirs by upholding the law and showing the world that the law will not bend to foreign pressure; the Australian side is playing theirs by "trying their best".

But as much as certain elements of the public (and even the government) would like them to, Howard and Downer know that they cannot do much more than plead and bargain without infringing on Singapore's sovereignity. They've come a long way in their understanding of Asian politics these last few years.

So, yes. Everyone's playing their parts, but both sides know what has to happen.

SnowDemonDave said...

I'm quite sure that the Australian government thinks that Mr. Nguyen fucked himself over pretty good and he's gonna get what's coming to him no matter how hard the Aus government tries to save him from the inevitable. It doesn't really matter to them whether he gets hanged or he gets to "hang around;" They're just doing all this to make it look like they're always there to look after and protect their own. As far as the government is concerned, it's a media circus and hence, a great opportunity to show their "sensitive" side.

said...

Saw the news today.... possible boycott of australian trade with singapore...
i didnt knoe it was going to that!
sumthing abt singtel and optus ... i dunno i didnt catch it b/c it was a quick summary of reports of the day.

Also, you never know where the trial could go. If australia decided to go to international courts, singapore would have to abide by international jurisdiction, therefore.... they cant play by their own rules anymore

wat does everyone think of this?