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Judicial CP - April 2006

Corpun file 17541

Toronto Sun, 1 April 2006

The Singapore solution

By Dr. Gifford Jones
Toronto Sun


This week I'm mad as hell. My 102 year old aunt-in-law, a Yankee of independent spirit, lives alone in her own house and has been robbed. The scoundrel stole $200 from her petty cash box and then grabbed her bottle of Irish Cream Sherry as well.

Now she's anxious, has to lock her door, making it harder for friends and neighbours to drop by and check on her.

Recently another elderly Vancouver woman was robbed and injured, in a similar way.

She cried, "He's a low down beast and he needs the lash."

Her advice reminded me of a visit to Singapore several years ago. I went to Singapore tired of hearing from bleeding hearts that punishment does not deter crime.

Before landing in Singapore I was handed a card in the airplane that read, "Welcome to Singapore." Printed below in bright red letters was the warning "Death for drug traffickers under Singapore law." No "if-ands-or-buts" about this welcome.

I then spent several days researching Singapore's laws and its crime rate.

In the 1970s Singapore had a serious problem. The use of heroin was spreading to young people.

Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew decided to nip the trend in the bud.

He introduced the death penalty for major drug traffickers and some offences were also punishable by "caning."


The government realized that nothing would work if drugs were easily available. So black market areas of drug abuse were flooded with police 24 hours a day for up to nine months (cities in Canada take note).

Addicts were sent to treatment centres, major drug dealers were hung and small pushers imprisoned.

Criminals quickly realized that not only were these new laws harsh, but also police intended to carry them out. Moreover, caning made a distinct impression on their backsides and their heads.

Many in North America consider this type of punishment brutal, a return to the dark ages. But officials told me that only 5% of criminals became repeat offenders after meeting the cane (officials and do-gooders take note).

Singapore also has strict gun control laws. Anyone who possesses a firearm to commit a crime is liable to life imprisonment.

As a result there are few bank robberies in Singapore (there were 146 in Toronto in 2004).

I can already hear readers complaining that my job is to write about medicine, not crime. But anxiety and depression come in a variety of packages. And my wife's elderly aunt now lives with anxiety that is just as real as patients worrying about a stomach ulcer.

Singapore officials stated that North Americans have become "irresponsibly permissive." How true!

And this attitude starts early. Consider how we allow students, hardly out of diapers, to rule the classroom, insisting they have their "rights," but ignoring any responsibility (school boards take note).


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