24 Nov 2005

Death Penalty – Morally Bankrupt and Barbaric Form of State Murder

A letter which I submitted to TODAY.

Death Penalty – Morally Bankrupt and Barbaric Form of State Murder

I refer to TODAY’s letters, “Where is the respect for Singapore's laws?” by Siow Jia Rui and “Dr Chee's actions 'a shame'” by Anthony Prakasam who condemns Dr Chee for “speaking and aligning with foreigners to meddle in our local affairs”

While hanging can be constituted as a local matter, it is also a human rights issue that needs to be debated in Singapore. Unfortunately, the local media has chosen to refrain from reporting it altogether except giving official replies and publishing prejudiced propaganda.

None of the local press has given any coverage of the anti-death penalty vigil organized for Ngyuen in Singapore despite an attendance of about 130 and the amount of sizzling debate that the forum has generated.

Is it any wonder that Dr Chee has to resort to communicate his message via foreign media?

Siow Jia Rui mentioned that the death sentence is mandatory and henceforth, Ngyuen deserves no sympathy for his action. That is however not the discussion highlight with regards to Ngyuen’s case. There are strong mitigating circumstances surrounding his case which would have defeated the sentence if it was to be debated in a court that pegs itself to international human rights benchmarks.

Moreover, laws are not cast in stone and they have to be changed if they are proven to be unfair, unjust, invalid, improper punishment to the accused or in this case, breaches the very basic universal human right to life.

When Anthony Prakasam said that Dr Chee lamented on the “death penalty, spoke about Singapore's lack of democratic freedoms and how the coverage of the Nguyen case in Singapore has been minimal (the latter of which is completely bollocks)”; he should try to qualify his above mentioned points; of which are none are true.

With regards to the death penalty and the coverage of the issue by the local media, it is nothing if pathetic. The media blackout is blatantly obvious from the coverage of the death penalty forum in Singapore to EU’s delegation spokesperson on the death penalty during their visit to Singapore and suspected links that the government has with the Burmese drug lords just to list three examples.

It is also well-known that the Singapore authoritarian government has refused to grant its citizens their democratic freedom. A very good example is our freedom to speech, association and assembly that has been constantly denied by the powers to be.

He also mentioned that Dr Chee should fight at home like Low Thia Kiang and Chiam See Thong by being voted into the parliament. Ironically, he does not see that Dr Chee is doing what he said. The man has neither drop out of politics nor went into exile despite the accusations and law suits hurled at him. He has launched a book, Power of Courage this year and can still be seen selling them and the Singapore Democratic party’s newspapers at times in the HDB neighbourhoods. In his book, The Power of Courage, he advocates non-violence which is about regaining power back to its citizens. What he advocates is grassroots activism at its very basic. In short, he is fighting his battles at home; and not through some theoretical or academic armchair discussions but suggesting practical means to disrupt the power held by the authoritarian regime.

It is ironical Anthony mentioned he would never be seen “damaging my country's reputation abroad to effect such change.” It is precisely Dr Chee who has chosen to speak up on Singapore issues that will send a clear message to the international community that there is some dissent despite the repressive situation. Singapore needs more activists and Opposition leaders like Dr Chee who will stand up and voice the fallacies of the current regime.

The international community needs to be aware that Singapore is controlled by an authoritarian government and that there exists concerned Singaporeans fighting the battle at home; willing to make sacrifices for these changes. We need international pressure and citizen support for democracy to take root at home.

Unlike Anthony or Jia Rui, I am of the opposite view.

Singapore, I am truly ashamed of your actions with regards to the death penalty and I regret that some of us has chosen to believe in the government blindly. There is no justification for death penalty as it is a morally bankrupt and barbaric form of state murder that has to be repealed.

Where is the respect for Singapore's laws?
Thursday • November 24, 2005
Letter from Siow Jia Rui

In recent days, the campaign in Australia to prevent the execution of a heroin trafficker in Singapore has intensified.

Amidst the calls in Australia for the government to take the case to the International Court of Justice, Singapore opposition leader Dr Chee Soon Juan has chosen to lend his support in protest against the planned execution.

In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Dr Chee called on Australia to "appeal to other countries, including the United States, to put pressure on Singapore not to carry out its plan to hang Nguyen".

He added that "the international commmunity ... should put a stop to this insanity ... "

In my opinion, his comments are clearly unhelpful and unconstructive.

These comments clearly demonstrate the extent Dr Chee will go to align himself with other Western democracies to undermine Singapore.

Lest Dr Chee is mistaken, the hanging is a purely domestic matter that no other country has a right to interfere in. It is simply letting our law run its course.

Mind you, this was a man caught smuggling almost 400g of heroin. Our laws are very clear as to the consequences for committing such a serious crime.

The disembarkation card clearly states that the death penalty is mandatory for drug offences. Our airport too displays such warnings prominently.

Nguyen knew what he was getting himself into if he were to be caught, yet he deliberately chose to take the risk.

Our laws are applied fairly across the board to Singaporeans and foreigners alike. In this case, our Government has found no grounds for clemency.

Australia's federal opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd accused Singapore of treating Australia "with contempt".

Unfortunately, he fails to realise Australia is the party showing contempt for refusing to recognise Singapore's sovereign right to let our laws run their course.

As a Singaporean, it is shameful of Dr Chee to actively call on other countries to interfere in Singapore's judiciary process.

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.

Dr Chee's actions 'a shame'
His talk about getting the US to pressure Singapore on drugs hanging is ironical
Thursday • November 24, 2005
Letter from Anthony Prakasam

I am a Singaporean student studying in Australia, where the imminent execution of drug courier Nguyen Tuong Van has sparked a frenzy in the Australian media, which has traditionally never been too sympathetic to Singapore.

On Monday evening, Dr Chee Soon Juan appeared on Australian Broadcasting Corporation's (ABC) "Lateline", just about the only decent current affairs programme that comes out of Australia these days.

In typical fashion, he lamented our Government's stance on the death penalty, spoke about Singapore's lack of democratic freedoms and how the coverage of the Nguyen case in Singapore has been minimal (the latter of which is completely bollocks).

I am unsurprised that Dr Chee has to resort to speaking to the foreign media since nobody in Singapore would listen to his typically baseless rhetoric.

In fact, I was surprised ABC and all the News Limited newspapers in Australia referred to Dr Chee as "Singapore's leader of the opposition", considering he does not hold any seat in parliament, nor has he won any election.

Among other things, Dr Chee talked about the need to persuade the United States to pressure Singapore not to execute Van Nguyen.

This is strange, considering that George Bush's state of Texas has executed nearly 400 people since the death penalty was reintroduced in 1978.

Though Dr Chee may complain about the odds against him, whining to the foreign media and damaging our interests overseas do not serve the Singaporean people any good.

Mr Low Thia Kiang and Mr Chiam See Tong have consistently won the support of the electorate despite the odds being heavily stacked against them.

Perhaps Dr Chee would like to take a cue from them on how to win the support of Singaporeans while in opposition.

I have lived in Europe and Australia and am exposed to other cultures and newspapers other than Singaporean ones. Like many other Singaporeans, I am able to get alternative views on the Internet and on international television.

If I want to change the way things in Singapore are done, I will stay in Singapore and brave it out like what Mr Chiam and Mr Low have done.

I will never ever resort to damaging my country's reputation abroad to effect such change.

Dr Chee, I am truly ashamed of your actions and I regret the fact that you have embarrassed our country in front of millions of Australians.

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.


strom said...

I wonder which side of the fence Dr Chee would be coming from if the gov't had decided to abolish capital punishment for all cases long ago.

Would he be ranting from the other fence saying the gov't doesn't care about its citizens in abolishing the deah penalty? You can't really be sure with him. He seems to be awfully flippant.

Anyways, a tangential issue -


Even yours truly had to cringe when I read the following line:

"There will be ratings but we're going to screen films the way they came, and it is opening doors for Singapore. We want everyone to know that this is going to be the next big hub, and this where all the trading can be done and this is where you'll find first time filmmakers with great content,"

Apparently not for Martyn See's. They're not going to have any credibilty as a film hubs if they cherry-picked their screenings.

Sanj said...

The common criticism I've come across in blogs in Oz is that Singaporeans are very bad at dealing with criticism of the government. I guess these two letters are case in point.

I am ashamed at the seige mentality that most Singaporeans are adopting in regards to this issue. The arguments advanced are defensive and petty, and I question if these ripostes stem from true conviction, or are just stubbornly forwarded to win the argument.

Nevermind appeals to notions of justice, proportionality or human rights. It's OUR laws, therefore they MUST BE correct, and damned if we're going to be lectured to by a bunch of foreigners.

Criticism of the policy SHOULD NOT be taken as criticism of Singaporeans or Singapore society. Please do not confuse the issue. And debate with conscience, as mature societies do.