8 Nov 2005

Solidarity Vigil – No To Death Penalty Draws Crowd of 130

Solidarity Vigil – No To Death Penalty which took place in Hotel Asia on 7 November attracted approximately 130 people. The forum which started at 7pm and lasted for two and a half hours touched on the various perspectives and issues concerning the death penalty in Singapore.

The first speaker, Alex Au, gay activist and social commentator, spoke about the lack of conclusive evidence on the relationship between death penalty and deterrence. He added that some pro-death penalty Singaporeans reactions’ towards death penalty criticisms leaned towards illogical petty nationalism – the argument that Singapore is unique and that we do not need outsiders to tell us what we should do.

Mr J.B Jeyeratnam, veteran lawyer and Opposition politician, focused on the trial and investigation process in Singapore. He raised the question of the timeframe given to a defendant before given access to legal counsel; as well as the situation in which police statements are being made. He suggested the possibility of returning to jury trials which will make citizens responsible administrators to the justice system.

Opposition Politician and Secretary General of Singapore Democratic Party, Dr Chee Soon Juan, took over the stage by questioning the PAP government’s involvement with the Burmese military drug lords. He urged the local media to investigate stories on the Government Investment Corporation’s (GIC) investments on these Burmese businesses. He ended his speech by motivating the participants to confront their fears, network and build solidarity in the anti-death penalty movement.

Human rights Lawyer, M Ravi, took to the stage and criticized the Singapore and Australia government for serious miscarriage of justice done to Ngyuen under the constitution of both countries. He highlighted the conflict of interest inherent in the plea for clemency system since the President acts on the advice of the attorney general, the prosecutor. He also urged the Howard government to lodge a complaint to the International Court of Justice against the Singapore Judiciary. The results of the International Court has a binding effect on Singapore since it is a signatory to the Declaration of Human Rights.

Anthony Yeo, Clinical Director of Counselling and Care Centre, talked about the harrowing effects it has on close families of those sentenced to death while Brother Michael Broughton, a member of the Council of Interreligious Organization provided an insight on how the Catholic Church is reluctant on speaking out against the death penalty.

The last speaker is Madam Letchumi Murugesu, Mother of Shanmugam. She broke down in the middle of her speech as she related her personal story of the execution of her son, in which a similar forum had been held this year to campaign against his death sentence.

After a robust question and answer section, the forum ended with the Reach Out Campaign and a one minute silence vigil.

Reach Out Campaign encourages its supporters to write words of blessings and encouragement with a tracing of their hand on a piece of paper. They can deliver it directly to Ngyuen by faxing to: Condemned Prisoner C856 Nguyen Tuong Van, Fax: 65469208 or mailing to: Condemned Prisoner C856 Nguyen Tuong Van, Cluster Registry, Changi Prison, 982 Upper Changi Road, Singapore 507709. You can also show your support by signing an online petition at www.stophanging.com

Other related links:

Think Centre – Solidarity Vigil: No to Death Penalty

Yawning Bread – Stop Hanging People - Arguments Against the Death Penalty

Charles Tan, Channel News Asia - Shouldn’t jury trials make for a comeback – Arguments for a jury system

M Ravi, published in SDP website - Lawyer Calls for Campaign to Stop Execution of Australian

Jacob George's blog, Omeka Na Huria, which is closely tracking developments concerning the appeal for Van's life

Network Against Prohibition (Australia)

Amnesty International Australia


Anonymous said...

I was initially very sympathetic to this case but now I do not know where I stand, simply because more information has come to light over the past week that has changed my perception of this entire case. What is material are the following:
1. I now realise why Van Nguyen's twin brother has not been seen in public. He has drug-related problems of his own. That one twin did not learn from the errors of another does boggle the mind.
2. From news reports it seems that Van had debts of his own to repay, and his attempt to smuggle heroin into Australia, via Singapore, was not simply just to pay off his twin's legal and other expenses/debts (though I would understand if an accused, and now condemned, man argued that his actions were purely altruistic - to help someone else).
3. I had previously asked in another article posted on this blog whether Van's mother was aware that her son was about to travel overseas to engage in an illegal and risky venture, as it was reported that the "family" had been threatened by the drug kingpins. To date I've not received any answer...
4. I think that the anti-death penalty proponents need to focus on the specifics of this case (what makes it different from others that allow for clemency) to convince the sceptics. Instead, a lot points not germane to this case have been made by the anti-death penalty proponents. One point, interesting though it maybe, is that drug barons regularly use a number of decoys to ensure that at least one courier gets through to his destination. What evidence is there that such a tactic was employed in this instance? It seems unlikely that someone carrying 396 grams of heroin was a decoy.
5. And finally, and relatedly, the whole issue is put into stark relief when one now realises that 396 grams is equivalent to more than 26,000 doses for drug addicts... sigh...

Notwithstanding the above, I think that because of Van's age, that clemency should still be granted, and his sentence commuted to life in imprisonment. A very sad and tragic case indeed.

Think Singaporean said...

In addition to the aforesaid comments, "the impending execution............breach Singapore's constitution and would be a serious miscarriage of justice" to be addressed as the main focus for a fair and justified case based on moral grounds.

Beach-yi said...

I am interested in the exact arguement on the breaching of the Singapore Constitution, as to my mind, there are too many qualifications added to the constitution that makes it confusing for the lay person to understand this arguement.

Dave said...

After researching various sources, I've found that one gram of heroin accounts for 14.13 doses ("hits"). This implies that 396.2 grams would deliver 5598 hits, or 4.6 times less than the 26,000 hits estimated by the Singapore government in the Van Tuong Nguyen trial.

Also, equating one hit with one ruined life is a gross exaggeration. My analysis shows that 5598 hits would supply heroin to approximately 15 addicts, or 67 average users, for one year.

I have attached the results of my findings; I encourage you to perform your own independent research.

Estimated Number of Hits per Gram of Heroin


21.43 hits/gram = 300000 hits / 14000 grams

5.26 hits/gram = 2000000 hits / 380000 grams

10.00 hits/gram = 10000 hits / 1000 grams

20.07 hits/gram = 111 hits / 5.53 grams

6.25 hits/gram = 5000 hits / 800 grams

25.51 hits/gram = 2500 hits / 98 grams

5.00 hits/gram = 5000 hits / 1000 grams

19.08 hits/gram = 5 hits / 0.262 grams

16.06 hits/gram = 4000 hits / 249 grams

12.62 hits/gram = 10000 hits / 396.2 grams


Average: 14.13 hits/gram


Estimated usage for 396.2 grams: 14.13 * 396.2 = 5598 hits


Singapore's estimated usage for 396.2 grams: 26000 hits

65.26 hits/gram = 26000 hits / 396.2 grams

Singapore's ruling over-estimates the number of hits by 4.6 times.


Usage: 2.8 hits / day

Regular Habit: 2.5 usages / month = 30 usages / year

Total: 30 * 2.8 = 84 hits / year

Result: 5598 hits supplies 67 average users for one year


Usage: 2.8 hits / day

Addict Habit: 2.5 usages / week = 130 usages / year

Total: 130 * 2.8 = 364 hits / year

Result: 5598 hits supplies 15 addicts for one year