The reason why we’re 140th

The anti-death penalty forum held last week on 7 Nov 05 received scant attention from the local press. And yet, Straits Times journalists continue to take pot-shots at the points made by activists without wanting to report they said.

For example, Mr Alex Au of Yawning Bread provided some very telling statistics to show that there was absolutely no evidence that hanging drug peddlers reduced the amount of illegal drug consumption in a country. For example, while Japan does not hang drug traffickers, its drug abuse prevalence rate was not higher than Singapore’s. Neither are Sweden’s, Finland’s and Mexico’s.

Mr J B Jeyaretnam and Mr M Ravi argued that with the present legal system is not sound enough to prevent innocent people from getting hanged. Mr Ravi added that going by past practices, hanging in Singapore is unconstitutional.

Dr Chee continued to hammer away at the Singapore Government’s political and business dealings in Burma where heroin druglords continue to produce and traffic narcotics with impunity

Dr Anthony Yeo, a well-known and respected counselor, again provided evidence to show that the death penalty is inhumane and argued for its abolition.

Brother Michael Broughton weighed in and presented the Roman Catholic’s standpoint. He informed the audience that the Catholic faith had belatedly renounced the death penalty as a form of punishment. Nevertheless, the faith has made its stand which is that it cannot support the death penalty.

All this was not reported in the local press (see also report below). And yet, our journalists continue to hammer away at those who are opposed to executing smalltime drug traffickers and lambaste them as ill-informed individuals.

Why is the Government afraid of opposing views? Maybe it’s because if the truth were to be revealed and Singaporeans came to think for themselves, its case would collapse. One fantastic reason for controlling the media, isn’t it?

Silence over Nguyen’s hanging

By Jake Lloyd-Smith
November 11, 2005

Singapore’s Prisons Department has drawn a veil of silence over the impending execution of convicted Australian drug trafficker Van Tuong Nguyen.

Today it rebuffed inquiries about how it handles final arrangements for death row inmates.

Its refusal to detail standard practices for executions in the city-state echoed a decision midweek from the Government, which offered no new response to a complaint filed with the UN by local anti-death penalty activists.

The controversial case has also received scant attention in Singapore’s print and broadcast media, which has strong links to the Government and is broadly supportive of its policies.

Nguyen, 25, was arrested carrying almost 400 grams of heroin at Singapore’s Changi airport while in transit from Cambodia to Australia in 2002.

All pleas for clemency have been rejected, and the chances of a reprieve appear very slim.

Nguyen’s lead lawyer in Australia, Lex Lasry, said he expected that Nguyen would be hanged in “three or four weeks”, although activists here had incorrectly feared that he could be put to death as soon as today.

Singapore’s Prisons Department refused to answer today whether death row inmates such as Nguyen were offered a final meal, who attended executions, and how many prisoners remained on death row.

The department can oversee the execution of as many as 50 inmates a year.

Human rights group Amnesty International has said the city-state probably executes more prisoners than any other country worldwide relative to its size.

According to official figures, 340 people were hanged in Singapore between 1991 and 2000.

Nguyen’s case has not received much media coverage locally, and what reporting there has been has sometimes been out of date.

The Straits Times, the main English-language daily, reported on Wednesday about a rare gathering of anti-death penalty activists that happened on Monday. The item was run as a brief.

There has, however, been a handful of letters to the press from both Singaporeans and Australians.

Jonathan Ariel from NSW wrote to the newspaper last month that “countless Australians have disgraced themselves attacking Singapore” over the case.

Writing to Today, a local tabloid, Jacqueline Tan, said this week the Australian’s case was “tragic”, but she did not urge clemency.

A comment piece in today’s edition of The Straits Times offered no debate about the merits of capital punishment, but argued that opponents of the practice needed to defend child killers and terrorists to be consistent and credible.

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