However... should Van Nguyen have died yesterday? My answer - nope. It was wrong. The man's main crime was that he was an idiot. Pure and simple. And no-one deserves to die for being an idiot, otherwise the world would be an empty place. On the other hand let's look at some cold, hard facts.
Van Nguyen was a drug smuggler. He attempted to smuggle a large amount of heroin out Singapore in order to help pay the bills of his brother, no saint himself. Admirable? To a degree. I love my brothers - I'd kill for my brothers - but I'd not be smuggling heroin in a country where everyone, and I mean everyone knows the penalties if you're caught. You smuggle drugs in Singapore, get caught then you die. We've all know that since the Barlow/Chambers affair of the early 1980s. It's written everywhere, even as you fly into the country they tell you - drug smugglers face the death penalty. So where's the shock? The one who should be feeling very guilty is the brother who placed Van Nguyen in this situation - from all accounts it was his idea and as such he's led his brother to the gallows. Van Nguyen was a pawn in a very dangerous game, and sadly he lost that game.
That the current government did nothing to help Van Nguyen came as no great surprise as we're dealing with a Liberal government who's main objective is to stay in power and pander to both themselves and their chums. The Howard Government doesn't give one iota of care for the ordinary Australian - their workplace 'reforms' and terrorist bills show that. Hey - they have no money for welfare, education or health but they can drop upwards of $80,000,000 in advertising telling us how better off we'll all be once we have no unfair dismissal laws and have to work public holidays, weekends, night and days like Christmas Day for the standard award rate - no more time and half, double time or penalties, just normal wage (I've already decided that I won't be signing a contract that has those clauses - I'd rather work for myself than sign something as arduous and draconian as that). They're attempting to introduce laws with clauses for sedition that are so rigid that I could easily be locked up for seven years just for writing this. So why would the Howard Government lift a finger to help Van Nguyen? After all there's no votes in it is there?
Well, yes there are. And it's the backlash of this, combined with John Howard's arrogant dictatorship, that will bring this government down at the next election. The Howard Government has shown, throughout it's history by having one of the most useless, inept Foreign Ministers we've ever seen in the form of Alexander Downer, that they don't care for Australian's in trouble overseas. They didn't lift a finger to help those stranded during the Hurricane Katrina affair, they did nothing (other than have Downer present at the 1999 World Cup cricket final) to help the aid workers kidnapped in Kosovo and so on. I would write all day about the failures of John Howard and Alexander Downer.
We live in a society that has laws and has to have laws to protect everyone. Some laws don't make much sense to us, but we abide by them anyway. The Van Nguyen died yesterday is a shame. But then he shouldn't have been doing what he did in a country that clearly states it's laws on such matters. Perhaps next time the government might lift a finger and help. The last minute stop gap was always going to fail (introducing a charge on Australian soil of intent to smuggle in a hope that extradition proceedings might be instigated - a ploy that a lawyer I know told me about two weeks ago). They didn't do it until the last second, it was never going to work but they'll point back at it down the track and say, "Hey, we tried".
John Howard and co - you didn't try. You sat back and did nothing, as usual. No great surprise there.