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September 29, 2010

Once a Jolly Hang Man Part 2

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – In Part One last week, I described Singapore’s repressive politics, the publication of a book critical of the judiciary and the subsequent arrest of the book’s author, Alan Shadrake. I then asked him via email what he thought the outcome of his trial may be:


“Hi Tom, not sure what the outcome will be. The trial on Monday( it has since been postponed to the first week in October) in the Supreme Court could result in a max of 2 years imprisonment, but the safe bets seem to point to 30 days which means 20 days for good behaviour. Plus a fine, of course, maybe in a range of S$10,000 to S$50,000. There are two more charges – one concerns the Official Secrets Act and my interview with the hangman Darshan Singh in 2005 which I also wove into the book's general theme – as you have seen already. This is very odd because I never had a visit from the authorities in October 2005 when it was splashed in The Australian on the eve of the execution of Aussie citizen Nguyen Van Tuong for trafficking heroin.


I asked him how he was doing.


“I'm ok in general but have had a minor heart problem kept under control by the usual blood pressure drugs – Norvasc, Co-Approval, plus another I can’t remember at this moment, and Lipitor and Plavix. I had an angioplasty eight years ago in the States…I am renting a flat – it's so close to Johor I can seen the checkpoint and the Malaysia coastline from my 8th floor windows but cannot go there....they have my passport!”


Singapore has responded to international pressure before when their economic interests were at stake. Julia Bohl, a German debutante, who was head of the party and drug distribution scene in Singapore, received a minimum sentence of three years for hangable offenses. This was after the German government applied pressure.


After hanging a Philippine maid, after a questionable trial, the reaction from her country was so intense and fraught with diplomatic uproar, that when another Filipino was caught, red handed this time, they dared not string him up.


After the Australian people raised holy hell about one of its citizens being hanged, another citizen was allowed to pass through the airport without being arrested. Her luggage had drugs in it and it was amazing the bags passed through the very, very efficient drug scanning apparatus at the Singapore airport. She was arrested in Australia when she landed. Better a trial in Perth than hanging in Singapore.


Now, I am asking a favor. Please send an e-mail to the Singapore Embassy,, and tell them to drop the charges against Alan Shadrake.


Tell them you will never visit Singapore and will tell your banking friends to pull their investments from the country.


I have supported a fellow journalist and probably have been banned from the island nation. And I have friends there and live very close. A quick e-mail from you certainly will not hurt.


Yellow Cab
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