The Killing of Van Nguyen
by P. (Kim) Walker-Beaumont
At the moment writing this, Van Nguyen’s body will be lying on a slab in Changi Prison, Singapore, having just been certified dead by a prison doctor, and having been formally identified by a member of the Australian High Commission.
From all we know about executions by hanging, his neck will be broken. That is, it will be broken if the hangman was ‘skilful’ and ‘efficient’ at his job. His neck will bear some marks of the rope but there will be no bruising unless his heart was slow to stop. If it was slow to stop it means he was slow to die, his last moments struggling at the end of the rope. He will have urinated, defecated and possibly ejaculated as his body and mind went through his death-throes.
This was Van, a vibrant young man. Now he is dangling dead at the end of a rope.
If this makes unpleasant reading for you, "Tough!" Try to imagine the unimaginable: what it was like, just an hour ago, for Van.
Van was judicially murdered at 6.00am Singaporetime, 6.00 am Perthtime, 9.00am Sydneytime.
I was one of those able to stand in Martin Placeholding a yellow daisy, looking at a large photo of Van, and knowing all the while our utter uselessness. Van was being killed and we could do nothing, absolutely nothing to prevent it. We stood there totally useless in the face of the power of the barbaric outcome of a barbaric law instituted by a barbaric government.
I arrived to join the others at 8.30am, knowing that at that moment Van would be in the hanging area, handcuffed, waiting, knowing, wondering………who knows what………
At three minutes to 9.00, I knew Van was standing on the trapdoor. He was in darkness because a black hood was over his head. He was hearing the sounds of his executioner preparing to kill him.
He was there, but I was here, safe, and useless. He would be smelling the smells of the cloth of the hood, feeling the heat of his trapped breath, and ………I have no idea. I could have simply no concept of what, at that moment, it was like for him, and neither can you.
A the Post Office clock struck 9.00 I knew he was hearing the sound of the leaver being pulled, that he was hearing the deafening bang of the trapdoor opening and …….. .
For the next minute I knew Van’s body, conscious, semi-conscious, un-conscious…?...
would be writhing, twitching, struggling at the end of the rope. At two minutes past the hour I guessed he was probably unconscious but alive, and at three minutes after the hour I thought he might be, mercifully, dead.
Every person in Singapore who supports the death penalty bears full responsibility for this killing, for Van’s murder, as does every person who supports the death penalty in any country which maintains this obscenity: the USA, China, Burma; more than sixty countries.
An individual person can not hide their primitive lust for vengeance behind the cover of ‘the Law of the State.’ A person who supports a law of a state is personally responsible for the consequences of that law.
If it is wrong for one person to murder another with intent and premeditation, then it is wrong for a state or a nation to judicially kill a person with intent and premeditation. Every citizen who supports judicial killing, the execution of a person by the State, must take personal responsibility for this act every time it happens. If the State does something in your name, on your behalf, and you agree to that act, then you are responsible for that act exactly and precisely as if you have committed it yourself. If you support the killing of someone by the State, then you are a killer, and you must take responsibility for that murder.
If you do not support judicial murder then you can not remain complacent and let another person die by default for want of action.
Those people with whom I stood in silent vigil, and those who similarly stood in cities and towns around Australia, will not be silent on this matter, and we will not be silenced.
P. (Kim) Walker-Beaumont
Friday, December 2nd, 2005.