17 Nov 2005

Singapore PM apologises to Howard

By Saffron Howden, Sandra O'Malley and Shelley Markham
November 17, 2005
SINGAPORE Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has apologised to Prime Minister John Howard for not personally informing him of the date for an Australian man's execution in Singapore.

And the Singapore Government has revealed that the letter it sent to Tuong Van Nguyen's family, informing them of his December 2 execution date, had been delivered a day earlier than planned. An investigation will be held into how this happened.

Mr Howard met Mr Lee today in South Korea and made another unsuccessful appeal for clemency for 25-year-old Nguyen Tuong Van, who is due to face the gallows at Changi prison in Singapore on December 2.

However, he did not learn until after the meeting that the Singapore government had set a date for the hanging.

The news came instead from Nguyen's lawyer in Melbourne, Lex Lasry, who said Nguyen's mother had been advised by letter of when her son would die.

Mr Lee today apologised to Mr Howard, blaming an earlier-than-intended delivery of the letter to Nguyen's family. The letter was meant to be delivered on November 18.

"PM Lee Hsien Loong has apologised to PM John Howard for not informing him of Mr Nguyen Tuong Van's execution date during their meeting this morning," Mr Lee's spokesman Chen Hwai Liang said in a statement tonight.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is there a need to apologise? Such an insecure man! I truly feel ashame to be a Singaporean.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the investigation will reveal that Australia Post wasn't as inefficient as they were expecting. Honestly, it's all a bit incredible isn't it? Just like the news that the PAP isn't homophobic.

pleinelune said...

Of course we all know about that one.

I am really surprised he had the courage to apologise. It is nothing to be ashamed of - saying sorry, and admitting your mistakes actually takes courage. It doesn't mean you are insecure.

Anonymous said...

I agree with pleinelune. It is good that diplomatic niceties are observed. The apology is good.

Anonymous said...

How could you believe that the letter was delivered a day earlier than planned? It was just an excuse not to tell personally as he was not acceding to the plea.

Anonymous said...

Singaporean officials have been quite forthright thus far, and so I don't think not disclosing the date of the execution just because the plea from Howard was not being acceded to was the reason. From the Australian papers, the letter to Ms Nguyen was delivered by courier and not Australia Post, as some have said. This is what happens when you are dealing with geographic distance and 3 countries: 2 people in Korea, a letter sent by courier from Singapore, and the recipient is in Australia. It would have taken quite an effort trying to coordinate that in such a way that observed protocol. It simply would not have been right to inform anyone of the date before the mother (or family members) of the condemned man knew of it first. That is basic protocol observed wherever capital punishment is the norm. That people should make an issue of this slip-up is a bit lame...

frenly said...

I'm impressed by the good sense and reasonableness by most of the people here. Let's put things in perspective please and not make an issue where none exists.

ThaiMiKe said...

My 10 cents i dont personally support the death penalty but the rules are very very clear in Singapore and i'm getting tired of Austalians who have a social security funded out of control drug problem whining about treatment of their death smugglers whether in Singappore or Bali.
Notice too always the inference that these terrible corrupt Asians are planting these big packets of drugs on these sweet innocent Australians. He's guilty, all parties know the rules. Get it done.

wbb said...

Nobody has made any suggestion of corruption in this case, thaimike. What Australians object to is the primeval punishment of death. Whether the victim is Australian or Singaporean, the objection is the same. Your own position, however, is particularly ignoble. You claim to be against execution but then shriek, "Get it done".

So principled.

trueblue said...

I started out being in favour of clemency in this case, but now that more info on it has come to light (including the brother, Khoa's, own drug addiction/problems), and the sanctimoniousness of Australians, I no longer support clemency. The Australian government may be able to browbeat its smaller South Pacific neighbours (including Papua New Guinea) and bend them to its will, but I am glad that though I come from the small state of Singapore, it stands firm and solid against this tide of Aussie hypocrisy and iniquity.

HongKonger said...

Absolutely nonsense - is that kind of apology useful anyway?

Simply disgusting.

Lion_City said...

I note that there is now a call in Australia to boycott Singapore and Singapore businessness. Well, I think that's great. The Aussies are famous for such antics when they do not get their way. In the Schapelle Corby case they demanded their donations back for the Indonesian tsunami relief, now they want to try to intimidate Singapore by calling for an economic boycott. Everytime a single Australian is involved in the drug trade somewhere in Asia, this is how Australians react and behave. I say let them do their worst. Just like the Indonesians, we Singaporeans should tell the Aussies to take their money and leave. That is simply dirty money. And they can start with the University of New South Wales halting its plans for a Singapore campus.

Tommy Koh said...

Two wrongs don't make a right. All this crying out for blood is frankly barbaric and disguting.

Anonymous said...

Our white uniform isn't that white either. Read "Tough on drugs, soft on drug lord" in November postings. We are partly responsible for such action!!

clyde said...

Interesting how the Nguyen case has kick-started a more diverse interest in Singaporean politics amongst their media and campaigners. Apparently they also recognise Singapore has a one-party system and that opposition is literally non-existent, amongst other things. They certainly seem to know more than the average Singaporean now..

In addition to boycotts, I wonder if Singaporean students abroad will face retribution. I haven't heard of any student societies who have campaigned either way. Time to stitch in the Malaysian flag onto your school bagpack!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, they may be one of our bloggers now.

i-cringe said...

Er... it doesn't change the fact that PM Lee knew that a date had been set but chose NOT to tell Howard, does it?

Anonymous said...

Yapp.

Anonymous said...

If he told Howard, then what would he say to him: "Please be sworn to secrecy about this date as really protocol dictates that the family has to know first before anyone else. So, when you leave this room and are questioned by the media, you and your officials please play dumb." Sheeesh. It seems that there are no more arguments for people now, that is why they have to grasp at straws. As predicted, as each hour passes the exaggerations by the activists mount. It will be another 2 weeks of this and some.

i-cringe said...

"Please be sworn to secrecy about this date as really protocol dictates that the family has to know first before anyone else. So, when you leave this room and are questioned by the media, you and your officials please play dumb."

I thought that's the way governments operated?

Maybe next time they should keep the date of the execution secret from the PM too, so he wouldn't be accused of knowing it but 'acting blur' and not telling.

Anonymous said...

i-cringe, you are assuming that Howard had asked about the date... "acting blur' occurs when you are asked specifically about something and claim ignorance.

i-cringe said...

You are right. He didn't ask. There was no way PM Lee could have known Howard wanted to know.

Anonymous said...

Yup, Howard would not have asked whether a date had been fixed, let alone an exact date, because that was not the point of the meeting (which was to make a final plea). SG had already said the decision was irreversible, and so that was about as clear cut as anything. This issue only became an issue when reporters mentioned the date to Howard because they had just heard from the Aussie lawyer. Not once did Howard say that he had asked about a date and was given a negative reply. All he said was that he was disappointed at not being told that a date had been fixed. The disappointment arose at being embarrased that the reporters had just found out first before he did.

Mr Wang Says So said...

All this is irrelevant nonsense. The real question is/was "Will Nguyen live, or will Nguyen die?"

If the answer is decided, then does it really matter that a letter arrived one day late or one day early or whether so-&-so was told one day late or one day earlier or whether so-&-so did or did not apologise to s0-&-so?

Anonymous said...

I'm really proud we're sticking to our stand.

Capital punishment may be a primeval method, and but all this overt bullying by Australia is disgusting.

And please don't accuse us of helping drug lords. Countries like Switzerland benefit from the money banked in by people who have earned money through unethical means. Heard of Swiss accounts? Yet human rights conventions are regularly held in Switzerland.

So you want to save a life? Relax your immigrant laws and make life better for Asians in Australia! Why force them into poverty and blame Singapore for sticking to its very very well-known law? Great way to divert people's attention from the root of the problem. I guess it's easier to shout and rally than address fundamental issues, eh?

Truth said...

anon 9.48pm, I too like you am very proud as a Singaporean that we are sticking to a firm principle. Anglo-Saxon Australians treat their immigrants with such disdain and cruelty (asylum seekers, including kids, are kept behind razor wire in the middle of nowhere and are traumatised until some seek release through suicide); is it any wonder then that there is poverty and ghettoisation among the non-Anglo Saxon immigrants, to say nothing of a complete lack of immersion in mainstream society. I think it is such an appalling eye-opener that after 2 decades in Australia Ms Nguyen (mother of the condemned man) can barely understand English. The lawyer said that when she received the letter about the date of execution, she could only recognise her son's name and prison inmate number. I for one will not take any lectures from Australians. Hooray for our Government! I intend to send a letter to PM Lee to emphasise strongly my total support for his stand. We as Singaporeans will not brook any interference in our internal affairs.

spawn said...

I don't think the Australians will call for a boycott, if an Australian were to be sentenced to death in US though.

Their trying to be bullies

clyde said...

Oh dear, it's starting to reek of intense nationalism here once again. Comparing with Switzerland to justify the Singaporean connection with a major druglord is like saying it's OK to commit a crime because someone else is doing it. Swiss are not hipocrites who execute their drug traffickers at least. And I fail to see the justice in comparing a country with banks providing client privacy with one that has actively invested money into Burma and effectively the drug trade. Singapore is a hipocrisy of a democracy. How's that compared to 'hipocritical' human rights conventions..

A more accurate definition of the word 'diversion' would be the focus on Australian domestic problems from the hanging of Nguyen. Again, this tactless attempt to justify one's own wrong-doings by pointing out another's.

sturdy said...

All manner of threats, from subtle to blatant, are now being issued by certain people in Australia against Singapore. I could not even believe that the usually sensible Opposition Leader Kim Beazley could suggest that diplomatic relations could be impacted. If this is what they are prepared to do to defend a drug trafficker from the gallows, imagine what they would do to prevent one of their many paedophiles being subjected to the lash in an Asian country. I will not be intimidated!

Anonymous said...

Aussies are dirty hypocrites, pure and simple.

Think Singaporean said...

Before we start to point our fingers at others, we should look within us and check whether are we also partly responsible for this social problem.....

Truth wrote:
".....is it any wonder then that there is poverty and ghettoisation among the non-Anglo Saxon immigrants..."

Hello Truth, you seem to have sympathy for the non-Anglo Saxon immigrants for not being well treated by the Aust govt. Then, all the more we should help the poor mother to save his son's life instead of giving her more pain and suffering.

Next, you wrote:
"....to send a letter to PM Lee to emphasise strongly my total support for his stand"

We often said we're protecting our own citizens, therefore, drug traffickers should face a mandatory death penalty. But on the other hand, we also secretly invested huge amount in thousands of billions of dollars with drug lords. So, are you saying it is alright to provide as sources for drug supplies and at the same time, we could execute our own countrymen as well as others, if they commit the crime? What principle is this? Perhaps, our education system ought to include a subject on ethics and humanity, whereby all citizens (incl. govt officials) should attend.

once a proud singaporean said...

I'm just sad, and angry, and don't know what to do with that. How does change happen?

no more sympathy said...

I started with sympathy for Nguyen but now I just cannot. I also see same change in other Singaporeans too. The few who were against hanging have become fewer as there is a strong disgust that outsiders are interfering. Simply counterproductive.

clyde said...

While I have to say the fact that you base a life/death decision on the public opinion of another country is quite disturbing, it really does go back to what Mr Wang mentioned before; That if you don't really know where your moral grounds are, you will face confusion later as circumstances change. Even one purely based on sympathy should not change when Nguyen has done nothing to incite outside "interference"? Where's the logic!

Anonymous said...

It all arised out of egoism that our Sg garmen can't swollen their "so-called principle". As a matter of fact, Aussie may also need to CALM DOWN and REACT MORE SENSIBLY.

clarity said...

clyde, please say what you just said to PM John Howard. He has no problems with the Indon Bali bombers getting death, but he lobbies for Nguyen. Is that moral confusion on the part of Howard? If so, then much of the planet is like him, in a state of moral confusion. The only ones who aren't are the few folks like you, who have a black and white view of the world, and thankfully are few in number.

Anonymous said...

I see some using the word BULLY. It is quite ridiculous to say the Aussies are trying to bully S'pore. All i see are vocal expressions, liberal outpouring of voices against the death penalty and pleas for clemency. Bully? Arm twisting?

I guess S'poreans are so used to being bullied at home that the entire notion of people exercising disapproving voices is alien to them.

Anonymous said...

At one end we have people trying their hardest and using all means possible to save a life, preventing a death that could be prevented. At the other end we appear to have bloodthirsty people seemingly bent on snuffing a life out. Bearing in mind Nguyen is not some Adolf Eichmann or Jack the ripper.

I leave you to decide what kind of society you want to belong in.

Anonymous said...

True, true... and 26,000 doses of heroin are but an inconsequential detail. I'm all for saving lives.

clyde said...

Well Clarity, perhaps you should ask PM John Howard yourself where his moral grounds are. If he supports the death penalty for murderers but not for drug traffickers, then how exactly is that 'moral confusion' on his part? It may not be 100% in line with Amnesty values, but he certainly is not confused.

Much of the people in your state of confusion are those who judge others on sympathy and emotions rather than strong fundamental beliefs. The world is indeed black and white to the person who knows why he is fighting a cause. But you seem to think people remaining in a state of moral confusion is a good thing. Thank goodness there are even fewer of your types!

Anon 9.00 wrote:
True, true... and 26,000 doses of heroin are but an inconsequential detail. I'm all for saving lives."

Let's not go through that discussion..again!

Anonymous said...

I for one hope that cool heads will prevail and that people do not take it out on Singaporeans living in Australia. And, by the way, we are not "accomplices to murder". This kind of demonising of an entire people is quite dismaying.

soci said...

there are a lot of tough talking anonymous commentators here. Constantly signing anonymous doesn't make for a good discussion when there are 18 people titled anonymous. Turns it into a forum for venting your spleen.

so anonymous posting will be temporarily stopped. registering with blogger is free and easy.

Think Singaporean said...

".....to think people remaining in a state of moral confusion is a good thing." - REAL SADISTS!

It is like a mirror reflecting the image of oneself. From my observation, most of the time those who do not POSSESS the good qualities, such as honesty, morality, etc, are usually "BLIND" because they cannot see in others having such qualities and therefore unable to appreciate them. Similarly, if possess the good qualities oneself, will one be able to spot it and appreciate others.

clyde said...

There does seem to be more people now using unique names at least. But it is a bit annoying when trying to communicate with several anons at the same time. If you're too lazy to sign up on Blogger, it's still a very simple courtesy to use your initials or create an entirely fictional alias. In the meantime, I will be missing Strom... mother of all spleen vent-ers!

Anon 10.16, If S'poreans do face retribution in Australia, I think it would be more likely to be blamed on their silence over the subject now. Would it be construed as an acceptance of govt decision to hang Nguyen? What are S'poreans there doing to make their opinions heard? Are they campaigners or defenders? In particular student societies because they probably form the largest collection of Singaporeans there. Or has apathy once again knocked Singapore on the head and possibly be more embarassing than being pro death...

Ownfate said...

How the constant citing of pious religious beliefs and the afterlife, on the one hand, and then in the same breath to engage in vicious name-calling, on the other, can be reconciled, escapes me.