Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Letter to ST

*On the Morality of Legalisation and Casinos*

Dear Sir,

I read with some concern the letter by Jiang Ke-Yue, “Casino critics have reason to be cynical” and particularly the manner in which he has simply polarised the debate into one that splits the pro-casino into the camp of ‘money’ and the anti-casino ostensibly into the camp of ‘values’.

Harm reduction has always been at the heart of any legalisation debate. Denial of that is simply willful. Legalisation allows for regulation, licensing and taxation, the opposite of which is simply the abuses prevalent in the black market. The reason why prostitution is legal in Singapore is because we understand the dangers and repercussions of making it illegal and driving it underground. Amongst which is the ability to ensure the health and safety of the sex workers and their customers, while at the same time, depriving the Criminal Syndicates a source of revenue to further their nefarious ends. It is the same story with alcohol as the lessons of Prohibition have shown.

Mr. Jiang misses the point about censorship liberalisation in that despite the entire cry about how it would lead to moral degenerate behavior and the eventual downfall of Singapore society, time has proven them wrong. Our society is more mature and resilient than many of these naysayers would have us believe. Their arguments have been at best repetitive and at worst, simply patronising.

More fundamentally, the reasons for which they have claimed the moral high ground are not just disturbing but wrong. Time and again, they have negated the fundamental right of a person to choose, as he would in the pursuit of his own happiness. Instead they would presume that for us. It presumes that the average Singaporean is incapable of making a rational choice. It presumes that he is incapable of exercising reasonable self-control. But for the vulnerable amongst us, their policy, by fixating upon the harms of the proposed casino has again conveniently neglected that their problem is merely the tip of the gambling iceberg that we already have. Furthermore, they would presume that in the event that the casino is instituted nothing more would be done and our society would simply neglect those with such problems. How then, when their policy will hurt more people and families can they claim it to be moral?

More needs to be done, whether with a separate department to treat gambling addiction or a general education program. But with its benefits, a casino can be part of the solution. It’s really time to move on beyond the “Casino is Bad” assumption and focus on how best we can manage the situation instead

Yours faithfully,
Shaun Lee Wei Han


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