Saturday, November 19, 2005

Nguyen's Execution - Singapore in the Dock

The horror of Nguyen Van Tuong’s pending execution has struck home in Australia truly well and good. Public anger has erupted against Singapore’s cruelty in proceeding with his execution, scheduled for the dawn of 02 December 2005.

That has been why PM John Howard made a last minute appeal to his Singapore counterpart despite an earlier refusal to do so. That’s why Howard continues to grumble in public on why he hasn’t been satisfied with Singapore’s failure to inform him of the execution date, already determined prior to his appeal to PM Lee. Howard is the consummate politician who knows he must ‘fall into line’ with Aussie public feelings, and be seen to be doing so.

Was Nguyen guilty of drug trafficking? Yes. Then what’s the issue?

Sydney Catholic Archbishop, and the principal Catholic primate of Australia, Cardinal Goerge Pell summarised it best. He said of the execution:

"I deplore the decision of the Singapore Government to proceed with this execution. Illegal drugs are a scourge, but the punishment in Van's case is completely disproportionate to the crime he has committed."


The punishment is totally *disproportionate*, and reflects the Singapore government's stubbornness in holding fast to a national doctrine against drug trafficking that has proven to be ineffectual. Singapore has already executed hundreds of drug traffickers, of small and large quantities of the illegal substance, yet those traffickers have not stop coming. Yes, they should be arrested but the solution lies not in hanging them.

In fact, if punishment is intended to be punitive, wouldn’t it be more effective by confining the criminal behind bars for long periods to let them reflect on (or ‘stew’ over) the seriousness of the crime?

If the intention of the draconian sentence is to deter other potential drug criminals, as it should be, then wouldn’t it be more terrifying to let those intending to commit the same crime know that years and years of confinement await them, without parole or reduction of the pronounced sentence, that they may never see the outisde of their prison walls for the next 30 or 50 years again?

While some argue the death sentence is a mighty terrifying deterrent, others have argued that criminals, most from desperate backgrounds with little to lose other than their lives, are prepared to take the risk and die if necessary.

Their common desperate attitude seems to be “It will just end my miserable life here anyway”, echoing the Singapore Hangman’s farewell message of “I am going to send you to a better place than this”.

Decades of languishing in restricted confinement, growing old behind in a prisoner’s cell, never ever returning to society again – surely, that’s more terrifying than swift death for would-be drug traffickers.

Economically, politically and administratively, Singapore has worked its way admirably into the ranks of the 1st World nations in just 40 years, yet it is now failing that ranking by its abysmal moral standards with regards to the value of a human life.

2 Weeks of Life Left for Nguyen Van Tuong


  1. i always thought that the law is a fairly subjective matter. sometimes, u see that some judges mite haf a heart and give a more lenient sentence. but for nguyen's case, i truly feel for him. it's not that he's smuggling the drugs to get rich. i thought it was all crap when he said he tried to pay his bro's debt. until one of my melbourne fren told me that his fren is quite close to this nguyen guy. he said nguyen is a really nice and kind guy. the fren even lent him quite a sum of money to help repay his bro's debt i think. but well, i think singapore has its ego to uphold too. but reli, i find that an understatement. perhaps a rally in sg would be the answer no? :)

  2. This chap can say anything (to help his bro & so on) to escape the gallows. Why don't he rob a bank back home and say then, he wants to help the poor?

    Singapore will never bend the rules to accomodate a citizen from a White Man country, that's the fact.

    If Spore were to bend this once, she has to bend for everyone.

    The same law will be imposed on anyone regardless whether that individual is a Sporean or otherwise.

    BTW, I ni bukan rakyat Singapura lah....

  3. Why refer to him as a citizen from a 'White Man' country?

  4. Anti-death sentence apologists will say that the death sentence has not been an effective deterrent and that crimes committed have not decreased despite the threat of the gallows.

    The threat of languishing one's entire life in jail would serve a better deterrent, such apologists would argue.

    If,indeed, the former would be a better deterrent, how come countries that practise such a deterrent have seen no decrease in crimes committed either vis-a-vis those with capital punishment?

    The truth is that criminals do not give a thought about the consequences that will befall on them when they commit a specific crime. The reason being all crimininals think they could escape from the long arms of the law.

    Facing death is, in fact, a frightening thought for all criminals, that's why, they will plead for clemency. If, indeed, spending one's entire life behind bars is a worse-off option, why would the criminal bother appealling and ask for clemency as being hung would be a better option then?!

    Perhaps, a referendum could be held in Australia with regards to whether Australians support the death sentence or otherwise.

    Even if the majority of Aussies support life sentence against the death sentence, should others have to follow what the Aussies prefer?

  5. Life sentence is not uniquely an Australian practice. It is the practice of 1st world nations throughout the world, obviously with some exceptions like Singapore. The USA has different state laws, therefore one cannot accuse the USA of a 1st world nation practising capital punishment.

    The USA provides an interesting glimpse of the mentality behind the States' choice for capital punishment and anti capital punishment.

    Banishing capital punishment is a a national choice, recognising a nation's (and its people) respect and value for human life. Murdering a criminal under the guise of man-made laws does not hide the brutal nature of, and the government's choice for that draconian doctrine. Because man-made laws can be changed, as Australia and many other 1st world nations have done so.

    When you talk about crime rates, what crime rates are you talking about? Serious ones like murder, drug trafficking, treason? Or, buglary, robbery, car theft, assault and battery etc? Not all crimes even in Singapore earns the ultimate punishment. Even in Texas, USA, where it has very high rates of execution (of mainly blacks) it would not have sentenced a drug trafficker like Nguyen Van Tuong with 398 gm of heroin to the gallows.

    To argue that a country's crime rates has to do with its capital punishment or lack of, is absolute nonsense.

    Singapore has a low crime rate because its police are effective, well trained, well looked after and not corrupt. Look across the causeway, and that's another country with capital punishment, yet today the most dangerous place in that nation is the police station - Come to Australia and NZ, where both nations don't have capital punishment, and see how their police would treat a foreigner. Need I say anymore?

  6. So, even people like Osama, I suppose, should not be executed in the name of "First World mentality?!"

    But you & I know that,privately, folks like John Howard & most, if not, all of the Western "democrats" would want Osama executed if caught & "judged."

    Look at how disappointed John Howard & Aussies were when Abu Bakar Bashir was given such a "lenient" sentence. They would have preferred Bashir being sentenced to death, after all, many of those killed in Bali were Aussies.

    The Aussies and other white-skinned people will only make noise if one of theirs has been killed or is going to be killed. If others die, they don't give a shit!

    Just look at the Americans. Their lives are precious. If any of their soldiers die, they grieve but they don't give a shit about the "insect lives" of ordinary Iraqis.

    Until the Whites give a shit about others' lives, no one would take them seriously when they express their " hypocritical concern" for this & that.

  7. Likewise, to argue that the thought of a long prison sentence would be a crime deterrent is pure hogwash!

    The execution of Nguyen would be a good deterrent.

    Let's see which Aussie fool next would dare to do the same as what Nguyen did, if what is going to Nguyen is not a deterrent!?

  8. I am not sure how the moral question of death sentence evolved into a white man's war against whoever? I do think the accusation against John Howard wishing to see Bashir Ahmad executed has no substance. The Aussies do not want Bashir enjoy a continuously shortened sentence. They did not ask for the death sentence.

    If Osma bin Laden is caught and tried in Australia, and found guilty, he won't face execution - there is no death penalty in Australia.

    I did not say that longish sentences would be a crime deterrent per se. I stated that it would be superior to the death sentence. The death sentence has failed, so it's time to give non-capital punishment a go.

    No matter what sentences a country gazettes, there will always be crimes. How the nation handles the crimes reflects on the nation's values, humanity and morality.

    Nguyen's execution won't stop the next 'fool', as earlier executions haven't stop latter ones. Sadly, you seem very keen to see another human being executed.

  9. "Singapore will never bend the rules to accomodate a citizen from a White Man country, that's the fact."

    Sorry to be pedantic, but Singapore did bend the rules for the good old US of A. They reduced the number of strokes for Michael "Cained". Now, that was one b*****d who deserved every stroke of the cain and more! BTW, they did not budge an inch to the Philipines at around that same time, they executed a Philipina maid for murder despite a plea from the Philipine Govt for a stay of execution as they would like to introduce new evidence. So white man ask, OK reduce sentence. Some miserable third world country, haste to execute; too bad if she was innocent.

    I am not a Singaporean too.


  10. Sorry type, I mean "Caned" not "Cained" and "every stroke of the cane" not "every stroke of the cain".


  11. Sad that you are trying to misinform yr readers when it's a fact that John Howard had expressed disppointment that the Bali bombers were not sentenced to death as had been widely reported in the Asutralian press.

    And sad that,no thoughts had been spared for the potential victims of Nguyen's acts who will die slow deaths by being eternally hooked to the white powder.

    The fact is most Aussies support the death sentence. At the time of Barlows & Chambers' hanging in M'sia in '86, 60% of Aussies supported that.

    Perhaps, you could proposed to all potential western (naive) drug smugglers who harbor thoughts of earning a living that way or to help their financially distressed kin to instead rob a bank in the hometowns.

    p/s That American kid is called Michael Fay. Had he been sentenced to death for drug smuggling, he would have been hanged. There had been cases whereby various sentences had been reduced on appeal in Spore but the point is, so far, no death sentence had been commuted. Michael Fay had been caned. He did not escape the rotan.

  12. I am more sad that you have distorted the true facts.

    Please have a look at the British online Guardian (,2763,1013911,00.html), which said on the issue you raised:

    "The Australian prime minister, John Howard, said that Canberra - which usually opposes capital punishment - would not ask the Indonesian government to drop the death penalty."

    I believe that's a hell of a difference between what was actually said and what you alleged.

    In fact, in a treaty signed between Indonesia and Australia in 1999, both countries can refuse to cooperate in a police investigation into crimes which coudl result in the death penalty.

    Australia's opposition to the death penalty is enshrined in section 22(3) of the 1988 Extradition Act. This ensures that the Australian AG may only extradite a prisoner if he won't be executed.

  13. The true facts is that Mr John Howard has shifted his position on the death penalty with regards to the Bali bombers.

    The "Australia Coalition Against The Death Penalty" has said that. You can inform yourself by visiting their website -

    Even the New South Wales Council For Civil Liberties had on their website headlined an article "Australia Changes Its Position On Death Penalty" with regards to the Bali bombers.

    You can again inform yourself by going to their webpage at -

    If I had distorted facts, I suppose that I had only slavishly based my distorted facts as per the distorted facts as provided the above 2 Australian bodies.

    Perhaps, you could check your facts first.

  14. Am also sad and disgusted that you easily chose to leave out the fact that Nguyen's brother, Khoa, (the one that he is trying to so-called help) is also a convicted drug trafficker in Australia.

    BTW, Nguyen said that he did what he did b'cos he was trying to raise money in order to help his brother (that was to help pay his brother's legal fees in Australia).

    If, indeed, Nguyen's story is true, perhaps, Nguyen's sympathizers could pass the hat around and raise the necessary money so that Nguyen's brother can be relieved of his financial limbo!

  15. Anonymous,

    This was what I wrote earlier:
    "The Australian prime minister, John Howard, said that Canberra - which usually opposes capital punishment - would not ask the Indonesian government to drop the death penalty."

    Indeed, there is nothing on those two websites that you recommended that suggested othewise - thank your for the reference.

    Howard said he would NOT OPPOSED Indonesia's death sentence for the Bali bombers as would be the traditional policy of Australia.

    This was what had annoyed those on the 2 websites. They wanted Howard to OPPOSE the death sentence. That is very different from the suggestion that Howard asked/demanded the death sentence for the bombers, or Bashir Ahmad as had been alleged.

    I know you are eager to coopt Howard into your pro capital punishment camp but I haven't seen anything that indicates Howard demanding the death sentence for the Bali bombers who killed a considerable number of Australians, including women and children.

    Seriously, you must be terribly desperate to bring in Nguyen's twin brother into the discussion. The debate is on the need for Singapore to have the 1st World values of humanity, morality and compassion to grant clemency for Nguyen. The debate is not about Nguyen's guilt which has been proven beyond any doubt - in fact Nguyen has admitted he carried the drugs. So I don't see your point of including his brother, no matter what a shitbag he has been or still is.

    Besides (though it's irrelevant since Nguyen has already admitted his guilt), western law to which Singapore subscribes to in general fashion does not permit nor accept arguments of guilt by mere family association.

  16. If it had been mentioned that Nguyen's brother is,indeed, a convicted professional drug trafficker in Australia (something many in Nguyen's camp had conveniently not mentioned), it would, show that Nguyen might not be such a "nice guy" after all.

    For all we know, he & his brother could be into drug trafficking together and had been into it for quite some time. He is not all that goody goody after all.

    As the Silkair plane which he was in prepared for landing, Nguyen would have heard the standard announcement on board whereby the death sentence awaits anyone who brings in illegal drugs into Singapore. Obviously, Nguyen was/is either deaf or plain stupid or perhaps, he thinks he's hell of a smart.

    The point here is that death sentence is the ultimate punishment for anyone found guilty for drug trafficking in Spore. And if one doesn't want to be hung, one should just confine drug smuggling within Australia.

    Should a Singaporean or even a Malaysian who has been convicted of a certain crime in Australia be given a different punishment compared to fellow Australians just because they are not Australians?!

  17. You are missing the point, in fact several points.

    (1) No one claims that Nguyen was not guilty. What his brother is, was or has been is totally irrelevant to his own conviction. He has been found guilty - full stop.

    (2) Your suggestions as to his brother's guilt making him a more terrible person is malicious speculation. I have already pointed out that a man subordinated to universal (or western) law must be judged by evidence, and not by association or speculation.

    (3) No one has asked for an Aussie to be treated differently. What people are asking is for Singapore to abandon the abhorrent death penalty and join the ranks of other 1st World nations in valuing human life, no matter what a shitbag the owner of that life is. That's what a higher civilisation would do.

    (4) Your arguments on Silkair warnings and smuggling within Australia are what they are, argumentative.

  18. Passing the death sentence for trafficking drugs is way too harsh. I feel for that guy. Everyone deserves the right to life and a second chance.

    A jail term & counselling would be a better and more humane way. I have always opposed the death sentence for drug trafficking. Death sentence for murder is debatable.

    To the Anonymous fella :
    1st - Nguyen was desperate to help clear his family's debts, which drove him to take this path for quick and easy money.
    2nd - What has his brother's conviction to do with him ? Let's just say, for example, you have a brother who's guilty of robbery, while you're the goodie kind. Does that make you a potential robber as well?