By: B Goode
There is an increasingly disturbing trend in Singapore.
Whenever there was a case of members from the privileged class getting off lightly for some misdemeanors be it criminal or simply anti-social, there’d be a huge outcry from the `common’ folks.
Be it youths from well to do families that only got a warning and probation for vandalism when any Ahmad, Ah Beng or Muthu would get jail and canning for the same offence; or the son of a property scion who initially got away relatively lightly for drug possession; or when the son of new citizens got only a slap on the wrist for molest, we turned green and started to smash feverishly on our keyboards alluding to elitism.
And now we are all angry when an NUS pervert only got a warning for taking a video of his female acquaintance taking a shower.
Why so angry, Batman?
I guess it has got something to do with perception.
Or maybe we are just a nation of angry people….
The thing about perception is that it does not randomly fall from our nether region. It is a result of shared experiences coupled with the circumstances surrounding that experiences.
So now there’s a perception that members of the elite class are getting preferential treatment even from the law. Rightly or wrongly, this is a disturbing trend that must be addressed.
Truth be told, there has always been class divide. But at least in the past, the law was perceived as fair regardless of social standing, race or religion.
That perception apparently is no longer the case. Can we blame Singaporeans in general for having trust issues regarding the justice system? In today’s world where information and knowledge are just a swipe of the thumb away, it is not difficult for Singaporeans to compare and contrast similar cases with different penal outcomes.
Take the case of the peeping tom. It would not be difficult for Singaporeans to search the internet archives to see that other offenders were given more serious punishment than that meted out to the undergraduate.
Of course there is this argument that different offences although might seemed similar, could have different outcome depending on various factors chiefly being the mitigating factors such as `potential’.
But here’s the thing about potential. It seemed that it is pegged very closely to your social background. If you were of high social standing, your potential tended to be viewed as `high’. But if you were from a lower income group or a school dropout your potential was as good as none.
But measuring potential based on that is relative isn’t it? Jack Ma does not have a high educational qualification when he first started off, but can you say that he has low life potential?
When mitigating factors used to decide on the type of punishment are based largely on your social background, your financial standing and who you know, it will only lead to a skewed justice system.
History will tell us that when the last bastion of equality that is the justice system is perceived to be skewed towards the privileged class, social upheaval will follow. The rise of communism in the 50’s and 60’s in Asia and Africa attested to this.
Justice must be seen to be fair. If there was even a whisper that this was not the case, it must be nipped at the bud. When there existed a perception no matter how untrue that members of the elite class were protecting each other’s interest, that perception must be corrected.
I might be poor. I might be a destitute. I might be experiencing hunger most nights. But at least I should be comforted that the law will always be there to protect me.
It is just the way it is. It is the way it should always be.