"Howard's anger was palpable last week in South Korea after finding that Mrs Nguyen had been informed about her son's execution date yet Howard himself was not told of this during his meeting with Singapore's Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, a meeting during which Howard made lengthy representations and asked for the death penalty to be reconsidered."
Don't these Australians get it? Hanging a human being is a small matter in Singapore, why get so emotional and worked up?
"The city state executes its own citizens and the problem in offering clemency to Nguyen lies in giving a foreigner a concession denied to Singapore's people."
Yes, see the problem? Singapore hangs its own citizen for trafficking plants like cannabis so how to NOT hang Nguyen for trafficking heroin.
Singaporeans don't know how to live outside of this mindset. That is why we have many laws such as anti-sedition and media control to ensure that we never ever get out of this mindset. We are lucky to be under the PAP who will ensure this mindset last forever....it is after all for the own good of Singaporeans.
The hanging of Nguyen will shock many Australians; it will be seen as a punishment out of proportion with the crime.
In Singapore, it will shock nobody. Our courts just jailed a woman 11 years for shoplifting. Heavy punishment makes Singapore a safer gentler nation.
Paul Kelly: Fatal flaws exposed
November 23, 2005
SINGAPORE has the most intimate ties with Australia of any Asian nation, yet the issue of Nguyen Tuong Van exposes the rift over principles and culture that bedevils Australia's ties with Asia.
There is little public awareness of Singapore-Australia closeness at the elite levels of politics, business and security. Singapore is our true partner in Southeast Asia. We share a common mindset about the region, China and the US. There is no other Asian leadership with which Australia feels as comfortable. Yet the impending hanging of Nguyen will expose the limitations of this relationship and the misjudgments made by Singapore.
All the signs are that Singapore will proceed to execution. The Howard Government, in private, believes the issue is settled. Singapore has executed several hundred people during the past decade and has withstood fierce retaliation from countries whose nationals have been executed. The policy of capital punishment is accepted within Singapore.
The city state executes its own citizens and the problem in offering clemency to Nguyen lies in giving a foreigner a concession denied to Singapore's people.
In truth, Singapore is trapped by its authoritarian mindset. The disciplined rigidity so identified with its success is now an obstacle to its progress. Singapore seems frozen amid a region in evolution, as shown by the democratic transition of Indonesia during the past decade.
Close Australia-Singapore ties are an orthodoxy yet such ties are not underpinned by sufficient popular consent. And Singapore is about to inflict grave damage on its reputation in this country.
The hanging of Nguyen will shock many Australians; it will be seen as a punishment out of proportion with the crime. It will highlight Singapore's authoritarian nature, its denial of civil liberties and the flaws in its awesome record of success. The execution will be a bad news event for Singapore to a far greater extent than its Government has grasped.
It is past time for Singapore to re-think its position. Indeed, senior figures within Singapore's Government are deeply unhappy about the situation and the policy.
While the Howard Government made representations for a long time on Nguyen's behalf it seems to have misjudged the intensity of the Australian public reaction. The dilemma created for Australia is revealed in the contrasting reactions of Alexander Downer and Kevin Rudd.
When Singapore rejected the appeal for clemency the initial Australian reaction was one of resigned acceptance.
"I am happy to do anything realistic to try to save his life but on the other hand I am very pessimistic," Downer said on October 24.
It is no surprise if Singapore interpreted such remarks as meaning that Australia was not prepared to compromise the bilateral relationship for Nguyen.
Presumably, this is exactly what Singapore did conclude. This goes to the nub of the matter: that any Australian government has multiple responsibilities.
The core conundrum is that a public campaign will only succeed if the bilateral relationship is called into question yet the more vocal and public the pressure the more difficult it is for Singapore to retreat in humiliation.
The Howard Government, therefore, is trapped in a dual stance: it believes Singapore cannot be turned yet it has a responsibility to make what efforts it can on Nguyen's behalf.
Howard has put Singapore on notice that it "should not imagine that this incident is going unnoticed in Australia". But Howard has drawn a line on where that responsibility ends. He will not countenance any substantive threats or retaliation on the trade, political or security relationship.
Singapore is our closest ally in the region; its armed forces train widely in this country; it works closely with Australia against Islamic terrorism; it served in the UN force in East Timor; it is our largest trade and investment partner in Southeast Asia; it is the first nation in the region that entered a free trade deal with Australia; and a proposed Qantas-Singapore Airlines merger is not very far from the negotiating table.
Howard and Downer can dismantle the Australia-Singapore relationship brick-by-brick as a gesture of concern and outrage. But is this a rational or responsible reaction? They believe such retaliation would only be a gesture and make no difference whatsoever to Nguyen's fate.
Such rationality and realism will be sorely tested during the next 10 days. It is likely that opinion in Australia will reach an emotional intensity at this execution.
This situation is a variation on an old refrain: the limits to Australia's influence when its nationals are entrapped in Asian laws that offend our values and human decency.
By contrast, Rudd has warned Singapore not just that Australian opinion is upset but that Australia-Singapore relations will be damaged.
"The Singaporean Government has treated Australia with contempt on this question," Rudd told the ABC's Insiders. "We've had representations from the Pope, from the Prime Minister, the Governor-General, the Opposition, a resolution of the Australian Parliament and representations from a huge cross-section of the Australian people. The Singaporean Government's response to that has been to tell us all to go jump in the lake."
Rudd's tactic is that progress is only possible once Singapore knows that damage is being done. Rudd, in turn, knows that for this warning to be credible it must be genuine. His logic is clear: Rudd is telling Singapore that its execution policy is inconsistent with the maintenance of public support in this nation for the Australia-Singapore relationship.
This is a far-reaching position. Singapore should reflect upon this point, which is easier to make from Opposition. It constitutes an assault on the Howard-Downer tactic as defeatist and reflects a different foundational judgment of the situation.
Singapore, of course, has mishandled the diplomacy of this issue with Australia. Howard's anger was palpable last week in South Korea after finding that Mrs Nguyen had been informed about her son's execution date yet Howard himself was not told of this during his meeting with Singapore's Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, a meeting during which Howard made lengthy representations and asked for the death penalty to be reconsidered.
Downer says Australia won't hold out false hopes, yet he will be driven into further initiatives with Singapore in good faith to Nguyen and in response to public demands.
Meanwhile there are two other Australians on death row in Vietnam (two were previously given clemency), one in China, the Bali nine facing trial in Indonesia, a total of 228 Australians facing trial in 60 nations and 175 convicted and serving sentences.