Saturday Dec 17 14:50 AEDT
Singapore's main English-language newspaper has taken a wide swing at the Australian media, contrasting its treatment of this month's hanging in Singapore of drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van and Sydney's race-related violence.
In its editorial, The Straits Times said in the run-up to the execution of Nguyen the Australian media was filled with commentary suggesting the mark of civilisation was to be kind to gangsters, hooligans and drug pushers.
In contrast, the editorial said: "This week the NSW parliament passed tough new laws to give the state's police exceptional powers to deal with the riots that have broken out in Sydney."
It also highlighted Prime Minister John Howard's comments that such incidents can happen in any country, adding: "Yes, they certainly can, prime minister. Pity many of your compatriots did not see that a couple of weeks ago", around the time of the Nguyen hanging. [Is this paragraph coherent?]
Nguyen, 25, was hanged on December 2 for importing almost 400 grams of heroin into Singapore in late 2002.
Singapore law mandates the death penalty for those convicted of drug trafficking, set at 15 grams for those caught with heroin.
The Nguyen case raised intense interest in Australia, with the Howard government leading a passionate - but unsuccessful - bid for clemency.
During the final weeks of Nguyen's life, The Straits Times gave increasing amounts of space to the drama, and in an editorial at the time it argued the former salesman should not be spared.
The Straits Times has close links to Singapore's ruling People's Action Party and is broadly supportive of government policy, or what local officials call nation-building.
The editorial went on to offer broad praise for Australia's efforts to promote racial harmony, but laced that analysis with caution.
"While racism may be on the rise in the country, Australia's record on this front is better than many other countries, including Islamic ones, now expressing their alarm over the fate of Muslims Down Under," the paper said.
It concluded, "The country's achievement in creating a plural society will be threatened if its leaders do not face squarely, and address frankly, the racism that lingers in Australian society."