After defecting from the Communist Party, my grandfather worked the Golden Triangle with a fleet of trucks as an opium smuggler. When the family got to Singapore from Burma, the PAP tried to hire him as a political strategist - Nguyen Tuong Van's not so fucking lucky.
My gong-gong's not the only big-time drug-dealer the Singapore Government has had dealings with. As Opposition leader Chee Soon-Juan points out:
Singapore is reported to be the biggest business partner of Burma with US$1.5 billion worth of investments. Former US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Gelbard stated that “since 1998 over half of [the investments from] Singapore have been tied to the family of narco-trafficker Lo Hsing Han.''
There are reports that Lo Hsing Han now operates a deepwater port in Rangoon and a highway from the center of Burma's poppy–growing region to the China border, facilities well-suited for exporting drugs.
Let me ask the questions that I have been asking since 1997: Will the Government open its books so that we can verify if our GIC funds are still invested in projects linked with Lo Hsing Han? What steps has the Government taken to pressure the Burmese regime to crackdown on drug kingpins like Lo? Why does our Government continue to trade with the Burmese junta when it has been shown that the military has close ties with narco-producers like Lo?
In addition, Singapore has been fingered in the laundering of Burma’s drug money. Bruce Hawke, an expert on narco-trafficking in Burma, wrote: “The entry [of drug money] to the legitimate global banking system is not Burma but Singapore.” Is this true?
I have been raising these questions since 1997 but each time the local media assiduously blacks them out.
Criticising our government for killing small-time drug peddlers while doing business with drug lords is necessary. Whether it is a Singaporean or an Australian who is going to dangle at the end of the rope is immaterial. A life is a life and if we are going to take it, let us be absolutely clear of the excruciating hypocrisy that currently exists.
Singapore: Sometimes you make me laugh fondly, sometimes you make me sick.
As December 2nd approaches, you can sense the news media waking to the realisation that this kid is going to die. It's too late to right the 'balance' by putting him on the top of the page rather than the bottom, or publishing a picture of him instead of Michelle Leslie crying about the media being mean to her.
So the pretty white women have gotten off - a cynical yet unavoidable observation, and maybe it's just a coincidence. Maybe it's wrong of me to feel more anger and grief for Nguyen Van Tuong than for Schapelle Corby (whose case I basically ignored), or Michelle Leslie (it worked out for her anyway) or Julia Bohl (the Germans seemed to lay enough on the line in that case). Someone has to. He's a son of the Vietnamese diaspora, born in a Thai refugee camp, and it's yet another of my old-countries which has taken him back in - to kill him. What was it that Lee Kuan Yew said about us immigrants to the west, that time he came to Auckland in the 1980s? That we were the ones who weren't good enough to stay - good riddance to bad rubbish. My parents never forgot it.
Maybe if we'd stayed, we could have changed this.
Here is Singaporean literary star Alfian Saat's short-story 'The Hole', written for the vigil against the death penalty, held earlier this year for Nguyen's best friend in Changi, Shanmugam Murugesu. Shanmugam, a Singaporean, was executed for a kilo of marijuana in May. The government banned the vigil organisers from using his photograph on any publicity material or websites.
[Update: additional comment on norightturn, including details for the Singporean Embassy in Wellington]