The leader of Australia's trade union movement said Monday that unionists stood ready to impose trade sanctions against Singapore and urged the government to take stronger steps to save the life of an Australian drug trafficker who is to be hanged by the city-state on Friday. But Australian Council of Trade Unions President Sharan Burrow said the unions are unable to take unilateral action against Singapore to save Nguyen Tuong Van, 25, without the support of the wider community.
"There is no question that the death penalty is barbaric, that it is a travesty of human rights, but I don't think that the union movement, to be honest, can save this one," Burrow told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
"We would stand ready to take action if the nation decided to up the ante," she said, calling for a "a united front."
Singapore has rejected repeated clemency pleas, including from the Australian government, for the Vietnam-born Australian, who was arrested at Singapore's Changi Airport in 2002 en route from Cambodia to Australia's southern city of Melbourne carrying 396 grams (14 ounces) of heroin.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard said there is no hope of having the death sentence commuted to a life term after his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong rebuffed his fifth appeal for clemency over the weekend.
The prime minister said he warned Lee that the execution would spawn lingering resentment between the close allies who have been free trade partners since 2003.
The minor opposition Greens Party has urged Canberra to suspend military ties with Singapore and consider trade sanctions against Australia's largest trade and investment partner in Southeast Asia. Howard and senior ministers have already ruled out trade sanctions, saying they would be economically harmful to both countries while achieving nothing for Nguyen.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer on Monday rejected criticisms that the government had moved too slowly and had not done enough to save his life.
The government first raised Nguyen's case at ministerial level with Singapore four days after his arrest in December 2002 and argued for the charge to be downgraded to avoid a death sentence in November 2003 before he even stood trial, Downer told parliament.
Downer also sought the opinion of Cambridge University's Professor of International Law James Crawford when government lawyers advised that the death penalty could not be challenged in the International Court of Justice without Singapore accepting the intervention. "The fact is that an enormous number of representations have been made," Downer said, reports the AP. I.L.
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