Singapore no crime-free Utopia

I SELDOM read Kevin Sinclair's articles, but as I am like lots of people caught up in the Michael Fay flogging business, I did read his lesson about how a good dose of Singapore justice was plain good for the lad (South China Morning Post, April 18).

Mr Sinclair tells his readers that he could walk a couple of miles or so into the Singapore night, the only worry possibly being sore feet.

The message here is that Singapore is crime-free (which at a murder a week isn't crime-free at all).

Kevin Sinclair will nonetheless feel reassured that he can walk another thousand miles in Singapore and not be challenged by anything that hasn't been completely sanitised for him - not a play, a break dance session, a film, an art exhibit.

By local standards, he may regard the reading of a restaurant menu as living on the intellectual edge.

Singapore is not a country to be compared to another country. It is a boarding school, at its most wily and reckless a branch plant of Intel Corp.


It is plants and dorms and plants and dorms spliced together with fun centres devised to make happy, more productive workers.

Corporate executives, worthy but over-regarded on the whole, extol its pasteurised virtues.

I am happy for them and if I wanted to make hydroponic ball bearings I would surely apply to make them in Singapore.

But my hosts would not be doing their souls any good if they fashioned their whole national being around my hydroponic priorities - or General Motors for that matter.


There have been numerous and exaggerated stories about how Singapore is crime-free, thanks to deterrence-loaded punishments that are said to work - except, of course, in the case of Michael Fay and hundreds of others who apparently transgress blind, it seems, to the deterrent that is supposed to remind them not to transgress.

The story of Singapore's wonderfulness is beginning to be a real strain.


I am reminded that Singapore doesn't allow firecrackers, but a Singaporean can slip over the causeway and make them and conduct himself so irresponsibly that his Malaysian workers can incinerate themselves in his fatally-flawed enterprise. Singaporeans can cross the border and convert neighbouring communities in Indonesia and Malaysia into brothels and return home safe in the knowledge that Singapore does not sink to such depths.

Only Singapore has the gall to cut itself off so antiseptically from its surroundings and preen.

Much has been made of Americans putting up a fuss about an American facing a flogging.


It is natural that the American media focus on one of its own.

It is Michael Fay who has brought this abhorrent practice to light.

American newspapers are saying stop it now: Don't flog Michael Fay and don't flog anyone any more.


In the end of course, the only real guarantee Singaporeans will ever have that Michael Fay won't pick up a spray can again is to hang him. And it's a deterrent his colleagues in Singapore's youthful spray painting fraternity will doubtlessly be mindful of - assuming of course they don't sniff so much glue their minds become fatally muddled.