|The caring hand of the state|
The eve of the state sanctioned, pre-meditated murder of immigrant
Australian Nguyen Tuong Van may be a good time to reflect on the issues which
have brought us (or at least him) to this point. Tomorrow morning he will
presumably jerk about at the end of a rope for the few short, but horrific,
last moments of his life. Some Australians claim to be horrified, others claim
to be glad to see the convicted drug courier executed for putting young and
impressionable lives at risk.
Certainly there are elements of the case which could explain why many
Australians are less than totally sympathetic.
Firstly there were the claims of Australian racism during the Schapelle Corby
media frenzy. 'Would Australians be as outraged if she were Asian?' the
apologists of the corrupt Indonesian justice system demanded. Well, maybe not,
but Australians are a little tired of people obtaining Australian citizenship,
using their 'home country' connections to smuggle drugs, and then trying to use
their Australian citizenship to get them a better deal in court. Many
Australians see this as an abuse of their trust. Part of the oath of
citizenship is to obey the laws of the country, and smuggling drugs
breaks that oath in a big way.
Many of us may reject the notion of an implied 'contract with society', but in
this case there is nothing implied about it - it has your signature at the bottom.
Secondly there were the disturbing revelations about his twin brother
having faced drug charges. People are, of course, innocent until proven guilty,
but others are rightly suspicious of those whose family members are known
And thirdly there was the group of friends which lobbied on his behalf. A
few ring-ins may have been added to the group later, but initially it was
exclusively attractive young Asian girls. 'Lucky fellow' we might say, but
combined with the actions of his mother, it suggests something which may have
annoyed many Australians. When the Singapore government sent notice of the
execution date to his mother, they sent it in English - not a surprising thing
to do since both Singapore and Australia are English speaking countries. The
media reported that Van Nguyen's mother needed a translator to interpret it.
Van Nguyen and his family give the impression of people who have not tried very
hard to assimilate into mainstream Australian society. How hard should
mainstream Australian society try to save him?
Of course not everyone wants to see him die. Some moral guardians seem to
be outraged at his imminent death, morally opposed to the death penalty, and
demanding that John Howard do something - anything - to stop it. It's nothing
to do with the crime they claim - it's just that the death penalty is morally
wrong. Of course if the death penalty is morally wrong, will these people be
protesting when Bali bomber Amrozi is executed for slaying 80 Australians?
There will be little opportunity to embarrass John Howard in that case, so
our moral guardians will shake their heads and mutter something about
respecting Indonesian sovereignty before moving onto another anti-Howard cause.
There some people, though, who would like to stop his senseless and barbaric
execution for other reasons. A few people are pointing out that Van Nguyen is a
casualty of John Howard's prohibition on drugs. If drugs were decriminalized in
Australia, it would be cheaper to produce them locally than to import them, and
there would be no financial incentive to smuggle them into the country.
In the end, Van Nguyen is another victim of the war on drugs. A war which
in unwinnable, which should never have been declared, and one which we should
cease fighting immediately, before more people die from government oppression.
On the other hand, millions of people have died from government oppression,
over the ages. What's one more?
Perhaps it's just one more sad reminder that the state is not your friend.