Friday, June 25, 2010

Singapore to cane Swiss man after train graffiti incident

I wrote previously how Singapore was facing another Michael Fay moment over the case of Oliver Fricker, a Swiss national charged with vandalism and trespass after breaking into a depot and spray-painting a train.

Today Fricker pleaded guilty in a Singapore court and he has been sentenced to five months in jail and three strokes of the cane. Despite a number of not-too-dissimilar recent cases where errant Western expats were treated leniently by the courts, Fricker has not been spared the rod.

The powers that be in Singapore clearly believe it's better to send a message that such vandalism will not be tolerated than to pander to Western public and political opinion. Like many people, I believe the use of corporal punishment is barbaric and unjustifiable. Its continued use puts Singapore firmly in the camp of repressive states such as Burma, China, Iran and Malaysia.

However, it's hard to have much sympathy for Fricker's predicament, which is entirely of his own making. Anyone living in Singapore should be well aware of the hard line taken over transgressions such as this and the sort of punishments that the state normally metes out.

And while Fricker's case has attracted substantial coverage in the Western media, scores of Singaporeans and other Asians are caned in the city-state every year with few eyebrows raised except by human rights organisations such as Amnesty.


  1. Absolutely agreed. Pretty much exactly my take on it too.

  2. Singapore is a Third World country. This type of punishment does not exist in a civilized world.

  3. i think the whole world should do this
    it makes me want to move to singapore!!

  4. pardonme, in a civilised country, people don't cut holes in fences and spraypaint public property whose cleanup costs then go towards the poor consumer. Or are you making so much $ that you can afford to subsidise the cleanup?

    TBH, I'm not a real big fan of canning to, but I changed my mind after reading about what an ex-mayor of Chicago? wrote sometime after a similar incident blew up in Singapore a while back. The mayor wrote that there was a severe gap in punishment in the law with the removal of corporal punishment, now, the only options they have are fine/jail (lumped together as you don't pay the fine = jail) and execution (only in certain states). So there is a big gap formed that gets most of the sentencing shifted to jail terms, overloading the jails with attendent problems of overcrowding, increased release on parole and the encouragement of the revolving door syndrome. There is also the effect of shifting the lower end of crimes off the "crimes" list to simple misdemenors.

    Come to think of it, it's this downgrading of crimes that may be giving us the image that they're being too harsh, crimes that we have learned to take for granted, they have not yet taken off the "serious" list.

    On further consideration, there really is one good point I can see to canning. Total equality under it for poor or rich. If there is a crime committed by a rich guy and the only thing he needs to do is pay a fine, he'll probably pay it smiling and spit in your face for good measure. Jail? His investments keep chugging out cash even if he's locked up. Paid vacation anyone? But a rod across the buttocks hurts regardless of rich or poor.

  5. The civilized world had already invented community service, service fines, electronic monitoring, among several options. If Singapore insists to remain in the Dark Ages, so be it. Welcome to Singapore, a world of its own...