The following letter was published on the 14 Dec ST Online Forum before it was taken down by the end of the day.
Dec 14, 2005
Sydney 'race riots' actually attacks on criminals
THERE have been reports in the Australian media about race riots in Sydney. In fact, the riots are not race riots but attacks on criminals.
The situation has been brought about by the deterioration in law enforcement in recent years. Australian state governments, which run the police, have cut the number of police patrol officers, and have instructed them not to respond immediately to crimes like they used to do. Also, patrol officers have been instructed not to prosecute criminals unless they see the crime taking place, which they never do since they generally turn up two hours later.
The result is a paradise for criminals. Large areas of Australian cities have become no-go zones. Parents won't let their children play outdoors. With the recent hot weather, law-abiding mainstream Australians would like to use the beaches, but are prevented by criminal gangs.
In Cronulla, the criminals are mostly of Lebanese origin. In the circumstances, it is reasonable for people to assume that any person of Lebanese appearance is a criminal and treat them accordingly. The police have not clamped down on Lebanese criminals, so the public are understandably taking the law into their own hands.
Most criminals in Australia are from ethnic minority groups, mainly the Irish 25 per cent of the population. This is hardly surprising since these groups send their children to schools which actively encourage crime.
For example, at Irish Catholic schools in Australia they teach: 'Which is better, for your family to die of starvation, or to steal a loaf of bread? Obviously, to steal a loaf of bread.'
In contrast, at government schools in Singapore, you teach that it is better for your family to die of starvation than to steal anything.
Irish-Australians are behind the push for the introduction of so-called 'human rights' into South-east Asia. Asians call these so-called rights 'Western values'. In fact they are Irish values, and most Australians reject them. The ideas Asean leaders call 'Asian values' are supported by the vast majority of Australians.
Most Australians would like to have laws like you have in Singapore, but most of our politicians are Irish. The only area where mainstream Australians would disagree with Singapore policies is that we support trial by jury. Things like the Holocaust and the Gulag Archipelago don't happen in countries where there is a right to trial by jury.
Our student association would like to see greater involvement between Australia and Asean countries. But Asean governments should make such involvement dependent on Australia phasing out Irish values. Clearly, the idea that Irish values are superior to Chinese values or Malay values or English values is wrong.
Geoff Bird National President Australian Union of Students Queensland, Australia
Whether the editor knew it was a parody is really besides the point. Parody or not, this sort of letter should not even be published in the national daily. If the editor didn't see it as a parody and yet published it, what does that tell us about ST's ethical standards? What does that tell us about ST's common sense? If the editor recognized it as a parody and yet published it, he/she should best be working for www.theonion.com.
Anyhow in a fit of anger, I wrote a relatively incoherent email to ST demanding an explanation:
The Straits Times Online Forum is said to uphold the same high editorial
standard as its print counterpart. It is thus extremely disturbing to read
an obvious provocative satirical letter, much more suited for
www.theonion.com than our national broadsheet, being published in the 14
December online forum.
It is disturbing because obviously the online Forum editor was unable to
tell that the letter is a satire. The letter which sought to explain the
recent Sydney riots is purposefully offensive and racist. Choice quotes
from the letter include:
"In Cronulla, the criminals are mostly of Lebanese origin. In the
circumstances, it is reasonable for people to assume that any person of
Lebanese appearance is a criminal and treat them accordingly."
Elsewhere, the letter even mocked Singapore:
"For example, at Irish Catholic schools in Australia they teach: 'Which is
better, for your family to die of starvation, or to steal a loaf of bread?
Obviously, to steal a loaf of bread.'
In contrast, at government schools in Singapore, you teach that it is
better for your family to die of starvation than to steal anything."
It is tragic that the editor had not spotted the satirical nature of the
letter although it is plain for everyone to see. One wonders the editorial
quality of the Striats Times. Or perhaps worse, wonder the level of
ethical and journalistic integrity that Straits Times adopts.
ps: I would appreciate a reply even if this letter is (expectedly) not
And here's their reply, which side stepped the questions which I raised at the end:
We refer to your letter to The Straits Times Forum dated 15 December 2005.
Please be assured that we have not lowered our standards even online.
But we do acknowledge that we were not as alert on this and apologise for the oversight.
We removed the letter on the same day.
Thank you for taking the trouble to write to us.
Ms XXXXX Tan
Editorial Services Unit
First off, ahbohling is now "I".
I have been thinking about this question: Are there universal values? And if the answer is positive, how should we uphold such universal values? Do we rely on the goodness of human or do we enscribe such universalistic values in our common law.
This is just asking this question in reverse: "Are our laws based on universal values"? Defnitely not all. But there could be some laws that are based upon universal values that everyone in every spatial context (and perhaps even temporal context) will agree upon.
However, even such unviersalistic values cannot be hold to be absolute.
What a roundabout way to open my real intent of this post which is to talk about the death penalty.
Now, clearly the death penalty contravenes a value. This value is the idea that life is sacred and must be preserved. Now, even though I think this is a universalistic sort of ideal (in theory), I don't think that in practice this should be an absolute value because for example I think that there are strong arguments for euthanasia.
But euthanasia is not the death penalty.
Yet, even for death penalty, I can allow it to occur judiciously (thereby contravening the value of sanctity of life). For example, a cold blooded murderer who kills a woman's husband and all her children right in front of her eyes. If the woman desires retribution on this murderer in order to move on with her life. I say why not? Hang that bloody murderer.
Here, we see an obvious victim who deserves the right to call for retribution. Such retribution of course does nothing to rehabilitate the murderer (unless you count dying as the supreme rehabilitation). It also does nothing in terms of deterrence. No would-be murderer would be put off by supposed punishment nor indeed would they even think about what the punishment entails.
That is murder.
What about drug trafficking? What are the differences between a drug trafficker and a murderer. Most would say that there are none. But there really are two significant ones:
1) The supposed victims of a drug trafficker is not direct. We cannot, as in the case of the murder, point to any one person as a victim. So retributive justice is diminished.
2) The supposed victims are not helpless. Murder victims hardly wished themselves to be murdered. but junkies took steps to sustain their addiction even as other junkies take chrage of their lives to clean themselves up.
The problem of drugs is complex (just watch Traffic). You cannot claim that a hike in a region's incidence of drug addiction is due to a increase in supply to the drug market just as you cannot claim that a corresponding improvement is solely the result of better enforcement over at the supply side.
Demand and supply are the two sides of the same problematic coin.
And then there is the mandatory aspect of death penalty for drug trafficking. I disagree fundamentally with mandatroy death sentence because it disallows any room for mitigation and compassion. Simply put, when a life is concerned, I would always err on the side of caution.
And the saddest thing is that we have not made use of the death of Van Nguyen to reflect upon the value (or lack thereof) of mandatory death sentence.
One of the many memorable scenes in "Alice In Wonderland" was the debate over the phrases "I mean what I say" and "I say what I mean".
We all know that they are different. But Alice and apparently many other Singaporeans don't.
The whole seditious affair is unfortunate. It is all the more unfortunate when what could have been an excellent opporunity for Singaporeans to re-examine our fundamental prejudices and pride of different ethnic groups has been let slip.
I do not agree that the two bloggers should be left unpunished just as I do not agree nor think it's fair that they should be made the examplary showcases of What-Not-To-Talk/Blog-About.
A snowballing hyperbole should ideally never be the basis of judging one's intention and character. Flamewars in cyberspace function in a slightly different realm of logic than in the real world. But apparently, our justice system does not distinguish this.
Fair enough, but I still think that more creative ways of punishment would do all parties good. The judge could have ordered a four-face meeting of the two Chinese bloggers, the Malay woman who wrote to the Forum and the young Malay woman who reported the seditious comments to the police. They can then come to a mutual understanding, if not agreement, of why they say what they say.
The two Chinese guys should be asked to do some community work amongst the Muslim community. Recognize and, more importantly, help in the community's struggles to better themselves.
Jailing them will only drive simmering problems and future misunderstandings underground. It is sad and ironic to harshly punish someone who probably don't mean much of what they hyperbolically say and risk letting slip of those racists who actually don't say what they mean.
The latter are the true cancerous cells of our society.
Do you still remember the songs that you liked before? Do you remember still why you liked them before? And do you know why you have let go of these songs of your memories?
Do you still have songs that you liked before?
Do you remember when you still wanted to make a difference and do you know why you stopped making any difference?
Do you remember when you were last angry? Do you remember why you have that anger and do you know why you have lost that anger?
I do, I remember and I know.
My dear readers can tell that ahbohling is either really bored or have no mood to do serious work today to have posted two posts in a day.
But, this is important. ahbohling also read today that the police is investigating the White Elephant incident at Buangkok MRT station.
This is very serious although ahbohling does not see why it should become this serious. Police investigations! Oh my, but let ahbohling try to rationalise the police's (over?)reaction.
ahbohling thinks the main problem is that on that fateful day too many animals were running amok, upsetting the delicate ecosystem balance Singapore has enjoyed for the past 40 years.
First, the white elephants deliberately stood in a place where they can be spotted by the white horse. So of course, the white horse is unhappy: only horses and PAP members can be white! So that's just very aggravating and annoying. Second, there's an inordinate number of running dogs (i.e. dogs that are constantly running) in the vicinity that day too.
We all know horses and dogs go well together because high society people use horses and hounds to hunt ducks, rabbits, p(h)easants and other defenceless animals. But ahbohling doesn't think they fancy fat elephants, even if they are cute. In fact, ahbohling thinks elephants will confuse the hounds and scare the horses.
That's why the police must investigate. They might even have to fine the elephant owners $3000 (like the Husky murderer) for upsetting the horse and the dogs.
It's good that the Dragon did not show up that day. Otherwise, the horse and the dogs will surely go crazy.
Luckily, Woodbridge Hospital aka Institute of Mental Health is a stone's throw away from Buangkok MRT station. ahbohling heard white horses and running dogs are welcomed there.
ps: In a related news, ahbohling heard from a friend of a friend of a friend that the Thai Embassy is contemplating an official note of protest at the disrespect shown to white elephants. The latter are considered highly sacred and auspicious in Thai culture. Instead of investigating these elephants, the Thais recommend that they be brought into our Istana; just like how sacred white elephants are led into the Thai palace.
So ahbohling was reading the Chinese papers this morning (yes, ahbohling is effectively trilingual in English, Malay and Chinese).
Saw the headlines, wow. Never ever doubted his will to win. ahbohling is so glad that Singaporeans can look pass his obvious disadvantages and handicap to make him a Superstar.
Some say that he has heavyweight backing (i.e. those who are willing to devote all their energies to ensure that he wins). ahbohling says: "Hum bug! Jealousy won't get you anywhere".
ahbohling feels that no matter what's the motivation that drives him to successfully become a Superstar, it is definitely democratic and fair. Don't blame the rules when the rules have been there for all to see all this while.
Yesterday night was a victory for all Singaporeans.
So ahbohling also wants to say: Congratulations, SR Nathan, for becoming Singapore's Project Superstar!
I like to play with my friends in the rain.
We all like especially the afternoon rain,
because it is so very cooling.
My kampung friends all play in the rain,
but there are some rich kids who hardly join us in our playing.
So even more we do not see them outside in the rain,
my mother says it's because their mothers are afraid of them slipping and falling.
I still do not understand people who do not enjoy the rain
when so many times running in the rain, I am so happy that I feel like crying!
I like to play with my friends in the rain.