Singapore's Prisons Department has drawn a veil of silence over
the impending execution of convicted Australian drug trafficker
Nguyen Tuong Van.
Today it rebuffed inquiries about how it handles final
arrangements for death row inmates.
Its refusal to detail standard practices for executions in the
city-state echoed a decision midweek from the government, which
offered no new response to a complaint filed with the UN by local
anti-death penalty activists.
The controversial case has also received scant attention in
Singapore's print and broadcast media, which has strong links to
the government and is broadly supportive of its policies.
Nguyen, 25, was arrested carrying almost 400 grams of heroin at
Singapore's Changi airport while in transit from Cambodia to
Australia in 2002.
All pleas for clemency have been rejected, and the chances of a
reprieve appear very slim.
Nguyen's lead lawyer in Australia Lex Lasry said he expected
that Nguyen would be hanged in "three or four weeks", although
activists here had incorrectly feared that he could be put to death
as soon as today.
Singapore's Prisons Department refused to say today whether
death row inmates such as Nguyen are offered a final meal, who
attends executions, and how many prisoners remain on death row.
The department can oversee the execution of as many as 50
inmates a year.
Human rights group Amnesty International has said the city-state
probably executes more prisoners than any other country worldwide
relative to its size.
According to official figures, 340 people were hanged in
Singapore between 1991 and 2000.
Nguyen's case has not received much media coverage locally, and
what reporting there has been has sometimes been out of date.
The Straits Times, the main English-language daily,
reported on Wednesday about a rare gathering of anti-death penalty
activists that happened on Monday. The item was run as a brief.
There has, however, been a handful of letters to the press from
both Singaporeans and Australians.
Jonathan Ariel from New South Wales wrote to the Straits
Times last month that "countless Australians have disgraced
themselves attacking Singapore" over the case.
Writing to Today, a local tabloid, Jacqueline Tan, said
this week the Australians case was "tragic", but she did not urge
A comment piece in today's The Straits Times offered no
debate about the merits of capital punishment, but argued that
opponents of the practice needed to defend child killers and
terrorists to be consistent and credible.