Letters on Nguyen’s execution

December 2, 2005
Singapore Democrats

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I hail from Sydney, Australia, and today saw your leader on television discussing the impending execution of an Australian young man by the Singaporean Government.

Chee Soon Juan is a man who greatly impressed me because he spoke from the heart about the lack of democracy in your country. I am also very impressed by his drive for civil-disobedience as I personally believe that this is the only viable way of forcing governments to change their ways.

ROY BARNES

I am much heartened by the stand taken by the SDP against the now imminent execution of Nguyen Tuong Van. I am deeply concerned at the decision of the Singapore Government to go ahead with the execution.

There do seem to be good grounds for the amelioration of the sentence given reports of Nguyen’s cooperation with the police, but beyond these considerations, there is the very important issue of the role of capital punishment in a modern society.

In pursuing this policy Singapore is, on a per capita basis, executing more people than any other country in the world. Quite apart from any opprobrium that might attach to this fact, there is the question of what this policy achieves. Obviously, it is not a deterrent. To take any reasonable period to judge the efficacy of a public policy by, say 10 or 15 years. Singapore now is executing as many people now as it was 10 or 15 years ago. If this point illustrates anything, it is that capital punishment is simply not a deterrent. Otherwise one would expect a significant decline in the number of executions over those years.

If capital punishment is seen as retribution by society then it is a flawed retribution. Capital punishment is no more that an application of the old Talonic Law – an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth – in other words, it expresses the spirit of vengeance. It admits no possibility of rehabilitation or redemption. It assumes that all these young men who so regularly die are without any worth whatsoever. This is even more the case with the Singapore law making capital punishment mandatory. This, too, removes from the presiding judge any opportunity to, soberly and without pressure, take into account the circumstances of the crime and its perpetrator.

ROY STANNARD

I’m a Singaporean and really feel shameful for you who not only singing anti-PAP rhetoric but worst still, anti-Singapore tune. You have now become the mouth-piece for foreign media to bring shame to your own homeland. A less soothe-sounding word to describe you should be TRAITOR.

To me, your continue accusation of local media being Government-controlled is somewhat baseless and just an excuse for you to become the slave of foreign media especially the Western media championing so-called human rights, freedom of whatever. You name it, they have it. How about your website? Ninety-nine percent of your articles or reproduced foreign articles were anti-PAP/Singapore, don’t you think so?

I dare you publish my message on your website.

SHAME ON YOU

I wish to support your stand against the death sentence imposed by the Singapore Government on Van Tuong. The Australian Government should surely have a say in the sentencing as Mr Van Tuong was attempting to traffic the drugs to Australia and was in the boarding lounge for the departing Qantas flight when he was apprehended. The fact that he cooperated with police and was still given the death penalty does not help the Australian government or the Singapore government to catch the masterminds behind the trafficking or encourage other desperate couriers of drugs to cooperate in future. The sentence is also way out of proportion with the crime and leaves no room for harsher sentences for more major crimes.

AN

December 2, 2005 will be remembered in infamy for the Constitutional Violation by the Singapore Government in its efforts to kill Nguyen Tuong Van and that also extend to violations of natural and universal laws.

I am not writing this because of any axe to grind with the government, but only in the interest of seeing justice done. I am not asking for anything that the PAP government of Singapore had not guaranteed!

On August 9 1965 then prime minister of Singapore Mr Lee Kuan Yew made a declaration to the world: “Proclamation of Singapore”.

This constitutional document was gazetted by Singapore Parliament and was registered together with other documents in the United Nations as the basis of Singapore’s independence. Part of the declaration reads: “Now I LEE KUAN YEW Prime Minister of Singapore, DO HEREBY PROCLAIM AND DECLARE on behalf of the people and the Government of Singapore that as from today the ninth day of August in the year one thousand nine hundred and sixty-five Singapore shall be forever a sovereign democratic and independent nation, founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of her people in a more just and equal society.

(Signed) LEE KUAN YEW Prime Minister of Singapore

Dated the 9th day of August, 1965.”

Yes, the declaration promised that Singapore will ever seek the welfare and happiness of Singaporeans in a more just and equal society that was founded on the principles of justice and liberty.

I still fail to understand on how killing people who traffic drugs ensures that Singapore remains a nation founded on the principles of justice and liberty. Is it justice to kill Nguyen Tuong Van? How would killing Nguyen Tuong Van seek the welfare and happiness of the people of Singapore? Is such a killer Singapore a more just and equal society then it was in August 9 1965?

So much for the rhetoric! Well the Singapore Government could always argue that it was just a promise and a constitutional document that may never be enforced in any supreme court or that no supreme court is obligated to uphold any promise made by any government. But is that not a breach of trust to the entire nation?

SOCRATES

Would your party please get Chee to shut up? Singaporeans, or at least I, don’t need him to be around. He was given the opportunity to establish himself but he failed so please pack up and get out of Singapore since you think this place is not your cup of tea.

We are thinking voters and were educated. We know what is best for us and our families. If we ever look out for an opposition voice to be heard, Chee is definitely not the one.

We will wait for the day a good opposition party to surface and work with the government…so before that please get the hell out of here, Chee. You are not the one! Don’t you understand after so many years! Its not that we are blind is because you are not the one that we should support. Damn it!

A SINGAPOREAN

Dear Editor, The Straits Times

I strenuously object to the claim made by Siow Jia Rui that Dr. Chee Soon Juan is out “to undermine Singapore”. Siow’s arguments refuse to engage with  the wider ethical dimensions of Nguyen’s case and seek instead to characterise the issue as a nationalistic issue of sovereignty. This is jingoism pure and simple – nothing more than a chest-thumping, chauvinistic nationalism.

Siow trots out the usual arguments about choice and intention – Nguyen knew what he was getting himself into. In doing so, Siow fails to allow for how situations of financial duress and the emotional stress that this generates can cause people to act irrationally at moments in their lives. As a mature society, we ought to be giving people second chances, rather than constantly baying for the blood of those who have made mistakes.

Siow is quite mistaken to say that that “our government has found no grounds for clemency”. The case for clemency is plainly apparent in Nguyen’s case – his relative youth, the unlikelihood of recidivism, the fact that he was not on drugs himself but agreed to courier them so as to repay his twin brother’s debts.

The problem here, as the criminal defence lawyer Subhas Anandan has pointed out, is the mandatory nature of the death penalty, which does not permit our judges any room for discretion, and which therefore forces our government into a corner – grant clemency, and it appears vacillating and inconsistent to the masses. Don’t grant clemency, and appear morally monstrous in the eyes of the international community.

In trying to save Nguyen Tuong Van from the gallows, Dr. Chee has taken it upon himself to help Singapore become a more humane and compassionate society. Contrary to Siow’s claim that Dr. Chee is ‘undermining Singapore’, I would assert that he is helping it to rediscover its conscience.

DOMINIC CHUA (The letter was not published.)

As a firm supporter of the SDP may I have the permission to make one observation? I think the response to Gough Whitlam was not entirely fair:

  1. Singapore is a Chinese city and will continue to be. The government has committed to maintaining the 75 % Chinese ratio. Singapore will never have any other mix. With perpetual 75 % Chinese and a perpetual 15 % Malay it not entirely incorrect to call it a Chinese city. The Malays will not be allowed to form the majority. It is not really a multi racial city, since that implies the country itself, or rather the people to decide how many people they want, by how many children each will have.

  2. Port city. It is a port. Second it is a city. Granted it also happens to be a nation. But in reality, it is much smaller than even cities. Port city is not off the mark.

  3. Rogue city. Surely a city that in cold blood kills many of it’s citizens by hanging cannot be other than rouge.

  4. You are a good man. But I think in this, you went off too far. Gough Whitlam is on our side. He is an old man. It serves no purpose to condemn a man who is trying to save Nguyen’s life.

Thanks Dr. Chee. My best regards,

GOPALAN NAIR

I enjoyed reading Dr. Chee’s article in The Australian on Nguyen Tuong Van, and I admire the efforts you have made on Mr. Nguyen’s behalf.

JAKE

While the ruling elitists of Singapore’s tiny Island state is committed to demonstrate that they will not wince from their right to maintain the sovereignty of Singapore, this iron-will is gravely misplaced.

Yes, the rule of law has got to be adhered to, but there are other considerations the PAP rulers have failed to consider. The imminent execution of Nguyen Tuong Van will show the strong headed will of the Singapore ruling elitists, but, however, this lack of compassion will alter Singapore’s image of being a squeaky clean city. Twenty 20 million Australians lawfully beg for some mercy and leniency to spare the life of one foolish young man through their elected representatives, church leaders, and community organisations. Prominent individuals cry out for a drop of mercy. The elitists controlling the lives of a mere of 4 million predominately Chinese is destined to meet the distasteful consequences of a nation of angry Australians.

This is indeed a clash of values between one that has the roots in Asian Confucianism and the other based on the ethos of merciful democratic society. On dawn of 2nd of December the superiority of the ideals of a merciful just society will triumph over that of a misplaced Asian value.

ROBERT CHELLIAH

I just want to thank you and your colleagues for all you’ve done to help Nguyen Van Tuong and his family.

I still have your book “Dare To Change” that I bought from you at Orchard Road MRT on 12/8/1994 which you autographed for me “Share the vision with me”.

Thank you also for being interviewed by John Faine of ABC Australia yesterday. I’ve learnt a lot in recent weeks, including the Myanmar Fund which was very enlightening.

Please do press on the struggle. You courageous people have my admiration and are Singapore’s hope for a better future.

KIN S CHAN

Before I go on, I would like to stress that I am not sent by PAP or any government agency to speak up. I am full-fledged Singaporean, ever ready to defend for our country if called upon against aggressors. This is not a noble act for I am an average Singaporean who unfortunately shares the birth year as you. The irony of it was you were the sole candidate vying with Mr Matthias Yao for MacPherson and I am glad to say that I was one of the many voters to deny you a seat. I remember you lost miserably – 8 out of 10 voted against you. If this is not a waking up call for you then, your utter stupidity in the subsequent election campaign openly challenged Mr Goh Chok Tong and Mr Lee Kuan Yee to answer to our ‘alleged loan of some S$1 billion to Indonesia’ did put paid to your effort to act and talk responsibly. What happened to the lawsuit filed against you, I need not elaborate any further.

I simply cannot tolerate when I read that you are instigating those outside our country to put up a case against our death sentence of an Australia national to the International Court. Do you actually act with a conscience? Or you simply go with the flow where it hurts, never mind against our Singapore as a sovereign nation.

We have zero tolerance for drug trafficking in our country and this is our law from as long as we can remember. In my opinion, only TRAITOR would align with others to fight as our ruling party at the expense of the country. As an opposition, please engage our ruling party on matters concerning our well-being, our economy, our society, our people but not instigating others to ruin the good name of our country.

If you as a Singaporean is not proud of our achievements thus far, never mind PAP or not, I, together with many many more Singaporeans are. Capitalise on your hard-earned doctorate to produce factual evidences to counter the ruling party for the betterment of Singapore. You will have my respect if you respectfully go along this line of approach. If Mr Chiam can do it, Mr Low can do too, why can’t you unless you have ulterior motive? Who knows, you may earn a vote from me one day.

Dr Chee, I strongly urge you to refrain from creating more news (bad if I may say) for yourself and the immediate task for you is to do ‘damage control’ to your own integrity.

Hope I don’t have to see you in the coming election or I may puke at the mere sight of you.

COLLIN NG

I would presume that when the seemingly inevitable happens, with our weak kneed conservative politicians being almost as complicit, that the Singapore Government will no longer expect we in Australia to pussyfoot to the Singaporean sensitivity currently holding us to ransom.

When the seemingly inevitable happens, I hope we can all call the Singapore Government the cruel, uncivilized, bunch of desensitized butchers they really are.

CRAFTEK

Nice to see Dr Chee on Aussie TV. Fortunately, I have the opportunity to analyse Singapore politics from my adopted country that still respect the humans, understand the weakness of humans and the complexity of social issues.

Weaknesses of humans include stupid thing like what Van Nguyen did, or what Siow Jia Rui said (Chee shows he’s out to undermine S’pore, Nov 24, 2005, The Straits Times).

I personally do not like you much, but that does not mean that I will not support you in some of the things you say or do. I think it takes guts to go against the Singapore ruling party and I admire you for that.

Singapore, including that “know-it-all” and “we-know-better” ruling party need people like you, so that the less obedient Singaporeans can hear a different voice and take care of Singapore when that the old man kick the bucket. Politics is a dirty game, so please be careful of the ruffians. I wish you good luck for this festive season and the new year.

JAMES NG

I have never heard of you before to-day,(your opposition party)will be putting you in my “favourites” And may I add I wish your members and leaders in the pursuit of Democracy all the best of luck.

SC

I salute Dr Chee for his courage and brave statements.

DEREK

Take care, Dr Chee. You have our support. I feel that we should have the death penalty but not for drug cases like Nguyen Van. When you speak up for him, you speak up for us too. The government is too much.

C S TAN

I am currently studying in Australia and I want to tell you that I am proud that we have someone at least who dares to go against the PAP. It is not easy but we must try. Otherwise we all die. So please don’t give up and I will contact you when I come back. In the meantime, continue to fight the good fight.

WENDY