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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Twins hit the streets with flyers to plead for convicted father's life

Tuesday • April 12, 2005

Jose Raymond

WALK down Orchard Road at almost any time of the day and you are likely to be "accosted" by any number of people handing out flyers selling everything from shoes to timeshare properties.

But yesterday, people outside Centre-point Shopping Centre received flyers from two teenagers with a serious message — a plea to help them save their father, Shanmugam Murugesu, from being executed after he was convicted and sentenced to hang last April for drug trafficking.

Twins Gopalan and Krishnan Murugesu, 14, distributed more than 500 flyers detailing Shanmugam's plight yesterday on the advice of their father's lawyer.

Shanmugam, 38, was sentenced to death after being caught with more than a kilogramme of cannabis at the Tuas Checkpoint on Aug 29, 2003. He has asked the President for clemency after his appeal was dismissed.

On their lawyer's advice, the boys made their public appeal, hoping that members of the public would join their cause.

Said Krishnan, a Secondary 3 student: "My parents are divorced and my father has been looking after us. My mother remarried, lives somewhere else and doesn't see us anymore. If he is hanged ... we will become orphans."

The twins' grandmother, Mdm Letchumi Murugesu, has been looking after them since Shanmugam was imprisoned. According to the twins, Mdm Letchumi is unemployed and relies on handouts from the Singapore Indian Development Association to pay the bills.

Said Gopalan, also a student: "My grandmother will not be around for much longer to care for us. What's going to happen to us after that?

"We have taken our appeal to the streets to seek some compassion."

The boys are hoping that the public can write to President S R Nathan to help their cause. In the flyer, there is also mention of a public forum this weekend where members of the public can sign a petition, which will be delivered to the President.

Among the speakers scheduled for the forum are former Workers Party chief J B Jeyaretnam and Singapore Democratic Party leader Chee Soon Juan.

Shanmugam's lawyer, Mr M Ravi, who is working the case pro bono, stressed that he was not trying to politicise the situation.

He said: "Mr Jeyaretnam is only going to talk about the rule of law on the issue. It is rather hard to keep Dr Chee out of this because he is willing to go against the use of the death penalty.

"But there are other speakers who, like me, do not have any political inclinations and are only doing this because their consciences tell them to."

From the Today newspaper

Monday, April 11, 2005

As much as I know about how hundreds of thousands of Chinese were
brutally tortured and killed in the course of Japanese atrocities
during World War II, and as much as I would agree that the Japanese do
have a problem in fully admitting that they really did a lot of awful
things in the course of a particularly gruesome war all over Asia 60
years ago, China has a problem.

Let me refer to you to a historical story which happened during during
the Warring States period. The king of Yue gets captured by the Wu
state and gets imprisoned and humiliated for 20 years. After that, he
returns to Yue, builds up his state, and then, in memory of the
bitterness and humiliation of his treatement under the Wu kingdom, he
comes in with his army to annihilate the whole country.

And that, pretty much sums up the attitude of China to the rest of the
world today. It is a zero sum game in which "The winner becomes the
king, and the loser becomes the prisoner".

Moreover in the long course of Chinese history, there has been little
evidence to suggest that the China would treat weaker opponents with
magninamity. As popular

Think about it. Suppose China eventually does reach the superpower
status of America- and my feeling is that it can probably do it. What
would be its most likely fundamental policy in relation to the rest of
the world then? Would it be "Let's use this power to help bring peace
and prosperity to the rest of the world?" Or would it be "Aha! We are
very powerful now. Now is the time to wreak revenge on Japan, on
America, on Britain, on France- heck just about everybody who has made
us lose face in the past for over 200 years of our history! Haha!"

The evidence at the protests sadly, does suggest the latter. Think about it. We hear breathtakingly petty justifications for the boycott
of Japanese goods- because apparently there is a 20 billion dollar
yuan surplus in favour of Japan. Never mind the economics of
comparative advantage for now. The problem is attitude.

The Chinese would do well to remember the story of another people,
with whom they are connected in mysterious ways. Remember 1999? You
know, the year when the United States bombed your embassy in Belgrade
due to faulty intellegence (thanks to the Iraq war, we now all know
that these bumbling fools were probably actually teling the truth).

If you recall, that intervention was in favour of Kosovars who were
getting ethinically cleansed by Serbians.

And among the other justifications that ultra-nationalist Serbs used
to justify killing Kosovars (who mostly happened to be muslims) was an
almost long forgotten battle in 1389 when they got whacked by Turkish

I can very well assure young Chinese citizens that if they fail to put
their nationalist feelings in perspective, the end result will be a
great many lives lost and a great amount of blood shed. It will be
genocide and ethnic cleansing on a scale the world has never seen
before. You will be using the patriotic poetry of Chinese heroes like
Yue Fei to eat the meat and drink the blood of other human beings.
Given, as everyone would agree, the several thousand year history of
Chinese civilisation, the only question that remains is "What
grivience shall the Chinese nurse first? "

I can assure you Chinese citizens too, that it is not just the
Japanese who are disturbed by Chinese behaviour- it is just about
every nationality in the world whose ancestors have, at some point or
another, offended the sensibilities of China.

You are no longer proving anything. You are merely scaring the whole world.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Reform of the Penal Code

BBC NEWS | Europe | Analysis: Turkish penal reform woes

Even assuming that the penal code as it stands goes through in the near future i.e. after the two month delay, it will nevertheless still be more progressive than the penal codes in our Austral-Asian Region, including in certain respects, our local one.

All references are to the Penal Code (Cap. 224, 1985 Sing. Rev. Ed.) unless stated. Check out statutes.agc.gov.sg for a public domain copy.

In particular:

1. Marital Rape exemption (s. 375, the exemption reads: Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under 13 years of age, is not rape) Still in Singapore despite AWARE's valiant attempt (albeit a little misguided) to remove this exemption. The focus should be on reforming rape laws not removal of this exemption per se.

2. Honour killings specifically removed as a defence to murder (s. 300) under provocation (special exception 1: Culpable homicide is not murder if the offender whilst deprived of the power of self-control by grave and sudden provocation, causes the death of the person who gave the provocation, or causes the death of any other person by mistake or accident.)

Australia still allows for it unfortunately (case of immigrant Turkish father killing daughter for 'dishonouring' family). If it happens in Singapore, it would not be too difficult to get around the statute I suppose because of the Common Law test of the Reasonable Person.

To quote the BBC, the Penal Code will generally be less sexist and less discriminatory against women. In Singapore, the code discriminates against men particularly in terms of sexual offences. Note: I don't wish to discuss at this point whether this discrimination has the effect of getting more convictions or if it encourages women, whose modesty has been outraged or whom have been raped, to come forward. I simply want to comment on the law as IT IS.

So what is the situation as it stands locally?

Rape is a male thing: As the Penal Code defines it, it constitutes a man inserting his penis into a woman's vagina (the literal stautory meaning of sexual intercourse) without her consent. So it effective denies that a male can get raped by a female (Australian courts have recognised this possibility). This sexist mindset also has the undesired effect of making women perpetual sexual victims in need of the law's aid.

Furthermore things that we would ordinarily consider as rape i.e. forced non-consensual insertions (penetration) of foreign objects into another's orifice DOES NOT constitute rape. Instead it comes under Outrage of Modesty (s. 354), Insult to Modesty (s. 509 only applicable to women mind you), Unnatural Offences (s. 377) or voluntarily causing hurt (s. 321 and note: NOT grievous hurt, which requries very specific serious types of injuries).

All these are highly unsatisfactory because their maximum sentence is generally that of a year or two so unless the prosecutor can make twenty charges stick you'll never hit the maximum sentence for rape. So, there are a number of nasty cases floating around which the criminal never got his just deserts e.g. forcing the victim to suck on a dog's penis. Or forced fellacio, or sticking implements up the victim's vagina and/or anus.

So if we adopt the more refined definition of rape as most jurisdictions have done, then we will not encounter this problem anymore. In addition, we'll get various fringe benefits like making the law more gender neutral.

Friday, April 01, 2005

The News

(Until further notice, all references here shall be made to the print edition of the newspapers.)

On this April Fool's Day, here are the more interesting things gleaned

Pg. 33: Chua Mui Hoong argues for "No double standards please, we're S'poreans". Thinks that the government gives leeway to foreigners to express themselves, while denying the same to Singaporeans. I quote:
"It's obvious that the permitting of double standards is Singapore's way of having its cake and eating it too. It wants a morally conservative society, yet aspires to be tolerant diverse and open enough to be a global talent capital"
"While some locals may be offended by 'odd things', the truth is that other locals want to be the ones doing 'odd things' too...I value the option for myself and fellow citizens to be able to do so."

I would go on to add that it is clear that, from the government's attitudes towards many issues, including the casino project, homosexual community, the film making industry, Myanmar's human rights abuses; indeed, from its ambiguous position on allowing foreign NGOs to stage protests against the IMF and the World Bank meetings next year, its primary interest is financial.

The government's policy seems to be to extract the maximum ounce of profit out of each and every one of the situations mentioned above, while appeasing the homophobic and/or anti-democratic prejudices of a powerful and/or vocal section of the population. How very ethical.

We have already noted, in the course of the discussions on this mailing list, the government's treatment of the homosexual community as nothing less than a cash cow to make sure that gay foreigners do not lack entertainment on this little island. Indeed, it could even be cynically postulated that the latest flurry of concern over HIV infections in the gay community would be primarily because they would cost the government more in terms of medicine and administration, and might even deter economically valuable foreigners who happen to be gay from coming here.

What about Myanmar? All that the Prime Minister has managed to convery in Myanmar is a soft hint that 'while Singapore does not wish to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, in an interconnected world events in one country can have repercussions on Singapore and ASEAN'. Duh. But what else can we say? We already have our fingers deep in the tasty pie that is Myanmar; Singapore is one of the biggest investors in a country that America and the EU judiciously avoid associating with. Stronger diplomatic sanctions are likely to do harm to our economic interests in that country- the same people responsible for human rights abuses are also the same people who can approve or disapprove of our financial stakes in the country.

By the way, it has also been reported in the Straits Times today that Safehaven's appeal to the minister in charge of MICA, Mr Lee Boon Yang, to hold a fundraising concert for Aids programmes has been rejected. Primarily because one of the performers who they wanted to engage promotes a gay lifestyle, which would be oh-so detrimental to our conservative Asian values.

Well, having vice and whores on the doorstep of a residential area evidently never really crossed the minds of bureaucrats when they approved all the pub licences along Joo Chiat road. It was only after residents complained to their Member of Parliament, Mr Chan Soo Sen, that substantial police action came in to control this problem. But who made the approvals in the first place?

Were the government serious about removing sleaze from the public eye, it could always make a stronger stance in the case of Joo Chiat. But in their order of priorities, heterosexual vice is not as great a crime as the fact of being homosexual itself. So.

Finaly, it has also been reported in Today that JB Jeyaretnam's application to hold a demonstration against the casino has also been quashed by the police. As usual.