Criticise injustices wherever they occur

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 April, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 April, 1994, 12:00am

THERE seems to be ample room for legitimate debate on the Michael Fay case, leading me to question your decision to publish Kevin Sinclair's commentary (South China Morning Post, April 18). Mr Sinclair's statements that Americans believe they should be above the law, '' . . . simply because of their passports . . . '', and that because the vandalising of cars, '' . . . seems to be common practice among teenage hooligans in the US, the assumption is such action should be tolerated in Singapore.'', are both false and misleading.

No one suggests that Americans be immune from obeying the laws of other nations; the concern in Fay's case was that he was being given extreme punishment simply because he is American. Quite a difference. The suggestion that Americans believe Fay's actions should be tolerated is equally ludicrous.

The relevant questions are - does the punishment fit the crime? or, does any crime warrant this particular punishment? these are the debatable issues. Mr Sinclair refers to caning as, '' . . . a brutal relic of the British past''. He then justifies its use because, ''It works''. Yes, Mr Sinclair, and Mussolini had the trains running on schedule.

Results can only be measured against the costs suffered to attain them. In Singapore the cost of a low crime rate are significant restrictions on individual freedoms.

Finally, Mr Sinclair's trite remark about Americans having, '' . . . a quaint, almost touching notion that it is the ultimate ambition of every single person everywhere on the planet to live in carbon copies of the United States . . . '', is both insulting to people of all nations who condemn torture and laughable in light of his earlier statement that Singapore law was '' . . . inherited almost in its entirely from the British colonial power . . . ''.

Let's dispense with the facile notion that the high rate of crime in the US somehow abrogates the right of Americans to criticise the actions of others. We all have a right and an obligation to criticise injustices wherever they occur.

Even in former British colonies.

JOHN T. KELLY Jr Mid-Levels