Friday, November 25, 2005

*Andy Ho Defends the Singapore Model*

In other news, Senior Writer Andy Ho defends the Singapore Model of Criminal System and Due Process. BUT what do the writers actually have to say and think as opposed to what Andy Ho simply quotes from them?

Dr Tai Heng Cheng wrote the article, "The Central Case Approach to Human Rights: It's universal application and the Singapore example". Its central thesis is that one should not use a binary approach (bivalent approach in Glenn's work on Legal Traditions in the World) but should adopt a 'central case' approach instead. What it means is that instead of simply saying whether rights have been violated or not (A or Not A), one should consider the possibility of having one's cake and eating it (like say eating half of it). Its a thesis about the fuzzy grey areas and through his 47 page article, he demonstrates well how it is possible to, on paper NOT violate rights while in actuality do so, and conversely how on paper, something might violate rights when it may not in practice do so.

I think it is very very safe to say that after reading both their works, Andy Ho might well be teethering on the edge of misrepresenting Dr Tai, or at least his conclusions. Here's a little taste of what Andy Ho DID NOT quote in his little gay/lesbian (what about the transgendered?) example.

So on the one hand Dr Tai says at document page 35 (which is what's reflected in the ST), "Whereas the binary approach simply concludes that homosexual rights are violated by the existence of homophobic laws, the central case recognizes that these laws are not generally enforced. The vast majority of homosexual acts between consenting adults in private are not prosecuted and police generally do not monitor the sexual proclivities of private citizens. Indeed, there are even public areas where gay men congregate with the intention of meeting other gay men for the purpose of sex. It is inconceivable that the police are unaware of these areas since they are advertised on the Internet. At least during the last three years, there have been no reported arrests or prosecutions of homosexuals who frequent these public areas.

But in the very NEXT paragraph, Dr Tai continues, "The true human rights concern in Singapore is the potential for these laws to be used by the government against homosexuals without warning and without transparency about the criteria for enforcement. For example, there were reports that police officers conducted an undercover operation in a private gay sauna in 2003 without any warning. The officers climbed over the walls of a private cubicle and witnessed two men engaging in fellatio. These men were arrested. No other sauna was apparently targeted, and there have been no further reports of undercover operations against these private clubs as of this writing. Although this strategy of selective and apparently arbitrary enforcement does not prevent all homosexual acts, it creates an insidious culture of fear among homosexuals."

*Mr Fluffy bangs out an ta da da tune on the electric keyboard*

Here's Andy's conclusion, "The Government, in actual practice, permits the gay community to flourish here. By accepting some gay rights, the government enables quiet and incremental change. But by also keeping the laws, it signals to the various religious groups that their conservative values have not been swept aside."

But here's Dr Tai's FURTHER conclusion, "For the time being at least, the social compact that the Singaporean government has in effect extracted is that, so long as homosexuals do not press for change and sexual equality before the law too quickly or publicly, gay rights will be allowed to move incrementally closer to the central case. Ultimately, these rights are tenuous and may be revoked unilaterally and without warning or accountability by the ruling elite, since the existence of these rights in Singapore are contingent on the ruling elite exercising its discretion not to enforce homophobic laws or impose a homophobic licensing regime. However, a reversal of the government’s strategy is unlikely unless Singapore experiences a strong and unexpected surge of homophobia among the electoral heartlands or conservative ethnic and religious groups, or more conservative politicians come to power."

Or what about Professor Michael Hor? To be honest, I keep getting a fit of the giggles everytime Andy Ho quotes him because it's very clear from the good professor's writing that he doesn't think all is swimmingly well in our system. But for a relevant read, here's his article, "Singapore's Innovation to Due Process".

Selective use of quotes to give an impression that the writer quoted has a different conclusion than the one implied or given. I think the phrase I'm looking for here is well...quote mining?

And then there's the usual unsubstantiated assertions and falacious logical links but well, I'm pretty used to that. For example, if the "Finnis ideal (is) a due process system (that) has foolproof safeguards to ensure that a suspect is not convicted wrongly...(but also) treated with dignity throughout the process." Then the whole slew of examples he gives that deviate from this central case, which ostensibly are for the purpose of bringing down Singapore's crime rate to the lowest in the world, is a competing policy AND NOT part of moving towards the Finnis ideal.

I mean it isn't necessarily a bad argument if it can be conclusively demonstrated that it does bring down the crime rate. But that is not what the criminal justice system is just about (as he himself implies). Yes, there is Retributivism but also Utilitarianism and Restorative Justice, all which may I add could internally justify just about any position. If so, the issue changes, evolves and shifts and the article at best captures the writer's imagined snapshot of societal norms and at worst, wholly misrepresents it.

And oh, it isn't necessarily true that depriving people of their right to counsel and having extreme powers of search and arrest leads to a low crime rate. A high arrest rate perhaps, but not a low crime rate which is borne of sociological factors and simply resources in enforcement.

And here's a parting thought experiment. If the death penalty were really all that useful, where's the usual trumpeting of studies demonstrating that?



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