Lincoln Tan: Singapore right to execute drug runner

By Guest Columnists

An email I received this morning read: "Let us pray for the conversion of Singapore from the ways of the Devil, and for a miracle to Save Van".

Among other things, the writer also called for a prayer vigil and a boycott of all things Singapore – including flying Singapore Airlines.

Heroin runner Nguyen Tuong Van, 25, is scheduled to be hanged in Singapore's Changi Prison today, and I have been quite amazed at the level of hysteria it has caused.

Australians have called for sanctions and boycotts of Singapore firms, and the Australian government had wanted to bring Singapore to an international court to stop the hanging.

Christians and others are campaigning through chain letters, blogs and emails, and the Catholic bishops, the Uniting Church and Australian Attorney-General are calling for all to observe a minutes' silence tomorrow.

In New Zealand, Singapore has been mentioned more in the news this week than it has been in the last two years – thanks to the Van case.

As a Singaporean who had once considered migrating to Australia and now living in New Zealand, and a father of two made-in-NZ kids, I'd like to just share my two cents worth on this:

In the midst of all the hysterical outbursts, people are forgetting that Van is a criminal – not an Australian hero or martyr.

He admitted to being a drug courier, and had in his possession 400g of heroin - enough for 26,000 heroin doses.

Had he not been caught, the drugs would have destroyed the lives of thousands.

Van had warnings – all flights into Singapore carry announcements that the penalty on the island nation for drug dealing is death.

Being an Australian, understanding English should not be a problem.

Just as I, an immigrant to New Zealand, and other visitors to New Zealand are expected to obey and respect the laws of this land, and are subject to the same justice as any other New Zealanders - why should the argument that Van holds an Australian passport absolve him from Singapore laws hold any water?

I chose New Zealand over Australia as my adopted homeland not because it offers more opportunities – but because of the perception that it is safer.

Thanks to the "third world laws" - as the Australians are calling it - I was able to grow up safe in Singapore. Being able to run around in the streets at any time of the day without my parents having to worry about drug pushers, or me accidentally stepping on used needles if I went out barefooted.

Wouldn't it be great if New Zealand had tougher drug laws?

As a Catholic, I say the Catholic Bishops and other Christian do-gooders should stay out of this one. Sometimes, one person's death can bring about greater good. Remember Jesus?

I am in no way equating Van with Jesus, but imagine the number of lives the drugs would have destroyed had he been successful with his smuggling attempt.

By all means, we should pray for his soul – but not call for a nationwide observance of silence for a convicted criminal, elevating him to the status of a national hero.

As a parent, I share the anguish of Van's mother – but her son could have been the cause of anguish to thousands of other parents.

Van chose to dice with death. He lost.

* Lincoln Tan is a former journalist with Singapore Press Holdings. He has lived in New Zealand since 1997 and is Managing Editor of iBall Media Works.

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