Friday 17 June 2016

Lessons US can learn from Singapore

I am a naturalised Singapore citizen, having surrendered my United States passport in 2010. I have resided here for 31 years, marrying into a local family in 1988.

There are so many reasons to count my blessings that I am permitted to live in Singapore as a member of a diverse and enlightened community.

Consider two recent incidents which are dominating the headlines in the US media - the lenient jail sentence given to a Stanford freshman convicted of rape, and the mass shooting in Orlando which claimed 50 lives ("Storm over Stanford rape"; Sunday, and "50 dead in worst mass shooting in US history"; Monday).

My younger American self would have focused on the perpetrators, absorbing all the sordid details about their depraved backgrounds.

However, living in Singapore has changed my perspectives and outlook radically.

My reaction today is to focus on the pain and suffering of the victims, while questioning what actions societies can take to prevent these catastrophes.

The US might do well to consider some measures that Singapore has implemented.

In the rape case, if the man had been convicted here, he would likely have been given a longer jail sentence and, perhaps, even multiple strokes of the cane.

After completing his sentence, he would have better prospects of rehabilitation and re-entry into society.

He may not have to live with the stigma of registering as a sex offender, as he would in the US, but the incarceration and punishment would be more commensurate with the gravity of his crime.

In the shooting case, we are reminded of how Singapore has been spared the painful ordeals of schoolyard massacres, random gun-related violence and armed crime, due to its prohibition of firearms.

Capital punishment has proven an effective deterrent and our country is free of lobbyists, zealots, hunters and gun collectors who claim the right to brandish automatic weapons.

We mourn and remember the victims in Stanford and Orlando, and we remain grateful for the institutions which ensure that we, Singaporeans, live in a reasonably just and safe country.

John Driscoll
ST Forum, 16 Jun 2016

Appreciate safe environment we live in

As a Singaporean, I find it heartening to read the letter by Mr John Driscoll ("Lessons US can learn from Singapore"; yesterday).

It takes such a writer to remind us how fortunate we are to live in a country where safety and security are well taken care of.

As a regular reader of and contributor to the Forum page, it is comforting to know that our main concerns and debate in Singapore centre on how to improve our excellent safety and security records, and not about senseless death and violence in our midst.

Singaporeans should count their blessings that we have a government that does an excellent job of preventing violence, rather than one that constantly has to worry about damage control after each incident.

The next time we grumble about little inconveniences, let's not forget that others are worried about death and violence in their neighbourhoods.

Seah Yam Meng
ST Forum, 17 Jun 2016

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