Old criminals being spared from caning

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?

Terrorism is like a spring

From ‘Terrorism is like a spring – stretch it to make it lose its strength’, Today Voices, 31 Jan 2016

(Ng Chee Keon): The spate of attacks in Germany, Turkey and Jordan suggests that it is tough to prevent such terrorist acts, notwithstanding the plots foiled in Indonesia and Australia (“World needs a better plan to confront threat of terrorism”; Dec 22).

Terrorism is like a strong spring; compress it with military force and the recoil will be just as hard, with more retaliatory attacks. Overbear it with military successes in Mosul and Raqqa, and the attacks spread from the Middle East to Europe, South-east Asia and other countries.

Another way to handle such a spring would be to stretch it. The world could start by attempting to appreciate and address the terrorists’ sources of hatred and any grievance suffered, real or perceived, as part of the deradicalisation process.

The next step could be to identify common ground and explore possible win-win solutions to the problem. I am sure that, barring any groupthink or wish to be seen as politically correct, many terrorism experts would know of other ways to elongate this spring slowly so that it loses strength over time

And I hope the scourge of terrorism may thus abate steadily.

In 2002, then DPM Lee Hsien Loong compared the JI threat to a stubborn cancer that refuses to go away. The analogy to a condition once stigmatised as the ‘Big C’ has stuck ever since. Terrorist groups are called ‘cells’. When legions expand, they’re described as ‘metastasising‘.

Like cancer, the war on terror demands a multi-faceted solution, and not just rely on precision killing or sweeping obliteration. The problem with this metaphor is that cancer can actually be defeated and most healthy people don’t need to be reminded of getting it in the first place. On the other hand, this anxiety over the scourge of terrorism will live on with us for posterity as long as warped religious doctrine, guns and large vehicles continue to exist.

Yes there are things we use to describe the war against terror like the ‘Crusades’, a disease, an epidemic, and then we have the writer above with the bizarre insight to peel away the layers of bloody violence surrounding the idea of terrorism and compare it to something innocuous that goes ‘boing-boing’. If terrorism had a name, it would be King Coil. With a crown made of flaming blades. Dealing with terrorism may be the ‘new normal’, but there is such a thing as over-normalising something that makes young children bomb-strap and blow themselves up with other innocent human beings.

Regardless, analogies are useless even if people understand them. Calling terrorism a deadly, insidious plague, a sprawling weed in your backyard or a satanic bouncy mattress won’t make it go away. If there’s anything that needs to SPRING into action it’s getting everyone to play a part in slowly excising this growing cancer at its root.

Walking on escalators should not be allowed

From ‘Don’t overburden escalators by walking on them’, 21 Dec 16, ST Forum

(Gan Kok Tiong): Escalators in MRT stations should not be functioning like staircases.

The main issue is that those doing so are overburdening the escalators.

Also, commuters who are right-handed will then be able to hold on to the railings on the right without having to move to the left to make way for those wishing to “walk” on the escalators.

Disallowing people from walking on the escalators will lead to normal usage of the machines, which would help in reducing the frequency of breakdowns.

Perhaps a professor of physics could answer the age-old question of what’s the best way to move people along an escalator. But in the absence of actual escalator studies, we’ll just have to settle for the wisdom of SMRT spokespeople. In 2001, SMRT in fact DISCOURAGED people from keeping to the left, as this would leave the right side underutilised and reducing rider capacity. Walking up an escalator was also deemed a safety hazard, especially when you’re on fast moving rides, though the worst thing anyone could do while on an escalator, whether they’re on the left, right, standing or walking, is to wear goddamn CROCS.

SMRT has changed their tune since. Today MRT signs remind you to keep to the left and allow others to pass. Keeping to one side of an escalator, analogous to responsible driving, remains a hallmark of a civilised society. We unwittingly teach our kids to do it and we growl at aunties for hogging the right lane when we’re in a rush. Unless there’s a drastic shift in commuter behaviour no one would want to stick out on the right side and face the wrath of a marauding escalator-walker. What SMRT needs is a lab, model escalators, and willing subjects to test the hypothesis that walking up and down an escalator on one side will eventually destroy it. But I guess they have other things to worry about, like managing mysterious signal faults for example.

Or, if you want to avoid having to deal with the ethics of escalator riding, have time and energy to spare, and not doing anything for the rest of the day beyond sitting on your arse in front of the office computer – take the stairs.

Schoolchildren doing area cleaning is pointless

From ‘What is the point of cleaning activity?’, 14 Dec 16, ST Forum

(David Soh Poh Huat): We need to ask ourselves what is the objective of getting children to do cleaning as part of their school routine (“All schools to have cleaning activities daily from January“; Dec 12).

Is it to help the schools save on costs? Is it to create social responsibility in children, and if so, does it work? Do the schools just not have any other programmes?

Already, it is compulsory for children to return their food trays after eating in their school tuckshops. It is enforced in school, but when we go to public food courts, how many children actually remind their parents to return the trays or do it themselves?

I hope the planners of these activities will look at what the objectives are.

As early as the 70’s, concerned parents echoed the complainant’s objection to having pupils ‘slog like slaves’. There was even a time when kids were made to wash toilets, with parents then whining as they would today with the ‘I send my kid to school to study, not to clean toilets’ mentality. These likely being the same parents herding their kids into enrichment programmes anyway even if they spend 100% of their damn time in school studying.

Being a environmentally responsible citizen extends beyond merely returning trays at food courts; from leaving the toilet seat free of pee stains to conscious attempts to minimise carbon emissions when you travel.  Despite decades of schools instilling ‘social responsibility’, we continue to be spoilt by an army of foreign cleaners, horde NTUC plastic bags and jet-set on budget airlines like nobody’s business. So whether passing the broom and toilet brush to kids now to inculcate the clean and green habit would be better long-term for the environment remains to be seen.

What you can’t argue against is that doing chores is actually a decent form of exercise, especially with today’s kids having their lazy arses chauffeured to and fro school by their parents.  For the less athletically-inclined pupils, it would the preferred option to tossing medicine balls during PE. For the kids who spend their waking life on homework and tuition, wiping the windows would likely be the most physically strenuous activity of their day. So yes, if there would be a valid point of making children do the ‘maids’ work’, it’s to make sure they don’t die of diabetes before they hit 30.

I believe the yoke of repetitive chores also brings benefits beyond helping boys cope with area cleaning in the army. It’s like trekking up to Shambala to seek enlightenment and having your master grill you into picking weeds for hours on end. You may not see the purpose now, but years from now you’ll look back fondly on your gardening days and appreciate how the mundane practice prepared you for nirvana.

Young people with tattoos don’t take good care of their bodies

From ‘Stem spread of tattooing trend in Singapore’, 12 Dec 16, ST Forum

(Joe Teo Kok Seah): Tattooing is gaining popularity among young Singaporeans. In many public places, we often come across adolescents proudly displaying their tattoos.

In the past, tattoos were associated with triads, gangsters and shady characters. They normally belonged to the underclass and outcasts. This is why society in general is disapproving of them.

Also, we should take good care of our bodies. Sadly, this advice is not heeded by many in the young generation.

They have no qualms about permanently “scarring” their bodies with designs and text. This trend should be discouraged. A wiser method would be to switch to temporary tattoos.

When the novelty wears off later in life, these youngsters can elect to remove the temporary tattoos fairly easily and painlessly, rather than regret and go through the painful process of erasing permanent ones.

Indeed, in the 1970’s, the Ministry of Home Affairs had SWEEPING POWERS to arrest anyone bearing tattoo marks suggestive of secret society connections. Today, tattoos are symbols of devotion, cool fashion statements, expressions of identity or a horrid reminder of a night gone drunkedly wrong. The writer is so concerned of our rebellious youth scarring themselves for life, not realising that sometimes people taint themselves in more psychologically damaging ways without puncturing a single hole in their skin. Just like how the ST Forum pages have been scarred for life for publishing this letter.

He also thinks putting your God-given body to the nib is not ‘taking good care of it’.  How is THIS below not taking care of your body, hmm?

So how exactly would the writer propose to ‘discourage’ this insidious trend? Should we go back to the days of Mata-mata? Do we need to set up a national agency to gazette a list of permissible tattoos? If I had short-term amnesia and the only way I can figure out what the fuck is going in is to tattoo reminders on myself, will the police come knocking on my door as they do to other muckracking ‘outcasts’ of the underclass? Or how about making customers sit through a hideous video of an oozing Strep infection before getting a tattoo like how they scare mothers about to abort their babies?

There are other ways that people are inflicting unnecessary harm on themselves without getting tattoos. Tell that to the parkour enthusiasts, the swingers, the serial ear piercers, the BDSM practitioners, or the Thaipusam devotees with more holes in their bodies than those peppering this writer’s logic.

Little India in need of sprucing up

From ‘Little India needs sprucing up’, 10 Dec 16, ST Forum

(Roy Goh Hin Soon): Little India is not as organised as Chinatown. Most of the shops in the small lanes feature businesses that have no relevance to tourism at all, such as shops selling automobile spare parts, and food caterers.

More can be done to spice up the area to attract more visitors, such as having food and beverage outlets with reasonable standards, and outdoor performances.

Currently, apart from Mustafa Centre, only the Indian Heritage Centre is an attraction in the area, but I see few visitors dropping by.

Also, walking along Serangoon Road is truly a safety hazard. Visitors are forced to squeeze and walk along the five-foot way.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority and Singapore Tourism Board need to go back to the drawing board to work out how we can fully capitalise on this precious tourist belt and put Little India and Serangoon Road back on the tourism map.

Little India has long been recognised as a tourist spot ever since the early eighties, and unlike the stark , ‘organised’ pretentiousness of today’s Chinatown, always had a haphazard, chaotic charm about it, especially if you dive into the deluge of humanity on Sundays. Not only is Little India a colourful enclave with a bit of violent social history, the area was once known for its tourist-terrorising ‘giant rats’. Today, our own politicians paint a slightly anarchic picture of the Serangoon area, calling its foreign worker patrons ‘walking time bombs‘.

What the writer is suggesting by relocating businesses with ‘no relevance to tourism at all’ is to turn the district into a manufactured theme park that is more ‘blah’ than ‘buzz’, where you’ll eventually need paid entertainers to make putu ayam in front of gushing, selfie-snapping tourists. Instead of row after row of sari souvenir shops, wouldn’t it be more interesting to chance upon, say, a UKELELE shop for a change? Even Chinatown, I’m sure, has its fair share of merchants selling stationery and photocopy services to nearby office workers, and not bak kwa at every corner you turn.  Mom-and-pop stores in Little India may not even survive for long, with STB embarking on an online marketplace project called Dei.com.sg. Even Mustafa, a 24 hour shopping mecca, will have its work cut out for them.

The complaint betrays a naive lack of understanding of what modern tourists want to experience, something off the beaten path but not too far off; a place – in other words, with ‘character’, where people actually live and work, not just performers paid by STB to put flower garlands over your neck in greeting while performing a scene from Slumdog Millionaire. In fact, tourists are already flocking to the ‘real Chinatown’, a district already tagged as a ‘powder keg’ and long renown for its street food and uncharacteristic sleaze: Geylang.

Naked Ladies and Undressing Room censored by IMDA

From ‘Two plays at upcoming M1 Fringe Festival exceed R18 rating’

Two performances at next year’s M1 Singapore Fringe Festival will have to be changed or dropped after the Info-Communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) assessed that they contained excessive nudity.

In a statement on Friday (Nov 25), the IMDA said the two performances, Naked Ladies and Undressing Room, exceeded the R18 rating under the Arts Entertainment Classification Code (AECC) due to “excessive nudity which included scenes of audience-participants stripping naked, and graphic depictions of exposed genitalia”

…Naked Ladies and Undressing Room were singled out for criticisms in a Facebook post by a group called Singaporeans Defending Family and Marriage. The post questioned whether the festival was trying to pass off pornography as art.

Undressing Room, by Singapore dancer Ming Poon, is a one-to-one performance between the artist and a participant who will be challenged to bare all in a private space.

Naked Ladies is a performance lecture about the history of the naked female body by Canadian artist and academic Thea Fitz-James. She undresses during the performance and will be naked for large parts of the show.

In Ming Poon’s Undressing Room, a random member of the audience is brought into a private room where the performer proceeds to silently take off your clothes. R18 or not, I can’t imagine anyone participating in this awkward act while keeping a straight face, whatever your sexual orientation. The Singaporeans Defending Marriage and Family and its vivid imagination, however, proceeds to add ‘exploring each other (sic) naked body’ in its Facebook post, citing the work as an excuse for sexual assault. No sane artist will tear your clothes off for no reason and start, as Trump would say, grope you by the pussy, without risking jail. Incidentally, if people didn’t explore each others’ body naked, there would be NO FAMILY to defend.

More disappointingly, it took a complaint by a legion of prudes masquerading of saviours of humanity to prod the IMDA into making the cut. Would they have made the same call to Minsters to act on the ‘porn disguised as art’ cabaret show Crazy Horse back in 2005? Could this lot be anymore hypocritical about the harmful effects of sex and nudity on the national psyche – sharing a anti-nudity Facebook post in one tab, and discreetly surfing Pornhub in another? People like these are why we can’t have nice things, and instead of visiting museums and festivals and enjoying provocative art, we’re at home grilling the kids and promising them Nintendo DS consoles if they score more than 250 for their fucking PSLE.

But maybe it’s not about drawing a line between art and porn, but between art and crazy nudie stunt. The educated person’s Jackass if you will. Like stripping naked and asking an audience member to stare at you while you’re both sitting on custom-made toilet bowls, for instance.

In 2011, T Venkanna charged his audience $250 for posing with him while he was butt naked at the Art Stage MBS. According to the Singaporean Defenders of all things good and moral, this would be as close to ‘prostituting’ the arts sector as you can get.

Or this extreme WTF-ish piece that involves plopping eggs out of your vagina onto a canvas. I hear there are shows in Thailand where performers do similar vaginal stuff with drink cans.

It’s also arguable if you could classify snipping off your pubic hair for an audience as art. But maybe that’s what art, especially those that involve icky private parts, is supposed to convey, to stimulate internal monologues like: Hey, is this art? How does this make me feel? What am I doing here? I paid money for this? How abstract is that pair of glasses on the gallery floor?

Glasses (spectacles) placed on the floor in an art gallery at SFMONA as a prank by TJ Khayatan and his friend to see how people would react.

You’d figure anyone by the age of 18 years would be able to appreciate such conflicts without needing to see a psychiatrist for trauma. You’d think the smorgasbord of online porn would inure us from images of people unnecessarily touching themselves in all sorts of places in the name of art. But NOOOO, the IMDA still doesn’t think we’re discerning enough to handle such controversy, vindicating a Facebook group that also champions discrimination in the name of an illusory greater cause. This coming from a society where key leaders commit personal indiscretions despite their families, and bored married people pay for VPN tokens to sign up with still banned Ashley Madison.