His Excellency Mr. S.R. Nathan,
Office of the President of the Republic of Singapore,
We write to you representing 480,000 social workers in 80 countries across the world regarding the mandatory sentence of death imposed on Australian citizen, Mr. Nguyen Tuong Van. We know that Mr. Nguyen is now on death row awaiting his execution by hanging. We also know that Mr. Nguyen has been found guilty of a very serious crime, the trafficking of heroin. Our appeal to you is joined by the Australian Association of Social Workers whom we know have written to you on this matter.
In writing this letter we wish to make it clear that we respect the right of the government of Singapore to legislate to deal with serious crime. As a profession social workers are dealing with the impact of drug addiction every day and all over the globe. We know the devastating impact of addictions upon individuals, their family and loved ones and indeed communities.
However as a social worker you will know that our profession is opposed to the use of capital punishment. Indeed the highest ethical principle is that of preservation of life and social workers are bound by this fundamental principle.
We cannot and do not condone the actions of Mr. Nguyen in attempting to smuggle drugs of addiction. However equally we cannot condone the actions of the Singapore government in exercising the death penalty.
You will be aware perhaps of the plight of his mother who in 1980 fled Vietnam as a boat person alone and pregnant with twins. She gave birth to her twin sons in a Malaysian transit camp. She was accepted as a refugee by the Australian government when the boys were 4 months old. Her life has been very hard indeed and although given a new start in Australia she needed to work in many jobs to pay for the boys’ education. It is through her efforts that Mr. Nguyen has had an excellent education and life opportunities. We know that she and her family have also appealed to the government of Singapore.
We reiterate our views about the foolishness of his actions. We also understand that he has assisted police with their investigations into drug trafficking. Such information is an important part of the work to eliminate this very powerful and dangerous industry. Mr. Nguyen has made a grave mistake and he is being punished through imprisonment however his crime does not justify the taking of his life.
Your Excellency enjoys the highest regard and respect of the profession of social work in Singapore and across the world. We entreat you to exercise the power within your position as President and to commute Mr. Nguyen’s death sentence to the appropriate jail term.
Sydney/Bern, 31 October 2005