I’m not the one appealing to your conscience

When the trap springs the prisoner dangles at the end of the rope. There are times when the neck has not been broken and the prisoner strangles to death. His eyes pop almost out of his head, no rx his tongue swells and protrudes from his mouth, seek his neck may be broken, and the rope many times takes large portions of skin and flesh from the side of the face that the noose is on. He urinates, he defecates, and droppings fall to the floor while witnesses look on… A prison guard stands at the feet of the hanged person and holds the body steady, because during the last few minutes there is usually considerable struggling in an effort to breathe.*

~p.87, The Justice Game, Geoffrey Robertson QC


from material previously posted 28 October 2004

‘I like Singapore. It’s very beautiful. We see it from the boat’

As she was ladling the rest of the stock into my bowl of Pho, Mrs Nguyen said, ‘I like Singapore. It’s very beautiful. We see it from the boat’.

I was at my first dinner over at Julie’s parents’ in the south-western suburb of Lakemba, where from then on, I was always guaranteed a bowl of the best MSG-free Pho in Sydney because Julie herself hated the stuff. As far as possible, Jules would sneak out for a sandwich or felafel or anything, as long as it wasn’t Vietnamese. Jules and I became friends at law school only because I loved Vietnamese food and she hated it, and she had brought me home that first time so I could finish everything her mother cooked.

It’s no surprise I was 10kg heavier than I am now when I hung out with Jules. Her mum cooked the tastiest Vietnamese food I’ve ever eaten. Apart from that, Jules was really fun to be with, especially when she was with her best friend, Nu, and the two of them would often put on Spice Girls skits on the train to Uni. But it was Jules’ hilarious ignorance of all matters Vietnamese that made it even more fun.

Once, when it was reported that one of the members of the notorious 5T Gang had been killed, she had said very innocently, ‘Now, they have to call themselves the 4T Gang’.

Things only got a little closer to home for Jules when Nu’s brother was arrested in connection with the murder of a NSW State MP. At that point, I felt that it was the first time either Jules or Nu had to confront anything Vietnamese. But Jules simply said, ‘Crime’s just crime and it’s got nothing to do with whether you’re Vietnamese or Lebanese’.

Of course, the popular sentiment at that time was that ‘ethnic groups’ caused crime, and children of ‘non-english-speaking-background’ were industrious and scored the best places at the best universities. Such that one of the jokes bandied about at that time (and bandied about by a stand-up comedian of Vietnamese origin called ‘Hung’) went:

How do you know when your house has been burgled by a Vietnamese?

Your dog is gone and your kids’ homework’s done.

It was at another, later Pho binge at Jules’ parents’ that Mrs Nguyen again said, ‘I like Singapore. Very beautiful. We see it from the boat.’, and I had looked up (from placing my face directly over the bowl) and asked what turned out to be the question that opened the can, ‘Oh, how long did you stay in Singapore?’

‘We did not go to Singapore. We only see from boat’.

‘Why not?’, I ventured further, realising only at the end of my question that she had meant seeing Singapore from their refugee-filled boat.

‘They did not allow us. They give us oil (fuel), give us food, give us water, then they pull the boat away from Singapore. Julie will not remember. She was only 18 months old’.

Further conversations with Jules’ brother and father revealed that their boat had been towed out to international waters, where they were picked up by Malaysian coastal police boats, and the refugees were placed in a camp somewhere on the east coast of Malaysia. The Nguyens were later accepted under an Australian resettlement initiative, and have been living in Sydney since 1977.

The last time I spoke with Jules, she had just quit her job as a tax lawyer and had taken on what she felt was a more fulfilling job as a family lawyer in a smaller firm. Over the phone, I could hear her mother interrupting her now and again, and she had shouted back in her typically Australian-accented Vietnamese. I wanted to ask her how her mum’s Pho master stock was doing, and whether she was still making Pho feasts from it, but I figured Jules wouldn’t have cared the least for it, and she’d have talked more about how the damned Starbucks and Borders outlets were taking over Sydney.

Jules, Sydney 1997
Jules eating Tom Yam soup because it’s Thai and not Vietnamese. Sydney 1997.

iTunes’ party shuffle is playing a copy of: Traum durch die Dammerung – Nai-Yuan Hu\Nelson Padgett – A chance of sunshine, of which I have the original CD and therefore didn’t steal music.

2,460 new cases the reason to ban outdoor parties?

You read it here first. Because you won’t find it on Channelnews Asia because it’s not important. You won’t find it on ST interactive because you’re not subscribed to it.

There were 2,460 new cases of dengue fever and 61 new cases of dengue hemorrhagic fever between January 1 and March 12 this year, so says my unnamed World Bank friend who receives travel alerts every time she has to travel to this godforsaken part of the world.

You really have to take precautions even though the alert has been downgraded to ‘warning’ level from ‘epidemic’ level. There were 9,459 cases last year. If I were in charge, I’d close down any party on Sentosa for good. Anything outdoors, got mosquito. You never know what they get up to.

Sunset @ Holland Road flyover
Once the sun sets, the mosquitos come out and wreak havoc among the populace. It is no wonder the natives are restless.

Surf stop: aneki

Eh? Like that not contempt of court meh?

There’s a very sad story unfolding in Sydney about a Singaporean couple who allegedly poisoned their children. For matters like these, a court order withholds the names, and for good reason.

From the SMH:

Police prosecutor Sergeant Keren Bayley told the court the couple, who were listed in court documents as being aged 35 and who cannot be named, allegedly collected the Dozile tablets for “some time” before giving them to the children, aged seven and six.

But Channelnews Asia has special dispensation to disclose the names, possibly because Channelnews Asia is not connected to Australia and the rest of the world.

Deep black
Deep long black @ Menotti

Surf stop: cowfacedotnet
iTunes’ party shuffle is playing a copy of: Cigarettes Will Kill You – Ben Lee – Breathing Tornados, of which I have the original CD and therefore didn’t steal music.

Laws of our land Part II: Stateless in Singapore

I like telling my friends about how I wasn’t a Singapore citizen until I was ten. Because they’d ask me, ‘Oh really, so where were you born?’ And I’d say ‘Singapore’. And they’d ask, ‘but how come you weren’t a citizen? What nationality were you then?’

No nationality! Stateless!, I’d say, real proud of my badge of honour.

But, but, but, you were born here.

My father was born in China and didn’t have a birth certificate. Mum was from Negri Sembilan. Dad and Mum didn’t move to Singapore till 1966, and so weren’t given the option of being citizens when independence suddenly came round. My older sister was born in 1966, but was granted citizenship for some reason (Clause 3), despite what the Constitution seemed to say (Clause 2c). So, in the family, we had Malaysian Mum, Singaporean Sis, and Stateless Dad, Brother and me.

I now know that my brother and I weren’t alone, and there are other Stateless Permanent Residents.

I remember having to travel on either my mother’s or grandmother’s Malaysian passport till I was five, and then being issued with this green booklet called a Certificate of Identity, which served as a passport.

Some time in 1979, Dad, my brother and I were granted citizenships even though Dad didn’t know enough Bahasa Melayu, our national language, to save his life (Clause 1c), and my parents applied for a shiny red passport for me, valid for 6 months at a time, just so I couldn’t just up and leave the country and not do national service.

I’ve been a citizen ever since, and I’m glad I can’t be banished or exiled from this country and its fine food. Unless of course this happens.


Nowsaday, born outside Singapore also can become citizen and get red passport.

Surf stop: Gulaman Life
iTunes’ party shuffle is playing a copy of: My Country – Randy Newman – Bad Love, of which I have the original CD and therefore didn’t steal music.