It’s not often I turn to Neil Mitchell for inspiration. But it’s not often that the Melbourne shock jock gets off his comfy high horse, quits delivering suburban sermons, and speaks simply and eloquently from the heart.
He did this yesterday in his weekly Herald Sun column, and it’s a piece everyone should read, especially those who think there’s any deterrent value in the death penalty: “Do not hang this man.”
Mitchell has done his research on the case of 25-year-old Tuong Van Nguyen, awaiting the noose in a Singapore jail cell. “Read his trial transcript,” he writes. “This was a confused, stupid young man. With drugs strapped to his body he sprinted to catch his flight to Australia, guaranteeing the attention of security staff at Changi airport.”
“So why kill him? Why this public vitriol for an inept drug-runner from Glen Waverley?” A good question.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
Over at The Australian, their visiting Singaporean columnist, Asad Latif, thinks he has the answer: “The main issue is that of sovereignty. The laws of Singapore prevail in the land called Singapore,” he declares. His piece today, “Don’t ask Singapore to make an exception” carries a sad message: Singapore is not yet mature enough to take an honest look at its 19th Century approach to crime and punishment.
“Australians…have the right, if they so wish, to argue that their laws are better than those of Singapore,” writes Asad. Think about that: “…our laws are better than those of Singapore.” What is this: a schoolyard squabble over who’s got the biggest marble collection?
Does anyone benefit when a man is killed for trafficking less than half a kilo of drugs, whether he’s Australian, Singaporean; young, old; black, brindle or brown? Does anyone think that Singapore’s security – its very sovereignty – would be eroded if this wretched young man is spared the hangman’s noose?
It’s the sign of an insecure state that feels the need to threaten its citizens (and foreign visitors) with death.