Bread. August 2006
Immigration, public opinion and seizable offences
It sticks in every gay Singaporean's craw. Prime Minister
Lee Hsien Loong called for Singaporeans to take a "big-hearted"
approach towards new immigrants in his National Day Rally speech, on 20
"I understand these concerns," he said, "because somebody new coming in, fitting in, they are different....[snip]...But we are different doesn't mean we have to reject them, we have to take a big-hearted approach." 
The main theme of that speech was the need to throw open Singapore's door to new immigration. Singapore needs all the talent we can get. To this end, the government is giving out scholarships by the fistful to foreigners. And for those families who have moved here, the education system is being reviewed to accommodate their desire for their languages, e.g. Hindi, Arabic, Indonesian, to be taught in schools.
"So there are things which we can do as a government in order to open our doors and bring immigrants in," Lee said.
"But more importantly as a society, we as Singaporeans, each one of us, we have to welcome immigrants, welcome new immigrants. I know that some Singaporeans don't agree. They have reservations, they worry about the competition, they are unhappy that immigrants come, here don't do National Service...."
By that, he acknowledged that his government's policy went against the grain of public opinion, but he wished to convince people otherwise.
Contrast this stance with his government's stance on people who are already Singaporeans, people who have done National Service, but who, because they are gay, are treated to official prejudice and discrimination. There's still the law that criminalises all gay men and serves as bedrock justifying all kinds of social prejudice. There is still heavy-handed censorship that strikes out anything that is positive about gay people, leaving only the negative. And yes, in the education system, there is every effort made to demonise homosexual orientation in young minds.
We will be prepared to teach Hindi, Russian and Turkish, but we will not teach our young people to see fellow Singaporeans who happen to be lesbian or gay in a better light.
Year in, year out, a steady stream of gay Singaporeans emigrate, taking their creative talent with them.
And the government's rationale for this? That Singaporeans are conservative (so they say), and public opinion will not allow the government to contemplate doing anything else.
Notice how public opinion didn't stand in the way of
opening our doors to immigration. That being the case, Lee's concluding
remarks sound like shameless hypocrisy:
"We will be an open, inclusive society where we all have a place, where we can all contribute, we all care for one another as one people and one nation, whatever our race, religion or background."
My background is that I am gay, as are a few hundred thousand Singaporeans, and a steady percentage of whatever immigrants Singapore wants to attract. What is Lee Hsien Loong and his government doing about it? Diddly squat?
* * * * *
When the victim lodged a medical report indicating a fracture, the police reclassified it from Section 323 ("voluntarily causing hurt") to Section 325 ("voluntarily causing grievous hurt"). What is the difference between 323 and 325 in terms of police response? See below.
The police did concede however that perhaps the constables at the scene had treated the matter too lightly, putting the victim and his family through unnecessary stress.
This reply from the police, published 16 August 2006 in the Straits Times, led to more letters from the public. They expressed amazement that there was such a bureaucratic procedure in place hampering immediate police action when someone beats up another person. It seemed incredible that no investigation would be launched despite the phone calls and leads provided (licence plate numbers of 2 of the motorcycles the assailants rode off on), unless the victim first did his paperwork.
So a week later, the police had to write another explanation to the press. This time, the police explained that Section 323 ("causing hurt") is a non-seizable offence, while Section 325 ("causing grievous hurt") is a seizable offence.
Yet, despite all this paperwork by the police, writing letter after letter to the press, it still misses the point. You'd notice that "bullying cases arising from road rage or a staring incident" are, as a matter of policy, treated as merely Section 323 offences. The police are busy explaining the mechanics of what they do without understanding that as far as the public is concerned, it's the damn policy that is the problem.
The public expects road rage and violent hooliganism that arise from staring incidents to warrant immediate intervention and arrest if the culprits are at the scene. The Liew case arose because some 6 - 8 youths thought the victim was at first staring at them.
The police, on the other hand, say that even if they see someone beating another person up, they will not make an arrest, because it's only considered as a 323 offence, wherein they need to get a warrant from the Duty Magistrate in the Subordinate Courts (on the next working day, if the incident takes place after hours) before they can arrest someone. And, reading between the lines, it seems that if they don't have a warrant in hand, they won't even bother to investigate.
Contrast this with Sections 377 and 377A of the Penal Code. These two clauses deal with sodomy and homosexual indecency (including mutual masturbation) respectively. They apply even in adult consensual situations and even in a private locked room. You might like to know that unlike Section 323, these are classified as seizable offences.
Accordingly, if the police peep in through a window and see two guys on a couch watching porn and masturbating, they feel empowered under Section 377A to break down the door, rush in and arrest them on the spot, while downstairs on the street, road rage must wait for a magistrate tomorrow morning.
And the Prime Minister thinks that "conservative" public opinion does not allow him to disturb such laws.
© Yawning Bread