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Flogging in Singapore

March 11, 1994

* In response to "Ohio Youth to Be Flogged in Singapore," March 4:

If the threat of flogging is what it takes to keep your city free of graffiti, then we have a lot to learn from Singapore.

When we have visitors from other countries we expect them to abide by our laws and customs. It is only fair for us to abide by their laws and customs whenever we visit them.

I am tired of seeing graffiti in our city and if we had a few "floggings" instead of the "slap on the wrist," we might have a graffiti-free city. Which is worse, a scar on the person doing the graffiti, or scars on the whole city?

JACK R. SELLS

Marina del Rey

* The report on a Singapore court's conviction and sentencing of American Michael Peter Fay for vandalism ended on the note that caning is mandatory for "a foreigner overstaying a tourist visa." This is very misleading.

Social visitors to Singapore are given visas of at least two-weeks' duration, although on average a tourist stays in Singapore for only a few days. Visa extensions are given liberally on application for those who wish to remain longer. If a visitor overstays his visa he is usually let off with a warning. It is those who overstay their visa by a few months who face the prospect of prosecution.

Caning is reserved as a form of punishment only for those who overstay their visas by more than 90 days.

Tourists, therefore, have no reason to worry about visiting Singapore. Last year we had a little over 6 million tourists. They are proof of the gracious treatment accorded in Singapore to all bona fide tourists.

CHIN HOCK SENG

First Secretary, Embassy of Singapore

Washington

* The most appalling thing about this is that the flogging component of the sentence seems to evoke more outrage in Americans than the four months in prison.

When Americans want to get tough on crime, they routinely propose longer prison sentences--which cost a lot of money but manifestly do not deter crime.

Despite the apparent lack of proportionality between Fay's sentence and that of his Malaysian co-defendant sentenced to probation, the bottom line is that Singapore has a criminal justice system that works and we do not. The disheartening thing for me as an American and a lawyer is that this incident is "likely to strain U.S. relations with a longtime ally" instead of acting as a "wake-up call" to the U.S. criminal justice system. What is broken should be fixed. What works should be left alone.

COLIN JAMES GIBSON

Los Angeles

* The youth being flogged in Singapore is a criminal. He had to know the laws of the country in which he and his family are guests. It was his choice to break those laws.

Singapore's populace enjoy a crime-free environment because its law enforcement and judiciary keep it that way. No one there is above the law--not even spoiled Americans who refuse to accept responsibility for their actions.

Having spent time in Singapore, I believe America should follow Singapore's example of how to treat criminal offenders.

MAGDA TOTH

Huntington Beach

* The Singapore government should stop wasting its advertising money on tourism promotion because travelers are not going to be interested in visiting a country where peoples' bodies are permanently mutilated by abusive government order for petty crime.

Given that there are cultural differences between countries and that the teen-ager was acting maliciously (and very foolishly in view of the mores of Singapore), the judge should know that the world in general has matured out of brutal punishment. Singapore may not have graffiti but their officials' view of humanity stinks on ice.

It's possible that by the time the boy gets back to the United States and finishes the talk-show circuit, no one will want to go to Singapore or even look at a Rose Parade float from Singapore. I certainly have no desire to travel there.

JAY OREN

Los Angeles

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