A March Visit With Prime Minister Lee: 377A Resurfaces; A Tale Of Judicial Discrepancy; H2O Sticker Price Shock

(As posted on PM Lee’s blog on March 7, 2017)

Greetings Prime Lee, and a belated good health wish to your 65th. Three news items of late caught my eye; allow me here to say my piece.

1. Dare I say, a quizzical moment of your BBC March interview re 377A was much in evidence: ‘It is a law that is there, if I remove it, I would not remove the problem,’ you declaimed to interviewer Steven Sackur. But what is this ‘problem’ being implied or alluded to here? … That post 377A repeal, the LGBT minority community would be spoiling en masse for Gay Pride Parades at Hong Lim Park clamoring for immediate same-sex marriage recognition? That could well be so on the far, far horizon in keeping with eventual global consensus of such union recognition, but that certainly does not bid fair to be happening here at home anytime soon, surely not in our lifetime or the next, post 377A. For perspective, it’s worth familiarizing the parlance of 377A: ‘Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years.’  In the BBC interview, you appeared chafed at having to make excuses to uphold such anachronistic law: Singapore is a ‘society that is not that liberal on these (moral) matters’. But wait, isn’t Singapore more liberal than America as regards certain social mores such as legalized prostitution? — which by the way is prohibited throughout the U.S. bar just the one state of Nevada that permits it but with restraint allowing just 12 of its 16 regional counties to do so with Vegas the Sin City included amongst the banned. Evidently back then when it came to public sentiment over the legalization of casino gambling in Singapore, major religious organizations (the churches, MUIS and Pergas) were up in arms and lobbied against it. Notwithstanding that, the government took the bull by the horns and overcame the pushback. True, no one today would equate this discriminatory yet nugatory 377A relic of a statute with any of those epic civil rights violations of yesterday over in some countries. But so long this passé legalistic anachronism remains on the book, the modern image of Singapore will be alloyed by such a gratuitous mossbacked albatross. Sure, politically it would be convenient to kick the can down the road for the next generation. But here’s a break for leaving a legacy for being on the right side of history; why would you want to pass it up?

2. A tale of egregious juridical double standard: I would very much like to join the mushrooming chorus of public grizzling over Judge Crystal Ong’s lax sentencing of convicted sexual predator Joshua Robinson who happens to be an American expat. The firestorm of backlash against his disproportionately, incredibly light sentence of just 4 years for the double ‘statutory rape’ he committed, can be easily explained by precedent. In 2012, a local convict Jonathan Wong was sentenced to 5 years for ‘statutory rape’ but that concerned only 1 victim. http://news.asiaone.com/News/Latest%2BNews/Singapore/Story/A1Story20120710-358176.html  Both cases involved 15-year-olds but the American expat here receives a mere 4 years from the judge for victimizing not one but two teens with another 20 charges against him including 4 other sexual assaults being plea-bargained down. It behooves Judge Crystal Ong to account for letting Mr. Robinson get away with murder in a state known for law and order and its protection of the vulnerable. http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/slap-wrist-father-girl-approached-sex-criminal-during-mma-class-speaks-out

3. H2O sticker price uptick shock: apparently, Minister Heng’s parliamentary apology for the proposed 30% 2-year phased-in H2O rate increase in the 2017 Budget, has not resonated with the public. Incidental follow-up remarks by economics Prof Ng Yew Kwang — who not only justifies the rate hike but has hinted at justification for an even larger up charge — has only generated an avalanche of counter arguments on the Net. Paraphrasing here some of TOC’s trenchant observations: why is he (Prof Ng) begrudging Singaporeans their 19 halcyon years going without H2O rate increases while failing to express similar envy for the local H2O authority that has been richly blessed with 56 halcyon years of no increase in raw water price from Malaysia?  https://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2017/03/03/reply-to-prof-ngs-response-on-false-justifications-for-water-price-increase/  Weighing the balance of the pros and cons of argument, I could only deduce that the whopping 30% proposal is an overzealous gesture in overkill. An article hailing from pro-government website asiaone.com seems to be in concurrence: ‘one is led to wonder why our government seems determined to give us so many bitter pills to swallow.‘  http://news.asiaone.com/news/business/budget-2017s-water-price-hike-what-youre-not-hearing-about-30-increase

Finally, as an aside, rumor mill has it that you would retire before the next GE. I sincerely hope not, if for no other valid reason than the bet I’ve already wagered on your running for another term.:-) There are clearly unfinished business agenda on your watch that demand your experience and guidance at home and abroad in a time of looming uncertainty and transformation… for starters, cultivating a fresh diplomatic and personal rapport with the mercurial Trump administration as what PM Shinzō Abe has done. Do stay healthy, as always.

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