Page 4203 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 16 November 2005

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the offence and the need to hold firm our national position against drug trafficking, we are unable to change our decision. It was not a decision taken lightly.

I accept that the Australian Government must try … to help Mr Nguyen. I have also been informed that the Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives has written to the Singaporean High Commissioner to convey to the Singapore Speaker of Parliament the text of a resolution passed on 31 October appealing for clemency. We, on our part in Singapore, have a responsibility to protect the people of Singapore from the scourge of drug addiction, which has destroyed many lives and inflicted great suffering on many families. We also have a responsibility to prevent Singapore from becoming a conduit for trafficking of illicit drugs in the region. Mr Nguyen imported almost 400 grams of pure heroin which would have supplied more than 26,000 doses to drug addicts.

As the public has been informed that you have written to the Singaporean government, I am releasing this reply to the media.

Yours sincerely

George Yeo

As I said, while I can understand the position taken by the Singaporean government, it is fair to say that all of us here in this place heartily disagree with the Singaporean government, which we do in friendship.

When speaking on this matter, coming as I do from the background that I do, I should put in context the reasons why I hold this position and why I hold it most heartily. In some way, yesterday the Chief Minister touched on part of that belief system. All life is precious, from the moment of its conception to the moment of its natural extinction. No human hand should take part in doing away with a human life at any stage. Because there has been a bit of a tendency for this matter to be raised in this place in the last little while, I will read from a document of the Catholic Church:

Preserving the common good of society requires rendering the aggressor unable to inflict harm. For this reason the traditional teaching of the Church has acknowledged as well-founded the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty.

Over the years, the wording of this teaching has been softened somewhat. In previous versions of the catechism there was stronger support for the death penalty. In times past, it used to say that, where there was no other alternative for securely maintaining the public order, the death penalty was permissible. It is no longer impossible, especially in Western society and in almost any society, to incarcerate someone in a way that would protect the public from their activities. Therefore, the small need that people might have seen in the past for inflicting the death penalty seems to have diminished even more.

It seems to me that, as legislators in a modern First World society, this is something that we should never, ever contemplate and should never, ever condone. It is important that, as legislators in a modern First World society, we should be using what little influence we have to ensure that the protection of human rights and that human life in all its phases is upheld on every occasion.

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