8 Nov 2005

Where do we stand in this fight for clemency?

With the recent posts focusing on Nguyen Tuong Van, I am very much afraid that I do not know right from wrong and wrong from right anymore.

Here we are, fighting for the clemency of Van. This is a good deed. We are working to save the life of a 25 year old a Vietnamese Australian PR holder, who has not seen all the sights that the land down under has to offer yet. We are trying to get Van off the gallows. Van is a son, a brother and a friend. All these roles will be relinquished on that fateful Friday morning when he is hung. We are working to save a life.

However, have we forgotten why he was sentenced to hang? It was because he carried drugs. He knew that he was carrying them. Some were wrapped around his body. Nobody stopped him at the airport and set the stash upon him. He knowingly walked into Singapore with 396 grams of heroin. He broke the law. Now another role has been added to his name, the role of a drug trafficker. The law was broken and he was arrested. Now he has to hang.

The laws are in place. The laws are meant to be just. The law sees his as a drug trafficker and disregards his other roles. In this case we think it is unjust because he did it for his twin brother. Now, the public is seeing him as a brother. Then photographs and interviews with Van’s distraught mother are published over the various media and now the public sees him as both a son and a mother. With empathy and kindness, the public has forgotten to see him as a drug trafficker.

One argues that he was coerced into it. It is akin to how one’s supplementary credit card with bills chalked up by one’s girlfriend/spouse makes the mastercard holder liable. They spend you pay. You carry drugs, you are persecuted.

While I am not mister-kiss-government’s ass , I do feel that one has to be punished when the law has been broken. If even the laws do not deter, what else is left to restrain the unruly?

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

How about looking at the social circumstances that create "the unruly", as you call them? What kind of desperation must drive people who commit crimes for which they know full well that the penalty is death? And nobody in this fight for clemency is saying that drug traffickers shouldn’t be punished, or that the penalties shouldn’t be harsh.

Your use of the word “persecuted” is interesting.

clyde said...

I have to agree here with anon, Mister K. People seem to only consider one scenario when questioning why these people commit an offence punishable by death in the first place. Crimes and the human mind are diverse and complex subjects. We know no little history of convicts or their lives, yet it is easy for us to judge and think them unworthy of their right to life.

And very well pointed out by anonymous, is that NONE of us are saying traffickers should not be punished. Most are fighting the punishment. Not the legislation of drugs.

While I am not mister-kiss-government’s ass , I do feel that one has to be punished when the law has been broken. If even the laws do not deter, what else is left to restrain the unruly?"

I think the word "restrain" is a bit soft. But I hope you don't feel that death is the only option to punishment?

Charles said...

There has been pro and anti arguments on why the death sentence should or should not be meted out.

There are many websites out there which poses arguments against the death penalty of which one can easily find on the net.

In Ngyuen's case, to fight against his sentence, we need to consider the arguments that will be involved.

Are we going to debate on the mitigating factors that should save him from the gallows (of which is probably useless since Singapore practises the mandatory death sentence) or should we debate on the grounds that death sentence by itself is a violation of Human Rights (of which it is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 3, - Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person). If we can defeat the judgement based on the latter, then the battle is won.

Some Singaporeans are afraid that removing the death penalty may prompt an increase in the influx of drug traffickers or drug users. Yet this has not been proven so. Read Yawning Bread for more arguments.

On another note, drugs usage might be an important concern. Nevertheless, there are debates in more liberal countries on decriminalizing certain drugs. That should however be left to another time when Singaporeans are more liberal enough to tackle the topic.

My point is: Our fixation on what's right or wrong, moral or immoral, are sometimes more subjective and relative than they appear to be. It can be applied in many instances. Discrimination against LGBTs and our views on Death penalty are very good examples.

Mr K's argument that one has to be punished by the law when one flouts it is worth questioning but not an entirely convincing argument. In this case, if death penalty by itself is a questionable law that does more harm than good for society (Again, Read Yawning Bread), then we should act in good faith to repeal it.

Anonymous said...

He was in transit. He did not enter Singapore.

Anonymous said...

I make a general point here. In life, many people, perhaps most people, bear their own crosses, and yet they do not go around aiming for a quick fix to their problems by engaging in activities considered illegal by the country in which they operate. Part of the reason for this are the laws and penalties which are in place. I can therefore quite understand if the majority find it hard to swallow the "victimhood" stance...

soci said...

he was sentenced to hang because the death penalty is mandatory. The issues surrounding Van's case are irrelevant under Singaporean Law.

The problem I have with the death penalty in the Singaporean context is that it is 'mandatory'. It is also the problem the UN and International Law has with the death pemalty in Singapore.

shaun said...

It is great to finally read an argument online that does not unconditionally support Nguyen Van Tuong. It is great to see a website finally standing up and admitting that the issue is more messy and convoluted than just a simple issue of the hanging of an apparently innocent man. Because whatever the mitigating circumstances and whatever the cruelty of the death sentence may be, the issue is not as simple as that.

There are good arguments either way, and painting the issue as a simple case of an innocent man getting totally screwed over by fate does no one a favour.

strom said...

On another note, drugs usage might be an important concern. Nevertheless, there are debates in more liberal countries on decriminalizing certain drugs. That should however be left to another time when Singaporeans are more liberal enough to tackle the topic.

Drugs usage IS an important concern.

You don't have to be a trumpet-blowing liberal to tackle this topic, just some common sense. On decriminalizing certain drugs, you do realize drugs like morphine and certain classes of opiods are legally allowed for medical treatments, but are you suggesting legalizing certain drugs for abuse - for the purpose of getting 'stoned' - or decriminalizing certain drugs for medical use? If it's the latter, I'm with you; the former, can you argue why?

soci said...

many in Europe can argue yes to decriminalising certain classes of recreational drugs. Their main argument is that it is a victim less crime and it stops the criminalisation of certain groups.

as for certain drugs being legal when they are purely for recreational use, I read that while I was siting with a cup of coffee in one hand and a 'coffin nail' in the other.

Anonymous said...

Between morality and legality, which has the greater weight? The answer is obvious: if you choose to live or visit a particular country then, by implication, you accept its legal norms. Morality, on the other hand, is subjective and is best left to individual conscience. People can justify anything on moral grounds, and if their conscience is clear, and they have not impinged on the legal rights of others, then who am I to say I hold the moral high ground over them?

bostongradstudent said...

Killing someone doesn't "restrain the unruly". Singapore has killed 420 people in the past 15 years - that 419 more capital crimes after the first chap was killed for being "unruly".

strom said...

"many in Europe can argue yes to decriminalising certain classes of recreational drugs. Their main argument is that it is a victim less crime and it stops the criminalisation of certain groups.

as for certain drugs being legal when they are purely for recreational use, I read that while I was siting with a cup of coffee in one hand and a 'coffin nail' in the other."

Oh, no wonder you're all for abolishing the death penalty. It's a form of insurance for you, isn't it? Hey Prof, you know what? Smoke your coke abroad, I don't give a damn if you burst an artery, but you don't have no excuses if you get caught bringing any over. And I don't care if you're white.

soci said...

"If it's the latter, I'm with you; the former, can you argue why? "

strom you asked the above, I replied with a genuine argument, you attack me and not my opinion.

soci said...

end of discussion.

read the following for some social pointers when entering a comment.

http://www.lifehacker.com/software/top/geek-to-live-lifehackers-guide-to-weblog-comments-126654.php

clyde said...

Somehow reading comments on Singabloodypore and Mr Wang's website is starting to seem like an overkill of dejavu. The constant battle between logic and illogic. Battling strawmen on high horses.

clyde said...

By the way Soci, did you get my email? I was thinking why not set up a poll for the death penalty that viewers can vote on. Options include:

A) Pro-death penalty.
B) Pro-death penalty except for drug trafficking.
C) Anti-death penalty for all crimes.
D)Still sitting on fence.

I'd definitely like to see where the distribution stands.

soci said...

yes i got it but didn't realise it was from you. thanks for the idea.

how now brown cow said...

no one likes death. no one likes to see another one die. yet it is frightening to note that death or “killing” does not stop a person from commiting a crime. if the current state of the law goes beyond the “if, else” conditions, will law faculties be training empathetic lawyers? would this encourage hardcore criminals to come up with sob stories to avoid penalties?

mister k said...

hi all,

i do agree that a "mandatory life sentence" is very disturbing. it does suggest that death is defaulted.

if execution does not deter, what other method is there to circumvent it? a death sentence is already of the highest level, so to speak.

if i traffick drugs to save a life, i am also carrying the responsibility of having supplied the drug to addicts. there is also the possibility that i am the supplier to fresh addicts.

does this make me guilty-innocent or innocently-guilty?

Anonymous said...

If we have to use punitive methods to deter, let's use it all the way. Why stop at drug traffickers?

Cigarettes has killed more people than drugs. I say we should hang tobacco maufacturers.

Corruption can fester and cause governments to fall. I say let's hang corrupted public officials (like China) because there is no better deterrent than death.

Maids driven to kill their employers often claim abuse. I say let's hang a few employers who abuse their maids. This will act as a detterent to others.

Racists who spews hate speech on the internet can incite riots, mayhem and carnage (think France now). I say let's hang the three seditious bloggers because that will deter others from attempting to disrupt racial harmony.

Drunk driving can kill. We all know that. I say let's hang one or two drunk drivers so that others can learn their lesson.

Please feel free to make own personal lists of undesirables who should be punished.

We are already number one in per capita executions. We should continue to stay on top.

Anonymous said...

I am quite happy with the current rule of law and the administration of justice in Singapore. The capital punishment penalties which Singapore has is salutary. And the fact that Singapore has strict but equitably applied laws is what irks some (foreign) quarters, and for this reason: governments around the world start to notice that Singapore's system isn't half bad, the country works efficiently, and it withstands pressures mostly from foreign interests to waterdown its laws, it then should be a textbook case for emulation. This is what Francis Fukuyama predicted in his book, The End of History, more than a decade ago: that the Singapore model of governance would be the one which would challenge the Western liberal model. And here is the real kicker: Singapore isn't even trying to export its system of governance to any other country: it has always said its system suits its own circumstances. But others have taken it upon themselves to examine the system and see what can be adopted. Despite this there isn't a need to be triumphalist: best leave other countries to their own devices, let them grapple with their own situations.

blah said...

my friend's breasts are quite big...and i pee in the library today. Anyway mr van is dieing, uh oh...but i won't be sad