21 Nov 2005

Australia's unceasing drug flow

Trick is to stop its citizens bringing drugs into our region and then protesting about tough punishment when they're caught.
By Seah Chiang Nee.
Nov 20, 2005

Unless the trend is reversed, Canberra could one day become a major supplier of drug traffickers for Southeast Asia that even its mandatory death sentence could not stop.

In the same way that Pakistan or Saudi Arabia are considered to be a source to produce Islamic militants to the world.

And heavens forbid if that should happen, Australian leaders would then have a busy time running around persuading the region's governments to go easy on criminals.

More important is the potential friction between Canberra, which bars capital punishment and countries like Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand etc, which have tough lasw against drugs, including mandatory death for trafficking.

Two facts make it a potentially explosive issue if the two sides were to handle it wrongly.

1. Many Australians have little faith in the courts and the administration of justice in Southeast Asia, and

2. They passionately believe that Australians should not be 'humiliated" or punished by developing countries who may be corrupt or inefficient. There is a widespread denial mood, arguing the accused are somehow the victims of circumstances.

Besides, the Canberra government and the people do not regard drug taking or trafficking as seriously as the their counterparts in Southeast Asia.

Explaining Australia's concerns, one Australian wrote:

"A factor contributing to concern about the death penalty in ASEAN is the failure of ASEAN governments to release information about judicial executions carried out in their countries. In several of the countries executions have been carried out in secret. The lack of official statistics means that the true number of executions remains unknown. There is also very little public information about prisoners currently on death row in the majority of the countries."

Ultimately, the problem lies in the rising number of Australians who deal in drugs or use them in the region. They are available and cheap. Some resort to traffic them in Australia or Europe.

One of them, naturalised Australian Nguyen Tuong Van, was caught in Singapore, admitted to the crime and was sentenced to be hanged on Dec 2.

Earlier a group known as the 'Bali Nine' was charged (with three facing death sentence) in Indonesia while two other Australian drug traffickers are on death row in Vietnam.

Other recent cases:

* A Bali court found Australian model Michelle Leslie guilty of using ecstasy and sentenced her to three months jail, a period of custody she has already served.

* Another Australian lady Schapelle Corby is serving a 20-year jail term for drug smuggling.

* Australian mine worker, John Michael Kelly, 45, arrested in East Kalimantan in September for allegedly using methamphetamine could spend the next five years in jail.

* Australian nurse has been arrested after allegedly trying to carry 3.2kg of heroin across the Swiss-Italian border.

* Former school teacher Graham Clifford Payne, 20, Adelaide, was arrested in Medan in August with a pouch full of methaphetamines and could be jailed for 20 years.

* A Sydney man, 30 arrived in Italy from Venezuela reported with 10 km of high-quality cocaine hidden in false bottoms of his luggage. He was arrested while preparing to board a flight to Turkey and faces 20 years in prison

At the moment 11 Australians are languishing in Bali jails on drug charges, yet as an Australian blogger says they are still doing it. He adds:-

"Any Australian who gets arrested in another country on drug related charges now, after the goings on in Indonesia in the past year, would have to be pretty damned stupid, and totally blind to the world happening around them, more specifically, the perils of being a drug-trafficker or user. It's ridiculous for anybody to think that Australian travellers aren't being scrutinised or singled-out by Customs in other countries.."

In a letter to Jakarta Post, Indonesian Y.Saputra said he hoped "the Australian government should do more to prevent its citizens from trafficking drugs to Indonesia".

Other, he added, Australians would continue to remain in jail or face the death sentence.

It will be better for the Aussies to control their drug problems than to keeping quarrelling with their neighbours whenever their drug-traffickers or users are caught.


Andrew said...

the argument is against the death penalty not against punishing drug traffickers. put them in jail, make them serve life, but backwards, ignorant and corrupt governments such as that found in singapore are an affront to democratic values and independent courts. this isn't justice, it's a political travesty.

Ownfate said...

Mr Seah has written an interesting viewpoint. Oz must really be a very quiet place; geographically very distant (being "the a**e end of the world", in Keating's words) that its people and government have to constantly pick fights with other countries just to ensure the world doesn't forget that the country exists. Still, if this approach helps them with their self-esteem, I'm all for it.

meursault said...

those singaporeans who can be bothered are posting items such as this, stiff defences of their death penalty laws. it is an extension of national pride and sovereignity.

most australians are urging their government, which is receptive, to pursue any and all available means to stay the execution, regardless of diplomatic repurcussions. it's a matter of the sanctity of life.

it is a telling difference. it would be useful to reflect on what this reveals about the respective societies.

Ownfate said...

National pride and sovereignty are so important... to Australians, that's why the brouhaha over an AUSTRALIAN facing the gallows on 2 Dec. Otherwise a person of any other nationality facing the same in Singapore would hardly merit a mention in any Australian media outlet. The difference is indeed telling. But one is still glad that this case has been dramatised so much in Oz, as it provides many Australians with an opportunity to be a participant in this unfolding drama. As long as they feel they are doing the right thing and are good and decent people, then we too should be happy for them.

meursault said...

Ownfate, do you expect Australia to create a brouhaha when a Singaporean is at the gallows?

Doesn't it bother you that outpourings of concern do not happen in Singapore when a Singaporean is facing the gallows?

That most people really don't care. Or take a defensive attitude like yours? That they don't question the laws, much less the morality behind the laws? It concerns me....

Ownfate said...

That's a curious interpretation to my posts. But anyway, here's a riposte.

You should answer your own question when you seemingly elevated "the sanctity of life" to a universal precept that crosses national borders, and the colour, religious and cultural divides.

And you seem absolutely adamant that your stand is right and, with your other questions, also appear to either dismiss, or feign ignorance of, the regular surveys that show broad support (in excess of 70%) by Singaporeans for the tough drug laws we have in this land of no more than 680 sq km. Does that show an indifferent attitude by Singaporeans? The attitude is clear and emphatic. But that is the point; because it is clear and emphatic, people on the other side of the divide are either dismayed, floored, loss for words, or prefer to engage in denial, or a combination of all.

Life is precious. But it is also fragile. People make or break their lives (and necks) by the choices they take in life. It isn't as though the judge's words: "You shall hang by the neck until dead," were invented yesterday and are unknown to most people. People both here and abroad know what the deal is. And if a person chooses to still ignore it then he has made a conscious decision that his life isn't worth a dime... In that situation I find the invocation of morality not just misplaced but grotesque.

meursault said...

I cannot think of anything more fundamental than the right to life. I can't see how you might think a culturally relativistic argument is defensible in this instance.

While on the topic of precepts, nothwithstanding precepts of justice such as tempering it with mercy or the rehabilitative function of the criminal justice system, there is the matter of the punishment fitting the crime, as agreed in international covenants. In this instance, that code is grossly transgressed.

With regard to this broad support of the people, is that informed support? One gained through the public debate informed by relevant research into the questionable efficacy of capital punishment as a deterrant and a critical evaluation of policy outcomes? Given Singapore's top-down paternalistic system, I sincerely doubt this; morely likely, a broadly apathetic citizenry provide the expedient responses. And I did not feign ignorance, it's simply that evidence of such support seems to be largely absent.

Furthermore, if indeed capital punishment is an effective deterrent, then why does Singapore continue to hang people in droves? Wouldn't it stand to reason that the number of hangings would drop off? Meanwhile, Australia has effected a two-year heroin drought in major capital cities without the death sentence, and rather through effective law enforcement.

And what is truly grotesque is the Singapore government's gall to hang drug mules while moving forward with investment projects Burma, where the regime is known to be facilitating the international narco-trade. No doubt this stirring defence of sovereignty, in fact merely thinly-veiled chauvinism, justifies these dubious and patently hypocritical practices.

But I suppose there's not much to be gained from labouring these points any further. When you can argue that because of clear signages in the airport and widespread publicity of the death penalty in Singapore, a young man deserves to die for his first mistake, then there's not much I can say to that. If you can, in good faith, divorce the moral implications from a set of laws and defend them by sheer force of will, then there really isn't anything I could say to appeal to your conscience.

Ownfate said...

Noted :)