Holding onto my hat

Holding onto my hat

Monday, May 30, 2011


This morning, my life was enriched by the opportunity to meet and chat with the matchless Jack Sim, a man who specializes in doing the extraordinary.
This Singaporean and long-time Mountbatten resident is the founder of the World Toilet Organisation: http://www.worldtoilet.org/aboutus3.asp
He was also featured in TIME Magazine "Heroes of the Environment 2008": http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1841778_1841781_1841822,00.html
But best of all, Jack was the Mountbatten resident who DISCOVERED the World War One fort hidden beneath the grounds of Katong Park (Meyer Road)!
"In 2001, the outline of the top of the bastion wall became visible during a dry spell; this prompted a Katong resident, Jack Sim, to seek out the relevant authorities to investigate its origins." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Tanjong_Katong
Thanks to Jack's keen observation and passion for heritage, Mountbatten can now boast of having a genuine archaeological site in its midst.
A love for history and an affirmation of our heritage - these are the cornerstones for fostering a community and in turn, building a nation.
It was great to meet you, Jack! We'll keep in touch!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Dear Readers

Before you start reading this posting, I had better tell you that what I am about to discuss, is an issue which will have virtually no impact on your lives, your livelihood, your choices, your lifestyle or your pocket. It is a matter which only affects …maybe 20 people? … in a year, some of those affected will not even be Singaporeans.

But for those who are affected, it is quite literally a matter of life and death. What we Singaporeans think and say about this issue, will make a difference to whether someone lives … or dies. I am talking about the use of the death sentence in Singapore. For certain crimes like murder and drug trafficking, the death sentence is mandatory, meaning that the judge has no power to change the death sentence to life imprisonment in deserving cases. They must hang.

Don’t get me wrong, I want a safe and secure Singapore. I want a low crime and drug-free society where I can raise my kids and walk around in freedom.

We have been told that Singapore’s low crime rate is due to our tough laws, including our willingness to impose the ultimate penalty of death.

We have been told that the mandatory death penalty for murder and drug trafficking has been an effective deterrent against would-be murders and drug traffickers.Sparing the lives of convicted murders and drug traffickers, would signal that we have gone soft. Going soft will put our families and loved ones in danger of crime.

And we have been told that a Singapore Press Holdings survey conducted in 2006, indicated that a large majority of Singaporeans are in support of the death penalty, and thus, the death penalty is the will of the majority.

If it were really so straightforward that “death penalty means low crime”and “no death penalty means high crime”, then of course, we should and must retain the death penalty, and to oppose those idealists who seek to abolish it. Why should I risk the safety and well-being of my family for the sake of a worthless criminal who should have known better?

But is it really as simple as “death penalty means low crime”?
· Why do people kill?
· Why do people agree to be drug mules?
· Does the death penalty really deter murder or it is to exact revenge, as in “life for a life”?
· Will murders and drug trafficking be more rampant if Judges were given power to change the death sentence to life imprisonment in deserving cases?
· What are other effective ways to reduce crime?
· What are other ways of keeping down crime besides the death penalty?

I am glad to see that today in Singapore 2011, we are more discerning and a lot more sophisticated. Decades of emphasizing the value of a good education has produced a generation of new Singaporeans who ask for the facts and figures behind claims and statements.

In the old days, whenthere was no Internet, it was harder to double check statements and not easy to find alternative views to a proposal. Today is the age of information technology. The new generation Singaporeans are better educated, well-travelled and well-informed.

Today, we do not accept propositions at face value. If someone tells us, “eating durians causes baldness” we will automatically retort: “How so? Who said that? What are his credentials? Where are the surveys, scientific studies or research showing the correlation between eating durians and baldness?”

We don’t let people get away with saying something, without providing hard evidence for what is being said.

So if we cannot see the evidence that the death penalty for a particular crime has served its role as an effective deterrent to that crime, then I am afraid to say, that such a proposition is a belief which is at best a hypothesis and at worse a myth!

Now surely no one will be party to taking away a person’s life on the strength of anunsupported hypothesis or a personal belief?

When it comes to the issue of death penalty, the stakes cannot be any higher. A person’s life is to be taken from him. The sting of the death sentence is after all based on the fact that the wrongdoer highly values his own life. If it were not so, then it would not mean much to take it away!

When it is a matter of life and death, surely we need to call for convincing evidence proving the deterrent effect of the death penalty, so as to justify using such a drastic measure. Surely it is only right that we think long and hard about whether or not to use the death sentence.

We have been told: Look at Singapore’s low rate of drug abuse – that is evidence that mandatory death penalty has been an effective deterrent against drug trafficking. I am thankful that Singapore’s drug problem is well under control. But aren’t there also other factors which contribute to Singapore’s successful fight against drug abuse? Factors like a well-organized police force, well-trained investigation officers, a well-equipped central narcotic bureau and a comprehensive anti-drug abuse education program – don’t all these also help in the fight against drug abuse?Will Singapore’s fight against drug abuse be seriously hampered without the mandatory death penalty?

The mandatory death penalty for murder has been with us since the colonial days. We have had the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking since 1975. Today is 2011. We have at least 40 years of data on state executions. It is time to take stock and review in detail all the statistics on state executions to date. The public should also be involved in this extensive review. The results of the review should be published for the public to digest and to ask questions about the findings. After all, it is has been said that the death penalty is the will of the majority of Singaporeans. So Singaporeans should be informed.

The public has the right to see the studies, statistics or research published by officials which support their claim that the mandatory death penalty has been an effective deterrent against drug trafficking. The burden of proof must rest on those seeking to retain the mandatory death penalty.

In the absence of such evidence, then we Singaporeans must conclude that it is not necessary to resort to using the mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking. In which case, we should seriously consider changing the law to give judges the power to convert the death sentence to life imprisonment in deserving cases.

There is also the question whether it is even necessary to retain the death penalty at all. Again, without convincing documentary evidence that the death sentence has more of a deterrent effect than a life sentence for drug trafficking, then it is only right that we do away with the death sentence altogether.

A person’s life, even the life of a drug trafficker who should have known better, is too high a price to pay for an opinion not supported by enough evidence.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Letter to Yee Jenn Jong, Workers’ Party Candidate for Joo Chiat Constituency (GE 2011)

16 May 2011

Dear Jenn Jong

Congratulations on being appointed an NCMP!

Like me, my elderly parents are Joo Chiat voters. I want to tell you how proud I am of my father. My dad is 75 years old. He is bedridden and suffering from advanced stage of cancer. Thank God, he is not in pain, but he is very frail and weak. For this GE, he insisted on casting his vote. My brother and mother could not dissuade him. As a result, they had to plan and devise a way of bringing him to the Polling Station, which was Katong Convent Primary School. With much effort and trouble, they made it to the Polling Station, and my father did cast his vote!

I know that you lost out on being a Member of Parliament by a narrow margin of votes. My father says to tell you that he did his part to keep margin to 388 votes, else the vote margin would have been 389!

I had to leave it to my brother and mother to bring my father to his Polling Station. Being a Candidate myself, I was visiting each of the Polling Stations in Mountbatten SMC throughout Polling Day. I saw, with humble admiration, many elderly and non-ambulatory folk making their way to the Polling Stations to do their part as Citizens of Singapore. I know that for some of the elderly and for those who are not mobile, it is a physical challenge for them and their care-givers to make it to their Polling Stations. I am awed by their desire to participate in this national process. They have spirit. I salute these sons and daughters of Singapore!

I’ll catch up with you for breakfast in Siglap soon!

Yours Sincerely

Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss


After he read this posting, Jenn Jong contacted me to ask if he could visit my father. I gladly made the arrangement. So on 19 May 2011, Jenn Jong came over to my parents' place. It was the first time that my father met Jenn Jong.

Here is a photo of Jenn Jong with my father, my mother, me and my brother. My brother had plied Jenn Jong with hard questions when Jenn Jong came by during the hustings. Jenn Jong did not know at that time that he was my brother, nor did my brother know much about Jenn Jong, hence the hard questions.

It was really nice of Jenn Jong to come over that Thursday evening!