S’pore To Hang 19yr Old Nigerian on 26 Jan 2007 Friday, Jan 19 2007 

Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi

With cold-blooded efficiency, those who are sentenced to die in Singapore are hanged by the authorities at 6am.

In the following press release by the Singapore Anti Death Penalty Campaign, the links to reports; articles and websites are my own and not by the authors of the press release.

Press Message on the Pending Hanging of Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi in Singapore

It is with great sadness that we compose this press message regarding the death sentence on Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi to be hanged at dawn on 26th January after a lengthy, lonely and soul-destroying imprisonment.

Tochi was arrested for allegedly carrying heroin into Changi airport in November 2004. He was 19 years old when he was arrested.

The court in Singapore delivered the death sentence after a 13-day trial.

Tochi has been waiting in maximum security section of Changi prison from 2004 until today. His family in Nigeria believed until July last year that he was playing football for a Singapore football team.

Tochi was indeed a champion footballer who played in Nigerian state league championships. He claims he was tricked into trafficking drugs to Singapore on the promise of being able to play for a club here.

It is particularly disturbing to note that the trial judge himself raised reasonable doubts in Tochi’s case, mentioning that it was entirely possible that Tochi did not know he was bringing in drugs to Singapore -before proceeding to convict him and pass the mandatory death penalty. *

At a time when the Singapore prison system has a renewed emphasis upon rehabilitation, and when the Yellow Ribbon campaign asks us to give even seasoned criminals a second chance, can we not find it in our hearts to extend this to a person who–if he indeed is guilty–made a desperate mistake at the age of 19?

The death sentence for drug trafficking in Singapore continues to be “mandatory”, which means that judges are not able to take into significance and mitigating circumstances (such as the age and general naivity of the accused) when passing their verdict.

And at a time when even the hangings of persons responsible for mass killings and genocide, such as Saddam Hussein and his cronies are being regarded with disgust by the world at large; are seen as reproducing the criminal cruelty of the original perpetrators, is it not time that we in Singapore reconsider our stance on the repeated, mandatory hanging of small-fry drug mules?

Signed,

Singapore Anti Death Penalty Campaign

* Tochi was arrested in Changi Airport in November 2004. He claims he was carrying herbal medicine for a third party, at the behest of his “friend”, Mr Smith. According to Tochi, Mr Smith befriended him months earlier and advised him to approach football clubs in Singapore.

Against Tochi, the trial judge, Mr Kan Ting Chiu, made the following finding at paragraph 42 of his judgment [2005] SGHC 233: “There was no direct evidence that he knew the capsules contained diamorphine. There was nothing to suggest that Smith had told him they contained diamorphine, or that he had found that out of his own.”

The Singapore Anti Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) comprises a concerned group of Singaporeans from diverse backgrounds who have come together over the issue of the Death Penalty . Through a series of debates and events we hope to foster a public debate on the practice of capital punishment in Singapore and throughout the world.

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Muslim Moderates Face-Off Extremists on CNN Friday, Jan 19 2007 

Apart from the now (in)famous Thaksin interview, I also recommend watching another CNN program over this weekend.

War Within is an “hour long documentary reported by Christiane Amanpour which looks at Muslim extremism in the UK…” One of the interesting things to watch out for is a debate between a group of extremists and moderates.

Amanpour on why Brit radicals shock her. Plus another related CNN report on British Muslims at crossroads.

It airs on Ch14 on Sat at 1500hrs & 2300hrs and again on Sun at 1500hrs.

Thai Coup Generals Worry Singapore’s Listening In Friday, Jan 19 2007 

By Nopporn Wong-Anan

BANGKOK, Jan 19 (Reuters) – Worried about possible Singapore eavesdropping, Thailand’s army-installed government has told telephone companies their licences will be revoked if they are found bugging calls.

After suggestions by army chief Sonthi Boonyaratglin that the military’s phones were being bugged, the government summoned fixed-line and mobile operators, as well as the country’s sole satellite company.

“We told all telecoms operators that eavesdropping is illegal and their licences will be revoked if they are caught doing it,” Telecommunications Minister Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom told reporters on Friday.

“They all insisted that they don’t have tapping devices and they never bug their customers’ phones,” he said.

The phone companies were not available for immediate comment.

Sonthi told high school students this week the military was at risk because of last year’s takeover by Singapore state investment arm Temasek of telecoms firm Shin Corp , founded by ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

“Our army has a problem now. When we make a call, the line goes to Singapore. When we talk secrets, they go straight to Singapore,” Sonthi said.

Temasek’s takeover of Shin Corp gave it control of Advanced Info Service , Thailand’s biggest mobile phone firm with a 45 percent share of a market in which more than half of the 64 million population has a mobile phone.

It also got control of Shin Satellite , Thailand’s only satellite firm and the takeover prompted immediate charges that Thaksin’s family — which received a tax-free $1.9 billion for its controlling stake — had sold out national security.

Spat Bubbling

Amid an escalating dispute with Singapore over the Temasek deal and a visit to the island state this week by the exiled Thaksin, Sonthi said the army and government would be working out how to make networks less susceptible to foreign snooping.

“As long as our telecoms industry is in foreigners’ hand, our national security is at risk,” Sonthi told ASTV, a satellite television station owned by one of Thaksin’s leading foes.

“This is an urgent matter on which we would like the government to take action.”

Temasek’s acquisition of Shin Corp, which cost it $3.8 billion, added fuel to anti-Thaksin street protests that led ultimately to political deadlock and the Sept 19 coup.

Singaporean companies are among the biggest foreign investors in Thailand, with stakes in banks, property firms, hospitals and hotels.

But relations between the two Southeast Asian allies have grown ever more sour since the Shin deal in January last year.

A spat erupted this week when Thailand called in Singapore’s ambassador to protest over a meeting between Thaksin and one of the city-state’s cabinet ministers.

Thailand tore up its invitation to Foreign Minister George Yeo to attend a meeting of civil servants this month and suspended a nine-year-old exchange programme with Singapore, which said there was no reason to refuse Thaksin entry.

On Friday, coup council spokesman Sunsern Kaewkumnerd denied Thai newspaper reports that Sonthi had ordered other coup leaders and military top brass to switch their mobile phone services to other providers from Singapore-owned AIS.

“What General Sonthi said was they should be careful of confidential information they talk about on mobile phones. They should switch to talk on fixed-line phones or in person,” Sunsern said. – Reuters

Thai Survey

Source: Bangkok Post. Poll by ABAC

Amicable Parting From The SDA: NSP Press Release Friday, Jan 19 2007 

Press Release – Re-positioning of the NSP

A vote was conducted on the 18th January 2007 at the National Solidarity Party (NSP) party office to appraise the inclination of the party insofar as our continual membership in the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) is concerned.

This voting exercise constituted an important part of the continuous half-yearly internal periodic review of our party. The review process serves to improve our operational performance, strengthen the collective party resolve on crucial issues, and to focus the party on achieving its common goals.

After an open-minded and objective process, the majority had opted for the position of an amicable parting from the SDA.

The party took the view that the autonomy will harmonise our party’s aspiration to grow with our quest to explore new possibilities through wider latitude to manoeuvre, re-engineer, and rebuild the NSP.

The respect for collectiveness within a big grouping like the SDA which comprises members with different priorities can produce complexities in coordination, leading to less than optimal operational efficiency. We hence seek to re-prioritise our position, from one of integral teamwork by virtue of the status of component member of SDA, to one of external strategic partnership with the SDA by collaborating on future activities.

Contrary to the popular misguided speculation on Mr Chiam’s poor leadership and lethargy in the development of the Opposition, we would like to emphasise that the tireless statesman has performed a commendable feat of cementing the alliance over the years into a respectable political force which saw it underwent 2 successive General Elections with ever improving percentage of public support.

Mr Chiam is also widely acknowledged as one of the most successful Opposition figures in Singapore, deserving inarguably a place in the history of our nation. The public accolades heaped upon Mr Chiam are a testimonial to his merited symbol as an exemplary beacon for the institution of Democracy in Singapore.

The NSP has the utmost respect for the Chairman of SDA.

Moving forward, the NSP will strive to contribute significantly to the overall objective of the Opposition to contest in every electoral ward, so as to offer voters credible alternatives to the incumbent PAP.

We welcome the inclusion of anyone with moral standing and sincere passion for advancing the social, economic, and political demands of a maturing nation.

Despite the cordial parting, the NSP is confident of future joint engagements with both SDA and Mr Chiam. We will continue to strengthen the bedrock of mutual trust and understanding between the Opposition parties so as to build a true society for all.

Central Executive Council
National Solidarity Party