May 23, 2008

Caning As A Form of Punishment

ST May 23, 2008
25 Years 24 strokes
Man tries to retract his police statement but is convicted of raping stepdaughter
By Selina Lum

HE TOLD the police he did it.

He told a psychiatrist the same thing.

The 37-year-old IT specialist admitted to having had sex with his stepdaughter since she was 11, but that it had been consensual.

But when the case went to court, the Indian national changed his tune - insisting that there had been no sexual relations between them at all.

Yesterday, the High Court's decision was clear: He was guilty of all the charges brought against him for raping and having oral sex with the girl, now aged 14.

The Singapore permanent resident, who cannot be named to protect the girl's identity, was jailed for 25 years and ordered to be caned the maximum 24 strokes.
I have very little sympathy for child rapists. In my opinion, raping a child is just one of the most evil sorts of crimes possible.

I just wanted to use the ST article as a starting point for a more general discussion - whether our criminal legal system should continue to use caning as a form of punishment. Needless to say, human rights organisations such as Amnesty International regard caning as "cruel and unusual punishment", which is the technical way of saying that caning is a breach of human rights.

Some months ago, a friend alerted me to a Youtube video which purportedly shows the actual caning of a convicted child rapist in Malaysia. I would suppose that caning in Singapore would be somewhat similar (that is, the IT specialist mentioned in the ST article will suffer a similar fate).

Anyway here's the video. Please do not watch if you are squeamish. The caning takes place at a leisurely pace, but by the end of 20 strokes, the flesh on the buttocks is torn into a quivering, bloody mess.

Link to Youtube.

May 12, 2008

Thank You For Reading My Blog, Aljunied Town Council Members

A surprising reversal of events:
ST May 11, 2008
Litter index not linked to conservancy charges
By Shuli Sudderuddin

The air has been cleared over the litter index. Residents in Aljunied GRC need not worry about having to pay higher conservancy charges if their estate is deemed dirty.

Netizens were abuzz over a supposed link between the charges and the index after Aljunied Town Council chairman Cynthia Phua mentioned on May 3 that a litter index was being considered to find out which estates were the dirtiest.

It was reported that the index would be based on the cleanliness of lifts, condition of public property and how large pieces of rubbish were disposed of, and that the town council would consider raising conservancy charges for the dirtiest precincts to cover the extra work involved in maintaining them.

Clearing the air yesterday, Madam Phua told The Sunday Times: 'I mentioned that the litter index and conservancy charges can be linked in terms of dollar amount because there will be an increased cost to cleaning dirtier estates.

'However, that does not mean that the Aljunied Town Council intends to link them. I would like to make it very clear that the Aljunied Town Council never had the intention of punishing the residents with higher conservancy charges.'

She added that the town council may use the index to identify the dirtiest precincts. The staff can clean them and residents encouraged to maintain cleanliness. The index has not even been drafted.
Let's recall the earlier ST article, dated 5 May 2008. These sentences were, and are, crystal clear:
ST May 5, 2008
Aljunied trash index aims to wipe out litterbugs
Conservancy fees may be tied to index, with dirtiest precincts paying more
By Alfred Siew

TIRED of hardcore litterbugs, Aljunied GRC plans to start measuring the cleanliness of its precincts under a new litter index to be introduced in October.

Officials also said they will consider raising the conservancy charges for the dirtiest precincts to cover the extra work that goes into maintaining them.
As I see it, either the Aljunied Town Council has suddenly changed its plans about the index, or the Straits Times made a big error in reporting the story the first time around. Or perhaps there was just some breakdown in communication, when the Straits Times and the Aljunied Town Council were talking to each other. What do you think?

Anyway, all's well that ends well. Raising conservancy charges anytime in the foreseeable future is just plain silly - considering, among other things, the way that the price of oil, electricity and basic foodfoodstuff have been shooting up. Surely we don't want to risk destabilising Singapore?

Interestingly, I just went to the ST archive service to read the 5 May article in full again. Surprise, surprise. It seems to me that the original article has now been edited. A few extra paragraphs have been added, which I'm fairly certain were not in the original article I saw. Here's some of the "additional reporting":
Other town councils are not yet considering the same move.

Dr Teo Ho Pin, coordinating chairman of the 14 People's Action Party town councils, had reservations about the plan.

He said it means a few litterbugs at a block could end up causing everyone to be punished.
Well, as you can see, it is obviously untrue that Mr Wang and the PAP are always in disagreement.

In this case, I agree wholeheartedly with Dr Teo Ho Pin. As a matter of fact, Dr Teo is simply reiterating the very same view that I myself had earlier expressed here, so I cannot possibly disagree with him.

Well done, Dr Teo! In my opinion, you have just shown yourself to be a clear-thinking, clever person.

May 10, 2008

Films That You Won't See In Your National Education Classes

While we're still on the topic of citizens and rubbish - refer to my preceding post - I thought I would feature this short film by Martyn See. It seems quite relevant, since it contains many scenes about poor people and the trash in their environment.

No doubt these people live in the more run-down, dirtier precincts in Singapore. But do you think that their respective MPs should therefore raise their conservancy fees? As Aljunied Town Council is considering doing, for residents in Aljunied's dirtier precincts?

Interestingly, one of the places featured in the above video is Eunos. I could be wrong, but I think that this place is probably part of Aljunied GRC. (Aljunied GRC comprises five divisions, including the Eunos constituency).

May 5, 2008

Aljunied Town Council And A Matter of Principle

From the Straits Times:

ST May 5, 2008
Aljunied trash index aims to wipe out litterbugs
Conservancy fees may be tied to index, with dirtiest precincts paying more
By Alfred Siew

TIRED of hardcore litterbugs, Aljunied GRC plans to start measuring the cleanliness of its precincts under a new litter index to be introduced in October.

Officials also said they will consider raising the conservancy charges for the dirtiest precincts to cover the extra work that goes into maintaining them.

The index, the first of its kind in Singapore, was unveiled on Saturday by the GRC's Members of Parliament.

They said that it was designed to encourage residents to change their attitudes towards tossing trash.

Aljunied Town Council chairman Cynthia Phua said that the index would be based on the cleanliness of lifts, the condition of public property and how large pieces of rubbish are disposed.

She told The Straits Times yesterday that the council would tie conservancy charges to the index only if it found an objective measure of cleanliness.

The plan is under consideration and would not be confirmed until next year, she said.

Would it be right, as a matter of principle, for Aljunied Town Council to raise conservancy charges in the manner proposed above? Let's discuss.

The most obvious objection is that all the residents in the dirty precincts would have to pay higher conservancy charges, even though the large majority of them may be civic-minded residents who do not litter.

Once again, it would be a case of innocent Singaporeans being punished for a wrong they did not commit and could not personally prevent.

It is one thing to catch a litterbug and impose a fine on him. It is quite another thing to impose a fine (or a higher conservancy charge) on a resident, just because he happens to live in an area with more litterbugs around.

All the residents are already paying their usual conservancy charges. The amount they currently pay is already more than enough to maintain the cleanliness of the Aljunied GRC area. Check out the Aljunied Town Council's financial statements yourself.

In the 2006/2007 financial year, the Aljunied town council collected $31,955,492 in conservancy and service fees. They spent only $4,237,162 on cleaning works.

Their accumulated surplus for the year, as at 31 March 2007, was $4,964,022. Which means that in 2006/2007, they could have spent DOUBLE the amount they actually did, on cleaning works, and still have money left over.

Just as a side point, what about their gigantic sinking funds? Check out the Aljunied Town Council's balance sheet. They have more than $90,000,000 in surpluses accumulated over the years. And yes, the bulk of which would have come from the conservancy and service fees paid by Aljunied residents.

Of that amount, $36,270,609 is reported to be sitting in the bank as fixed deposits. Another $44,045,035 is reported as being held for "trading investments". What's that? On further inspection, we see that it means $12,587,775 invested in stocks; $21,082,590 invested in bonds; and $11,981,315 invested in unit trusts.

Does the Aljunied Town Council sound poor to you?

(The sinking funds can't be used for general cleaning works, but their enormous size raises other sorts of questions, which I'll discuss in a future post).

May 4, 2008

Chee Soon Juan And Other Illegal Hawkers

It seems that Geylang is getting overrun by foreigners selling illegal cigarettes.
ST May 4, 2008
Cigarette peddlers show up in Geylang
Working in teams, they do their illegal trade in back alleys, side lanes
By Aw Cheng Wei

Peddlers from China and Vietnam are hawking bootleg cigarettes openly in the Geylang area, sometimes in broad daylight, and even stopping cars to sell their stash.

The cigarettes are smuggled in on board cargo ships which dock at Jurong Port, the peddlers claimed.

One seller, who said he was Vietnamese and spoke in halting English, said his shipborne supply comes from Indonesia. His teammate added in Mandarin: 'The ships come in daily and we pay on collection.'

Judging by the figures he gave, it is a lucrative business. The peddlers buy their contraband at about $2 for a pack of 20 sticks and resell them to street buyers. A 20-stick pack of Texas 5 costs $4.50 while a pack of Marlboro Red or Marlboro Menthol costs $5 or $6, half of what a duty-paid pack of Marlboro costs here.

The appearance of the Geylang peddlers comes on the heels of Indonesian peddlers who smuggled in bootleg cigarettes in small boats and sold them to passers-by in Woodlands, Yew Tee and Changi.

Police cracked down on these Indonesian smugglers in January.

Six of the seven peddlers The Sunday Times approached in Geylang last week were Vietnamese. The seventh was a Chinese Singaporean who looked no older than 18.

There are peddlers from China as well but The Sunday Times team did not manage to speak to them.
From this article, we learn that these Chinese, Vietnamese and Indonesian foreigners are getting their illegal cigarettes via cargo ships that dock at Jurong Port.

However, I am more interested to know how these foreigners got into Singapore in the first place. Who knows, Mas Selamat may well have gotten out of Singapore in the same way that these cigarette hawkers got in.

It's quite likely that at least some of these cigarette hawkers are illegal immigrants. If they had entered Singapore legally on a work permit, they'd have a job and probably wouldn't risk it by selling contraband cigarettes in broad daylight. They'd have to be at work anyway.

Interestingly, somebody else is in the news for alleged illegal hawking - Mr Chee Soon Juan. From the Today newspaper:
Tak boleh tahan, SDP says it again
Party cadres urge passersby to sign two petitions
Friday • May 2, 2008

WEARING red T-shirts with the Malay words "tak boleh tahan" — which means "cannot take it" — members of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) once again took to the streets, as they had done on May Day in previous years.

Last year, SDP chief Chee Soon Juan and his sister Chee Siok Chin walked around the island to raise awareness about poverty. This year, the pair, joined by other SDP members and supporters, descended on Toa Payoh Central and set up a booth at a walkway near Toa Payoh Community Library.

They then began to hand out leaflets containing accusations of greed and exploitation by the Government.

The SDP members, who were selling T-shirts, buttons and books at their booth, also urged passersby to sign two petitions.

The first, addressed to the Prime Minister, contained five demands relating to ministerial salaries, the entry of foreign workers, the release of Central Provident Fund savings and transparency in the financial dealings of Temasek Holdings and the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC).

The second, to Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng, urged him to resign over the escape of Jemaah Islamiyah detainee Mas Selamat Kastari from the Whitley Road Detention Centre — a suggestion that has been dismissed by the Prime Minister.

........ In response to media queries, the police said: "Police received a call from the Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council reporting that Chee Soon Juan was distributing pamphlets, and had set up a table selling books and T-shirts at Toa Payoh Central. Police observation in response to the call confirmed it."

Chee did not stage an unlawful assembly or an illegal outdoor demonstration.

"He was however peddling his books and T-shirts without a hawker's permit."

As this may be a case of illegal hawking, the Police has referred the matter to the National Environment Agency."

Surely it's only in Singapore that such a bizarre thing could happen.

The National Environment Agency was formed in 2002 to focus on the implementation of environment policies. It serves three main functions - environmental protection; maintenance of public health; and the provision of weather information through meteorological services.

The NEA is also in charge of pest control in Singapore. The agency regularly sends its officers around Singapore to deal with pests such as mosquitoes, cockroaches and rats.

It seems that the police authorities want the NEA to take on an additional role - deal with Opposition politicians who cannot be prosecuted for unlawful assembly or illegal outdoor demonstrations.

Chee Soon Juan may soon be treated as a pest - literally. So much for his human rights.