Monday, July 19, 2010

"The Jolly Hangman" is mightier than Singapore's sword

Congratulations to Singapore for joining Russia, North Korea, Iran, Eritrea, Zimbabwe and other usual culprits in suppressing journalistic and artistic freedom. Singapore, just like the USA (in instances such as Guantamo Bay and Abu Ghraib) has us thinking again of how being a technologically advanced economic tiger with one of the highest standards of living in the world, in no way guarantees that human rights will always be respected.

Poor Alan Shadrake, the 75 year old British author and investigative journalist. He has been thrown into a Singaporean jail under the flimsy charges of "criminal defamation." His crime? Having penned "Once a Jolly Hangman - Singapore Justice in the Dock", a book that looks into the controversial death penalty system of Singapore. The book is said to have testimonies from a former hang man, human rights lawyers and police officers and is an eye opener to incidents of injustice and human rights abuse. This is why it has Singapore’s authorities all hot and bothered.

Just how detaining a 75 year old man for exposing injustice will help the country's president, Mr. S. R. Nathan to keep the skeletons in the closet remains a mystery to the mere mortal. From an ordinary bird's eye view it would seem that this issue has the potential to explode into a diplomatic tiff between Singapore and Britain, not to mention international outrage.

Interestingly enough, Shadrake knew that he was bound to be arrested if he travelled to Singapore over the weekend to promote the book. True to his prediction that any attempt to arrest him will draw more attention to the issue, Singapore is rapidly making headlines since news of the arrest broke out. Is Shadrake in danger of facing the death penalty himself? I should think not. Will he rot in a Singaporean jail? Highly unlikely. Will he come out with the last and loudest laugh? That is certain. This is hardly the type of book launch that he hoped for but as the sales start to sky rocket, Alan Shadrake might just have to send Mr. Nathan a thank you card.

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