A lesson to learn from Singapore

Published: February 17, 2011

The writer was Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Singapore from July 2004 to December 2008

On December 15, 2009, a black Audi ran two red lights in Singapore’s Bukit Panjang district and hit three pedestrians, killing one and injuring two. Approximately 40 minutes later, Silviu Ionescu, the Romanian charge d’affairs, whom I always found to be a reclusively serious and an unsmiling character, reported his car missing. Mr Ionescu left Singapore unannounced, unusual for a diplomat, three days later, and never returned.

In March of 2010, after a coroner’s inquiry, it was confirmed that the Romanian diplomat was indeed at the wheel in the hit-and-run accident. Singapore’s request for his presence at the inquiry was not met. However, the two countries did set up a joint technical committee to pursue legal action against Ionescu.

On February 10, 2010, Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Minister George Yeo told parliament that legal procedures needed to be respected. Eventually, Singapore filed 13 charges against him and issued an arrest warrant against him through Interpol. The Romanian government tried the diplomat at home and suspended him from service.

This is not the first time Singapore had taken a position in defence of its legal system and, in the process, earning considerable respect. In 1993, American teenager Michael Fay was caught and sentenced to caning for vandalising cars and, despite an appeal by President Bill Clinton himself, it made sure that the sentence was carried out.

Now let’s consider the case of Raymond Davis. America’s reaction so far has been dismissive of the fact that its citizens broke Pakistani law. Pakistan’s reaction has also been divided and oscillating. While it has claimed diplomatic immunity for the alleged murderer, it has refused to either identify the three occupants of the rescue car which ran over and killed a third Pakistani or hand over the said vehicle to the police.

To those familiar with the Vienna Conventions, it is clear that the accused does not qualify for the “diplomatic immunity” which is available only to “accredited diplomats”. Former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has also said that, according to advice given to him by experts, Raymond Davis “is not a diplomat and cannot be given blanket diplomatic community.” The fact of the matter is that under Vienna Conventions, it is the Foreign Office that is to determine if he enjoys immunity.

It is worth noting how differently Pakistan acted from Singapore. Instead of intimidating Pakistan, the US, which claims to champion human rights, should come forward and declare that the process of law should be respected. Pakistan, which in the past has handed over its own citizens to the US without the due process of law, needs to take a position based on honour and ensure that Raymond Davis is tried according to the law.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2011.

Reader Comments (17)

  • Raja
    Feb 18, 2011 - 12:09AM

    What an insult to Singapore??!!!

    Singaporeans are a proud people, who have been focused on education, economic
    development of people living within its borders.

    This is the opposite of what “Pakistan” has been doing for 64 years.

    Singaporeans have dignity and are not living on dole from USA.Recommend

  • Arindom
    Feb 18, 2011 - 1:28AM

    Sir, can you also write about the application of the Law on the Bombay massacre case?Recommend

  • Copper
    Feb 18, 2011 - 3:29AM

    No matter whatever the topic is, an Indian will pop-up with Mumbai incidence. Haven’t you guys sold this enough? Recommend

  • omar yusaf
    Feb 18, 2011 - 3:58AM

    Very well written piece which clarifies the issue of diplomatic immunity.
    The Foreign Office still remains the only professional institution with any credibility that is left in the country.Recommend

  • Ahmed
    Feb 18, 2011 - 7:56AM

    @Raja: The author has suggested to “learn” from singapore. Its the loser attitude like yours that causes the problem, You dont want to change and make fun of people who suggest something right.
    @Arind: Strange, when will you get out of the bombay awe? the article has nothing to do with you or your bombay, stop beating it and try too fix your law agencies.Recommend

  • Jokers
    Feb 18, 2011 - 11:33AM

    Clearly the first 2 people commenting on this article have missed the point, whether it be because of selective reading & understanding or poor reading comprehension skills. Raja- Do you realize the author is NOT saying Pakistan IS like Singapore but is saying that Pakistan SHOULD be like Singapore and continue doing what it is doing by not falling under pressure and releasing Davis and instead try him through the normal process. Arindom- Your sarcastic comments need to at least be placed in context of the article you are commenting on. This is an article which states & shows that Pakistan is working on it’s legal system and needs to further improve it. The article also gives an example of Singapore & how it can be used as an example.Recommend

  • Adeel
    Feb 18, 2011 - 12:04PM

    “Pakistan, which in the past has handed over its own citizens to the US without the due process of law…” reminds me of Amil Kansi…isnt it?Recommend

  • moise
    Feb 18, 2011 - 12:12PM

    @Raja:
    I guess you havent read the article.Recommend

  • moise
    Feb 18, 2011 - 12:14PM

    @Arindom:
    It was not Pakistan that mutilated bodies of terrorists so they are not recognizable. We are still waiting for DNA reports on those terrorists.Recommend

  • Reema
    Feb 18, 2011 - 12:27PM

    @Raja: I think you missed the point of the article. Perhaps you need to read it again and understand that the writer was in fact using Singapore as an example of what Pakistan should follow. Recommend

  • Arifq
    Feb 18, 2011 - 12:47PM

    “Mr Ionescu left Singapore unannounced, unusual for a diplomat, three days later, and never returned.” Kudos to Singapore for upholding local and “International” laws, dear writer please note for any state signatory to Geneva conventions has to comply with its requirements no matter what the crime or consequences. Pakistan must allow Everybody loves Raymond to leave the country and proceed with their judicial inquiry and let the American Government deal with their trigger happy cowboy. Recommend

  • abhinav
    Feb 18, 2011 - 1:47PM

    If Pakistan is to follow Singapore, they need to let David leave country now, do proper investigation and after it issue warrant and ask USA to handover him or punish him. What Pakistan is doing now is to create more and more confusion. All this is just for public consumption.Recommend

  • Raja
    Feb 18, 2011 - 4:55PM

    @Ahmed
    sure…..Pakistani attitude is always “winners” attitude…LOL!

    To those asking me “to read” the article.

    you should read yourself! the author is saying, Pakistan should act like Singapore, defend its “legal system” and stand up to USA.

    as I said before you are no singapore!!! in your desperate desires to acquire weapons, see India “eyeball to eyeball” ( thru terrorism of course)….to get american dole money, you have become a colony of USA. Singapore is a sovereign country with self respect.Recommend

  • sundar
    Feb 18, 2011 - 6:18PM

    ….Pakistan, which in the past has handed over its own citizens to the US without the due process of law….

    The world respects nation only when it acts responsibly. Pakistan acted like bounty hunter for money ignoring law of the land, raised & still maintains ‘non-state’ actors for the so called strategic depth which has failed miserably. Show the same zeal in dealing with Mumbai terrorists and prove to the world you mean business. You want to use different yardstick to suit your convenience, good luck with that. Recommend

  • Balwinder Sandhu
    Feb 18, 2011 - 10:55PM

    I, an Indian feel for the three dead in Lahore, killed by Davis and co. A small part of me deep down inside hopes that justice prevails for I have not forgotten the very sad suicide by the widow of one of the victims.
    Maybe I am hoping this will happen for the Pak ppl are like my cousins. But I am not holding my breath.
    In what is certain to follow, Raymond will be released by the end of the month and Pakistan will completely ignore the significance of this fact which will label them impotent. Strength comes from getting justice for 1 poor countryman, and not from any stupid depth in Afghanistan.
    My heart weeps.
    If this incident had happened in India, Raymond would be convicted. Fact. No iffs, no buts.Recommend

  • Bangash
    Feb 18, 2011 - 11:31PM

    Singapore takes no aid from the US, enjoys rule of law and no terrorist attacks or criminal gangs. Singaporeans also don’t follow policy based on “honor”. Recommend

  • G.Din
    Feb 19, 2011 - 3:12AM

    There is a Hindi saying: “Kahan Raja Bhoj, kahan Gangi teli”
    Paraphrasing: Singapore and Pakistan are in entirely different leagues. Singapore, like most nations of the world is a self-respecting nation; Pakistan, on the other hand, bartered its self-respect for dole a long time back and is now addicted to it. And now, the author is setting up a model for his country and asking it to be like that model. Not in a million years. First it must detoxify itself. Very unlikely, though. Good luck all the same!Recommend

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