Clinton hypocritical over caning

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 May, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 May, 1994, 12:00am

MR Joel McCormick (South China Morning Post, Letters to the Editor, April 30) obviously feels that Singapore is too ''sanitised'' for his liking. There is no problem with this; he is entitled to his own opinion.

However, at the same time, he paints a disparaging picture of life in Singapore, which is unfair and untrue.

As a Singaporean who has lived in, and travelled to many countries around the world, including living for 31/2 years in the US, there has not been any single place that I would rather live in than Singapore. Part of the reason could be that I was born and bred in Singapore. However, more importantly, the standard and quality of life in Singapore is as good, if not better than in even most of the developed world. We make no apologies for working hard; after all, we believe that no one owes us a living contrary to the opinions held by some people in the developed countries.

However, we also know how to enjoy ourselves, and there are many alternatives in the country for us to do so. In addition, almost every Singaporean family own their own homes, which are certainly much more pleasant to live in than what the term ''dormitories'' used by Mr McCormick would suggest. That a country so small, so young, and with no natural resources other than its people, can achieve so much in such a short time, is really commendable.

Mr McCormick was right in saying that Singapore is not totally crime-free. Can he name a major city in the world that is? However, when you compare it with other major metropolises around the world, it is certainly a wonder that the crime rate is as low as it is.

The chances of anyone being a victim of any crime is so low that many Singaporeans can take it for granted that it will not happen to them. If the crime rate in Singapore is not the lowest in the world, it must surely rank among the lowest. This situation has not come about by accident. It has come about through a criminal justice system that strongly deters any wrong-doing, and metes out punishments that severely discourage repeat criminal offenders and would-be offenders. It is a criminal justice system that protects the law-abiding public, instead of protecting the ''human rights'' of criminal offenders.

The situation in the US is of course very different. There the preoccupation with rhetoric and human rights has led to a criminal justice system that is impotent. Is it any wonder that crime is so rampant in the US? What would Michael Fay have got for his acts of vandalism in the US? Probably not more than a warning and a fine. Is that an effective deterrent? Certainly not, especially as his parents will probably pay up for him. It is really hypocritical for President Clinton and the American media to make so much fuss out of the proposed caning of one of its nationals who has committed crimes in a foreign country, when their own backyards are so swamped with crimes.

Perhaps an American buttock is worth much more than those of other nationals. This is so typically arrogant of the American Government and media. Americans have no right to interfere in the judicial processes of other countries, especially if they are fair and impartial ones like Singapore's. They also have no right to teach other countries how to punish criminals when their own criminal punishment systems do not work.

The American Government and media should instead spend more time on how to address the severe crime problems in their own country. Perhaps then, Americans like Michael Fay will learn that acts of vandalism cannot be excused by the ''freedom of expression'', and that crime does not pay.