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THE adage ''spare the rod and spoil the child'' is proven to be totally true more so in the case of America's youth than in any other society.
The fact that the US has almost one million of its citizens behind bars is only the tip of the iceberg.
For, as we all know, with close to one million American criminals in jail, there are probably three million more who should be in jail but who are walking about freely thanks to a legal system which places greater emphasis on the rights of criminals (under the guise of ''due process'') than to meting out justice. The examples of the impotence of the American criminal justice system given by a Singapore minister recently are sad but real examples of miscarriages of justice in America.
There is, nevertheless, one very good reason for Singapore's President to grant clemency to 18-year-old Michael Fay, and to do so in a way that preserves Singapore's ''face'' and slaps that of the US. Keep the jail term and fine; waive the caning on the simple ground that if Michael Fay is caned, he will become (a) a cause celebre in America; (b) the hottest media item in America; and (c) doubtless, a millionaire in America from interviews and the sale of book and movie rights.
Michael Fay does not deserve all these gifts from the Singapore Government. Let him serve time in jail and pay a fine - and let him fade into the obscurity whence he came as just another young, American hooligan that he is! GEORGE FORRAI Mid-levels