A 25-year old Australian citizen, who resided in Melbourne has been caught with 400 gms of heroin at Changi airport, Singapore, trialled, convicted and sentenced to death. He could be hung within a week.
Nguyen Tuong Van smuggled the drugs in the hope to make some money to help his twin brother’s gambling debts. The Australian government has pleaded for clemency on his behalf but Singapore being Singapore, the plea was not considered. The man will now pay the ultimate price for his foolishness.
His lawyers lamented that the Singapore government in prosecuting him has failed to consider his usefulness as an informant against the drug smuggling ring which should have earned him a certain degreeof clemency.
To Aussies, the death sentence is an unacceptable form of punishment that is barbaric, and better placed in a more medieval era. Last night I saw/heard on TV what one of his lawyers mentioned.
He queried in frustration about the missing Australian public’s support for an Australian facing the death sentence in a foreign country? Does it have to be a young, beautiful and Anglo-Saxon woman who has been convicted of drug smuggling before the Aussie public would rally in support of a fellow Aussie facing the death sentence in another country?
One of Australia’s top disc jockey, Derryn Hinch, mentioned during the Schapelle Corby’s case, when the Aussie public was wiped up into redneck frenzy by a certain TV channel and some other radio jockeys, that Corby received that degree of support because she was doe-eyed, pretty, white, Australian, female with big boobs.
See my earlier post on Young, White, Pretty and has Big Boobs.
There is some truth in the perceptions of Hinch and Nguyen’s lawyer. But could there be other reasons?
For example, Singapore is a far more respected nation than Indonesia – in fact, a large number of Aussies are suspicious of Indon’s intention towards them.
Apart from the historical fear of the 'brown peril' & brown skinned natives having their evil ways with Aussie white virgins, there was the (first) Bali bombing which was perpetrated by some members of the Indon terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah (JI).
Then, some sectors of Indon had incorrectly resented that Australia helped East Timor in its independence from Indonesia, and stopped the brutality of Indon militants against innocent East Timorese. Could the arrest and trial of Schapelle Corby be an Indon act of 'revenge' for Aussie interference in East Timor as had been the case of the Bali bombing?
The truth about the East Timor issue has been that the former Indon President Habibie was a bit of a loose cannon, initiating unexpectedly the independence referendum in East Timor, which caught Australia by surprise and displeasure. Of course the East Timorese seized the unexpected referendum opportunity to break free of Indonesia. The reality was that Australia didn't want that responsibility of being an independent East Timor's taiko because of the associated financial burden, defence involvement and the inevitable diplomatic/social offence to the Indons.
Habibie's role in setting the motion for an independent East Timor, unwittingly dragging Australia into the fray, was conveniently ignored by the Indon militants. Indon pride had been affected and the JI in its demented ideology and extremist militancy hit back - first with the Bali bombing and then waging a continuing terrorist campaign against Australia and Aussies for their 'interference', which of course had been created by Habibie.
We should be reminded of what Gusdur, former President Abdurrahman Wahid said of Indonesia's former presidents before him as follows:
"Soekarno was mad about women, Suharto was mad about money, but Habibie was mad, just mad."
So the Aussie-Indon relationship has always held a common core of dislike, distrust and anger, for some Australians, fear. Unfortunately, when the Aussie media chosed deliberately to stir and marshal the public's emotions behind Schapelle Corby, 'some' Australians soon became 'many' Australians.
I reckon the dimension of Aussie anti-Indon feelings has not been transferred into anti-Singapore feelings. Besides, what ratings can a TV or radio talkshows derived from rallying Aussie support behind an ordinary looking 25-year old Vietnamese Aussie.
Then of course, Singapore’s legal system is similar to the Australian’s system (except for the death penalty) so there is less suspicion of its rules, process and fairness.
But in the end, one cannot but help notice the contrast between the frenzied support for Corby and the complete absence of any support for Nguyen.
KTemoc is always against the death sentence for many reasons that I have blogged on earlier. But I fear that even with a last minute appeal again by the Aussie government, Nguyen will be executed soon.
(1) Why I am Against the Death Penalty!
(2) Stupid if He's Smart, Smart if He's Stupid!