24 Nov 2005

Afterthoughts as a Singaporean on Ngyuen & the Death Penalty

Come 2nd December, Nguyen Tuong Van, an Australian will be hanged by the Singapore government for drug trafficking.

As an anti-death penalty believer in Singapore (signed online petitions, attended the anti-death penalty vigil for Ngyuen and traced my hands and wrote a message for the reach out campaign, contributed a review for the event, posted it on Singabloodypore, translated related articles from the Australian press into Mandarin and posted it on my personal blog. I even got into a heated argument with my mother who believes that the death penalty is an effective deterrence to drug trafficking and the Singapore government is right to go ahead with the execution. I can only blame it on the local Mandarin media news which she is constantly being fed with)

I am extremely upset that many Singaporeans are either unaware or unconcerned about the issue. I used to be one of them but am no longer bought over by the deceptive logic and twisted reasoning that the government has desperately wanted me to believe in.

The media reports in Australia paints a bleak picture of Singaporeans who have not voiced out against death penalty. Certainly, a proportion of the population is not educated on this issue because of the media blackout.

On the other hand, I believe it shows a certain level of ignorance, apathy, and self-indulgence on the majority of Singaporeans who are ironically Internet savvy and yet refused to do more online research on this life and death threatening topic.

One can debate on why we should remove the death penalty but this is not my intention of the letter because far too many compulsive and well-researched articles and arguments have been written.

Instead, I would be open on what I am going to say here; that this is first and foremost an emotive letter.

I would like to apologise to Ngyuen and his family and friends as a Singaporean for the grave injustice that has been and will be done to him. The acts of the Singapore government does not represent my beliefs and in this particular instance and with regards to death penalty; is definitely incongruent and an abhorrence to what I believe in.

As such, I am ashamed as a Singaporean to see that the government has chosen to go ahead with the execution despite pressure from the Australians, UN and EU.

I am disappointed with the cowed and propagandistic Singapore press which has refused to give balanced coverage of the issue.

I am infuriated at the government that has refused to look at the mitigating circumstances surrounding the case and its stubborn stance on the death penalty.

I am sorry for my fellow citizens who believes in the death penalty and who has refused to see that it contravenes the very basic universal human right to life.

I am regretful that there are Singaporeans who are not educated about the issue; and hope that they would soon show concern and actively seek to repeal the law.

I would like to salute the actions of the Singaporeans, Australians, Activists and concerned individuals who have organized and participated in the information dissemination, anti-death penalty forums, petitions and reach out campaigns to abolish the death penalty or at least try to save the live of Ngyuen

Brought up as a Singaporean, I was told that I should be proud of what my country has achieved over the years despite our size. We have a world class Singapore Airlines; a busy trading port and a clean and beautiful city coupled with an efficient public transport system that will make any nations green with envy.

Unfortunately, I have felt less so as I begin to see her in a clearer light. I have even begun to understand why some has chosen to leave for greener pastures.

This very basic issue of granting a person clemency and his right to life in spite of strong mitigating evidence has exposed what the government is.

Nevertheless, I still hold on to the hope that a miracle will occur. I am optimistic that more Singaporeans will see a clearer picture on this issue and speak out against the death penalty; that we will join our heads, hands and hearts to fight against this form of unjust and barbaric state sanctioned killing.


Eleanor said...

This is a nice opinion piece. Can I in all humility ask Charles whether he thinks that those who are marginalised, or minorities or considered the underdogs in society appear to see things clearer than much of the rest of society? What I am referring to here are the less well-off, the gays, and those who consider themselves social outcasts. A friend of mine who attended the forum for Nguyen remarked that there were a lot of young people there, some he recognised as gay, as he is one too. I can see the emphathy from all these individuals for someone now going through tormet.

Alan said...

I think the simplest and quickest way for any Singaporean to clarify their position on the death penalty is to witness a hanging for themselves.

I don't know how this could be arranged, but from what I'm told, those who have witnessed it, have all withdrawn their support in an instant.

Perhaps, the Government, if it is so confident of the moral rectitude of capital punishment and the unstinting support of us citizens of this policy, should televise the execution of Nguyen.

Then the people can decide as truly informed citizens.

grant said...

this guy was carrying enough dope to potentially kill hundreds of people,obviously you are not a parent.

Anonymous said...

From what alan said, does that mean hanging is not alright but death by injection is?

Think Singaporean said...

Whatever method being used isn't right as it still constitutes "killing".
Media has totally failed to show all Singaporeans a more balance view of everything. I must say I shared the same view with Charles. I truly feel ashamed to be a Singaporean because we have such "unjust and barbaric state sanctioned killing" and authoritative govt. To wear white color has not much significance!

momochan said...

I hear you and understand the sentiments in your post.

Living and working here in Singapore, I meet, hear, interact with Singaporeans everyday and I also hear and (try to)understand why most people feel they way they do.

Most Singaporeans, I feel, fall into these very broad categories:

1. The ones who do not know who Nguyen is or what he represents.

2. The ones who know and do nothing as much as raise it as a conversation topic at lunch, but then cap it off with a " can do nothing about it LAH" . Regardless of whether they are for or against capital punishment, they know that nothing can be done about it, fully aware that individual voices (even in unision) CANNOT be heard in Singapore.

I think the general feeling I get is, Singaporeans don't know, know or can't care; or just don't care in general.
They seem more concerned with the bread and butter issues, and all that COE, HDB upgrading, MRT circle line, entrepreneurship, biopolis, hubbing lifestyle.

A first world country it is not and CANNOT BE when they still hang people. No matter how foreigner friendly they are, how hard they hide behind their smiles, how much dirt they try to sweep under the carpet, they have a long way to go with trying to be the GRACIOUS society they aspire to be.

Singapore will hang Nguyen as planned.
The whole world will be watching.
We will not forget.


Anonymous said...

".....They seem more concerned with the bread and butter issues...."

Yes, it's very sad to know that majority of the Singaporeans are too realistic so much so they begin to lose or they already have lost their control of lives and our senses to the "heartless" people in "white" (and white is supposed to represent purity????) Truly lost for words to express.......