CANBERRA (Reuters, UK) - Australia's parliament urged Singapore to spare the life of a convicted Australian drug dealer on death row on Monday as the man's lawyer called for direct intervention from Prime Minister John Howard.
Australian Nguyen Tuong Van, 25, was sentenced to death in March 2004 for smuggling almost 400 grams (0.9 lb) of heroin from Cambodia. He was arrested in-transit for Australia at Singapore's Changi airport in December 2002.
Singapore on October 21 rejected Nguyen's last bid for clemency, but his lawyer Lex Lasry, who held talks with Singapore's High Commissioner to Australia Joseph Koh on Monday, said he remained hopeful Singapore could change its mind.
"Our client is alive, there's probably four or five weeks to go, there's plenty of time for the Government of Singapore to reconsider its position," Lasry told Australian radio.
In parliament, the leader of the centre-left Opposition ALP, Kim Beazley, introduced a motion to urge Singapore to show mercy to Nguyen and to consider his full cooperation with police since his arrest.
The motion passed with bi-partisan support in a sign of the growing public campaign against the death sentence, but Foreign Minister Alexander Downer played down the chances the motion would help stop the execution.
"It pains me above all that it is proving extraordinarily difficult to win a reprieve," Downer said. "We remain pessimistic about our prospects of convincing the Singapore President to grant clemency. We will just continue to try."
He said the government had done everything possible to try to save Nguyen's life. But Lasry said it was now time for Howard to make a direct plea to Singapore's government.
"Now is the time that we need its (the government's) leaders to basically speak in direct language and say they don't want this young man executed. I'd like very much to hear such a statement from the Prime Minister," Lasry said.
Australia is a staunch opponent of capital punishment, but Singapore, known for its tough stance on crime, mandates the death penalty for murder and drug trafficking.
31 Oct 2005
Published in Channel News Asia:
S'pore firms urged to focus on next wave of growth in north-eastern China
CHINA : Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has described his first official visit to China as a success.
The week-long visit is Mr Lee's first since becoming prime minister last year.
Mr Lee said bilateral cooperation was progressing well.
On the economic front, he said Singapore companies should take advantage of the next wave of growth in north-eastern China.
An impressed Mr Lee agrees with Singapore businessmen he has met on this trip that the next wave of development in China will come from the north-east.
Its most developed province Liaoning has set it sights on becoming the IT centre of north-east Asia.
And this offers tremendous opportunities to Singapore companies like business space provider Ascendas.
Ascendas has struck up a partnership with the software park in Dalian - a key city in Liaoning.
The first phase of the IT Park will be ready by the end of next year.
There are also other opportunities in Liaoning in areas such as services, manufacturing and port facilities.
And Singapore port operator PSA has already staked its claim.
There are also plans by the provincial government to convert the coastline into industrial land.
Mr Lee said: "As they develop, we will go with the flow and ride the tide."
The Chinese government is revitalising the north-east and the centre of gravity is no longer as concentrated in the southern Pearl River delta and Yangtze delta.
As Mr Lee points out, the north-eastern region will be able to learn from the south in their development, thus ensuring quicker progress.
As for the growing bilateral cooperation between Singapore and China, Mr Lee announced that Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy has just signed MOUs with top Chinese universities - Peking, Tsinghua and Fudan - to offer joint degree programmes.
These programmes will allow students to study in both countries.
And it is in areas such as this that Mr Lee says Singapore has a role to play in the growth of China.
Mr Lee said: "We provide the meeting place, we provide the opportunities. We have an environment where the Chinese people, the businessmen, the academics, the students are comfortable. Others are comfortable and we can make a contribution."
Education Minister and chairman of the Singapore-Liaoning Economic Trade Council Tharman Shanmugaratnam said Singapore schools must deepen their engagement with their Chinese counterparts.
"We have to get our kids to know a range of Chinese cities. Again not just the first-tier cities, not just Beijing, Shanghai. You've got to get to the second-tier cities where you can feel the hunger, aspirations and dreams," he said.
Mr Tharman said in the past year, more than 90 Singapore schools have established links with Chinese institutions.
"For a broad-ranging economic relationship in the long-term, people- to-people relationship will have to be developed as a foundation," he added. - CNA/de
China’s Economic Oligopoly And Political Monopoly
By He Qinglian
Special to The Epoch Times
Oct 30, 2005
Recently China’s investors have been skeptical, wondering if “China’s enterprises could still make a profit.” China has used the mouths of “foreign investment experts” to say, “Though the relevant benefits of such heavy industries as car manufacturing and chemical industry are shrinking, the relevant benefits of light industries show no tendency of dropping down.” The statement was clearly intended to pacify worried investors who doubted if their investment in China could be beneficial.
In spite of the pacifying statement, the news from the U.S. stock market was negative. More than 90 percent of more than 70 Chinese enterprises on the U.S. OTC Bulletin Board (OTCBB)  turned their stocks into “junk stocks.”
No trading in the stock of Chinese companies on the U.S. stock exchange for a few days in a row has frequently been noticed. This gloomy phenomenon has been occurring since the second quarter of this year. Only seven of the Chinese companies hold stocks priced over US$3 per share, while the stocks of the other 50 Chinese companies are priced below US$1. In the U.S., stocks priced below US$3 are regarded as “junk stocks”. To put it in another way, over 90 percent of China’s concept stocks on the U.S. stock exchange have degenerated into “junk stocks”.
A state’s economic competitiveness is closely related to its enterprises. Why did these favorites in the Chinese business community degenerate into “deserted orphans” on the U.S. stock exchange? An analysis of the situations of these enterprises provides a window on China’s economy.
State-Run Enterprises Gain Dominance By Means Of Monopolization
In recent years the number of China’s enterprises who have entered into the top 500 of global enterprises is gradually increasing, which has been used by China as concrete evidence to prove the competence of Chinese enterprises.
Let’s start by taking a look at the Chinese enterprises that made it into the top 500. This July, U.S. Fortune Magazine released the latest annual rankings of the top 500 global enterprises. Totally, 15 of China’s businesses were chosen. The three Chinese enterprises that have a ranking higher than 50 on this list are China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec), State Grid Corporation of China (State Grid), and China National Petroleum Corporation (PetroChina). A closer observation of the chosen candidates reveals that almost all of them are state-run monopolies in the petroleum, chemical, banking and energy industries, and they are directly owned by the central government.
This September, China released its own list of top 500 enterprises. This “top 500” has the following features:
First, most of the “top 500” companies are still state-run monopolies. Of all, 83 enterprises make a pure profit of over one billion yuan (approximately US$0.12 billion), with combined revenues totaling 427.1 billion yuan ($52.85 billion), occupying 81 percent of the total revenue of the “top 500”. This points out that the major revenue of Chinese enterprises comes from a very small number of monopolies, most of which are state-run. Though the percentage of the private enterprises picked for the “top 500” has risen to 15.8 percent, the percentage of their revenue is merely 6.7 percent. Based on this, we can conclude competitively, China’s private businesses are far inferior to the large-scale state-run monopolies.
Second, there is the quite remarkable disparity of competitive strength among the chosen candidates. Sinopec, listed as number one, owns assets totaling 620.3 billion yuan ($76.77 billion), and has an annual revenue totaling 634.3 billion yuan ($78.5 billion). On the other end of the list, the assets and revenues of the Zongshen Industrial Group, listed as number 500, are 3.51 billion yuan ($0.43 billion) and 4.56 billion yuan respectively ($0.56 billion), which is only 0.57 percent and 0.77 percent of Sinopec’s assets and revenues.
Third, regarding per capita earnings, of China’s 2005 top 500 enterprises, the cigarette manufacturing industry has the highest per capita earnings, 244,500 yuan ($30,260), while life and health insurance industry has the lowest per capita earnings. Only five of the “top 500” reach a per capita profit over 100,000 yuan ($12,376).
How Are the Chinese Top 500 Enterprises Different From the Global Top 500?
Among the scholars in mainland China, many disagree with the Chinese media’s high praise that Chinese enterprises have entered the upper tier of global top of corporations with their competitive power. Professor Liu Jisheng of Qinghua University’s School of Business pointed out that there are three differences between the Chinese top 500 and the global top 500 corporations.
Firstly, most of the global top 500 are private corporations or family businesses, yet most of the big enterprises in China are state-owned, and some are solely state-funded corporations.
Secondly, most of the global top 500 are in competitive industries such as the automobile industry, but most of the Chinese corporations are in monopolized industries such as oil, electricity and steel.
Thirdly, in terms of economy of scale, operating income, total assets and profit made by the top 500 Chinese corporations constitute respectively 5.3 percent, 5.61 percent and 5.22 percent of those made by the global top 500.
In fact, big Chinese enterprises have two distinctive characteristics. Firstly, they do not rely on market competition to gain size and strength; rather they rely on administrative orders to have forced reorganization. Their survival and development often rely on having the strong state machinery as their backing.
Secondly, these corporations do not rely on unique technical advantages, superiority in service, property rights, price advantage or brand superiority to win in market competition; instead they rely on the monopolization advantage granted by the government to gain a high monopoly return.
Only by understanding these two characteristics of Chinese state-owned corporations can one understand why the stocks of Chinese corporations that were listed in the U.S., after some “initial hype,” have degenerated into “junk stocks” that nobody is interested in.
A General Misconception: The Downfall Of The State-Owned Economy And The Flourishing Of The Private Sector
The deepest impression that 27 years of economic reform in China has left is that China has undergone a large-scale and profound privatization movement, and that China has already become a market economy country.
However people have neglected one point: in the late 1990’s, when Zhu Rongji was the Prime Minister, his strategy for state-owned corporations to follow the policy of “seizing the big and freeing the small” and to withdraw from competitive industries, has formed the base that led to economic oligopoly in China in the end.
In short, “seizing the big” is to rapidly concentrate resources in a very few state-owned monopolizing corporations. Starting from the late 1990’s, relying on government support and profit gained from their monopoly, certain industries in China have already formed the economic pattern of being monopolized by a few state-owned corporations. The private sector can only flourish in the highly competitive industries that the state-owned corporations have withdrawn from.
The Chinese government has political needs for “seizing the big” (i.e., fostering large state-owned corporations). Since the 1990’s, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s one-party despotism has continuously faced with a crisis of legitimization. Many governmental think-tankers already suggested to the government to transform large-size state-owned corporations into “Party assets,” hence accumulating an enormous amount of assets that in name belong only to the CCP.
With this enormous Party asset base, even if faced with political changes in the future, the CCP, with its abundant economic strength, would still win in an election. Stemming from this kind of precautious concern, the CCP’s decision makers have always concentrated on seizing the few state-owned corporations that are most closely connected with the vitals of the national economy and that occupy the leading monopolizing positions, so that it can retain economic control when future political changes occur.
Central Government Enterprises Monopolize Chinese Economy
In recent years, the number of state-owned enterprises and enterprises with the state as the key shareholder has dropped by 4,000 to 5,000 each year. The number of central enterprises that are directly supervised by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council have decreased from 196 two years ago to the current 169. However assets of these enterprises are continuously growing and their profits are also constantly rising.
Official data shows that from 1998 to 2003, the number of state-owned and state-as-key-shareholder enterprises has dropped from 238,000 to 150,000, yet their profit increased from 52.9 billion yuan (approximately $6.54 billion) to 378.4 billion yuan ($46.80 billion). In 2004, the total profit further rose to 531.19 billion yuan (roughly $65.70 billion), an increase of 42.5 percent from 2003.
In 2004, the five industries that made the most profit nationwide were oil exploitation with 177.73 billion yuan ($21.98 billion) of profit, steel with 103.89 billion yuan ($12.85 billion), chemical engineering with 85.63 billion yuan ($10.59 billion), electronic communications with 82.19 billion yuan ($10.17 billion), and transportation with 77.19 billion yuan ($9.55 billion). These industries constitute 46.4 percent of the total profit earned by all industries combined.
An analysis of the profit structure for the state-owned enterprises and enterprises with the state as the key shareholder clearly shows that, in 2004, the profit realized by seven companies—China National Petroleum Corporation, China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation, China National Offshore Oil Corporation, Baosteel Ltd., China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom—constitutes 78 percent of the total profit earned by central enterprises.
It is well known that communication, energy, electric power and transportation etc. are the most monopolized industries among state-owned enterprises. This shows that the high profit increase for state-owned enterprises and enterprises with the state as the key shareholder are likely due to the strong monopolization of these industries.
These facts prove that, judging from an industrial perspective or the entire economic perspective, sales volume and profit for Chinese industry and monopolized service sectors are concentrated in a very few central corporations. In other words, the pattern of its economic oligopoly has basically taken shape. A monopoly formed with this kind of oligopoly-patterned economy has greatly benefited the Chinese government, such that the director of State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission Li Rongrong reiterated that the central government’s goal is to raise 80 to 100 large-size state-owned corporations and make their way into the global market.
The Chinese Government Facilitates the Oligopoly Economy
Many outside observers agree that an intense and cruelly competitive market has been one remarkable characteristic of the Chinese economy from 1992 to the present. In the late 90’s, the Chinese government declared that state-owned enterprises would completely withdraw from competitive business. This move hid from observers the reality behind the intense competition. That is, the high monopoly of key resources is another manifestation of the Chinese economy.
China’s large-scale state-owned enterprises, especially those directly controlled by the central government, have become the largest beneficiaries of China’s capital market with the help of a series of slanted policies and the unique market access regulations of China.
In just 10 short years, China’s capital market developed a clear route—to serve the peripheral enterprises, then the state-owned businesses, and then the businesses owned by the central government, which include other ultra-monopolized companies. This structure is not the outcome of natural evolution out of China’s capital market, but is the direct logical result of a capital market continuously geared towards political needs.
Political Monopoly Needs Oligopoly Economic Support
There is another question that needs answering: Why does the Chinese government so diligently build large-scale monopolized state-owned enterprises?
The answer is that it is completely a political need.
Right now China is transitioning from an old authoritarian regime to a new form of totalitarian regime. Observers have seen increasingly tightened control of the society by the Chinese authorities, in addition to the government’s high suppression of the general public’s political muscle. However, they have yet to see the dangers China currently faces while transforming from the longstanding authoritarian rule to a new totalitarian rule.
Totalitarian rule requires increased control of thought. It also requires a huge system of organizations with which to control the society. Meeting both needs, in turn, requires a solid economic foundation.
Mao Zedong used every means possible to control people. He did not rely just on political violence and ideological cultural violence; more importantly, he relied on economic control.
If the Chinese people at that time had left the Chinese Communist Party’s economic and cultural entities, they would have had no resources for survival. Chinese intellectuals often opined that they wanted to be Tao Yuanming, who abandoned his official positions and lived as a hermit. Yet there is no place to which they can escape, since China, including every rock and tree, all belong to the “Nationalized Properties” owned by the CCP.
The Chinese government under Hu Jintao relies more and more on total control of the society. Strengthening the party organization is just one method. Another important method is to strengthen economic control. It is unrealistic, however, to fully revert back to the complete economic control of the Mao era. Thus, they can only implement control over the industries that are the life-blood of the national economy, such as the petroleum industry, the energy industry, and the telecommunications companies related to information circulation.
China’s petroleum industry is immense with over 60 branches worldwide. This illustrates the Chinese government’s international energy strategy and, more importantly, its economic dominance within China through its control over petroleum—a modern economy’s life-blood.
There are three criteria for analyzing these increasingly growing state-owned businesses that are fed by the government.
The first criterion is to use the U.S stock market, which is purely based on the performance of the enterprises; the second criterion is to believe the CCP’s evaluation made explicitly to further its political and market dominance; and the third criterion, which is also this writer’s opinion, is to use humanitarian standards, such as whether to support or oppose China’s new totalitarian politics when deciding whether or not to invest in China.
Note:  The OTC Bulletin Board (OTCBB) is an electronic quotation system that displays real-time quotes, last-sale prices, and volume information for many over-the-counter securities that are not listed on The NASDAQ Stock Market or a national securities exchange.
Published in The Age, Australia
Singapore activists to protest hanging
October 31, 2005 - 4:07PM
Activists in tightly controlled Singapore plan to stage a rare public protest against the impending execution of convicted Australian drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van.
Next week's indoor vigil would be an unusual show of opposition to capital punishment in Singapore.
Details have yet to be finalised.
"Individuals of the civil society who are concerned citizens against the death penalty are ... coming together to organise it," Think Centre campaigner Sinapan Samydorai said on Monday.
Think Centre is among Singapore's handful of active campaign groups and has long opposed the death penalty.
It would help to support any Nguyen-related event, Sinapan said, and planned to post details on its website.
Melbourne salesman Nguyen, 25, was arrested at Changi International Airport in December 2002 as he was about to board a flight to Australia.
He had 396 grams of heroin taped to his back, and in his luggage.
Singapore has so far rejected pleas for clemency from Australia.
Nguyen is likely to be hanged sometime in November, possibly as soon as November 11.
Sinapan said the vigil would likely be small scale, and he conceded that as most Singaporeans support the death penalty the campaigners faced a tough task.
Earlier this year, a similar vigil was held to protest the execution of Singaporean Shanmugam Murugesu, who was hanged in May for trafficking 1.03kg of marijuana.
The Singapore government last year eased restrictions on some types of indoor gatherings, dropping the need for participants to obtain prior approval from the police.
Outdoor demonstrations, though, remain extremely rare.
Gatherings of more than four people require permission from authorities.
Plain-clothed officers attended the May vigil and at one stage prevented an open microphone session, where members of the audience had been invited on stage to express their feelings.
The Singapore government argues that the selective use of the death penalty helps to deter serious crime and has kept the country of 4 million people safe.
"We weigh the right to life of the convicted against the rights of victims and the right of the community to live in peace and security," the Ministry of Home Affairs has said.
Human rights group Amnesty International has suggested that Singapore may have the highest rate of executions worldwide relative to its size.
According to official figures, 340 people were hanged in Singapore between 1991 and 2000.
In some years, such as 1996, when 50 people were hanged, the state-sanctioned death rate averages close to one a week.
Published in ABC Regional Online Australia
'Candles of hope' lit for convicted drug smuggler
Sunday, 30 October 2005. 21:05
About 100 people have gathered in Brisbane tonight, lighting 3,000 'candles of hope' for Melbourne man, Van Nguyen.
The 25-year-old faces execution in Singapore after being convicted of drug-trafficking.
Tim Goodwin from Amnesty International says tonight's event sends a powerful message.
"What we're trying to do with this event, it's the first of a number of events we'll be holding around the country in the coming weeks to send a message to the Singapore Government is that human rights are very important to all of us and they're particularly important to Australian people as well and we don't want to see the death penalty carried out in this case," he said.
Read extracts from the paper:
Coercion, nevertheless, remains one of the pillars of PAP dominance. There has been no move to repeal Singapore’s most repressive laws, such as the Internal Security Act, which allows arrest without warrant and detention with trial. On a 5-point repression index, Henderson (1991) rates Singapore as a “2”, together with other countries where there is “a limited amount of imprisonment for non-violent political activity. However, few persons are affected, torture and beating are exceptional. … Political murder is rare” (p.127). The array of repressive tools at the government’s disposal remains large. What has changed is the manner in which those tools are used. Generally speaking, there has been a shift from more spectacular punishments such as imprisonment, towards more behind-the-scenes controls. Economic sanctions are favoured over those that violate the sanctity of the individual. And, controls are targeted at limited numbers of producers and organisers of dissent, rather than at ordinary citizens. In short, coercion is increasingly calibrated for maximum effectiveness at minimum cost...
The authoritarian impulse behind Singapore’s press system is as old as the hills. What is more novel is the PAP’s astute use of global forces pushed by capitalist liberal democracies to reinforce a profoundly illiberal system. While less clever regimes assumed that they had to subvert the press completely in order to assure their preferred results, Lee Kuan Yew recognised that he merely needed to tweak its incentive structure and install the right barriers. This strategy worked because journalism’s main impetus by the late 20th century was commerce, not ideology...
Like all authoritarian governments facing minimal legislative and judicial checks, Singapore’s executive branch has seized sweeping powers to deal decisively with challengers. Catch-all laws give wide latitude to ministers, and the Constitution provides little protection to civil rights. These features of the Singapore system are nothing unusual. What is more unusual is that, even as it maintains and updates its arsenal of coercive powers, the Singapore government appears to have committed itself to the principle of strategic self-restraint, calibrating its coercion to get the job done with as little force as necessary.
The benefits of calibrated coercion have been apparent to various scholars ranging from critical theorists such as Foucault to researchers studying conflict resolution. First, calibrated coercion minimises the sense of moral outrage that could be used to mobilise the public against the state. Second, calibration reduces the salience of coercion, making consensus seem like the sole basis for stability and thus strengthening hegemony. Third, calibrated coercion preserves incentives for economic production and wealth creation, which rulers need as much as do the ruled...
30 Oct 2005
I think it's time I said it: judicial murder is wrong.
It is particularly distressing to me that Singapore is one of the black spots on the world map for this. An article by Amy Tan of Reuters, 'Singapore death penalty shrouded in silence' said,
The government revealed recently, only in reply to a question in parliament, that 340 people were hanged between 1991 and 2000.
In a response to a Reuters query, it also said 22 people were executed for drug trafficking in 2001 and 17 in the year before.
Singapore has one of the highest execution rates in the world relative to its population, Amnesty [International]'s Parritt said.
-- Reuters 12 April 2002
Whenever this charge of being too quick with the noose is levelled at the government, they always say capital punishment works. It has deterrence value. Yet if they are so proud of doing the right and effective thing, it strikes me as strange how much they wish to hide it.
The same report by Reuters said,
"We do have a general policy not to give any information on the death penalty," a prison official told Reuters.
As you can see in the sidebar, the identity of the hangman was also supposed to be a secret until an Australian news organisation found him.
Now, before we discuss the claimed deterrence value of judicial murder, an important facet of the Singapore case must be made plain. An estimated 70% of death sentences are given out not for murder, but for drug trafficking, which means the retributive arguments for capital punishment -- a life for a life -- do not apply. This must be borne in mind in the discussion to follow.
The death sentence is mandatory -- that is, the judges have no discretion to reduce the sentence -- if the accused is found trafficking in more than 15 grams of heroin, or the equivalent of heroin. Hence, 30 grams of cocaine would also get you the death sentence. We have had this law since 1975.
The prosecutor does not have to prove that you were trafficking. He only needs to prove possession, and the law makes the presumption that you're trafficking.
to continue reading this well researched article
Can someone think of when was the last time The Straits Jacket referred to Singaporean involvement in the war? Email me any articles you know of or post them in the comments section please.
The Epic Crime That Dares Not Speak Its Name
By John Pilger
10/27/05 "ICH " -- --
A Royal Air Force officer is about to be tried before a military court for refusing to return to Iraq because the war is illegal. Malcolm Kendall-Smith is the first British officer to face criminal charges for challenging the legality of the invasion and occupation. He is not a conscientious objector; he has completed two tours in Iraq. When he came home the last time, he studied the reasons given for attacking Iraq and concluded he was breaking the law. His position is supported by international lawyers all over the world, not least by Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, who said in September last year: "The US-led invasion of Iraq was an illegal act that contravened the UN Charter."
The question of legality deeply concerns the British military brass, who sought Tony Blair's assurance on the eve of the invasion, got it and, as they now know, were lied to. They are right to worry; Britain is a signatory to the treaty that set up the International Criminal Court, which draws its codes from the Geneva Conventions and the 1945 Nuremberg Charter. The latter is clear: "To initiate a war of aggression... is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."
At the Nuremberg trial of the Nazi leadership, counts one and two, "Conspiracy to wage aggressive war and waging aggressive war", refer to "the common plan or conspiracy". These are defined in the indictment as "the planning, preparation, initiation and waging of wars of aggression, which were also wars in violation of international treaties, agreements and assurances". A wealth of evidence is now available that George Bush, Blair and their advisers did just that. The leaked minutes from the infamous Downing Street meeting in July 2002 alone reveal that Blair and his war cabinet knew that it was illegal. The attack that followed, mounted against a defenceless country offering no threat to the US or Britain, has a precedent in Hitler's invasion of Sudetenland; the lies told to justify both are eerily similar.
The similarity is also striking in the illegal bombing campaign that preceded both. Unknown to most people in Britain and America, British and US planes conducted a ferocious bombing campaign against Iraq in the ten months prior to the invasion, hoping this would provoke Saddam Hussein into supplying an excuse for an invasion. It failed and killed an unknown number of civilians.
At Nuremberg, counts three and four referred to "War crimes and crimes against humanity". Here again, there is overwhelming evidence that Blair and Bush committed "violations of the laws or customs of war" including "murder... of civilian populations of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war".
Two recent examples: the US onslaught near Ramadi this month in which 39 men, women and children - all civilians - were killed, and a report by the United Nations special rapporteur in Iraq who described the Anglo-American practice of denying food and water to Iraqi civilians in order to force them to leave their towns and villages as a "flagrant violation" of the Geneva Conventions.
In September, Human Rights Watch released an epic study that documents the systematic nature of torture by the Americans, and how casual it is, even enjoyable. This is a sergeant from the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division: "On their day off people would show up all the time. Everyone in camp knew if you wanted to work out your frustration you show up at the PUC [prisoners'] tent. In a way it was sport... One day a sergeant shows up and tells a PUC to grab a pole. He told him to bend over and broke the guy's leg with a mini Louisville Slugger that was a metal [baseball] bat. He was the fucking cook!"
The report describes how the people of Fallujah, the scene of numerous American atrocities, regard the 82nd Airborne as "the Murdering Maniacs". Reading it, you realise that the occupying force in Iraq is, as the head of Reuters said recently, out of control. It is destroying lives in industrial quantities when compared with the violence of the resistance.
Who will be punished for this? According to Sir Michael Jay, the permanent under-secretary of state who gave evidence before the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee on 24 June 2003, "Iraq was on the agenda of each cabinet meeting in the nine months or so until the conflict broke out in April". How is it possible that in 20 or more cabinet meetings, ministers did not learn about Blair's conspiracy with Bush? Or, if they did, how is it possible they were so comprehensively deceived?
Charles Clarke's position is important because, as the current British Home Secretary (interior minister), he has proposed a series of totalitarian measures that emasculate habeas corpus, which is the barrier between a democracy and a police state. Clarke's proposals pointedly ignore state terrorism and state crime and, by clear implication, say they require no accountability. Great crimes, such as invasion and its horrors, can proceed with impunity. This is lawlessness on a vast scale. Are the people of Britain going to allow this, and those responsible to escape justice? Flight Lieutenant Kendall-Smith speaks for the rule of law and humanity and deserves our support.
First published in the New Statesman - www.newstatesman.co.uk
Although I am critical of the article I must say "well done" to Chua Mui Hoong for managing to raise such important topics in a way that shows real skill and knowledge of what is acceptable to write and what must be avoided. Chua Mui Hoong has managed to get an article published that will have many thinking about the big issues. Including me...
The Straits Times / Asian news Network
This has been a Black October of sorts for those who harbor hopes of liberalizing, democratizing political change in Singapore.
Two high-profile bits of news have given the republic a decidedly bad press. [Make that three - notice there is no mention of the death penalty even though it has been covered extensively by the Australian media]
A group of academics at Warwick University voted against the institution's plans to set up a campus in Singapore, citing concerns about academic freedom and financial viability. [Yes the academics voted against the plans but the council also decided against the move. The council also involves those within the University higher up the chain of command. So it wasn't a bunch of 'idealistic' dreamers but the University of Warwick.]
And, in its latest report, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranked Singapore 140th in media freedom out of 167, alongside places like Azerbaijan (141), Bhutan (142), Egypt (143) and Syria (145). [Oh and the last US envoy slapped Singapore before he left. It was also in the RSF report before that and the one before that.]
Should Singaporeans care, when their country gets a bad press internationally or when surveys rank Singapore poorly? [How can they care when The Straits Jacket writers haven't got the balls to inform the people of what is really going on.]
Should Singaporeans be irked that the republic, which has a constitutionally elected legislature and clean elections, is once again rated "partly free" this year by the well-known Freedom House survey, with a dismal score of five for its political rights (seven being least free on a scale of one to seven)? [Falls off chair laughing - 'elected', 'clean elections' in a society where the ruling party owns every source of information that the population can view, gerrymandering etc....]
One approach to such issues is to discredit all such ratings as either inaccurate or demonstrating a "Western" bias. [Or as the "ex-ISA" operative now running the national newspaper makes sure that none of your puppets writes about the issues unless it is in the balanced way - see above]
Another more nuanced response argues for "Singapore exceptionalism," which basically says Singapore's multiracial and fragile society is unique and needs delicate management, and that Singapore is evolving its own brand of political democracy. [and yet not be able to put your finger on what it is that makes Singapore unique, claiming it is multiracial or fragile and therefore unique is the argument of someone who has never been beyond JB or Sentosa. It is the argument that worked when the PAP could control all media and images, the world view, of every Singaporean. Those days have gone with the advent of the internet, global media, global travel. Singapore is unique because it is the only society to have developed economically and yet remain an authoritarian regime.]
There is a third way to respond to Singapore's poor showing in these areas, which is to acknowledge that even if the surveys are not perfect, there may be lessons to be learnt from the substantive issues raised. [Only surveys made by the 'official' government ordained social engineers are 'perfect', Sociology 101. Offical means biased or slanted in favour of showing a good picture of the ruling party.]
In other words, take them seriously enough to examine if, indeed, there are shortcomings in the areas of democratic freedom, human rights and civil liberties in Singapore's system. ["to examine if" more ointment needed here, there are shortcomings, the suppression of the opposition with defamation cases, the highest death penalty rate in THE WORLD, unique?, four peaceful protesters are moved on by over 40 police officers, some in full riot gear for protesting outside the CPF building.]
After all, we are proud of accolades the country wins in the economic field. [What accolades, or is it that you are only allowed to report 'Good News'?]
Stories about its standing in competitiveness ratings, the top quality of its workforce, the high level of economic freedom, as well as having an excellent port or airport are regularly featured in the media and become talking points. [Economic freedom when Temasek and a few other Lee related entities own almost everything of any worth.]
When Singapore does badly in a rating with economic impact, we look carefully at the issue and see if something can be done to rectify the situation. [Unless an overseas publication says that there are problems because the Lee family is appointing family memebers which stinks of nepotism.]
For example, Singapore has been doing badly for years now in competitiveness ratings in the indicators based on school enrollment. [Since when did 'school' automatically equate 'economic'. Surely school is about something else, knowledge,learning, expanding the mind. Not just a factory for turning out unthinking workers.]
The latest World Economic Forum rating put Singapore 69th for primary education and health.
Instead of rubbishing those ratings in the past, efforts were made to improve. Schooling has been made compulsory and, over time, the school enrollment figures should go up, and the rating improve. [Where is this going? Oh sorry ointment.]
But a poor rating on human rights or political freedom seems to attract a different kind of response, with the government disagreeing with or discrediting the report.[Or you just simply not reporting it.]
The response of the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts to the media freedom index is that "the Press Freedom Index drawn up is based largely on a different media model which favors the advocacy and adversarial role of the press." [You as a so called journalist can actually quote this without criticising it. Singapore's media model favours the PAP in order to purposefully undermine press freedom.]
When Amnesty International highlighted Singapore's execution rate last year, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a detailed rebuttal which corrected factual errors. It went on to accuse the organization of distorting facts and questioned its credibility. [Which just by the way IS THE HIGHEST IN THE WORLD PER CAPITA. Don't tell me space constraints? So how many have been executed in Singapore, what is the number, what are their names, what were there crimes? Suddenly we have an authoritative regime questioning the integrity of a Noble Prize Winning Organisation.]
It may well be that reports from institutions like Amnesty and RSF lack the rigor of competitiveness ratings by the likes of the WEF, and are more open to rebuttal. Indeed, rights advocacy groups are by no means saintly institutions and some may have murky vested interests. [More ointment please. How about questioning the 'rigor' of the offically sanctioned statistics?]
Even so, a more constructive response is to adopt a spirit of inquiry and an open mind to examine the substantive issues more closely. [A more consructive response would be for you as a so-called journalist to actually start doing some investigative journalism, start reporting news as opposed to PAP sanctioned dictats.]
For example: Is there cause for concern about media freedom in Singapore? Is the death penalty at risk of being overused? What are the safeguards to ensure that the vulnerable, marginalized groups such as those highlighted by Amnesty receive due process when sentenced? [Media Freedom - you don't have any. Death Penalty - highest in the world. Due Process can not take place when it is 'mandatory'.]
In the case of Warwick University and academic freedom, Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam struck the right note when he balanced justifying Singapore to its critics, and taking an honest hard look at areas for improvement.
First, he noted that academics are free to study anything they wish and that many academics here are foreigners who presumably have no issue with lack of academic freedom. [Just don't print it or disseminate it in any way. In fact you probably shouldn't teach it either. Academic Freedom extends beyond simply studying something. As for the many foreigners who have 'no issue', how do you know, have you studied this, or is it on the out of bounds list. What is on that list any how? I don't know, do you? Best just stay clear of that topic.]
"We should never think we are in a perfect spot. Are we at an optimal point now? I doubt it. We must evolve. The intellectual climate is not cast in stone," he said.[It is however dyed white by the PAP. Would that be a climate of fear, that is not cast in stone but laws relating to defamation?]
"It will have to evolve with a new generation of Singaporeans ...but it will have to reflect realities of the world around us, especially on race and religion." [And politics, human rights, civil liberties, death penalty, democracy...]
The same statement can be made with regard to issues to do with human rights and civil liberties.
Is Singapore at an optimal point now on these? Like the minister, I doubt it. Like him, I think we will evolve in our own way. [Or you will evolve in a way that was designed by the social engineering and interference from the men in white.]
On Oct. 6, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a talk to the Foreign Correspondents' Association that he had no doubt Singapore society and its politics would change. But Singapore won't become and doesn't aspire to be a Western-style democracy, he said. [The sad thing is that he believes that he can tell Singaporeans and the world that Singapore is an authoritarian regime and that it is somehow acceptable.]
Debate about the democratic development of Singapore and taking a hard look at weaknesses in the political system that impede democratic evolution - these are matters of domestic concern, and should not be interpreted as kowtowing to "Western" brow-beating. [Actually debating democratic development will involve questioning the PAP's grip on power and this will mean you will have to face a defamation case, a few years in jail, get fired etc...]
After all, even China is forthright about its wish to evolve a democracy with Chinese characteristics, where the people's "legitimate rights and interests are fully guaranteed," as its first White Paper on democracy released on Oct. 19 stated. [What has this article got to do with China, is Singapore going to follow China? The argument from the PAP and the Communist Party is the usual - The Republic of Heaven is just over the next hill, we are not there yet and need these chains to stay on, but when we get to the Republic of Heaven...]
Within the parameters of keeping the Communist Party in charge, even communist China is paying attention to its democratic evolution.[Should read, "even China is clamping down on press freedom and dissenting voices.]
So when foreign criticisms put Singapore's perceived lack of freedoms under scrutiny, the Singapore government and people should examine the issue with an open mind, not adopt a defensive posture to discredit those views. [Perceived?]
As even government ministers acknowledge, Singapore must change politically. No one knows what kind of creature the Singapore democracy will evolve into. [I do know, it will be another 100 years of the PAP.]
But evolve it must, and part of the process of evolution entails being honest about its flaws.[I always thought that Darwin's theory of evolution referred to competition. In the political arena that would mean more than being a one-party state.]
By Chua Mui Hoong
It takes a delicate balancing act to match our human rights stance with regional sensitivities, Michelle Grattan writes.
THE imminent hanging - barring a miracle - of the young Australian Nguyen Tuong Van is a horrible and sad human tragedy. But it's more than that.It's the latest example of how capital punishment and lesser-but-excessive sentences for drug crimes in Asia are becoming a serious complication for Australia in its dealings with the region.
The extreme and automatic penalty imposed on Nguyen - for trafficking heroin which he said was to pay for his twin brother's debts - is a jolting reminder of the appalling disregard for human rights in some of our neighbours who are also our friends.
The Schapelle Corby case, fanned by an often feral media, stirred up a lot of negative feeling in this country against Indonesia.While Corby is to serve an inordinately long sentence, it's been clear for some time that Nguyen almost certainly would be executed.
The Howard Government made strong representations, but to no effect.The case highlights, in the starkest terms, the gulf in values between Australia and some of these countries.AdvertisementAdvertisementOf course Australia, too, once had the death penalty (though only for the most serious crime) and in opinion polls many Australians still favour it. But the decision-makers crossed an important moral line and there will be no going back.
Singapore's attitude is barbaric, pure and simple. The report last week of the 73-year-old Singapore executioner, who has put to death more than 850 people and hanged 18 men in one day, was a chilling indictment of an approach to human life that it's hard to believe can exist in a country that's in some ways a model of modernisation.
The Nguyen case is sparking calls that Australia should mount a broad and vigorous international push against the death penalty for such cases.Philip Alston, chief adviser on the death penalty to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, has accused the Australian Government of inconsistency.Alston (brother of former minister Richard) said on Friday that Australia was willing to speak out when international standards on policing terrorism were not met, but did not fight for changes to these mandatory death penalties in drug cases that breach "international legal requirements".
It comes back to choices Australia periodically faces in regional relations. As one Government source puts it: "Asians do some things we wouldn't do. If Australia wants to be the moral policeman, it will be a lonely position."Yet not to do it sees Australia making representations for its own people - that inevitably looks to the region like special pleading, which it is - while dodging the issue of wider human rights abuses.
Howard is not absolutist on capital punishment, although he opposes it for Australia and Australians abroad.Australia's position is that it has no objection to a death penalty for the Bali bombers, which is a mixture of acceptance of Indonesia's sovereignty and a stand of domestic political convenience.After the Nguyen case, the Bali nine drug runners present another nightmare prospect.
If several Australians were sentenced to death there would be a huge domestic outcry (although the feeling is those sentences probably wouldn't be carried out).The Government would be caught between having to apply the maximum pressure while knowing that could be counterproductive, perhaps to the fate of the individuals as well as the wider relationship between the two countries.
The adherence of Indonesia to the death penalty for drug crimes complicates bilateral dealings even short of someone being sentenced.Under Australian law, police can assist overseas authorities in cases up to the point where someone is charged with a crime carrying the death penalty (when help can be given only under strict protocols and to advantage the defendant).
Australian Federal Police is now under sharp criticism for helping its Indonesian counterparts apprehend the Bali nine before they left Indonesia when they could have picked them up after they got off the plane in Australia.Yet for police not to co-operate with their counterparts overseas could prejudice the fight against crime and jeopardise wider co-operative arrangements.
Of course, for Australia and Australians, these problems would not arise if people absorbed the message that there is no mercy for drug offenders in these countries. If any shred of something positive is to come out of recent cases, it can only be that surely they must reinforce this.In the final stages of the Nguyen story, the Prime Minister is under pressure to up the ante. Nguyen's lawyer, Lex Lasry, on Friday urged him to make a "clear statement"."
The Singapore Government would listen carefully if our Prime Minister would say that as a human being and Prime Minister, he did not want this Australian citizen executed," Lasry said.If only it were so. The evidence, however, suggests Singapore is morally deaf and politically immutable on this issue.
The mother of Melbourne man Nguyen Tuong Van has written to the Queen in a desperate bid to save her son from execution.
Nguyen was caught smuggling 396 grams of heroin out of Singapore in 2002 and is expected to be executed within weeks.
The letter, written in Vietnamese and addressed to Queen Elizabeth II, was sent to Nguyen's Melbourne legal team to be forwarded to Buckingham Palace.
Nguyen's mother, Kim, was believed to have pleaded with the Queen in the letter to personally intervene in the case and ask the Singapore government to spare her son's life, The Sunday Age said.
The letter has been translated.
A family friend told The Sunday Age Mrs Nguyen was not coping well.
"She's found it all incredibly hard," a family friend said."She has suffered a lot... She suffers intensely."She's an intensely loving mother. She looks like her heart is breaking."
Nguyen's lawyers believe the execution will not take place for several weeks.Executions are usually carried out at 6am on Fridays.
Meanwhile, a friend of Van says he feels guilt over the Melbourne man's pending execution in Singapore.Nguyen had told authorities he was helping a friend repay a debt, but he did it to get his brother out of trouble.
Student Jonathan Lim backed up Nguyen's claims, saying he loaned Nguyen about $20,000 to help him pay his brother's debts.
Mr Lim told the Sunday Herald Sun Nguyen, who will be hanged within weeks, was no hardened criminal and should be spared."
Van has got a good heart," Mr Lim said."He's had a hard life and he's made a couple of bad decisions, but he's not a lifetime criminal and he deserves another chance."
Mr Lim said Nguyen had written to him from Changi prison to apologise about not being able to repay the loan."
I said, 'Don't worry about it,'" he said."I feel bad in a way because he did it to pay me back."
A prayer service will be held for Nguyen on Sunday, November 6.Nguyen's lawyer is also making a clemency bid to Singapore High Commissioner Joseph Koh.
28 Oct 2005
Some salient points regarding the political situation are made but fails to grasp one important matter. Singaporean politicians have never claimed to aspire to anything resembling a democracy. Lee Hsien Loong recently stated that Singapore would not be a 'liberal-democracy' for the next 20 years. It is a petty dictatorship that HAS NEVER pretended to be anything else.
Friday, October 28, 2005 - 05:03 PM
If all else fails, as seems the case, what can we do to vent the fury that many of us feel about the impending execution of Australian citizen Nguyen Tuong Van in Singapore? I know what I'll be doing: following the advice of my colleague Mark Baker in The Age, and having as little to do with this quasi-democracy as possible.
The country seems deeply precious -- in the bad way -- its leaders devoid of any sense of humour, always attempting to censor and silence anyone who disagrees with them. As Reporters Without Borders highlights, the Singaporean media are cowed and compliant. It all occurs under the spurious cloak of "Asian values" and respect for the wisdom of elders. What hogwash.
It is a petty dictatorship, where after a suitable interregnum, the ruling family has been restored to power. It is effectively a one-party state, where the government uses its iron grip on the legal system to drive any opponents from office.
First it was Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, who in 1981 smashed 16 years of one-party rule when he was elected to Parliament as the sole representative of the Worker's Party. Then prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who has since put his son on the throne, said the courageous Jeyaretnam should be "destroyed" for bucking the system.
Lee family regent, Goh Chok Tong, also tried to drive another opposition figure, Chee Soon Juan, from office, by suing him with the aim of bankrupting him, thereby making him ineligible to run for office.
Lee was also an apologist for the tyrants of Burma -- or Myanmar, as he acquiescingly calls it -- and its brutal suppression of Aung San Suu Kyi.
And, of course, it has a politicised legal system, which always seems to find in favour of the whinging government minister suing the opposition into oblivion, and now imposing the death sentence on an unfortunate young Australian. Yes, Nguyen Tuong Van was carrying drugs, not into Singapore, but through Singapore and into Australia, and only to raise enough to pay the debts of his imperiled brother.
Was he aware of his crime and the disastrous impact of heroin addiction? The answers are, respectively, yes and probably. But should his penalty be judicial murder in a country with, according to Amnesty International, the highest per capita execution rate in the world? (More than 420 people have been executed since 1991, the majority for drug trafficking.) I think not but maybe you disagree.
Some correspondents have responded to Mark Baker's call for a boycott -- both as a travel destination and of its companies, such as Singapore Airlines and Optus -- by asking why single out Singapore.
I tell you why. Because it is a petty dictatorship that pretends to be so much more.
Posted by Andrew West at October 28, 2005 05:03 PM
It appears that some are not prepared to let Nguyen Tuong Van go without a fight. In Singapore no more than four people are allowed to protest and even then you will be confronted by police officers in full riot gear. However I am aware that there are large numbers of students of many nationalities living, working and studying in Australia. Take to the streets of Australia, it is well within your civil liberties. In Singapore you don't have any.
Please stand up for this man, we are urging Universities and human rights organisations around Australia to hold peaceful protests and request that Prime Minister John Howard personally and publicly request clemency for Nguyen Tuong Van. Don't let this young man hang.
For further information please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
SAVE THE LIFE OF VAN TUONG NGUYEN
NGUYEN TUONG VAN - Please don’t hang this man
He now faces execution, possibly within 10 days.
Nguyen’s mother fled Vietnam alone in a boat in 1980 and had her twin sons in a transit camp in Malaysia before being accepted into Australia four months later.
Nguyen’s Australian lawyers described the decision as "devastating for him, his family and friends".
Lex Lasry QC said Nguyen had always admitted his guilt and given constructive help to authorities including the Australian Federal Police.
"The decision appears to pay no heed to the provisions of the Singapore Constitution that make specific reference and provide for clemency to those who assist the authorities with information which can be used to prosecute others," he said.
Mr Lasry called on the Singapore Government to reverse its decision.
Nguyen was sentenced to death last year after being found guilty by a Singapore court of smuggling almost 400 grams of heroin from Cambodia via Singapore.
Nguyen said he had the drugs because he was trying to raise money to clear debts incurred by his twin brother.
Kim Nguyen weeps as barrister Julian McMahon explains that an appeal against the death penalty for her son has been dismissed.
Please beware that the link to the website below contains graphic and harrowing images. We have made a decision to link to it, in order to highlight the desperate plight of Nguyen Tuong Van.
THE FACTS ABOUT HANGING
Please write to the President of Singapore Mr S R Nathan and plead clemency for Nguyen Tuong Van. email: email@example.com
Please address the President as Your Excellency and end the letter with Yours respectfully. Please be courteous and respectful in your request for clemency.
Please write to Prime Minister LEE Hsien Loong at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please address to Dear Prime Minister
Please write to Prime Minister John Howard requesting that he personally pleads for clemency to the President of Singapore Mr S R Nathan, on the behalf of Nguyen Tuong Van. This request has by echoed by Nguyen’s lawyer Mr Lex Lasry. Please Mr Howard make a personal public appeal to the Government and President of Singapore.
The Hon John Howard MP
CANBERRA ACT 2600
email:The Hon John Howard MP
Other useful contact details:
Lex Lasry - Australian Lawyer
1-13 University Avenue, Canberra ACT 2601
Tel:(02) 6257 6007
Fax: (02) 6257 6290 DX 99 Canberra
Joseph Theseira - Singapore Lawyer
Tel: 6533-0288 Fax: 6533-8802
20A Circular Road
The argument that Singapore should be meeting the standards of international law was appealed to during the failed attempt to save the life of Shanmugum Murugesu but we know how that turned out.
From ABC News online.
UN official criticises Govt over Nguyen case
A senior United Nations human rights official says the Australian Government has mishandled the appeal for clemency for Van Nguyen, who is on death row in Singapore.
Twenty-five-year-old Nguyen was convicted for smuggling heroin into Singapore in December 2002.
Professor Philip Alston, the chief adviser on the death penalty to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, says Australia should be aggressively lobbying Asian countries that apply the death penalty in drug cases.
Professor Alston is a professor of law at New York University and the brother of the former Howard Government minister Richard Alston.
He has also been lobbying the Singaporean Government over the case of the Melbourne man on behalf of the UN.
He says that applying a mandatory element to the death penalty in drug cases is a contravention of international law.
Professor Alston is critical of the Australian Government's approach to the Nguyen case, saying it is not enough for the Government to seek clemency in an individual case.
"The appropriate approach which the Government should take, but has opted not to, is pressing not Singapore but a range of other countries in the region on the fact that they treat drug offences as being punishable by death, which is not appropriate under international law," he said.
"Secondly, they classify these cases as requiring a mandatory or compulsory death penalty. So it doesn't matter what the individual circumstances of the case are, the court has no option, no matter how mitigating factors might be brought into case, except to say 'you must die', and that's if there's no further appeal, there's no further consideration.
"That's not consistent with international law, there's a very strong body of that indicating that governments are not permitted to do that sort of thing.
"Now the Australian Government has not been pushing these arguments at all, as far as I've seen, and while it's encouraging that they express regret, I think there is another step they need to take, and it's not just in one of these individual cases but it's going to affect an increasing number of Australians."
Professor Alston says the Australian Government needs to raise the profile of its anti-death penalty argument in the Asian region.
He contrasts the situation to the Federal Government's stance on lobbying Asian Governments on terrorism laws.
"I've seen statements by the Prime Minister [John Howard] and others saying that these are sovereign decisions for other countries and we can't interfere," he said.
"That's not the line we take in relation to policing of terrorism or others instances, where it's clear that international standards are not being respected.
"We don't hesitate to speak out, we say, 'as a law-abiding nation, you should reconsider your laws, you should bring them into line within international standards'.
"There's no reason why we shouldn't be doing that now in relation to these drug offences, where the imposition of mandatory death penalty for a relatively minor drug offence is out of all proportion and it's just not consistent with international legal requirements.""
To read Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer's dismissal of Professor Alston's claims read on...
There are millions of websites that breach "the Internet Code of Practice, which governs the content of websites in Singapore." Here is another site openly available http://gay.date.com/gay-personals/singapore-singapore.htm. The MDA are applying this code of practice in an arbitrary manner without recourse to proper due process.
All it takes are "several complaints" from so called concerned yet highly misinformed homophobics claiming that the site will "entice young boys to join this lifestyle". The misinformed image of gay men preying on young boys paints an image that gay equals paedophile. An image that has been reinforced by The Straits Times article. This can only be viewed as an attack by the MDA on homosexuality and the continued drive by the government to ostracise the gay community from Singapore.
Some people may be 'offended' by homosexuality but simple offence should not entail banning and fining.
It further undermines the claim by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong "I don't think we are homophobic."
Yes you are, and you openly promote homophobia.
From The Age
October 28, 2005 - 11:01AM
Authorities in Singapore banned a gay website after receiving complaints about the promotion of promiscuous homosexual behaviour and recruitment of underage boys for sex and nude photography, news reports say.
A second website, titled "Meet Gay Singapore Friends", was warned by the Media Development Authority (MDA) to remove offensive content and fined 5000 Singapore dollars ($A3886), the Straits Times said.
Web users in Singapore could no longer access the banned site, which is hosted overseas, from their home computers, the MDA said. It was put on a list of 100 banned websites, including 98 containing pornographic materials and two promoting religious extremism.
Spokesman Kwan Sui Fen said the MDA took action after receiving "several complaints".
Investigations showed the two sites breached the Internet Code of Practice, which governs the content of websites in Singapore.
The banned overseas site also provided listings of public swimming pools without shower doors and pickup places for casual sex, information about mass orgies and explicit personal advertisements recruiting underage boys for sex or nude photography, the report said.
"The way the sites glamorise a promiscuous gay lifestyle and try to entice young boys to join this lifestyle ... is very wrong," the newspaper quoted Ricky Lee, a 33-year-old software programmer and one of the complainants, as saying.
The banned site's registered members grew from 60,000 last year, when Lee stumbled upon it, to more than 330,000 this year.
The MDA has referred the banned website to police, but lawyers noted that trying to make the operator take the website down could be tough since it is run from abroad.
An annual gay and lesbian beach party, which drew international revellers to Singapore's Sentosa Island for four years, was banned by police in August, forcing it to move to the Thai resort of Phuket in November.
Police declared the event "contrary to public interest" in an apparent departure from the gradual acceptance of gays and lesbians into the social mainstream in recent years.
A sense of false safety in numbers
Zooming in on home equity may not give an accurate picture of lower-income households' finances
Friday • October 28, 2005
SIEW KUM HONG
THE Department of Statistics recently released a paper on home ownership and equity of HDB households. It makes for impressive reading, and rightly shines the spotlight on the overall success of Singapore's public housing policy.
In particular, many have cited the impressive statistic that the lowest 20 per cent by income of households in owner-occupied HDB flats have an average home equity (that is, the value of the flat less the outstanding loan) of $138,000.
That is no small sum. But as I delved into the details, I wondered if the report's findings — seen in proper perspective — are as wonderful as some have made them out to be. In the first place, home equity is not an appropriate indicator of wealth in Singapore, given the limited alternatives to home ownership here.
Yes, people can rent. But renting is not a perfect alternative to housing in Singapore, because CPF funds can be used to buy homes but cannot be used to pay rentals.
With the employees' CPF contribution being a hefty 20 per cent of gross salary, this is a major consideration. It can therefore be difficult, if not impracticable, to convert home equity into actual cash.
If a family sells their HDB flat, they may gain some cash, but will lose the ability to use 20 per cent of their combined salaries to pay for housing. This is aggravated by the fact that rentals in Singapore are not cheap, while direct rentals from HDB are stringently controlled and far from guaranteed.
Let's say that the market monthly rental for a 3-room HDB flat is $800. If an average household in the bottom 20 per cent sells its HDB flat and rents a 3-room flat instead, the home equity realised would cover only about 15 years' rentals.
This is assuming the full $138,000 is realised as free cash — unlikely given costs such as stamp duties and legal fees. It may also be necessary to repay any CPF funds used to buy the flat, plus the CPF interest foregone. It is of course possible to monetise part of the home equity by subletting a room or the whole flat. But subletting a room comes with difficulties, especially for big families.
And while the HDB has liberalised the eligibility requirements for subletting the whole flat, that still leaves the question of alternative accommodation, which will reduce the amount of cash from renting out the flat. We must also remember the 13 per cent of the bottom 20 per cent households who do not own their flats.
This 13 per cent translates into a sizeable 23,000 households living in HDB rental flats. They can benefit from the many assistance schemes available.
Still, we need to always remember this under-class with low incomes and without any home equity, who continue to need extra help. In this regard, the recent NTUC proposal to eliminate employees' CPF contributions for those earning less than $1,000, with the Government contributing to their CPF accounts, is noteworthy. But the Government's aversion to welfarism may make this a difficult proposition. The paper raised a couple of other questions that deserve closer attention. 52.2 per cent of the bottom 20 per cent households live in four and five-room flats. This calls into doubt the strategy of tying goodies such as CPF top-ups to housing type, as they may not reach those who would benefit the most.
Furthermore, the income figures in the paper appear inconsistent with those stated in the 2003 Household Expenditure Survey (HES) released earlier this year.
The DOS paper cited an average annual income of $14,100 for the bottom 20 per cent households in owner-occupied HDB flats. But the 2003 survey had reported an average monthly household income of $795 (or $9,540 per year) for the bottom 20 per cent households, taking into account possible annual bonuses.
So which figure is right? Yes, the HES figure covered all households, whether in owner-occupied HDB flats or otherwise.
But when I tried to work back from the figures in the paper for home ownership rates and average annual household income, I could not come close to reconciling the figures. Hopefully, the DOS could shed some light on this.
The DOS paper concluded with some fairly upbeat remarks about the success of the Government's home ownership policies. Yes, the Government has done amazingly well in this regard. But I would urge against drawing conclusions, based simply on this paper, about the wealth of the low-income.
The Government has noted the risks of the growing "asset rich, cash poor" phenomenon. It would be a pity if the illusory asset of home equity is allowed to obscure the needs of low-income households.
The writer is a lawyer commenting in his personal capacity.
From smh.com.auOctober 28, 2005 - 7:54AM
The man due to execute convicted Australian drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van in Singapore is a 73-year-old grandfather who can't retire because no-one will take his job.
The Singaporean government looks set to take the 25-year-old Melbourne man to the gallows, after rejecting his appeal for clemency last Friday.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has made a last ditch attempt to save Nguyen's life, but says he has little hope the Australian will be spared.
Singapore's chief executioner Darshan Singh, who has hanged more than 850 prisoners in his 46 years in the role, is due to place the rope around Nguyen's neck, The Australian newspaper reported.
He will say: "I am going to send you to a better place than this. God bless you."
The newspaper says Singh, who lives in a government-owned apartment, wants to leave his job but authorities cannot find a replacement.
Singh is not permitted by law to speak publicly about his job.
But a colleague told the newspaper: "He tried to train two would-be hangmen to replace him, a Malaysian and a Chinese, both in the prison service.
"But when it came to pulling the lever for the real thing, they both froze and could not do it.
"The Chinese guy, a prison officer, became so distraught he walked out immediately and resigned from the prison service altogether."
Nguyen was caught with 396 grams of heroin strapped to his body and in his hand luggage at Singapore's Changi airport in 2002.
He is expected to be hanged in the next four to six weeks.
The picture above and the extract below of an article from The Australian add insight into the final moments of those who face the death penalty in Singapore...
Semi-retired: Darshan Singh, Singapore's chief executioner, wants to quit, but suitable replacements are hard to find
[...]Officials rarely comment on capital punishment, which is carried out without publicity behind the walls of Changi prison.
But The Australian can reveal today that the 73-year-old grandfather, who lives in a modest, government-owned apartment near the border with Malaysia, has been asked to execute Nguyen unless the Singapore Government gives an unprecedented last-minute reprieve.
Mr Singh told The Australian yesterday that under the Official Secrets Act he was forbidden from speaking about his work.
Nguyen will meet Mr Singh a few days before he is executed and will be asked if he would like to donate his organs.
On the day before his execution, Mr Singh will lead him to a set of scales close to his death-row cell to weigh him.
Mr Singh will use the Official Table of Drops, published by the British Home Office in 1913, to calculate the correct length of rope for the hanging.
On the day of Nguyen's execution, Mr Singh will be picked up by a government vehicle and driven to the prison, arriving at 2am to prepare the gallows.
Shortly before 6am, he will handcuff Nguyen's hands behind his back and lead him on his final short walk to the gallows, just a few metres from the cell.
Mr Singh joined the British colonial prison service in the mid-1950s after arriving from Malaysia. When the long-established British hangman Mr Seymour retired, Mr Singh, then 27, volunteered for the job. He was attracted by the bonus payment for executions.
Mr Singh is credited with being the only executioner in the world to single-handedly hang 18 men in one day - three at a time.
They had been convicted of murdering four prison officers during a riot on the penal island of Pulau Senang in 1963.
He also hanged seven condemned men within 90 minutes a few years later. They had been convicted in what became known as the "gold bars murders", in which a merchant and two employees were killed during a robbery.
One of the most controversial executions in his career was the 1991 hanging of a young Filipina maid, Flor Contemplacion, who was convicted of the murder of a co-worker, Delia Maga, and her four-year-old son, on what many believed was shaky evidence.
He carries out the executions wearing simple casual clothes, often just a T-shirt, shorts, sports shoes and knee-length socks.
To mark his 500th hanging four years ago, four of his former colleagues turned up at his home to celebrate the event with a couple of bottles of Chivas Regal.
Mr Singh boasts that he has never botched an execution.
"Mr Seymour taught him just how long the drop should be according to weight and height and exactly where the knot should be placed at the back of the neck," his colleague said.
"Death has always come instantaneously and painlessly. In that split second, at precisely 6am, it's all over."
27 Oct 2005
I am not going to paste the article here and force all of you to read another inane article from Singapore media, but follow the link, and you'll find something rather amusing: IMH wants to help people addicted to gambling.
Understandably, this is to prevent locals from gambling their savings away. I do wonder, though, whether IMH extends this service to rich tourists who'll come here to gamble away their riches from 2009.
You can also listen to the story in REAL AUDIO and WINDOWS MEDIA and MP3 formats.
PM - Thursday, 27 October , 2005 18:10:22
Reporter: Peta Donald
MARK COLVIN: The slim chance of a reprieve for Van Nguyen, who faces death by hanging in Singapore, looks even slimmer tonight.
Singapore has made its first official comment since rejecting a plea for clemency last week, and it offers not even a smidgin of hope to the young man.
The 25-year-old former salesman from Melbourne was found in transit in Singapore with almost 400 grams of heroin strapped to his body.
Today's statement, from Singapore's High Commissioner in Canberra, said Singapore's death penalty for drug offences was well known and defended the decision to send Nguyen to the gallows.
In a moment we'll hear from Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, for his response, but first here's a report on today's development from Peta Donald in Canberra.
PETA DONALD: In Singapore executions are carried out on Fridays.
As he waits in a cell in Changi Prison, the condemned Australian Van Nguyen will take no comfort from today's statement from Singapore's High Commission in Canberra.
The High Commissioner Joseph Koh has issued a strong defence of the decision against granting clemency in this case.
JOSEPH KOH STATEMENT (read by actor): Our strict anti-drug laws send a clear message to drug syndicates not to conduct their criminal activities in Singapore or through Singapore. Our policy has been well-publicised and Mr Nguyen was well aware of it.
PETA DONALD: Mr Nguyen, the High Commissioner points out was caught with 396 grams of heroin, more than the 15 grams that attracts a mandatory death penalty in Singapore.
JOSEPH KOH STATEMENT (read by actor): I understand that this decision is difficult for his family to accept. But the stand the Government has taken on Mr Nguyen is consistent with the firm position that Singapore has taken on similar cases in the past, involving Singaporeans and foreigners alike. Not everyone may agree with our view, but I hope they will understand Singapore's position.
PETA DONALD: Nguyen's Melbourne-based barrister, Lex Lasry, QC, is still holding out hope.
LEX LASRY: We regard the statement as predictable. It's what I would expect the Singapore Government, through the High Commissioner would say, as at today.
I certainly don't see it as in anyway an end of the process. It's a statement, a diplomatic statement, as to their current attitude and we set out to change it.
PETA DONALD: It does seem like a fairly serious development for your client though, that doesn't leave very much room for hope.
LEX LASRY: Well, I don't agree with that.
I think we haven't yet had a chance to redevelop the argument that we've announced we're going to make.
We will make a further approach to the Singapore Government, directly to the President and possibly to the High Commissioner. Now we haven't done that yet, so the Singapore High Commission can't be expected to respond to that.
They have obviously had plenty of media inquiries and they've stated their position as at today, but that position can be changed and we do aim to change it.
PETA DONALD: Lex Lasry is planning to approach Singapore's Government in the next few days.
He says he's pleased with the political support being offered in Australia, but he's still calling for more.
LEX LASRY: What would make us happier and what would help considerably would be if the Prime Minister would make a clear statement that in his opinion our client should not be executed for the reasons that we've given now over a number of days.
I think the Singapore Government would be impressed that a man of the standing of our Prime Minister would be prepared to say that.
PETA DONALD: Have you had any indication from Mr Howard as to whether he'd be prepared to do that?
LEX LASRY: No we haven't, but I… as a human being, I'd ask him to. This is a man's life that's at stake, it's a life we want to save, it's a life that is valuable.
And I understand Mr Howard's opposition to capital punishment and I think it's time for someone of that seniority to speak directly about his feelings about it.
PETA DONALD: But whatever approaches are made, Singapore has a long history of withstanding pressure to save the lives of those it's decided to send to the gallows.
Professor Garry Rodan, the Director of the Asia Research Centre, at Murdoch University, says Singapore is unlikely to buckle.
He points to the case of Singaporean father of two executed earlier this year for a drug conviction, despite a public campaign in Singapore against it.
GARRY RODAN: It doesn't want to give encouragement to advocacy groups, such as those involved in the attempt to have the clemency awarded for the Singapore national who was facing execution. And any concession at all, even if it is in this case to pressure from outside, might be thought by the Singapore Government as a source of encouragement for advocacy groups in general.
MARK COLVIN: Professor Garry Rodan from Murdoch University with Peta Donald.
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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.
The World Today - ABC
Thursday, 27 October , 2005 12:10:00
Reporter: Catherine McGrath
ELEANOR HALL: We go first today to the fate of the Australian man on death row in Singapore. Lawyers for Van Nguyen have said this morning that they do not see the statement from the Singapore High Commission this morning as an indication that the case is closed.
Singapore High Commissioner to Australia, Joseph Koh, today issued a statement saying he understands that the family of Mr Nguyen find the death penalty decision hard to accept, but that Singapore's strict anti-drug laws are well-known, and send a clear message to drug syndicates.
The Australian Government this week indicated it intends to appeal again to Singapore's Foreign Minister, but both the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister have said they believe the case has little hope.
To discuss the latest developments, we’re joined in our Canberra studio by Chief Political Correspondent Catherine McGrath.
So, Catherine, how important is this statement from the Singapore High Commission?
CATHERINE MCGRATH: Well, Eleanor, I think it’s important in the sense that there has been no public comment at all from the Government of Singapore since the decision was handed down on Friday to reject the clemency appeal.
Now, this statement comes from the Singapore High Commissioner here as you said, Joseph Koh, but it will have been thoroughly checked, thoroughly endorsed and effectively written by the Singapore Government.
So every word that is being issued here in Australia is issued with a direct political message too. And the word coming out of this in this statement sends a very clear message that the case has been considered, and was carefully considered, but that the result is, in effect, the result is in place.
Now, it doesn’t…
ELEANOR HALL: Is it…
CATHERINE MCGRATH: Sorry?
ELEANOR HALL: Is it a message then to the leaders in our country that there’s not much point in them making extra appeals?
CATHERINE MCGRATH: Well, certainly there’s no indication here, there’s no comment on an appeal.
But let me read to you some of the words in the statement.
It says, “Our strict,” the Singaporeans are saying, “Our strict anti-drug laws send a clear message to drug syndicates.”
It also says that Mr Nguyen was given a fair hearing throughout the legal process and his appeal for clemency was carefully considered.
The statement goes on to say, the High Commissioner here is saying, “I understand this decision is difficult for the family to accept, but the stand the Government has taken is consistent with the firm position that Singapore has taken in similar cases.”
So, Eleanor, it does not reflect on the fact that there are some papers, some appeals still going ahead by the Australian Government.
But certainly, the message on face value is: Singapore has looked at this, given it careful consideration and the decision is there.
ELEANOR HALL: So what has the response been then from the lawyers for Van Nguyen?
CATHERINE MCGRATH: Well, the lawyers this morning, Eleanor, have been carefully considering this statement and they’re, they’re being reasonably optimistic. They’re saying this is just a statement of the current facts as we know them. And they’re still going ahead with their appeals.
Now they’re, as we’ve heard from them in the media in the last few days, they’re making definite statements on the value of Mr Nguyen as a possible witness in cases here in Australia that could give vital evidence, they say, in prosecuting drug syndicates in this country. And also, they’re saying, the fact that he is remorseful, the fact that he can undergo rehabilitation and has a completely clean record.
Now, I spoke to one of the lawyers this morning, and we’ll hear now from Mr Nguyen’s lawyer, Melbourne lawyer Julian McMahon.
JULIAN MCMAHON: The statement is a response from the Singapore High Commission to all the media inquiries that, no doubt, he’s been getting, and it’s a general response just restating the Government position, but it doesn’t deal with the issues that we’ve been raising or the issues that have been raised on our behalf by the Government over the last year or so.
CATHERINE MCGRATH: So does that give you any reason for hope that those issues will still be considered?
JULIAN MCMAHON: Oh yes, I’m sure that they will be.
It’s been well publicised through the media that Mr Downer is intending to go back to the Singapore Government, and I don’t see that this media statement by the Singapore High Commission is an attempt to pre-empt that at all. It’s just stating the Government’s position.
CATHERINE MCGRATH: Do you think that the Government response is going to have any effect, given that the previous attempts have failed?
JULIAN MCMAHON: Well, obviously I’m hopeful that it will. We’ve now raised the profile of what we consider some of the key factors, and I think that everyone involved will have another closer look.
I mean, the Singapore Cabinet is renowned for the intelligence of its members, and when its closest regional friend urges it to reconsider a matter based in policy, and in law, and with a background of close friendship, I’d have no doubt that they would pay close attention to that and reconsider the matter.
ELEANOR HALL: That’s the lawyer for Van Nguyen, Julian McMahon.
Now, Catherine, do we know whether, how, do we know yet whether Van Nguyen himself has responded to this statement, whether he’s even seen the statement from the High Commission?
CATHERINE MCGRATH: No, well he wouldn’t have seen it yet, Eleanor, as we’ve said, the lawyers have just been studying it. It will be passed onto him in the normal, normal information transfer that goes on.
His lawyers were saying this morning, actually, that he is holding up very well and, but he is hopeful himself, Mr Nguyen is hopeful himself that there might be a positive response.
Now, we heard there Julian McMahon emphasising the Australia and Singapore relationship, emphasising that the lawyers want the Australian Government, as Singapore’s closest non-ASEAN friend in this region, to make a strong statement to say to Singapore that it’s important for the Australian relationship that Australia feels very strongly about this.
Now, it’s not clear at all that Australia will be taking that line. Clearly, the lawyers feel that’s a valuable line.
What the Australian Government has said is they will put in another appeal, they will speak to George Yeo, the Foreign Minister, and, but publicly, as you know, our Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, and the Prime Minister, John Howard, have said that they don’t feel there’s a lot of hope in this case.
Remember, Singapore has had this position for a very long time. It feels the importance of sending the message of tough on drugs is an important one, a consistent one.
So politically, Singapore doesn’t want to be seen to be changing its rule for an Australian when it hasn’t been changing its rule for Singaporeans or other people from other ASEAN countries, who might be in Singapore.
So I think it’s a very, very hard ask and the timeframe now is getting quite close. Singapore does its hangings on Fridays. It’s a ritualistic thing there that that’s when they happen.
There’s no indication yet of exactly when Van Nguyen’s case would be coming forward. His lawyers were originally told, after the clemency appeal was rejected on Friday, that it could be four to six weeks, but they’re not going to get much notice. And the lobbying from the lawyers is going to intensify.
ELEANOR HALL: Catherine McGrath, our Chief Political Correspondent, thank you
Below is an extract from a related article from news.com.au
However, while Singaporean representatives have played down the chances of a successful appeal for clemency, an international campaign to spare Nguyen from the death penalty is gathering steam.
Mr Lasry's colleague, Melbourne barrister Julian McMahon, said Foreign Minister Alexander Downer was planning to continue talks with the Singapore Government and he was hopeful these would be positive.
"We've now raised the profile of what we consider some of the key factors and I think that everyone involved will have another closer look," Mr McMahon said on ABC radio.
The Federal Opposition has made a separate bid, with shadow foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd yesterday speaking to Mr Koh, and writing to the country's foreign minister.
Nearly all Federal Members of Parliament are expected to sign a petition addressed to the Singaporean President and Prime Minister pleading for him to be spared the gallows.
Julia Gillard, Senator George Brandis, Bruce Baird, Senator Joe Ludwig and Laurie Ferguson are among those who have signed so far. About 200 workers around Parliament House are also expected to sign.
The Tasmanian and Queensland Governments have now joined Victoria in calling on Singapore to spare Nguyen.
Mr Lasry said his client needed all State, Territory and Federal Governments to pass motions seeking clemency.
International human rights agencies Amnesty International and the Asian Human Rights Commission are also appealing for compassion.
Amnesty International has asked its global network of more than 1.8 million activists in 140 countries to lobby on behalf of Nguyen, while the Asian Human Rights Commission has called on President Nathan for a moratorium on his execution.
Local civil rights group Think Centre will also today hold a press conference in Singapore, detailing its legal case and accuse leaders of the island nation of imposing a "disproportionate and cruel" punishment on him.
It marks only the second time in Singapore's 40-year history that a death penalty case has led to a public outcry.
The first case involved champion athlete Shanmugan Murugesu, described as a "Death Row confidant" of Nguyen. He was convicted of smuggling marijuana and hanged in May.
Nguyen's lawyers said the groundswell of support they had received from Australian governments and international human rights agencies was fantastic and would help their appeal for clemency.
Condemned ... Van Tuong and his twin brother Khoa Nguyen in happier times as children / File
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