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Vote MP = Vote PAP? and the Presumption of Innocence August 27, 2008

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.

Vote MP = Vote PAP?

As expected, there will be no by-election in Jurong GRC, even though it appears that residents themselves would rather have such an election. Nevertheless Mr Lee Hsien Loong’s reported speech is illuminating for the deliberate conflation of two separate issues; namely voting for your MP and voting for a political party.  Indeed this also highlights the role the GRC has to play in entrenching the ruling party’s hegemony.

Mr Lee claim is this,

unlike other democracies like Britain in which MPs form the government, Singapore’s system emphasises on choosing political parties.

So when an MP is elected, it means voters are also giving the mandate to the party represented by the MP to form the government.

That is an erroneous view. Undeniably there are instances where the person votes for the MP and votes for the party. There are however various other instances where a person votes for the MP NOTWITHSTANDING his political affilations and there are other instances where a person is voted in merely because he hides behind a political party. Therefore Mr Lee cannot conclude with great authority that voting for one MP means a vote for PAP in general. And if one considers the various arguments on whether Singaporeans actually have choice (a rather difficult question; but then questions of choice always are), then Mr Lee’s simple equation; vote for (insert name here)= vote for PAP fails. Another example is this; suppose A lives in a GRC and there is an election; 6 candidates from each side contest. A is a vociferous supporter of the opposition and does not shy away from Mr JBJ or Mr CSJ when he sees them along Orchard Rd. Nevertheless A finds that 1 of the 6 PAP candidates is a very nice man (for whatever reason) and feels obliged to vote because he does not want this man to lose his seat. So he casts his vote for the ENTIRE team just because he likes this one person. Can one say that he supports PAP? No; he is merely voting the way because of one member in the team.

Now moving the story along, what if nice MP suddenly retires from politics for whatever reason? Suddenly Mr A is left with a group of people he cares nothing about. His choice is gone, lost. He feels aggrieved and seeks to exercise once again his right to select his representatives. Of course in Singapore the story ends with the PM giving excuses and now and again engaging in abit of dooms day prophesying.

The Presumption of Innocence

This issue was first raised when the new AG, Walter Woon, gave a press statement whereby he introduced concepts such as legal innocence and factual innocence. This drew a stern rebuttal from the Honorable Justice of Appeal V K Rajah; just recently the new Law Minister K Shanmugam stepped into the fray in support of the AG.

As stated by E-Jay in his post, it is true that there is no full proof legal system. There will be miscarriages of justice; and thus there will be times when the guilty cannot be brought to justice while the innocent will suffer such a miscarriage. Nevertheless in my opinion the crux of the issue is this: what kind of system would we like to have? Would we want a system which derogates from the principle of innocent until proven guilty (the so called crime control system)? Such a system draws a wide net, and increases the risks of ensnaring the truly innocent (echoes of such a system can be found in the Drug provisions). Or do we seek to give effect to the presumption of innocence and crafting a system in pursuance of that goal? In such a system those who are guilty may sometimes escape.

The establishment’s stand is that the presumption of innocence is upheld. Which is well and good for I am a firm believer in the maxim “it is better to let 9 guilty people go then to allow 1 innocent to hang”. It is for this reason that I frown at the usual “deterrence” arguments commonly employed to support to derogation of the principle ( sometimes I do wonder if proponents of such arguments truly comprehend the stakes; perhaps they are of the impression that they will never be caught on the wrong side of such a system; well many people in the Western countries thought so too, yet they were convicted for crimes they did not do and some paid the highest penalty for it too; see The Innocent Man by John Grisham). Nevertheless in attempting to preserve the AGC’s reputation the AG and the Law minister are encouraging cynicism in the legal system;  such face saving exercises would have an adverse impact on those acquitted of crimes. In my opinion there is no reason why the AGC has to embark on this course; even the best institutions make mistakes; no one wins all the time.


Here We Go Again…Again August 1, 2008

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.

I remember those days in Active Service, when I and a bunch of other guys, in what would normally be the most exciting period of our lives (if we had not been born here that is), were forced to learn a variety of songs designed to bolster morale and what have you. My personal favourite was the song which started with “here we go again” and ended with some lines regarding the time left to book out. Little did I know at that time that the phrase “here we go again” would be symptomatic of the goings on in Singapore society.

It was not too long ago that there were hikes in transport fares. TOC has done a good job of documenting the increases here. So imagine my disgust when I read this. To cut the long story short, SBS transit and SMRT Corp are once again planning to increase fares. And from past experience it appears that this is fait accompli; the fares will go up.  In fact my seemingly premature conclusion is bolstered by the wording used report; that “insiders are not holding their breath for any measurable increase this year. ” Therefore notwithstanding the lack of a so called measurable increase, the price is still going up…again.

Of course these companies have come up with the usual excuses; chief among which is that fuel and energy costs have “significantly increased” over the years. Nevertheless one must recall that just recently there were several drops in pump prices. Unless SMRT and SBS are under a different fuel regime from drivers and taxi drivers, then I fail to see why this significant increase necessitates a price increase.

Furtheremore even if there is a significant increase, I hardly see why there is an urgent need for SBS and SMRT to raise fares. According to the abovementioned article, SMRT posted a net profit of $150million. Thus I fail to see the need for an increase. In fact the cynical me would say that these companies are merely using inflation as an excuse to drive up their not inconsiderable profits. It is true that these companies are eager to maximise profit; that is where associations like the PTC come in to control and regulate these people. Unfortunately (though I could be mistaken) it appears that the PTC has often taken the side of the big boys and thus at the end of the day, the only losers are the people who rely on public transport.