Sunday, April 29, 2012

An Ominous Internet Omen

Since the advent of the internet, it can be said that it has been a bane to the PAP Government. The mainstream media (MSM) has been monopolised by the PAP as its propaganda organ and the social media becomes a valuable alternative source of information to the public to counter the inimical effect of one-sided MSM news dissemination.It is quite natural for the PAP wallahs to view this phenomenon as alarming and to rack their brains to try to find an acceptable excuse to regulate the intractable netizens. They have not forgotten their ignoble defeat in Aljunied GRC in the last general election in which the netizens played no small part.

It falls on Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, the unenviable task of finding a solution to this hot potato. This is  tricky problem involving the freedom of speech and the minister dealing with it must be one with exceptional ingenuity. So far Dr Yaacob has been sounding out through the MSM his idea of a code of conduct to be administered by the internet community itself. The public reaction was not very encouraging as the internet community is very much against any form of governmental control, much less a code of conduct for the internet.

Not to be discouraged by this minor setback, obviously at the direction of the minister, the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) held a closed door conference on Thursday on the proposed code of conduct for the internet.The event was attended by officers from various ministries, MDA, academics, bloggers and observers from the media. As expected the bloggers were quite adamant in their stand and told the Government that they should grow a thick skin and leave the internet alone.Dr Yaacob was advised to give the suggestion for a code of conduct a rest.

Does that put paid to Dr Yaacob's persistent effort in proposing a code of conduct for the internet? Only time will tell but it is not likely that the PAP Government will allow him to beat a retreat if not for anything maybe because of a possible loss of face.The occasional aberrations of some exuberant netizens in making racist comments, young women prostituting themselves online, cyber bullying and the spreading of falsehoods are considered a minuscule problem in the internet world not beyond the ability of the competent authority to handle.

Quite rightly the internet community is hardly convinced that this minority of misdemeanants could constitute such a major security problem as to require the introduction of a code of conduct for the internet.The Government may not agree with this assessment but where do we go from here? Would it not be prudent for the Government to allow the status quo to continue until such time when the situation warrants it to be reviewed?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Is the underage prostitute saga a magnificient diversion?

The unprecedented unwholesome publicity given by the press on the number of individuals, some of notable social standing, involved in the sexual liaison with an underage prostitute is mind-boggling. This is just a simple case of sex with an underage girl and the way the press, especially the Straits Times, went to town to humiliate the unfortunate perpetrators of the sexual indiscretions is beyond any realm of decency or a person's propriety. To treat this as if it is an important murder case is beyond the comprehension of the ordinary citizen.

This development gives rise to the speculation whether all this unwholesome publicity on the underage prostitute saga is not a ruse by the PAP Government to divert attention from Professor Lim Chong Yah's shock therapy controversy, the SMRT debacle on which a Committee of Inquiry is ongoing and the unresolved corruption case against the former Commissioner of the Singapore Civil Defence Force and the former Director of the Central Narcotics Bureau which has remained dormant after intensive publicity. It would be extremely unfair to these two senior officers if in the end nothing more serious than a departmental disciplinary action is taken for some kind of misconduct after the massive adverse publicity against them.

The normally equable Professor Lim Chong Yah is best known as a former chairman of the National Wages Council. So he came out suddenly with a proposal which, among other things, seeks to increase the wages of workers drawing $l500 or less a month by 50 per cent over three years and a freezing of wages of those earning $l5,000 a month. It was a radical proposal readily welcomed by the lower-wage workers but that it took the Government completely by surprise is putting it mildly.The scramble for a suitable answer by Government ministers and members to Professor Lim Chong Yah's awkward proposal shows the degree of dismay it has caused.

The SMRT debacle is another topic which is causing extreme distress to the Government if you do not disregard the massive public anger that this has caused. The Committee of Inquiry that is going on has shown how incredibly inadequate the SMRT staff were in dealing with emergency situations caused by service disruptions resulting in massive commuter chaos.As long as it sits, the COI will continue to throw up the incredible inadequacies of the SMRT staff which in turn is a reflection of the complacency of the SMRT management.

Could there be any truth in the speculation that the underage prostitute saga is played up excessively to divert attention from Professor Lim Chong Yah's controversy, the alleged corruption case against the two senior government officers and the COI on the SMRT debacle? It may seem far-fetched but it boils down to whether or not one believes in it or if there is a need for it.Anyway, it will be an exercise in futility.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Judiciary Conundrum

`The judiciary has always given the noble impression that it has acted with impartiality. But there were times when the public could not be blamed when it doubted its independence when PAP leaders, especially the former MM Lee Kuan Yew, were involved in defamatory litigations. But it could be said that it was a matter of perception by some members of the public and may not really reflect the intrinsic quality of the judiciary.

Be that as it may, the recent judicial decision of an appeal court presided by Justice Choo Han Teck has caused considerable apprehension to the public. Justice Choo was hearing the appeal of the hit and run killer driver Ms Lim Hong Eng who is the Executive Editor of the Shin Ming Daily News. Ms Lim had been sentenced to a jail term of 1 1/2 years by a lower court for negligently driving while using her hand phone and subsequently running a red light and striking a motorcyclist and his passenger. The passenger died while the motorcyclist suffered serious injuries.

Justice Choo decided to uphold the lower court's conviction but reduce the sentence. Ms Lim's lawyer Mr Subhas Anandan suggested a "high fine" instead of jail term. Justice Choo apparently agreed and changed the sentence to one day's jail and a fine totalling $12,000 over the two charges. It was only discovered later by Mr Anandan and the prosecutor that on the second charge of which a $10,000 fine had been levied, the statute in the particular law had no provision for a fine but only provision for a jail term.

Justice Choo had no choice but to remove the $10,000 fine. However, he did not substitute that with any added jail time claiming that "in the circumstances it will not be right to increase the custodial sentence to the detriment of the accused". And he added that this was a one-off case not to be used as a sentencing precedent. The end result is that Ms Lim was jailed for one day and fined $2000, an absurdly light sentence for taking the life of someone through negligent driving.

Is this what one would call a fair administration of justice? A one day jail and $2000 fine for causing the death of a person through using a hand phone and running a red light. To put it mildly, the public would be abhorred by the light sentence for such a serious offence. What was most puzzling was that the prosecution appeared not to have put up any opposition to the light sentence. Why did he not point out to the judge that a fine was inappropriate for this statute?

How could this be a one-off case is hard to comprehend. There is nothing to prevent aspiring lawyers to quote this as a precendent in the defence of their clients in similiar cases. This has unwittingly opened a Pandora's box and has not convinced the public of the imprtiality of the judiciary.