By Stephen Mayne


There isn’t
another Australian who has caused more angst for the Singapore Government than
journalist Eric Ellis and he’s done it again this morning with a powerful story
in The Bulletin on the repressive regime that is about to hang Australian citizen Van Nguyen.

Ellis has lived and worked in Singapore off and on
since 1999 and has shone a light on Sing Inc when others have pulled
their punches. Today he has really stuck the boot in with lines like this:

Singapore proudly say it has “humanised” the hanging process
– weighing the condemned and carefully calibrating bodyweight with a “drop”
system so as to deliver a swift, clean kill when the platform gives way.

Ravi says Malaysian drug addict Vigmes Murthi wasn’t so
lucky. When he was hanged at Changi in September 2003, Ravi says, his head was
nearly torn off by the force of the 500kg-plus drop, about seven times his
bodyweight. “They got it horribly wrong,” Ravi says, “his mother was screaming,
screaming … there was so much blood in the coffin, it was overflowing.”

When Singapore Telecom CEO Lee Hsien Yang, the second son of Lee Kuan Yew, met with senior editorial executives from The Australian
at the time of the Optus takeover, all he wanted to talk about was the
anti-Singapore stories that Ellis was writing for the paper. The Murdoch executives gave his bile short shrift but it
demonstrated just how sensitive the ruling Lee family is to western
criticism.

The story is now really showing signs of taking off. ABC Victoria’s Jon
Faine devoted much of his first hour to the issue today and then 774
station manager Ian Mannix later commented that the next two weeks
could really go crazy. The World Today is also leading with the story today and The 7.30 Reportinterviewed barrister Tim Robertson SC who repeated the Crikey line from yesterday when he said:

“The only pressure to which the Singaporean Government is susceptible is
economic pressure because the one thing that matters in Singapore is the
almighty dollar.”

Indeed, when is the first senior Optus executive going to resign
and
publicly blast the regime? Why don’t Graham Bradley and John Morschel,
the two respected Australian businessmen on the SingTel board, quit in
protest?

What do the new directors of SP Ausnet, led by chairman Nuno D’Aquino, think
about putting their names to the Singapore Government raising $1.6 billion
in a public float that closes on the same day Van Nguyen will be
executed? Are Morgan Stanley and UBS comfortable about being paid up to $28 million for managing the float?

This intransigence by the Singapore Government will almost certainly
reduce the value of Sing Inc by hundreds of millions of dollars, plus
do enormous reputational damage. Their best relationship in the region
will be severely damaged and there is now little prospect Singapore
Airlines will be given a sweetheart deal to fly the Pacific by the
Howard Government. And nor should they.