20 Nov 2005

Van Nguyen supporters rally in Melbourne

This is a transcript from The World Today. The program is broadcast around Australia at 12:10pm on ABC Local Radio.

You can also listen to the story in REAL AUDIO and WINDOWS MEDIA and MP3 formats.

Van Nguyen supporters rally in Melbourne
The World Today - Friday, 18 November , 2005 12:18:00
Reporter: Daniel Hoare
ELIZABETH JACKSON: Supporters of the convicted Australian drug trafficker, Van Nguyen, have gathered outside the State Library in Melbourne to display thousands of messages of opposition to his death sentence.

Singapore officials have advised 25-year-old Nguyen's mother of plans to execute him in a Singapore jail in 14 days time.

Australians have rallied to support the 'Reach Out' campaign organised by Nguyen's Melbourne friends, who continue to receive messages calling for the Singapore Government to grant him clemency.

Nguyen's lawyer, Lex Lasry QC, will fly to Singapore tonight, where he'll continue to publicly lobby for clemency despite a date being set for the execution.

Callers to talkback radio in Melbourne this morning were overwhelmingly against the death penalty being applied in the case of Nguyen, who immediately admitted his guilt and has cooperated with authorities since being caught smuggling nearly 400 grams of heroin into Singapore.

In Melbourne, Daniel Hoare reports.

DANIEL HOARE: As friends and supporters of Van Nguyen gathered outside Melbourne's State Library to unveil the extraordinary response to the campaign against his death sentence, talkback callers raged against the Singaporean Government.

Many called for a boycott of Singaporean products.

TALKBACK CALLER: We, personally, have a reservation to go overseas on Singapore Airlines next year, early in the year, and we discussed cancelling it last night.

RADIO HOST: Are you going to cancel it though?


TALKBACK CALLER: There's a bigger company than Optus in Victoria that's owned by the Singapore Government, and that's our electricity company called TRU. The Singapore Government needs to know that we're so upset about it we'll boycott their industries.

TALKBACK CALLER: I was slightly stunned when Howard announced that they were contemplating merging Qantas and Singapore Airlines at the same time as he was asking for clemency.

I'm completely against the death penalty under any circumstances.

DANIEL HOARE: The Reach Out campaign, organised by Van Nguyen's close friends, has called for messages of support for the 25-year-old. And despite the fact that Van Nguyen is now almost certain to be executed in 14 days, the thousands of messages are united by a common theme: that it isn't too late for the Singaporean Government to reverse its decision.

Nguyen's close friend, Kelly Ng, says she's been overwhelmed by the support from the Australian public.

KELLY NG: The response has been phenomenal. We can't put a specified number, but we've received thousands and there still are hundreds, I believe, coming through the mail that have not been opened.

All the hands that we have received so far are from across Australia and even from overseas.

DANIEL HOARE: Just standing here looking down it looks like there's, there would have to be thousands of colourful hands spread across the lawn here.

How many do you estimate there'd be here?

KELLY NG: I really don't know. Just thousands and thousands.

DANIEL HOARE: And it also looks as though people have put a lot of effort into preparing them.

KELLY NG: Yes, they've decorated them, they've used different colours, they've bought different papers, yeah.

A lot of people have just put a lot of effort into them and it's just not about just tracing hands.

DANIEL HOARE: Does it feel good to have received some support? Despite the horrible circumstances of this, does it give you some faith in the Australian people?

KELLY NG: It gives us a lot of faith and hope in humanity. The compassion that Australians have shown is really, really heart-touching.

Despite all the horrible things that happen in this world, it's just good to know that, deep down everyone is compassionate, that we are all human, we all do have feelings, and that, when required, we will unite as one.

DANIEL HOARE: Nguyen's lawyer, Lex Lasry, who will fly to Singapore tonight, paid tribute to those who responded to the campaign by sending letters in the shape of hands.

LEX LASRY: They are a very powerful and potent reminder of the importance of this case and the injustice. And they come from everywhere.

I haven't seen them all, but they come from, some from families affected by drugs. They come from prisoners in custody and all sorts of other people who've been through all sorts of traumas in their own lives and who have identified with this.

It's the most touching thing, I must say, I've ever seen in 32 years in the law and I commend everyone for their participation.

DANIEL HOARE: The Victorian Attorney-General, Rob Hulls, was also at this morning's gathering outside the State Library.

He says the Singaporean Government has shown no compassion whatsoever in its treatment of Van Nguyen and his family.

ROB HULLS: What's happening is brutal, is inappropriate. I, and the Victorian Government, vehemently oppose the death penalty in any circumstances.

And can you imagine sitting at home, getting a letter and opening up that letter and being told that your son is to be executed on a particular date, two week's time, and also told that you have to make funeral arrangements for your son? I mean, it is just totally inappropriate.

This is a young kid who has assisted the police all the way, prepared to testify against those for whom he was carrying this contraband. In any other country, he would get a discount in relation to the penalty. But because there is a mandatory death penalty for drug offences in Singapore, this young man may well be executed. It is just grossly inappropriate.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Victoria's Attorney-General, Rob Hulls, with our reporter Daniel Hoare.

How to win friends and influence people?

Keep lobbying Singapore, Beazley urges
The federal government should keep trying to stop the Singapore government from executing Australian citizen Nguyen Tuong Van, Opposition Leader Kim Beazley says.

Singapore also needed to understand Australians were mostly opposed to the death penalty and executing Nguyen would impact on diplomatic relations between the two countries, Mr Beazley told journalists in Perth.

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Anonymous said...

Oh please, are Aussies really think that Singaporeans are that dumb? From the case aside, would they finally cut the PorkShit threat about SG-AU diplomatic relations crap?

The Aussies want to talk about Diplomacy, I would talk about Economics. So blinding obvious this is all about boosting their currency strength against SG's. Just compare the 10 year currency exchange rates between the 2 countries. Is the media really that dull not to pick up on something this obvious$?

This "case" has more relevance with SGX and AST than anywhere near the courts. There I said it! Make me famous if you dare Pigskins!

Anonymous said...

At the bottom of the letter to Nyugen's mother was stamped the words CAPTAINS OF LIVES and beneath that: REHAB — RENEW, RESTART.

What is the significance of this: REHAB — RENEW, RESTART? or does it mean REBIRTH, REBIRTH, REBIRTH instead? Do the Sg govt really give any drug trafficker a chance in life to REHAB — RENEW, RESTART? Lost for words to say.....

max lee said...

People, especially Oz newspapers, just spending time stirring up hatred against Singapore.

clyde said...

I guess the Sg govt does have a sense of irony, anon 1.03. And it's no surprise I suppose that the pro-death S'poreans would gladly take words of compassion for Nguyen and their fundamental belief against the death penalty as 'stirring up hatred' against S'pore. Perhaps the conditioning in an environment that lacks a free press renders one to view dissenting opinions as offensive. The same goes for boycotting. It's a form of non-violent protesting that Sg conservatives can't seem to handle, but instead have to take personally.

Somebody said...

Clyde, you're always so calm and sensible! :)

Anon, I'm at a loss for words too about the "CAPTAIN OF LIVES" thing. It's such a slap in the face for his family. It's a small mercy in this dreadful situation that his mother could not read the letter. I also thought it was terrible to refer to him as "the body".

Anonymous said...

Yes, Clyde, I agree with what you said. If there is free press, all opinions (positve or negative) would give a more balance view of the whole issue. Indirectly, a calling for more democracy.

strom said...

Clyde: Unlike what you said, not every liberal or libertarian have to be anti-capital punishments.

Think: Bill Maher. He's perhaps one of the more famous talk show host in the US who's well-known for his libertarian and far-left views, but surprise, he's for capital punishment.

Anonymous said...

by all means boycott. the rich and powerful would not suffer. only the ordinary people. but then someone already said that singaporean are accomplaices to muder, so i guess that's that then.

Anonymous said...

There was much hatred for Singapore on Aussie Talkback Radio, with callers egged on by the hosts. But hey, that's a minor detail, right?

clyde said...

And I'm not arguing otherwise Strom. I don't think being liberal automatically labels one as anti capital punishment. My point was how S'poreans react to Australians that denounce the execution of Nguyen and their calls for boycotts. They fail miserably at handling criticism. All they are capable of throwing out are petty accusations of Australia's own faults to justify their own.

The 'rich and powerful' will suffer because the target of the boycotts are major companies such as Optus. But only time will tell if they will amount to anything.

Think Singaporean said...

Clyde, it's understandable because they're angry with the judgement by sg garmen. So, who's to be blamed for this and affect its own economy. It purely shows that to be highly intellectual isn't good enough, one still has to possess humanity and wisdom; otherwise isn't a wholesome person; be it in the business world or in any community.

Think Singaporean said...

"Think: Bill Maher. He's perhaps one of the more famous talk show host in the US who's well-known for his libertarian and far-left views, but surprise, he's for capital punishment."

Well, Bill Maher is just only ONE person and he may more or less influence his audience. However, NOT all his audience would share the same view as him either; especially those who have much love-kindness and compassion for others would not be easily influenced by him at all.

At the same time, not forgetting that they're more vocal than us and are living in a different environment from us. Otherwise, why do people still walk out of their houses and marched in the street opposing to having wars.

phishy_ said...

If we show kindness and compassion to drug traffickers, who would show compassion to those lives which have been destroyed by the use of drugs?
It doesn't matter if Nyugen was desperate in those circumstances to raise money for his brother. the point is, he had a choice whether or not to traffic the drugs. and he made a choice which could potentially destroy many other lives if the transaction had been done successfully.
As for the letter bit, i see no point in the sg gvt mollycoddling nyugen's mum. It is an official letter with no emotion supposed to be attached. what were you expecting them to write?
'we deeply regret to inform you that your son will be executed........... and we deeply sympathise with you...'
why should the law sympathise with offenders? the law, is but part of the machinery which runs the country.
and anyway, how do you define humanity and wisdom? aren't these relative concepts based on perception? Would you call torturing a human being more 'humane' than hanging him, when the pain only lasts 15min?

Think Singaporean said...

Phishy, I had already state of point of view in few earlier posts, for which, I believe you had read but I don't wish to repeat. You may want to read this in the November posting: "No one should dictate Singapore's laws: forum letter to ST".

"Would you call torturing a human being more 'humane' than hanging him, when the pain only lasts 15min?"

No doubt to hang when the pain only lasts a few minutes is better than imprisonment. However, from the religious point of view, we believe in the law of cause and effect, rebirths and "preciousness" of human lives. If one were to fall into one of the three states of lower realms, that is, animal realm, hungry ghost realm and hell realm, and the degree of the intense sufferings in these three states of realms are in ascending order. As such, the suffering to be experienced NOW in the prison could be "much better" than the sufferings in these three states of lower realms. I will not explain in detail, if you're interested, you could find out more and read the Buddhist scriptures. Or you may want to pay a visit to Haw Par Villa whereby you could see the figurines depicting how and what kinds of sufferings in these realms are.

No parents in this world would want their children to die so early, even though, how bad their children are. To be born as human being is, indeed, very fortunate and is very precious. Again, please read the scriptures if interested. Therefore, if one could be given a chance to live, for at least he could repent for his wrongdoings. At least, he could still be able to meet his family members, especially his beloved mother. The pain and suffering the mother has to go through after his death, no words could express. A good example is Shamugam's case and his mother.

Anyway, through counselling and the love, care and concern shown by his family members, relatives and friends would definitely propel him to sincerely wanting to change for the better. As it is now, his lawyer had already met him and they commented that he had changed.

Through bad influence of friends and peers, one gets involved with drugs. Therefore, perhaps, more education, more counselling and more activities could help to solve the problem. This is proven. I know of some ex-addicts and they are presently giving a helping hand to those drug addicts to change for the better.

What I said above are not based on perceptions. Whether you agree with me and accept my point of view is still your choice.

Dave said...

His Excellency S R Nathan
President of the Republic of Singapore
Orchard Road Singapore 238823

November 3, 2005

Your Excellency,

Smuggling 396.2 grams of heroin is a terrible crime; but premeditated execution is heinous.

Capital punishment is a deplorable act; it is a cruel and unusual discipline shackled to history's barbarous past. A death sentence eliminates retribution; it severs the establishment of moral conscience and mercilessly smothers all ethical instincts. Execution is a crime that cannot be undone, and murder is an unjustly permanent measure when weighed against fleeting transgressions.

Hanging Van Tuong Nguyen demonstrates to the world that Singapore's judicial system has principles set no higher than those of criminals themselves. To sell a man's life for an evil that will be forgotten faster than death oft takes its toll is beyond comprehension. Worse still, it lifts the offender to the moral equality of societal norms.

Repaying stupidity, ignorance, and lack of forethought with termination can only be considered uncaring, unenlightened, and underdeveloped. Any government with the insolence to wield such a law shall be shrouded in those very traits. Disciplinary alternatives are available that meet the needs of society (which the State is supposed to represent), while being a fair reproach for the felony.

Where iron rules are forged, iron fists and iron curtains have both been known to rise. Leaders like Lenin, Mao, and Hitler lacked the mercy that separates humans from hellions. Abolish capital punishment in your country. Van Tuong Nguyen must certainly realise the seriousness of his mistake; make him pay, but not with his life. Grant him clemency; and in so doing, show the world Singapore's capacity for compassion.

Dave Jarvis
Show your support: Clemency for Van!