From ‘Review age limit for caning sentences’, 6 Jan 2017, Today Voices
(Liew Lai Khiun): I refer to the report “Ex-teacher, 66, jailed for molesting girl, 7”; Jan 4). It is always saddening to read about child victims of molestation, especially by teachers.
What angers me is that by dint of the culprit’s age, he was spared the caning punishment and given an extra six weeks of jail in lieu.
Besides serving as a deterrence, the purpose of judicial caning in Singapore has evolved since its codification in 1871 into an additional punishment to underscore the enormity of the crimes committed, particularly those involving bodily harm.
The age limit of 50 years for caning was set at a time when life expectancy was lower, probably around 60 years. With advancements in health, however, people are now living longer, healthier and into their 80s.
Unfortunately for many, wisdom does not come with age. As with most developed societies, Singapore does see violent crimes committed by those we consider as “elderly”.
To serve justice, the authorities should review the age limit for caning, for a more discretionary model based on the individual’s general health. Being old is no excuse for being spared the rod.
While the writer seems to be pushing for sexagenarian perverts to be brutally spanked as well, he does not mention if there should be a MINIMUM age for getting the rotan treatment. In the early 20th century, petty thieves as young as 14 were giving a walloping, even for cases as trivial as stealing a BICYCLE BELL. Of course there are no available statistics on youths or middle-aged people getting seriously injured from the punishment, though you have to wonder how much of our healthcare cost goes into tending to people at the receiving end of this barbaric practice. You may have a broken leg but are stuck in the emergency waiting room because they wheeled in a convicted molester with a whipped arse on the verge of a massive haemorrhage.
As it stands, the maximum number of strokes for a ‘youth’ is 10, while adults get 24. There is clearly no scientific basis for these numbers, though there has been one case of a robber who received TWICE the maximum number of strokes and lived to try to sue the Government for it. That case was settled ‘out of court‘. Other convicts have also complained of getting bonus strokes beyond what they were initially sentenced. Those on death row also need not be caned, though you may argue if rotanning them to death could be a preferred option to the hangman, the latter seeming relatively quick and painless compared to say, 48 damn strokes of the cane.
Other than the old getting off lightly, we might as well question why females are spared entirely, and how the authorities deal with transgender offenders. Is it because hitting women is not the ‘gentlemanly’ thing to do? The rotan descended from the old British legal system, ironically from the same country where women used to be burned at the stake for practising ‘witchcraft’. Today, the rotan remains the symbol of the Janus-faced paradox that is the Singaporean identity, cosmopolitan and forward-looking on one hand, and a stickler to inhumane capital punishment on the other.
We already give our pioneer generation priority queues among other perks, let’s apply the same compassionate principle when they’re in prison, shall we?