Lessons America can learn from Singapore

your say June 17, 2016 01:00

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I am a naturalised Singapore citizen, having surrendered my United States passport in 2010 after living here for three decades and marrying into a local family. I have many reasons to count my blessings as a member of a diverse and enlightened community.

Consider two recent incidents that are dominating headlines in the US – the lenient jail sentence given to a Stanford University freshman convicted of rape, and the mass shooting in Orlando that claimed at least 49 lives. 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 perspective radically. My reaction today is to focus on the pain and suffering of the victims, while questioning what action 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 might 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 at Stanford and in Orlando and we remain grateful for the institutions that ensure we Singaporeans live in a reasonably just and safe country.

John Driscoll


(From the Straits Times/ANN)