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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Cruel Punishment

Cruel Punishment

Now that Dr Chee Soon Juan has been fined more than S$2,000, he is automatically disqualified by law from contesting in parliamentary elections for 5 years.

But is that fair?

Think about it.

A politician's job and true vocation is to contest elections. Just as a doctor's is to practise medicine and a lawyer's to practise law.

And to ban Dr Chee from contesting elections for 5 years just because of a S$2,000 fine for nothing more than exercising his politician's vocation of speaking out some truths to the people is a cruel and unusual punishment.

There is another point.

In fine-happy or trigger-happy Singapore, there are numerous ways in which you can be fined S$2,000, even, I believe, for some traffic offences or very minor misdemeanours. Is it fair therefore, to ban a politician from contesting elections?

For example, if the Attorney-General Chan Sek Keong had decided that Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and his 2 deputies Lee Hsien Loong and Tony Tan had indeed violated the law by being in several polling stations illegally, and if the courts had then found them guilty (they do not dispute this; it is fact), their fines would definitely exceed S$2,000.

Then, they would have to quit their posts and be barred from elections for 5 years.

So far, the Attorney-General has written that he found them 'innocent'. But it could have been otherwise.

It is time to re-look into what basis this draconian law should be applied. In Dr Chee's case, his infraction was so minor, just speaking in public on 2 occasions, that an Appeal Court should remove the ban. After all, you don't disbar a lawyer or disbar a doctor for such slight infractions of the law. And Dr Chee was merely challenging a constitutional point of law.

Don't you think that if Dr Chee appeals, the Appeal Court should do the right, and decent, thing?

In conclusion, may I point out the interesting precedent that has now arisen. Does Attorney-General Chan Sek Keong's ruling mean that in future, it is not illegal, despite the law, for unauthorised persons to be inside the polling stations? If this is so, as the precedent set by the PM and his 2 DPMs show, any persons including the opposition politicians can set foot inside the polling stations. Or is there one law for the PAP and another for the rest of us?

Fairplay please!