Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Different strokes

It's quite amazing that the caning of criminals in Singapore can sometimes hog the headlines and blogosphere.

According to media reports today, a Singapore judge has been punished for mistakenly sentencing a prisoner to an extra three strokes of the cane. As a result of the error, Dickson Tan -- who was found guilty of helping an illegal moneylender and sentenced to nine months in prison -- was caned eight times instead of five, according to reports.

Caning is a judicial practice in Singapore and is meted out for offences ranging from vandalism to illegal possession of drugs. Law Minister S Jayakumar reportedly said the error arose after a court clerk entered the wrong sentence. Dickson's mother is in talks with the government to seek compensation of up to S$3 million over the mistake, according to local media.

This translates into S$1 million for each wrongful stroke! Not bad if Dickson's family wins the case. :-)

Of course, the most famous caning case in Singapore was the Michael Fay incident back in the early 1990s that even involved former US President Bill Clinton.

Although the American boy was convicted of vandalism and ordered to be caned six times, he only received four strokes in the end. This came after Clinton and the US government argued that the Singapore punishment was too extreme.

According to a Wikipedia entry, the Singapore government felt that if the US viewed caning of juveniles as a human rights issue, then it should actively try to stop the caning of other juvenile offenders in Singapore other than Michael.

That's the right position but why did Singapore still give a discount to Michael? Did anyone else -- local or foreign -- ever get a caning discount in Singapore?

Although the two caning cases are totally unrelated, it's ironic that a foreign white boy got a caning discount, while a Singapore Chinese boy got three extra strokes in his own backyard.


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