28 Oct 2004

Photo blog

Recently created an online buzznet account where I can post my photos from Singapore.

Its singabloodypore.buzznet.com

Singapore Comes 147th out of 167

There is nothing unique about Singapore and the so called necessary curtailment of freedom of speech, (out of bounds markers). It is part of a trend in the region. When you see the list in full and look at Singapore's bed-fellows you may get a sense of becoming infested with fleas.

Singapore, however, is the only economically developed nation at the bottom end of the scale. But in Singapore the counter argument will be that Singapore is unique because of its diverse ethnic and religious mix and so social unrest must not be allowed to occurr as it would undermine the economic success. But haven't the other countries in South East Asia been undermining press freedom? Why hasn't it led to economic success for the others? To simpistically link the denial of press freedom as a primary cause of economic success, and maintenance of it, is a myth.

Secondly, to announce that Singapore's ethnic diversity is unique is the argument of someone who has never managed to get beyond J.B., Sentosa, Bintan or Batam.

Third Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index

East Asia and Middle East have worst press freedom records

Reporters Without Borders announces its third annual worldwide index of press freedom. Such freedom is threatened most in East Asia (with North Korea at the bottom of the entire list at 167th place, followed by Burma 165th, China 162nd, Vietnam 161st and Laos 153rd) and the Middle East (Saudi Arabia 159th, Iran 158th, Syria 155th, Iraq 148th).

In these countries, an independent media either does not exist or journalists are persecuted and censored on a daily basis. Freedom of information and the safety of journalists are not guaranteed there. Continuing war has made Iraq the most deadly place on earth for journalists in recent years, with 44 killed there since fighting began in March last year.

But there are plenty of other black spots around the world for press freedom. Cuba (in 166th place) is second only to China as the biggest prison for journalists, with 26 in jail (China has 27). Since spring last year, these 26 independent journalists have languished in prison after being given sentences of between 14 and 27 years.

No privately-owned media exist in Turkmenistan (164th) and Eritrea (163rd), whose people can only read, see or listen to government-controlled media dominated by official propaganda.

The greatest press freedom is found in northern Europe (Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Iceland, the Netherlands and Norway), which is a haven of peace for journalists. Of the top 20 countries, only three (New Zealand 9th, Trinidad and Tobago 11th and Canada 18th) are outside Europe.

Other small and often impoverished democracies appear high on the list, such as El Salvador (28th) and Costa Rica (35th) in Central America, along with Cape Verde (38th) and Namibia (42nd) in Africa and Timor-Leste (57th) in Asia.

Reporters Without Borders compiled the index by asking its partner organisations (14 freedom of expression organisations in five continents), its 130 correspondents around the world, as well as journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists, to answer 52 questions to indicate the state of press freedom in 167 countries (others were not included for lack of information).

142 Uzbekistan 52,13
143 Bahrein 52,50
144 Belarus 54,10
145 Djibouti 55,00
146 Bhutan 55,83
147 Singapore 57,00
148 Iraq 58,50
149 Côte d'Ivoire 60,38
150 Pakistan 61,75
151 Bangladesh 62,50
152 Tunisia 62,67
153 Laos 64,33
154 Libya 65,00
155 Syria 67,50
- Zimbabwe 67,50
157 Maldives 69,17
158 Iran 78,30
159 Saudi Arabia 79,17
160 Nepal 84,00
161 Vietnam 86,88
162 China 92,33
163 Eritrea 93,25
164 Turkmenistan 99,83
165 Burma 103,63
166 Cuba 106,83
167 North Korea 107,50

27 Oct 2004

Singaporean Resistance Literature: Themes and Writers

(Singapore Studies)
Given the political climate of control and the social ethos of money-making as the most respectable profession, one will be hard-pressed to find a literary tradition, mush less a resistance literary tradition. There are, however, a handful of writers in Singapore – Haresh Sharma, Alfian Sa’at and Kuo Pao Kun - whose works do not just reflect on the social and political realities but also the people who are marginalised by the Singapore success paradigm.

Tuesday, 19 October 2004

by Wong Souk Yee

Haresh Sharma has written over 30 full-length and short plays, many of which deal with the pressures of growing up, school, working life, getting married, being trapped, being pushed to the edge of society. Lanterns Never Go Out shows a competitive education hothouse that drives both parents and children to the edge of neurosis, taking away the important role of play from their childhood. Still Building uses the motif of buildings to represent the paradox of progress and entrapment. In Off Centre Sharma writes about the people who are of little consequence to the fast and savvy Singaporean society – the VITBs (Vocational Industrial Training Board), the “N” levels (students in secondary schools who are streamed into a non-academic course of study), the hawkers and mainly, the mentally ill.

Alfian Sa’at’s poems and short stories evoke a disturbing sense of social injustice, and I would consider many of his works to be pissed-off or protest poetry. In a country that criminalises the homosexual act, Sa’at writes about the moral and emotional dilemmas of same-sex relationships, casual gay sex in public places and police raids of gay hangouts. The arrogance of the ethnic-Chinese-dominated PAP, specifically Lee Kuan Yew, towards their Malay neighbours, Indonesia and Malaysia, and their insensitivity and outright insult of their own ethnic-Malay citizens are also a frequent theme in Sa’at’s work. Most importantly, in his poem “Mr. Chia Sits in His Dark Cell” Sa’at protests against the political oppression in the island state. The eponym, Chia Thye Poh, was an opposition parliamentarian at the time of his arrest and was detained without trial under the Internal Security Act for 32 years. Chia and the destruction of political opponents by the ruling juggernauts is a rarefied theme in the literary scene in Singapore.

From the 24 plays Kuo Pao Kun has written in his lifetime, I have chosen Mama Looking for Her Cat (1988) for an extended discussion in this essay. This play, like many of his other works, has become a classic in the Singapore literary consciousness. Most of all, the text exhibits characteristics that run counter to the discourse of nationalism and thus lend itself to a theorisation of Singaporean resistance literature.

Resistance to the nationalist discourse can be seen in the play through the characters’ refusal to be incorporated into the language discourse which, this essay argues, discriminates against the ethnic minorities and older Chinese who speak only Chinese dialects. In the play, Mama would only speak Hokkien even though it is a dying language soon to be eliminated by English and Mandarin. Despite being marginalised by her linguistic “impotence”, Mama resists being absorbed by the language discourse by asserting her cultural difference/otherness through the speaking of only Hokkien.

The government’s policies on multiracialism and bilingualism, a cornerstone of nation building, is based on the concept of the inviolable traditions and identity of the origin of each race. One of the effects of these official policies is the reduction of the cultures and identities available to Singaporeans to three politically constructed groups of Chinese, Malays and Indians. That is, our culture and identity are defined by our race and if we are lazy and stupid, it is because of our race and our racial culture. Kuo Pao Kun stands this logic on its head with the breakthrough in communication between Mama and the Indian man in the play, each understanding the other better than their own children, who chase away their cats, can understand them. Instead of being constrained by their “essentialist” ethnic difference, the two have been liberated by and share a range of human culture, such as loving cats, friendship and of growing old. They share the predicament of having their cats chased out by their children, a metaphor for the chasm between age and youth, cemented by official language policies. Their commiseration and solidarity with each other challenges the notion that culture and identity are defined solely by race and language.

The form of resistance I have identified in Mama Looking for Her Cat is not any radical call to action for an alternative society nor is the writer part of a national movement to change the existing hegemonic order in Singapore. Because of the social and political conditions, there is not yet a national movement in Singapore that challenges the power structures of domination. What I hope to have shown is that literature offers activists and detractors of government policy an effective form of cultural work in which critical or resistance narratives can be constructed. Further, as part of the wider discursive field, literature is a means for readers to interrogate and resist government discourse through a practice of critical reading.

Although both writers and readers/audiences do not form a united counter-force to bring about any fundamental reform, they are nevertheless able to destabilise what Gramsci calls the “common sense” mentality in society and transform power relations within the existing order. In this quieter but arguably more thoughtful manner, resistance literature does complement the more vocal but fledgling reform groups in Singapore, such as the opposition political parties and a handful of non-government organisations, to contribute to social change.

Singapore, a ‘Disneyland with the death penalty’ ?

Asia News, Singapore: The American science fiction writer, Mr William Gibson once described Singapore as ‘Disneyland with the death penalty’.

Recent developments underscore the point.

Last week a 24-year-old Australian man of Vietnamese origin lost an appeal to escape the gallows, rights group Amnesty International challenged the city-state to disclose its execution rate, and the high court will soon decide whether to hang 3 people caught in a high-society drug ring in Singapore.

“The government is really not softening up when it comes to drug crimes or on executions,” said Mr Chua Beng Huat, a sociology professor at National University of Singapore who has written several books on Singapore’s politics.

Though Singapore is loosening social controls -easing censorship rules, allowing greater freedom of speech and championing a more open society - it is maintaining a hard line on crime and executions.

Amnesty, which seeks a worldwide ban on state executions, says Singapore’s death row is shrouded in secrecy. In the country itself, there is little public debate about the issue and even less information on how the process is carried out.

In the pre-dawn hours of any Friday, someone could be on their way to the gallows at Changi prison. No one knows for sure.

Amnesty says about 400 people have been hanged in Singapore since 1991, most for drug trafficking. This adds up to possibly the highest execution rate in the world relative to the island’s 4.2 million population.

Singapore wants to shatter the secretive image of its death row and insists there is nothing to hide.

It released a barrage of data in February to counter an Amnesty report, denying most of those hanged were foreigners from poorer countries and backing this up with data showing 64 per cent of those executed from 1993 to 2003 were Singaporeans.

“The Singapore government has in place a tough but transparent law and order system for the safety and security of its citizens, residents and those who visit,” Mr Freddy Hong, a home affairs spokeswoman, told Reuters.

Information on executions is not regularly published, and even Singapore’s former premier, Mr Goh Chok Tong said he did not know how many people were hung when queried in a BBC interview in September last year, putting the figure for that year at 70-80.

His office later said the actual number at the time was 10.

“We have actually stopped debating this particular policy. The pressure for more disclosure comes from international organisations. The local community is quite neutral on this issue,” said Mr Ho Khai Leong, a professor at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Singapore, ruled by the People’s Action Party for four decades, is often described as having a theme-park feel because of its tidy streets, orderly living and low crime rates.

It has had capital punishment for murder since its days as a British colony.

Those found guilty of kidnapping, treason and certain firearm offences may also face the gallows, although rights activists say 70 per cent of hangings are for drug offences.

Amnesty data shows that from 1994 to 1999, an average of 13.6 executions were carried out per million people, three times higher than the next country on the list, Saudi Arabia.

A day after Amnesty challenged Singapore last Tuesday to disclose the total number of executions this year, the government divulged for the first time that 6 people had been hanged from January to September and 19 for the whole of 2003.

Requests by Reuters for these statistics had been turned down before Amnesty’s statement.

“This is a step forward, but the government should disclose a lot more than the bare number of executions,” Amnesty’s UK-based south-east Asian researcher, Mr Tim Parritt told Reuters.

From 1991-2003, an average of 32 people were hanged a year, according to a combination of Amnesty and government data. Last year’s 19 executions would be the lowest in 6 years.

“We call for a full breakdown - year by year - to illuminate to what extent the death penalty may be falling disproportionately on more vulnerable sections of society - whether by reason of the nationality, educational or professional background, socio-economic status etc,” Mr Parritt added.

The public generally supports Singapore’s tough laws - including the death penalty, bans on pornography and curbs on political dissent - as part of a social contract that in return has delivered years of economic prosperity.


The death penalty as society's loss

The following editorial is from SMH.

October 25, 2004

The death penalty arouses the rawest human emotion. It has been out of favour with Australian governments - but not all politicians and certainly not all Australians - since Ronald Ryan was hanged at Melbourne's Pentridge Prison 37 years ago, but remains a penalty of choice in many countries.

It is a punishment advocated largely in terms of black and white, good versus evil, an eye for an eye, deterrence over compassion. This is despite the highly questionable deterrence value of capital punishment and despite its zero capacity for undoing errors of judgement against individuals convicted of heinous crimes they did not commit. In these latter cases, execution is not just a sin against innocent individuals but a crime against society itself. More broadly, capital punishment is a victory of pessimism over optimism where the most dogmatic form of retribution sweeps away all consideration of reformation, where an individual life is so disposable that society might rightly ponder its own worth.

The issue is back on the Australian agenda not because of any immediate prospect of capital punishment's reinstatement here but because one of our own - Nguyen Tuong Van, a 24-year-old salesman from Melbourne - is left with one slim hope of avoiding execution in Singapore, where he was arrested two years ago on heroin smuggling charges. Nguyen, who came to Australia as a refugee, was in transit at Singapore's Changi Airport, en route from Indochina to Australia. He allegedly told authorities he was carrying 396.2 grams of heroin on instruction from a Sydney-based crime syndicate to repay the legal debt of his twin brother, who had been arrested in Australia on drug and affray charges. This explanation is presumably what Australia's High Commissioner to Singapore, Gary Quinlan, refers to as the "very specific compassionate and humanitarian circumstances" that will form the basis of an appeal for clemency to Singapore's President, S.R. Nathan, now Nguyen has lost his last court opportunity to have the conviction and death penalty overturned.

The chances of clemency are remote, indeed. Amnesty International thinks the Singapore Government has hanged about 400 people since 1991, mostly for drug trafficking. Clemency has been granted on just six occasions. Singapore has always insisted it would not yield to imposition of what it regards as soft Western standards.

Australia has a sound relationship with Singapore and the Australian Government prudently has adopted a softly, softly approach in the Nguyen matter for fear that stridency will only stiffen Singaporean resolve. The issue is not whether Nguyen should be punished for his crime but whether the punishment is proportionate to his wrongdoing.

Leo Tolstoy, who saw much horror in his life, never overcame the emotional pain of witnessing a French execution by guillotine. He recalled, "There is no reasoning will, but a paroxysm of human passion." The execution, he said, was marked by "coolness to the point of refinement, homicide-with-comfort, nothing big". And that's the point. No society grows from its inhumanity; it just diminishes.

23 Oct 2004

Amnesty, Australia ask Singapore

Agence France Presse
October 21, 2004

HUMAN rights group Amnesty International and the Australian government urged Singapore Thursday, Oct 21, to spare the life of an Australian man sentenced to hang for heroin trafficking.

Amnesty, a strong critic of the death penalty system in Singapore, urged the city state -- said to have the world's highest number of executions relative to its population -- to grant clemency to Nguyen Tuong Van.

Singapore's highest court on Wednesday rejected Nguyen's appeal to set aside his conviction and sentence. Only a rare clemency from Singapore's President Sellapan Ramanathan. Nathan could spare him from the gallows, the only form of execution here.

The 24-year-old ethnic Vietnamese from Melbourne will be the first Australian citizen to be executed in Singapore if he fails to get his sentence commuted to a prison term.

"Clearly Amnesty International is dismayed that the appeal has been turned down," Tim Goodwin, spokesman for Amnesty International Australia, told AFP by telephone. "We are calling on the Singapore government to grant clemency."

In Australia, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Thursday the government would appeal directly to Singapore's president to spare Nguyen's life.

Downer said while he accepted the court's decision that Nguyen was guilty, Australia opposed capital punishment.

"It's now just a question of the sentence, and we hope that, by appealing to the president of Singapore, that it will be possible to get clemency granted and, as a result, Mr Nguyen serve an appropriate custodial sentence in Singapore," Downer said in a radio interview.

"We think that to execute him would be simply too severe," Downer said.

Downer acknowledged that the request for presidential clemency was a long shot, as Singapore has granted only six appeals in the past 25 years.

"It is an outside chance ... but we'll just do what we can," he said.

Amnesty in a report last January singled out Singapore for executing more people than any country per capita and renewed calls for it to abolish the death penalty.

It said more than 400 convicts, many of them foreign migrant workers, were executed in Singapore, which has just over four million people, from 1991 to October 2003.

Nguyen was arrested at Singapore's Changi airport while in transit from Cambodia to Australia in December 2002 and convicted for smuggling almost 400 grams (14 ounces) of heroin.

Singapore made the death penalty mandatory for drug traffickers and murderers in 1975. Anyone caught with more than 15 grams of heroin in Singapore is assumed to be importing or trafficking the drug.

In its ruling Wednesday rejecting Nguyen's appeal to set aside his conviction, Singapore's Court of Appeal said the death penalty was constitutional and hanging did not amount to cruel and inhuman punishment.

"It was clear that he wanted to earn money by transporting drugs," the ruling said. "He flew to Phnom Penh, where members of a drug syndicate provided him with the heroin for transportation via Singapore."

21 Oct 2004

The Case Against The Death Penalty

Copied below is an extract of a document located in full here.

Hugo Adam Bedau

o Capital punishment is cruel and unusual. It is a relic of the earliest days of penology, when slavery, branding, and other corporal punishments were commonplace. Like those other barbaric practices, executions have no place in a civilized society.

o Opposition to the death penalty does not arise from misplaced sympathy for convicted murderers. On the contrary, murder demonstrates a lack of respect for human life. For this very reason, murder is abhorrent, and any policy of state-authorized killings is immoral.

o Capital punishment denies due process of law. Its imposition is arbitrary and irrevocable. It forever deprives an individual of benefits of new evidence or new law that might warrant the reversal of a conviction or the setting aside of a death sentence.

o The death penalty violates the constitutional guarantee of the equal protection of the laws. It is applied randomly at best and discriminatorily at worst. It is imposed disproportionately upon those whose victims are white, on offenders who are people of color, and on those who are themselves poor and uneducated.

o The defects in death-penalty laws, conceded by the Supreme Court in the early 1970s, have not been appreciably altered by the shift from unfettered discretion to "guided discretion." These changes in death sentencing have proved to be largely cosmetic. They merely mask the impermissible arbitrariness of a process that results in an execution.

o Executions give society the unmistakable message that human life no longer deserves respect when it is useful to take it and that homicide is legitimate when deemed justified by pragmatic concerns.

o Reliance on the death penalty obscures the true causes of crime and distracts attention from the social measures that effectively contribute to its control. Politicians who preach the desirability of executions as a weapon of crime control deceive the public and mask their own failure to support anti-crime measures that will really work.

o Capital punishment wastes resources. It squanders the time and energy of courts, prosecuting attorneys, defense counsel, juries, and courtroom and correctional personnel. It unduly burdens the system of criminal justice, and it is therefore counterproductive as an instrument for society's control of violent crime. It epitomizes the tragic inefficacy and brutality of the resort to violence rather than reason for the solution ofdifficult social problems.

o A decent and humane society does not deliberately kill human beings. An execution is a dramatic, public spectacle of official, violent homicide that teaches the permissibility of killing people to solve social problems -- the worst possible example to set for society. In this century, governments have too often attempted to justify their lethal fury by the benefits such killing would bring to the rest Or society. The bloodshed is real and deeply destructive of the common decency of the community; the benefits are illusory.

Two conclusions buttress our entire case: Capital punishment does not deter crime, and the death penalty is uncivilized in theory and unfair and inequitable in practice.

An Australian faces Singapore's gallows

The Age

October 21, 2004

The death penalty is unconscionable, no matter what the crime.

Nguyen Tuong Van is a foolish young man. He took an extraordinary risk in an attempt to repay a drug-related debt incurred by his twin brother. He will now, most likely, pay for that debt with his life. Singapore's Court of Appeal yesterday rejected an appeal against a mandatory death sentence imposed on Nguyen in March for drug trafficking. In December 2002, the 24-year-old Melbourne man was arrested as he attempted to pass through Changi Airport en route from Cambodia to Australia. Strapped to his body and concealed in his luggage was 396 grams of heroin. The death penalty has been mandatory in Singapore since 1975 for anyone found with more than 15 grams of the drug. Execution is by hanging and Nguyen could earn the unenviable distinction of becoming the first Australian citizen to be executed in the island nation. His only hope now is a plea for clemency to Singapore President S. R. Nathan. Clemency is rarely granted in a country that has executed more than 400 people since 1991. Most of those hanged have been drug traffickers. The Singaporean Government does not publish statistics about death sentences or executions. It is not known how many prisoners are on death row. What is known is that Singapore has one of the highest per capita execution rates in the world, surpassing even China, which is responsible for about 85 per cent of the world's judicial executions.

In Australia, the death penalty was finally abolished when Western Australia removed it from the statute books in 1984. The last person to be executed in this country was Ronald Ryan, hanged at Pentridge Prison in 1967, although other Australians have since been executed overseas. There is little evidence to suggest that a continuation or resumption of the death penalty would in any way have acted as a deterrent against serious crimes in Australia. The homicide rate nationwide remains relatively stable. The Singaporean experience has been that capital punishment has scarcely had an impact on drug trafficking. In Texas, the United States jurisdiction in which more executions are carried out than any other, there has actually been an increase in the number of homicides in recent years.

There have been flashes of ambivalence in the attitude of Australians to capital punishment in recent years. Outrages such as the Bali bombings have served to refocus public attention on the issue. But the lesson of the abolition debates in Australia last century was clear: taking one life for even the most heinous of crimes in no way upholds or protects the value of all human life. The Age remains opposed to the death penalty, both here and overseas. The Australian Government has already made entreaties on Nguyen's behalf. It must continue to remind Singapore that judicial executions are an unconscionable violation of human rights that no truly civilised nation ought to condone.

20 Oct 2004

Opposition parties and new media: trends in the West and elsewhere

It is broadly accepted that the arrival of the Internet and other new ICTs in the mid-1990s has offered opposition parties worldwide a range of new communications opportunities. But it raises the question whether the arrival of new technology indeed levels the playing field by allowing opposition parties to bypass traditional media (where major parties dominate) and promote themselves via the WWW.

Thursday, 07 October 2004

by James Gomez

Opposition parties that previously received little or no coverage in the traditional media now have a platform from which to reach a much larger audience. The relatively low cost of the Internet and the ease with which content can be produced and uploaded for dissemination allows opposition parties these days to have as sophisticated a site as the ruling parties.

The Internet is said to have the ability to undermine undemocratic and authoritarian regimes, since such regimes find it extremely difficult to control the information flow via the Internet unlike the ability to control traditional media such as newspapers, radio and television. There is also emerging evidence that the Internet allows opposition movements to authoritarian regimes to set up websites outside state boundaries to avoid censorship and to also upload information anonymously.

Early evidence from the US suggests that a number of small parties have indeed benefited from the Internet in terms of mobilisation and organisation. For instance in the US until 1995, minor parties were ahead of the Democrats and Republicans in utilising the Internet for political mobilisation and communication. Some researchers however argue that minor political parties’ uses of the Internet did not impact political outcomes in the US and as time went on major parties became dominant in cyberspace.

In the UK early evidence also suggested that minor parties were levelling the communications field when it comes to inter-party competition. But further comparative research with developments in the US show that increasingly even in the UK the sites of major parties are more prominent and sophisticated than those of minor parties.

Collectively, preliminary studies in the US and the UK tend to conclude that the major parties dominate cyberspace as they do traditional media. This is because in these two countries the media laws tend to be open and largely operate in a liberal democratic environment. Hence major parties could quickly establish their hegemony in cyberspace just like they did in the realm of traditional media.

However the evidence is mixed if move away from these two countries and we look at other European examples. In the Italian case it was confirmed that for small parties such as the Greens, the Internet levels the playing field in party competition. Based on a comparative study of 15 European Union states another researcher confirmed that the party websites strengthened communication pluralism and widened information available about minor and fringe parties. Further south, in one study of several southern European parties, the researcher concluded that the differences in party systems, ideology and electoral systems ensure technology’s potential to encourage party competition.

Further a field in Mexico the evidence suggests that institutional changes in the country allowed political parties to use the Internet and contribute to inter party competition and the higher visibility of the opposition parties. Other evidence from Russian and the Ukraine also points to the fact that the Internet offers minor parties a more equal basis on which to compete with major parties.

In Asia the evidence from countries such as Cambodia show that opposition political parties or movements have actually been able to make political gains by using the Internet. In Japan, while opposition and new parties looked favourably on the use of the Internet, election campaign regulations prevented them from fully utilising the medium. However, they circumvented the restriction by distributing email bulletins to subscribed members throughout the official campaign period. Smaller parties in particular have called for revision of existing legislation to make the use of the Internet more enabling for political parties.

Overall, evidence seems to suggest that in newly democratised countries and in some authoritarian regimes, the Internet can have an impact on inter-party competition and can be useful in posing a challenge to one-party states. And minor parties and parties in opposition generally place a high premium on the use of the Internet to get their message across.

Even if minor or opposition parties have managed to get a higher profile, it remains to be seen if this is politically effective. For instance, there is the problem that some of the smaller parties may not have the resources to update information and modernise their equipment. Other issues include an aversion to the use of technology by older party members as well as the risk of running afoul of strict rules of censorship and sanctions while using the Internet.

These are some of the issues that we need to consider in discussions about the Internet and political parties.

James Gomez

19 Oct 2004

highest number of per capita executions in the world

Coments by Mellanie Hewlitt:
The twisted logic of Singapore's judiciary is mind boggling. In a separate case, the death penalty was not imposed on soldiers who held a trainee's head underwater resulting directly in the trainee's death.

However mere possesion of drugs warrants a death penalty whilst pre-meditated murder invokes a lesser sentence (in a military court). Such is the twisted logic which governs Singapore's compliant courts.


Mon Oct 18, 2004 11:04 PM ET

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Rights group Amnesty challenged Singapore Tuesday to disclose the total number of executions this year, saying the wealthy island has put more people to death since 1991 than any other country on a per capita basis.

"In the absence of full disclosure of official statistics, the organization remains concerned that Singapore may continue to have the highest number of per capita executions in the world," Amnesty International Southeast Asian official Tim Parritt said.

Amnesty's call comes a day before Singapore's Court of Appeal rules on the case of 24-year-old Australian Nguyen Tuong Van, an ethnic Vietnamese man found guilty in March of smuggling 14 ounces of heroin and sentenced to death.

About 400 people have been hanged in Singapore since 1991, mostly for drug trafficking, giving the Southeast Asian island of 4.2 million people possibly the highest execution rate in the world relative to its population, Amnesty said.

Singapore's drug laws are among the world's harshest. Anyone aged 18 or over convicted of carrying more than 15 grammes of heroin faces mandatory execution by hanging.

Nguyen's lawyers appealed the verdict and the London-based human rights group said it would seek clemency from Singapore President S.R. Nathan if the death sentence is upheld.

Amnesty said in January that executions in Singapore were "shockingly high" and "shrouded in secrecy," calling on the state to abolish the death penality by issuing a moratorium on all executions and commuting all death sentences to prison terms.

Singapore's government said it imposed capital punishment "only for the most serious crimes," that the death penalty deterred major drug syndicates establishing themselves in Singapore and that Singapore applied standards of transparency.

Although prison officials confirmed last year that about 400 people had been executed since 1991, government officials declined requests by Reuters to specify how many people have been sent to the gallows this year.

"There is this climate of secrecy," Parritt told Reuters by telephone from London. "It's shrouded with half-disclosure, and that continues. We believe this should be out in full public debate."

Nguyen was arrested at Singapore's airport in December 2002 while in transit from Cambodia to Melbourne. A policewoman discovered a package of heroin taped to his back during a pre-flight security check, and another in his hand luggage.

He said had carried the drugs for a Sydney-based drug syndicate to pay off legal fees owed by his twin brother.

© Reuters 2004. All Rights Reserved.