Posts Tagged ‘courts’

Caught in the middle: Residents in AHPETC

In News Reports, Politics on May 5, 2015 at 8:14 am

What do you think?

Can you live with the consequences of your vote? So if your town council runs out of money, you will just have to suffer lift breakdowns and dirty corridors until the next general election? That’s the Workers’ Party position. How it operates is something between the party and the voters – not for the G nor the courts to intervene in, it said.

It’s so interesting. The WP lawyer in court even backed it up with past ministerial exhortations about the consequences of the vote. Residents shouldn’t expect to be bailed out if they voted in people who can’t manage the estate.

Anyway, some background:

The G wants the court to let it appoint independent auditors to go over the WP town council’s books and reclaim funds that have been wrongly disbursed. It will only release $14 million in grants to the town council, if the independent auditor is in to see that the money is managed properly. For example, if the WP wants to spend $20,000 or more, the independent auditor has to sign off on it.

Things are getting critical because there’s only enough money to sustain the Aljunied, Punggol East and Hougang estates till June. And that’s because it hasn’t made two sinking fund payments for cyclical works, according to the G.

The WP looks to be trying to head off the installation of an independent auditor (if the court says okay) by having its own external accountants and a financial consultant. But the G has dissed its efforts as “lukewarm assurances’’ citing the lack of experience of at least one of them.

What a state of affairs!

What’s interesting is that the WP is throwing back to the PAP its own argument about voting the “wrong’’ people. It’s the PAP G which said residents are responsible for their vote, so why is the G turning to the courts to intervene? In fact, it is up to the G to decide how to disburse the funds and it has already said it would review the Town Council Act. So why doesn’t it just do so and make the system more robust?

Another argument: Only the Housing Board and residents can go to the courts for redress.

Hmm. Quite smart.

The G wants to deal with this as a “legal problem’’ which needs the court’s adjudication while the WP wants to portray it as a “political dispute’’ that shouldn’t be any business of the court.

The problem with long sagas is that most people have short memories. So did the WP do any wrong that required such action by the G? Here’s what people reading about the court saga will remember: There was something about arrears, its managing agents having conflict of interest and some unaccounted money somewhere. Oh. And the Auditor-General’s report which said that there were plenty of “lapses’’ but didn’t say anything about a crime being committed.

They might remember the WP saying how no one wanted the job of managing agent and how it had just 90 days to sort the groundwork for the enlarged town council – and wasn’t this a bit tough on them? And the WP said it would fix its internal problems by itself while the G said it would fix the Town Council Act.

I am going to say it again: This is all sooooo interesting. It’s like the days of the late Ong Teng Cheong who wanted to test the elected president’s powers vis-à-vis the G. That took place in the courts too. Now we have another unique experiment in Singapore taking the same route.

I wonder what the residents in the opposition ward think? The elected presidency challenge was more hypothetical. This case, however, affects the lives of people living in one GRC and two single-seat wards. There hasn’t been much of a ruckus raised by residents, not even after the PAP put out fliers asking them to take the WP to task – or at least get answers from the party. Nor has any noise been heard about a petition that was initiated. The community groups in the area haven’t said a thing either.

Actually, I was thinking that if the WP had a case and the court agrees that the G shouldn’t bring the issue to court, what if a resident did so instead? Remember how a resident went to court to try and force a by-election in Hougang?

It would be good to know the mood of these hundreds of thousands of people in the opposition wards. How would they react to their own MPs’ position: You voted for me, so you have to live with me until the next GE when you have to decide whether you should keep me or throw me out. You know that don’t you?

Some possible answers:

  1. Yes, I always knew the consequences of my vote and thought the WP would do a good job. It hasn’t, so I have to live with it. Never mind rubbish piled up to the nth floor.
  2. Yes, I always knew the consequences of my vote and thought the WP would do a good job. Even if the WP doesn’t, I reckoned that the G wouldn’t just let things be because we’re all taxpayers aren’t we? And that grant is really taxpayers’ money.
  3. Yes, I always knew the consequences of my vote and thought the WP would do a good job. But it’s been hobbled so much that it can’t perform and now it’s being bullied and we, the residents, have to suffer. If the PAP didn’t try to “fix’’ the party, we’d all be okay.
  4. Yes, I always knew the consequences of my vote but it didn’t matter to me whether the WP did a good job of running the town council or not. I voted them to speak up for me in Parliament. The estate is a bit smelly and dirty but that’s the price you pay for exercising your vote.
  5. Yes, I always knew the consequences of my vote which was why I DIDN’T vote the WP. So why are PAP voters being penalized? Should I move out?
  6. Yes, I always knew the consequences of my vote but I thought all those other checks by grassroots organisations which purport to represent us would keep the town council in line.
  7. Yes, I always knew the consequences of my vote but this is too high-level for me to intervene. How can I make a difference? I am powerless – and that’s why the G should intervene to protect me. It’s no longer a party thing, but a national issue.
  8. Yes, I always knew the consequences of my vote and I also know that at the very last minute, the G will still rescue us because it risks looking heartless if it doesn’t.

Anyway, it’s in court now. Even if the residents decide to band together and say something, would it be subjudice? I don’t even know what subjudice is anymore.


The Slap

In News Reports, Society on May 1, 2015 at 1:01 am

So many views have emerged over the slapping of Amos Yee that you can’t say a thing about it without someone emerging to… slap you down.

In case you didn’t know, Amos breached his bail conditions by posting online again complaining about his bail conditions and describing how his father had hit him, especially when he wanted to go to court in his pyjamas. His well-meaning bailor who put up $20,000, a stranger to him, pulled out because Amos wouldn’t abide by bail conditions. Then another stranger turned up in court yesterday to slap him in front of the media.

I’m summarizing the range of views here and my apologies if I left out any strand of thought

a. Those who clapped loudly along with the slap thinking that it’s about time the boy got his comeuppance. After all, he is undeniably rude and abusive and has no qualms about spreading his vitriol in public.

b.  Those who clapped quietly because it’s not right to condone violence on others and agree that the stranger shouldn’t have taken matters into his own hands. But they’re still gleeful that he did what they have an urge to do themselves if they could or had the guts to.

c. Those who say the stranger shouldn’t have done what he did because it’s just plain wrong. And have no views (I don’t know how it is possible to stop the brain from going there) on whether Amos deserved one tight slap or not.

d. Those who say that those who clap loudly or quietly are wrong because they are really piling on a troubled kid who just might have been abused at home by his father whom he himself described as a “killer’’ and a “bastard’’.

e. Those who say that the stranger was merely doing what his parents should have done (but of course the stranger is wrong), although they don’t know what the parents have done over Amos’ formative years.

f. Those who say that violence on others, whether by strangers or relatives, cannot be condoned. They do not subscribe to the “spare the rod, spoil the child’’ type of upbringing which they say is old-fashioned and out-dated thinking. Besides, it’s also cruel.

g. Those who think everybody should shut up especially if they are not child psychiatrists, do not know Amos or his family and, oh yeah, because the case is before the courts.

h. Those who heap abuse on anyone who differs with them, indulging in ad hominem attacks and engaging in vocabulary almost close to Amos’ quality.

i. Then they are those who conflate the slap with a whole host of other issues surrounding Amos, such as whether a 16 year old should be tried in an adult court, whether the Sedition Act is too heavy for what he did, whether he was being prosecuted more for his anti-LKY rants rather than seditious remarks on religion, why others who attacked him aren’t also being prosecuted….you name it, you can attach a whole lot of issues to Amos.

Before anyone asks, I belong to group b. I got vicarious pleasure from seeing the slap administered. But that is about as far as I would go. We all refrain from acting from basic/base instincts because we’re civilized people who abide by the rules of society and by the law. My regret is that no member of the media or any cop collared the stranger to find out who is he, why he did what he did, and to throw the book at him for executing some version of “mob justice’’.

I know I will be attacked by those who disagree with my group b choice and will call me all sorts of names and declare their “disappointment’’ ecetera. I suppose I can be politically correct – and keep quiet. I wanted to be, because I think that’s what Amos wants – the glory of public comment/interest. And I didn’t want to give him that. Besides, silence is great no? You can’t get into trouble for shutting up. Or if you want to say something you know will get you attacked, you use a pseudonym or set up a fake account or something. But that would be cowardly. So, by that measure, Amos is a hero for saying what he did online so openly….

The Amos issue excites comments because it touches on the law (why the Sedition Act?), court processes (strange bail conditions), freedom of speech (is this more about the anti-LKY rant?), upbringing (unresolved teen issues?), family circumstances (too lax/tight?) and yes, even child/teen abuse whether at the hands of parents, strangers or the State. All of us think we know a bit of the different facets and even have some pretty firm views on parenting styles.

Parents look at Amos and wonder if they are keeping a tight enough rein on what their kids do online. They will put themselves in his parents’ shoes and wonder about how the Yees brought him up, whether he was simply beyond their control – and thank their lucky stars that their own children are well-behaved, or so they think. There will always be an element of self-righteousness and even hypocrisy because we do NOT know his family background and we’re NOT child psychiatrists – but we think we know it all. The thing is, you can’t stop people from having a view, at least, over his public actions.

Likewise, we are all products of our own upbringing and know of people who turned out well or not, because or despite of family circumstances. So we base our judgments on our own experience and anecdotal evidence. To each his own view, I say. We can agree to disagree on any aspect but I think we must and should agree that the stranger was in the wrong to slap him if we are to live in a society based on law and order. And we must and should let the courts proceed with its case without anyone on the outside prejudicing the process or hoping to influence the outcome.

BTW. The Slap is the title of a 2008 novel by Australian author Christos Tsiolkas. At a barbecue, a man slaps his neighbour’s son, who has been misbehaving without any intervention by his parents. Plenty of drama after that. Some characters believe the boy should be taught some discipline, others think the police ought to be brought in to investigate the slapper. And there’s a range of positions in between. Very good book.

* my apologies. He is being prosecuted under the Penal Code

TRS kena

In News Reports on April 15, 2015 at 1:58 am

I am no fan of The Real Singapore. I read it occasionally when articles pop up on my Facebook newsfeed and always end up asking myself why I was even taking the time to do so. I suppose the curious in me was wondering what TRS was up to yet again. Another anti-foreigner diatribe? Yet another cut-and-paste job with a twisted headline?

I happened to have been a victim of such venom. But, frankly, I couldn’t care less. If readers choose to believe what they read, so be it. If they think this is the “real’’ Singapore, a place to carp and complain and make unsupported accusations in the name of free speech, then I don’t know what to say about their judgment. The website, in my view, is simply…scurrilous. That, I suppose, is its attraction and why it has so many followers. I tell myself that people read it to be entertained, but I think they also read it to be riled up and roused into some kind of righteous indignation over foreigners, the G and whatever or whoever is the favorite enemy of the day.

Time and again, we see people upset by remarks posted on TRS which abdicates responsibility by saying that it doesn’t control what their usually anonymous contributors post. Yet their shadowy owners with overseas servers seem to be beyond the grip of the law. Sue them for defamation? Who are they? Where are they? I was looking forward to seeing someone use the Harassment Act against the site but it seems the law beat people to it.

Now that the couple, a Singaporean student and his Australian girlfriend has been charged, it’s a bit tough to say anything that would not compromise their case. I must say the use of the Sedition Act was a bit of a surprise coming so soon after the same charge was levelled against a Filipino ex-nurse. It is a “heavy’’ legislation and very wide-ranging, which might account for its infrequent use.

The first seven charges come under section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act (Cap. 290) read with Section 3(1)(e):


4.—(1)  Any person who —

… (c) prints, publishes, sells, offers for sale, distributes or reproduces any seditious publication ….

shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction for a first offence to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or to both, and, for a subsequent offence, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years; and any seditious publication found in the possession of that person or used in evidence at his trial shall be forfeited and may be destroyed or otherwise disposed of as the court directs.

Seditious tendency

3.—(1)  A seditious tendency is a tendency —
(a) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the Government;
(b) to excite the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore to attempt to procure in Singapore, the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of any matter as by law established;
(c) to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in Singapore;
(d) to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore;
(e) to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore.

The seven charges each refer to a particular posting, with the most recent being the false allegation that a Filipino family was involved in a fracas during Thaipusam.

The thing I wonder about is this: Why are the seven postings still accessible online if they are said to incite ill-feelings? Shouldn’t they be taken down to prevent further distribution?

From a reading of TRS’ own report of the court case on its site (yes, I had to look at it) it looks as though it is attempting to bring the original writers into the fray. Or at least to show that they were not involved in “content creation’’.

For example, one charge concerning an article on the sacking of “Pinoys’’ and an Indian national had the TRS saying that this “is a complaint shared with TRS in an email which was also published on Facebook by the original writer’’.

Likewise, it published a rant by a soon-to-be divorced woman who complained about the presence of female Chinese nationals who were stealing husbands. TRS said “This article was a complaint sent in by a TRS reader by email on May 22nd 2014’’.

What takes the cake is a charge involving a picture of a supposed female Chinese national making her grandson pee into a bottle on the MRT. Of this, TRS said: “This was sent in to TRS by a reader who also sent the same complaint to STOMP which also republished the same article inclusive of these allegedly seditious lines.’’

Ooh. In other words, double standards?

TRS said that the woman, Ai Takagi, “has been involved in the approval and publication of reader submissions for some of the content posted on TRS’’ but not Yang Kaiheng, the Singaporean. It also very handily listed the “seditous’’ comments that it has been accused of broadcasting.

For example, on the anti-PRC women rant:

“I would like to voice out my unhappiness with the over-populated China Chinese people in Singapore now!”
– “these Chinese women just apply permit/visitor pass using all kind of job excuse”
– “Do you know by simply granting another work permit to these Chinese women means you are destroying many Singapore homes out there!”
– “These Chinese women sleep around with our men … and doesn’t care whether the men are married or with kids.”
– “they only hopefully the men can divorce & married them and after that apply for S’porean citizenship and dump the guy! ”
– “We are flooded with enough Chinese all around us now! and enough is enough!”

I find it troubling. Because I think there are plenty of people who share some of these sentiments and would rant in similar fashion. Unless the case is that TRS has a deliberate agenda given the long list of other charges? Would it not be more suitable to use the Broadcasting Act or some other law to prevent such diatribes – or even to issue a take-down order under the Harassment Act? Until the case of the Filipino nurse with his anti-Singapore rant, the Act has been used against those who spout statements against a particular race or religion.  And now…?

Hopefully, some light will be shed on the use of the Sedition Act.

Where were we when Gabriel died?

In News Reports, Society on September 25, 2014 at 12:37 am

I am no bleeding heart but my heart goes out to the 32-year old single mom who pushed her nine-year-old son out of the window of their fifth-floor flat. I cannot but wonder how the poor boy felt as he struggled to break free and clung on to the bamboo poles outside the window before his mother pushed his hands away. What terror to know that your mom is trying to kill you. Or was she?

According to court documents, she thought that injuring the boy would make the authorities take him away from her. His father is described as an “acquaintance’’ who left her soon after Gabriel was born. She held down jobs at fast food joints but had been jobless for nine months when she “snapped’’. Her mother is supporting the family, as an $800 a month bakery assistant. And what must the old lady feel having to deal with daughter and grandson?

We are not told why the father left, he must be a Mr Loh, by the way. Gabriel was born with a host of medical problems affecting the liver and bones. He was small for his age and malnourished. I wonder about his medical bills over the past nine years. Was there a medical social worker around? Because it does seem like the family would be hard pressed on the health-financing front. We don’t even know if he goes to school and whether his teachers or classmates rendered help in any way.

But it seems that two years after Gabriel’s birth, the woman was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I’m not a medical person so I don’t know if her mental condition was triggered by the stress of looking after a brittle boned and jaundiced baby.  No husband around and we don’t know if she has any siblings to help out…

It went downhill for Rebecca (that’s her name) after that. It seems she was in some kind of denial over her medical condition, refusing to keep up with her medication or going for followup treatments.  For a one-year period between February 2012 and February last year, she was remanded at IMH three times after she..

  1. Appeared at a coffeeshop with a chopper looking for someone whom she thought had made fun of her.
  2. Hitting her mother who wouldn’t let her go to a movie
  3. Nearly strangling her mom.

So four months after her last stay in IMH, she took the step of “injuring her son’’. I don’t know what the medical term is but it sure looks like she was “escalating’’. So the police know of her and the IMH doctors. In other words, “professionals’’ know of her condition. Okay, she can’t be arrested for being a “threat’’ or “remanded at IMH’’ if she didn’t give her consent I suppose. Or could this have been done if her own mother gave consent? But what about follow-ups from agencies? She didn’t pick up her medication or attend follow-up sessions at  a community hospital. Did no one think to check up on her? Sic a VWO on her? Or am I asking too much of the State?

On June 1 last year, she grabbed her son who was playing a handheld game and decided to pitch him out of the window. She was charged originally with murder and this was downgraded to culpable homicide not amounting to murder, that is, for an offence “committed knowing that it would likely cause death but without the intention of causing death or cause a bodily injury likely to cause death’’. Such weird wording that you would think it’s tailored for the deluded. She was handed the maximum sentence of 10 years, which was what the prosecution asked for.

Now here’s where the State should do a little education so people won’t think its merely locking up mentally ill people and throwing away the key. She’s been sent to prison, a “structured setting’’ so she won’t be a threat to herself or others. According to TNP, she will receive proper treatment for her psychiatric condition. I wonder how this is different from remanding her at IMH? I guess it’s the stay in jail for 10 years; doubt that IMH has 10 year patients? The prosecution gave psychiatric reports but her lawyer also wanted another report to be given to the court before sentencing – on whether she could be cured, will relapse or spiral downwards.  He added that she may need treatment for the rest of the life but this need not be in a prison setting.

TNP phrased his request pretty strangely: The lawyer wanted the court to order an IMH consultant, who had assessed her, to submit a report before passing sentence.

The judge said no, adding that he would be surprised “if any doctors come with such a prognosis’’. I wonder why the defence – is this pro bono? – had to get the court to “order’’ the report to be submitted and didn’t submit the report earlier. Is the judge only reading doctors’ assessment given by the prosecution? I mean no offence, but the judge is no doctor.

This is all so sad. A boy has died, his mother locked up. I wonder about the 65-year old granny, who didn’t appear at the sentencing yesterday. I hope SOMEBODY is looking after her. It would be tragic if yet another member of the family falls through the holes in our net.  I don’t know about you, but I sort of feel we’ve let the family down somehow.

Protecting the small guy

In News Reports, Society on March 2, 2013 at 2:23 am

Just because someone calls something an initiative, it doesn’t mean you have to use the word and repeat it, repeat it, repeat it. The media reports are full of “initiatives’’, a whole **urrrhhh slew of them (as used in BT) – emerging from the courts. I suppose the word conveys the idea that something new will come to pass, and that it will be “good’’. I mean, is there such a thing as a “bad’’ initiative? If someone showed initiative, it probably means he used his brain quickly and came up with something fast, to the surprise of others. At least, that’s the way I “see’’ the word – and mine is NOT an expert point of view. Just saying…

Back to the subject at hand. So the new Chief Justice wants to do something about making sure people don’t head straight to court too quickly. He wants intermediate checkpoints of sorts along the way. So a core of lawyers will be around to provide legal advice on uncomplicated stuff for a fee. You know, we’ve heard several speeches over the years about making sure disputes are settled without the need to go before a judge and wasting time and money. Other CJs have also emphasised the use of Community Mediation Centres and other structures to reduce the cost of litigation. Whenever I see “new’’ initiatives announced, I keep wondering if this was because the old ones (bad initiatives?) didn’t work – or didn’t work well enough. Anyway, we don’t know.

I’m going to be snarky here and say that a reader in need of legal advice now (for a fee or pro bono) probably isn’t going to understand the media reports, which seem more intent on painting the “big picture’’, use big words like dispute resolution, facilitation and collaboration. What’s the news?

I think it’s something like this:

By the end of the year, a pool of lawyers will be on hand to help people who need basic legal matters sorted out. For a fixed fee, these lawyers also known as Primary Justice lawyers, will handle civil cases involving sums of less than $60,000. They will try resolve the matter so that it doesn’t have to go to court.

This is something new CJ Sundaresh Menon wants to introduce so that more people realise that they do not always have to go before a judge to get a dispute resolved. Cases can then be settled faster, cheaper and more amicably. (I think at this stage I would have said something about how much a basic legal matter – more examples would be good – would have cost someone and how it drains the courts’ time. Also, how heavy the workload of the court is now and how stuff that really, really needs the specialist attention of court gets deferred)

There is a second “initiative’’ that motorists should know about. The CJ wants a guidebook on liability findings on a comprehensive list of motor vehicle accident scenarios. Right now, such claims form 30 per cent of cases in the subordinate courts. With this guidebook, motorists and insurers can decide whether it’s worth their while to bring an accident case to court. Sounds like a good idea. That guidebook should be put online for all to see.

By the way, it was interesting how ST and Today reported the reactions of lawyers. ST said they were “supportive’’ (I mean, what else can the lawyers say right?). There was a lawyer though saying that some people simply die die (my words) want their day in court to see justice done, however small the case may be. Today, on the other hand, asked lawyers whether they think their earnings will drop if fewer cases made it to court (!). One said firms might need to change their “business model’’.

Makes me wonder: Didn’t anyone ask the small guy for his views? Can find plenty of them in the courts, probably pursuing an accident claim.

PS. Please read “cemetery’’ if you’re wondering why I swore at the word slew.

Better in jail than dead or Better dead than in jail?

In News Reports, Politics, Society on February 23, 2013 at 12:26 am

An interesting discussion has been taking place in the Voices pages of Today. It concerns the de-criminalisation of, not the infamous Section 377A, but Section 309 of the Penal Code. This punishes those who attempt suicide with a year’s jail or a fine.

There is something similar between the two sections. They are rarely enforced. The reason for not throwing an already suicidal person in jail is so as to not aggravate the person’s emotional state. I suppose you can’t tell what such a disturbed person might resort to if imprisoned.

But representatives of two groups, Aware and Silver Ribbon, have written to talk about a woman who was jailed after repeated suicide attempts. They did not elaborate on the case. They released some figures: From 2010 to 2011, the suicide mortality rate doubled among those aged 65 to 74 and those aged 85 and above. From 2008 to 2009, suicide among those aged 10 to 29 rose by 40 per cent, increasing from 64 to 91 deaths.

For every suicide death, there are seven suicide attempts. Arrests for attempted suicide have increased, from 706 in 2007 to 986 last year. Gosh! Now these figures I didn’t know. I believe Singapore’s suicide numbers are like one a day. So times seven…

They acknowledged that most arrests do not lead to charges, but argued that the arrest and investigation processes are traumatic enough for the individual and the family. Also, this sword hanging over their heads might actually deter the suicidal from seeking treatment or they would make sure they do the deed, hmm, properly. It’s a public health problem, not a criminal case, they argue.

The “relative infrequency of charges’’ reflects the “tacit understanding’’ that criminal law is the wrong tool for this problem, they said. As for the discretion given to police and magistrates to lay charges, the process iis “neither transparent nor reassuring’’ to those in distress.

You know what all this is leading up to: The section should be repealed.

Another letter-writer counter-argued, citing British law lord Patrick Devlin, He propounded that the legal enforcement of morality is necessary for the survival of society, which is constituted of ideas about how its members should behave. So if citizens are free to end their lives, society’s moral structure may crumble. Suicide then becomes not only an offence against an individual, but one against society.

“While there may be cogent reasons for decriminalising it, we should not view Section 309 of the Penal Code as nothing more than a law that penalises a person. Otherwise, we risk oversimplifying why criminal law is justified in our society.’’

He was joined by another letter-writer, who referred to what jurist A L P Hart said: That although people should be free to do as they please if they do not harm others, it is justifiable to criminalise certain acts to prevent people from making choices without adequate reflection or appreciation of the harm they may do to themselves. Examples of these laws include the mandatory use of motorcycle helmets or even the laws against drug abuse.

The letter-writer said that most cases of attempted suicides are referred to institutions for medical treatment, which makes it clear that the focus is on the medical, not the criminal aspects of the person’s failed attempt.

“Even so, the legislation itself meaningfully reflects our morality and how our society values life. Most of us do not attempt suicide, not because of the law but because we want to live. For a small segment of the population, the law deters and, in extreme cases, punishes. In this sense, it has instrumental value.’’
What are we to make of this discussion?

I dug up the case of the woman who was jailed. She is an 18 year old who received an eight-week jail sentence in November last year. She had tried to kill herself 13 times. The news report said that her family called the police after attempt No. 10 because they believed it was the only way to keep her safe.

She then spent 31/2 months remanded in custody before a judge placed her on a year’s probation, on condition that she sought treatment at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH). Apparently, she wasn’t found suitable for a mandatory treatment order (reason not stated) but the judge was convinced she needed medical help.

Three days after she was released from remand, she tried to kill herself again, before going on to make two more attempts.) That’s how she got jail-time, for breaching probation and Section 309, among other things.

The young woman didn’t exactly serve the eight-week jail time, as her sentence was backdated. She went home after the judge admonished her to “get treatment’’. As far as the family was concerned, they wanted her to live, even if it meant calling the police on her.

If this was the case cited in the letter calling for Section 309 repeal…well, I think the circumstances are rather more complex than what the letter writers let on.

Notwithstanding the case, I suppose one issue is: why is it even in the books, if it’s not enforced, just like the other infamous section which I will not name. As for the argument that it’s in the books as a marker of society’s values, that has a familiar ring to it too.

Actually all I want to know is: How many individuals have been charged for attempting suicide over the years? How does the police decide whether to arrest someone, or let him/her go (a lot of people are probably let off given the high attempted suicide numbers). What is the investigation process that follows arrest like? How many are referred for medical treatment?

Some transparency would be good.

Gag yourselves!

In News Reports, Politics on January 22, 2013 at 11:59 pm

How could I have forgotten about the all-powerful “subjudice’’ ban on speaking about stuff that’s before the court? So the Attorney-General’s Chambers have joined the 377A fray by telling everyone on all sides to shut up and sit down. My question: What took it so long?

Then again, if a court challenge on the criminalisation of homosexual sex had not been mounted, we wouldn’t know the depth and extent of some people’s feelings about calls for its repeal – on both sides of the fence.

So now all eyes will be on the two cases before the court coming up pretty soon. MSM didn’t give exact dates – they should since they will be closely-watched. I suppose the judges (MSM didn’t say who) will be delving into the dusty old books methinks to find out what is the intent of Parliament when this law was put in the books.

Law Minister K Shanmugam has met the church representatives, according to Today. I wonder if this was to deliver the “gag’’ order. How I would love to know what else was said besides his comments that they delivered their position with “considerable conviction’’ in a “frank discussion’’. I’m sure the Law Minister is savvy enough to able to give some insights without getting himself into subjudice trouble. So what about another Facebook posting Mr Shanmugam?

In any case, however the court rules, it seems to me that this isn’t a “legal’’ problem, but a political one. And the discussion will be re-started, free of any subjudice clauses. What will happen then?

Curve balls

In News Reports, Politics, Society on January 19, 2013 at 5:01 am

I almost wanted to stick this comment under my earlier post Kena Pluck! Cluck! Cluck! But I decided to be polite. I am referring to how the Faith Community Baptist Church tried to get ESM Goh Chok Tong into its corner on Sunday by presenting him with a statement on the repeal of Section 377a. Wow! I call it political activism! It was meant to be handed to ESM Goh, but he decided to enter the church, so it was read out to him.

He couldn’t have seen the curve ball coming. But his remarks about how they will be fine because they stand by their beliefs seemed to have been taken as a “strong word of encouragement’’ – a phrase that it later dropped from its online site after he clarified that he was only making a general comment.

The stuff that’s coming out online is intriguing. The Bible is being quoted left, right and centre on what it says about the family as a basic unit. Other pastors have entered the fray and Mr Lawrence Khong of Faith Baptist has given a pretty grim scenario of what would to Singapore society if homosexual acts were decriminalised. It’s nothing short of apocalyptic, in his view.

Now, a group of pastors representing 100 churches want to meet Law Minister K Shanmugam – because he had met Sayoni, a homosexual group. Mr Khong said the minister’s meeting with Sayoni could be read as a “high-level endorsement of their agenda’’. Now, I wonder if Mr Shanmugam saw that curve ball coming. Is “engaging’’ with a group tantamount to endorsing its agenda? Sheesh. It means you must be careful about who you are seen with or talk to…
I wonder what will happen at the meeting…

You know, I am uncomfortable with what’s happening. It’s polarising.

When the G looked at the laws, it kept Section 377a to appease the conservatives; but it also said it wouldn’t actively take those who engage in homosexual acts to task. There’s a court case challenging its constitutionality later this month.

I am not going to get into what the Bible says. I am no expert. Nor am I going to take sides on the issue.

But as citizen, I am going to stick my neck out and say that I’ve always found it strange that you can have something in the statute books and yet say you won’t do too much about it. Not the way the rule of law should work, no? Sure, it’s a compromise but I think it opens the door for other laws being “used’’ in the same way. Like a toothless tiger. Either it’s in, and enforced. Or it’s not.

Such ambiguity, even if it has been broadcast in Parliament, means we will be dependent on this term called “prosecutorial discretion’’.

And that’s not a good way to live.

Hot case and hot property

In Money, News Reports, Politics, Sports on January 15, 2013 at 6:52 am

Trying trysts
I’m having a hard time trying to make sense of the sex-for-grades case. Which way does this go: She gave sex so she can get good grades? Or: If she gave him sex, he will give her good grades ? Or: She loves him and never thought anything about grades? Or: He wasn’t averse to having something on the side but grades didn’t cross his mind?
I think we know more about MontBlanc pens (and he says he uses Shaeffer), monogrammed tailored shirts and his red sofa (who has a picture?) which is where both trysts occurred.

The media needs to give a better guide on what the case is about – the criminal one. We all know teacher-student sex is wrong; married man-other woman sex is wrong. The criminal part is again on that famous word “corrupt intent’’.
Anyway, it was fun to read about the exchange between law teacher and ex-law student (and nobody’s found out where she works???) I was especially amused by her use of “undue prejudice’’ instead of favour or disfavour in her statement to CPIB. I don’t think I would ever use such a phrase but now I will bear it in mind….
What’s interesting is that like the Ng Boon Gay case, it sheds light on CPIB’s practices. A key one appears to be: You not afraid the whole world will know about you? – that was in response to Darinne Koh’s request about a lawyer. I believe a similar statement/comment/promise was made to Cecilia Sue in the Ng Boon Gay case too.

Hot property
Not women, but those places were people want to buy to live in or invest in. So we have PRs screaming unfair that they have to pay more stamp duty etc. It’s a further differentiation in the status of a PR and citizen. I am tempted to say that PRs should lump it. They still have their own home to go to while the rest of us have to actually live here. But then again, that would make me sound real xenophobic.

For me, the most important thing is whether property prices will fall as a result. (I also want to buy something lah.) And how creative developers can get in making the price right. They’ve shown themselves to be extremely entrepreneurial in the past. An ST Forum page letter writer already alluded to this today – give rebates, absorb stamp duty etc. Then the G would have to jump in again. Very hard to rein in private enterprise…

As for those gigantic ECs, seems like Mr Khaw Boon Wan thinks that capping the size would put paid to all the high-priced skysuites. That, and restricting the development of public areas to add to the unit’s size. Then there is the dual key concept for multi-generational families to live next to each other, except that some owners are renting it out. Now they definitely must be multi-generational families.

Actually, I didn’t realise it was so easy for EC owners to rent out their places. They don’t have to abide by HDB rules on staying on a certain period before renting it out? I would love to know how many people are profiting this way – and also how does the G even know about this? Taxes on rental income? Check against registered addresses?

Legal love letters

In News Reports, Politics, Society on January 6, 2013 at 1:01 pm

SO many legal letters flying into the blogosphere it is so not funny. I have lost count of the number of PAP ministers who have served letters of demand on online sites or online commentators. I keep asking myself what I would do if something like that happened to me. Say, I ahh misspoke…and all of a sudden I get a legal love letter from Davinder Singh, then…how?

a. If I had really mis-spoken, mis-written out of sheer carelessness and not because I meant it, I would fall on my knees and say sorry. I’ll probably add that I didn’t get a lawyer to proof read the post first, or an editor or sub-editor to point out the pitfalls. But I guess that’s no excuse.

b. If I meant what I said, but have no proof to back it up, then I am not doing an honest job of reporting or commenting on the basis of facts. I guess I will grudgingly say sorry – because I put out an irrational point of view. I would probably add that I was really angry, upset and that I was having a bad hair day that day.

c. If I am making an honest interpretation of the facts, and am reaching a conclusion that everybody else in his/her right mind will come to, I would have to think harder. Maybe it was a choice of words. Too harsh? Too personal? I hurt people’s feelings by being too blunt? I suppose I will apologise if feelings were hurt, but not for what I said. Hey, no hard feelings, ok?

d. If I am not making a comment but asking what I believe to be legitimate questions, will I get into trouble too? I suppose someone who is bloody-minded about closing a big mouth can frame something along the lines that the questions asked were intended to make the person lose his reputation and standing. Gosh, if that happens, then no one can ask ANY question, especially hard-hitting ones. (In my past life, I have found it’s not good to ask too many questions because the answer will be another question: What is your agenda?)

e. If I ask (nicely) that something should be investigated by the authorities because something doesn’t look right or that something should be changed for the greater good, will I be accused of alleging impropriety or some kind of criminal act on the part of someone or some group? I sure hope not. If we think something is wrong, we must speak up and get some satisfactory answers. We shouldn’t always wait for the G to initiate everything. I mean, what if it doesn’t? We shouldn’t just be a caring, sharing and productive society – but also a questioning one. Harder to govern but, hey, that’s one of hallmarks of an educated people!

f. If I say someone is stupid and dishonest, then I better have proof of both qualities, or it will be me who’s stupid and dishonest. But if I ask if someone is stupid and question his honesty, then how? Well, I think I am not so stupid as to phrase it that way. Perhaps, I will say this: “Will so-and-so explain why he did this because the normal/usual way would have been this…’’ and ask for some kind of evidence as well…

You know, if all the online people who have been at the receiving end of those legal love notes had decided to fight it out, we’d have some interesting days in court. Maybe, the Chief Justice will decide that for the sake of the greater good, there would be no litigation but an inquisition instead, as he seemed to be proposing for family justice matters. Or maybe not…Inquisition brings up visions of being burnt at the stake as a witch.

I don’t need a crystal ball to tell me that Davinder Singh is going to be very busy. Libellous or contentious comments are not about to go away. I can see more of them in the future. It’s just the way it is when so many forms of expression are opened up to the people. Whether you get a love note will probably depend on who you are, I suppose.
An anonymous poster isn’t worth anybody’s time, but an established site or blogger might be viewed as opinion shapers who can sway their audiences. I am actually curious about what the potential damages could come up to…surely, not as much as if the comments were made in MSM with their larger audience? Or no?

No one should be surprised if the online community is outraged at the legal moves of the G. They would be viewed as a clampdown, a scare tactic or some sort of thought control. It’s odd given that we are now trying to have a Singapore Conversation to bring different strands of people of different ideologies and backgrounds together – and we have love letters flying about.

It’s not even Valentine’s Day.