A single flower in the church courtyard fountain measures the strength of community feeling over this morning’s execution of convicted drug mule, Van Tuong Nguyen. It is understated but eloquent, for indeed, community feeling is divided.
Public debate, emotive as it is, lines up as retribution vs rehabilitation. The apparent rehabilitation of Nguyen, enhanced by non-resistance, poise and concern for others around him, has leant more strength to the rehabilitation side than is usually the case.
It is Sir William Deane, previous Governor General of Australia, however, who hit the nub of the matter. Nguyen’s particular case aside, there is no natural justice in a state’s imposition of a mandatory death sentence for any offence. Forget appeals for clemency – there is always sufficient grounds for appeal on the basis of the harshness and injustice of mandatory sentencing that does not allow a court to assess all the circumstances.
Such voices of reason are drowned out however, when community emotions run high. The Australian community joins the rest of the world in paying a high price in the cost of young lives lost to the illicit drug trade. The true perpetrators are adept at avoiding the kind of trial which the naive Van Tuong Nguyen endured.