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Judicial CP - May 1994 (Part I)

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The Straits Times, Singapore, 4 May 1994

'No advance notice' for caning

THE Singapore Government has said that a prisoner, who has been sentenced to caning, will be informed of the punishment only on the day that it is meted out.

This statement was issued yesterday in response to a CNN report on May 2 which said that "under Singapore law, he (Michael Fay) will be given three days' notice before he is caned."

A Prisons Department spokesman said that the remark was factually wrong.

He said: "The Prisons Department does not give any advance notice for caning."

Corpun file 03693


The Washington Post, 5 May 1994

Singapore Reduces American's Sentence

Teen's Parents Still Angry at 4-Lash Edict

By William Branigin
Washington Post Foreign Service

SINGAPORE, May 4 -- Singapore today reduced the caning sentence of American teenager Michael Fay from six strokes to four in a "gesture" to President Clinton, but the compromise failed to appease Fay's still fuming parents.

Noting that Clinton appealed privately for clemency and commented on the case publicly three times, the government said in a statement, "To reject his appeal totally would show an unhelpful disregard for the president and the domestic pressures on him on this issue."

It added, however, that it "found no merit" in Fay's appeal to be spared the painful punishment for spray-painting cars, which was handed down March 31 along with a four-month jail term and a $2,230 fine.

"They are trying to do this for President Clinton, but it is a slap in the face for the president," Fay's mother, Randy Chan, told reporters here after the decision was announced. "I am grateful for the reduction, but it does not make it any different for him. If this is their idea of helping, it does not do that at all."

In Dayton, Ohio, George Fay, the teenager's father, called the government's action "ludicrous", the Associated Press reported. "As far as I'm concerned, four strokes or six strokes does not matter. There should be no caning at all. It's a barbaric punishment being applied to an innocent."

The government said it would consider similar reductions for other youths convicted in the same case.

Michael Fay mugshotObservers now expect the sentence to be carried out soon, but Singapore has said it would not announce when Fay would be caned or give him advance notice. Chan saw her son Tuesday and is next permitted to visit him in two weeks.

In the harshest verdict in the case so far, the same judge who sentenced Fay decreed 12 strokes of the cane and eight months in jail for a 17-year-old student from Hong Kong last month.

The youth had pleaded not guilty and claimed that his confession in October was beaten out of him by police. Fay pleaded guilty after plea bargaining and did not challenge his confession in court, although he later asserted that it was extracted by police coercion.

Fay, 18, is currently serving his jail sentence in Queenstown Road Remand Prison. With time off for good behavior, he should be released June 21.

In its statement today, the government said Clinton based his appeal for commutation of the caning on Fay's youth, his status as a first offender and his personal situation.

The government said it "found no special circumstances" that justified commuting the sentence entirely and could not "exempt him from all six strokes without undermining its ability to enforce future caning ordered by the courts."

"However," it added, "the government values Singapore's good relations with the United States and the constructive economic and security role of the United States in the region."

Earlier, Singapore's minister for law and foreign affairs, Shanmugam Jayakumar, strongly defended this tiny city-state's right to cane Fay. In a speech to an international lawyers' convention, he said critics of the sentence, especially in the U.S. media, had unleashed a "hysterical campaign" and showed "unprecedented naiveté" in trying to make Singapore "cave in".

He said "no Singapore government can govern effectively if its citizens see the government as having succumbed to U.S. press pressure."

The speech offered a stark defense of Singapore's strict laws, including mandatory death penalties for drug dealers and "preventive detention" without trial for "vicious gangsters and notorious drug traffickers" who cannot be convicted because "no one dares to testify."

Jayakumar also drew attention to what he said was probably "the world's strictest gun-control law". Anyone who fires an unauthorized gun while committing a serious offense gets the death penalty "whether or not the bullet killed, injured or even hit anyone," he said.

"We view such a gunman as a terrorist," he said. "So it is not 'three strikes, you are out,' but 'one shot and you hang, even if you miss.' Consequently, we have very few firearm offenses despite being in a region where the trafficking of firearms is rampant."

Jayakumar said it is up to the Singaporean government to ensure that violent crime does not spread "to the same extent as it has in the U.S."


Daily Mail, London, 6 May 1994

Thrashed with a bamboo [sic] rod

By Richard Shears in Singapore

THEY came for Michael Fay in the middle of a tropical downpour.

He was led without fuss through concrete corridors to the caning room and thrashed four times on his bare buttocks with a bamboo rod.

It was the moment he had been praying would never come. It was the moment President Clinton had tried to prevent. But it was the moment that sent a message to all Westerners in Singapore: "Don't break our laws."

The 18-year-old American, sentenced for vandalising cars with spray paint, had promised his parents, his girlfriend and the lawyers who were his last visitors that he would be brave. Last night no-one outside Singapore's Queenstown Remand Centre knew whether he had lived up to his words.


But the controversy which has raged over him for weeks continued. A frustrated Mr Clinton denounced the flogging as "a mistake", but was being urged by senior advisers that any attempt at retaliation in trade sanctions would be a political and personal disaster because the majority of electors were behind Singapore, where the streets are virtually crime-free.

The President had appealed privately to Singapore for clemency but succeeded only in having the sentence reduced from six strokes to four. Last night the State Department said it was "weighing up an appropriate response".

Immediately after the punishment a prison doctor checked Fay and pronounced him to be in a "satisfactory condition".

Later, as he lay alone and in agony face down on the bed of his cell, his flesh red and swollen and smothered with antiseptic, his mother Mrs Randy Chan pleaded to be allowed to visit him today "as a humanitarian gesture."

"I cannot bear to think of him lying in pain in that prison with no-one to reach out to," she wept. "To keep me from him at a time like this is the ultimate punishment for all of us, not just Mike. Why punish the whole family? I just need to see him. I'm his mother. Is it so much to ask now that this terrible thing has been carried out? Why continue to punish him?"

In the U.S., his father George was furious. "I'm going to do everything in my power to persuade Washington to impose trade sanctions against Singapore. They can't torture young people like this and be allowed to get away with it."

No-one had been expecting the punishment to be carried out yesterday. Fay had been in good spirits when, at 11.45am, his lawyers called at the 40-year-old remand centre, a blue and cream painted complex of cell and accommodation blocks guarded by armed Gurkhas where Fay is serving a four-month prison sentence.

Unlike his mother, stepfather Marco and a schoolfriend the day before, the lawyers did not enter the visiting area, where prisoners are separated by a glass screen. Instead they met the boy in a special advocates' room with just a table between them.

Although he has access to the local newspaper, Fay had not read the news emblazoned across the front page that morning stating that as a result of appeals by Mr Clinton he was to receive four strokes instead of six.

"Well that's pretty good news, but I'd like to avoid this altogether," he told lawyer Dominic Nagulendran. "I think it's great that so many people have tried to save me from this thing and when I go back to America I'm going to ring up the President and invite him around to dinner to thank him for all that he's tried to do for me."

He told them how he prayed twice a day and had found a great deal of support in the prison chaplain.

But then, said Nagulendran, the thought that he would still be caned seemed to "come down very heavily on him."

"He admitted he was scared about what was going to happen. But he also wanted us to know, as well as his family and girlfriend, that he was going to grit his teeth and take it like a man.

"He wanted to make that point very clear to us. No matter what was going through his mind, he was going to try to shut out the pain and just hang in there and take it."

Scene straight from the Middle Ages

"Tell my mother not to worry about me," he urged Nagulendran. "I know how much she's suffering through all this, but please let her know that I'm quite OK and remind her that I'll be out of here in less than seven weeks now."

But even as the young prisoner was asking the lawyers to tell his local Eurasian girlfriend, Tress, that he was thinking of her all the time, senior jail officials were checking off the list of inmates who were to receive the cane that afternoon.

There were to be ten of them, including Fay.

In the pale green caning room, a prison officer checked a number of 1.2 metre long, 13mm thick rattan rods that had been left standing in a can of water to soften them up and prevent splitting.

When his lawyers left at 1.15pm, Fay, dressed in traditional prison garb of white T-shirt and blue shorts, was escorted from the advocates' room back to his cell deep within the prison complex.

He had brightened it up with greetings cards from his family and friends and on a small table were the books his mother had brought to him the day before -- thriller novels from the best-selling list.

Shortly after he arrived back a senior prison officer came to the cell. Others sentenced to the same punishment were rounded up and taken to a waiting area adjoining the caning room.

There have been conflicting reports on whether those waiting can hear the cries of those being caned. Some prisoners ask to have a piece of rag to put between their teeth so they have something to bite on.

Fay's fellow prisoners were nervous too. Some were also there for vandalism, others for theft and assault. But Fay stood out. He was the first American to go through this and was the focal point of international controversy.

It is not known in what order the group were taken into the room, but when Fay, now stripped of his T-shirt and shoes, was led in he was confronted by a scene that could have come straight from the Middle Ages.

On the far side of the room was a wooden easel-like structure -- the caning rack. What his reaction was to the A-shaped frame has not been disclosed by the authorities, but there was little time in any case for his eyes to dwell on it.

The prison doctor now moved in to check his heart rate and ensure he was in a condition to receive the designated four strokes.

Sitting on a small platform at the far end of the room was the prison superintendent who must be present at all canings. Along with the doctor were three prison officers -- one to secure Fay to the frame, another to inflict the punishment and a third to officially record the number of strokes.

His checks completed, the doctor informed the superintendent that the American was in a fit condition to receive the punishment.

Fay was then led to the frame, where he was told to remove his shorts. He was ordered to bend over a padded bar running between the two nearest uprights and his ankles were then strapped with leather cuffs to the bottom of each upright. His wrists were strapped to the struts of the rear uprights.

A small pillow was placed across his back just above the buttocks to protect his spine from any damage should the cane land in the wrong place.

Fay was now ready. It was a scene that, whatever his degree of guilt, he could never have imagined as he ran with a group of youths last autumn while they spray-painted cars.

One of the prison officers, chosen because of his physical fitness, picked out a cane, cleaned off the water, then wiped it down with antiseptic.

He walked over to the spreadeagled youth, lined up the cane, raised it back high over his shoulder and brought it down hard.

The doctor, positioned close to the frame, took a careful look at Fay to ensure he had not fainted or bitten his lips or tongue.

He nodded to the prison officer. The cane came down again. And again. And again. There would have been two more had President Clinton's appeal not been heeded.

Dummy demonstration

Fay was unstrapped and checked by the doctor, who also dabbed the welling flesh with more antiseptic.

The teenager was then helped back to his cell. According to others who have been caned, it would have been the longest walk he had ever made.

Singapore takes pride in its low crime rate, brought about, says the government, because of its tough penalties. Anyone who fires a gun during a robbery -- even if the bullet does not hit anyone -- receives the death sentence.

But for Mrs Chan, caning is not the answer. Just one hour before the announcement that her son had received his punishment she said that caning, whether six or four strokes, was torture.

Fay, who has lived in Singapore since 1992 with his divorced mother and stepfather, is expected to be released from jail on June 21 as the government has reduced his four-month sentence.

His family plan to put him on the first plane out of Singapore. With a criminal conviction he would not be able to return, but, said his mother: "We wouldn't want to come back here anyway."

Gannett Suburban Newspapers, 6 May 1994

The Local Angle

Westchester has little sympathy for Fay

Many residents think teen deserved lashing for vandalism.

From staff reports

Tired of criminals getting away without just punishment, Westchester County residents showed little sympathy yesterday for Michael Fay, the American teenager who received four lashes with a rattan cane for spray-painting cars in Singapore.

White Plains taxi driver Brendan Hannon said he wouldn't want anybody spray-painting his cab. "Kids vandalize anything, and they got no respect for people's property," Hannon said. "He deserved to get caned. He's in a foreign country, and he shouldn't be messing around. They don't tolerate that."

Luke Carretta of Scarsdale called the caning "cruel and unusual punishment, but we're not strict enough with people who commit crimes in this country."

Caning is extreme, William Allen of Port Chester said, but Fay should have known better. "Our laws are strict enough," Allen said, "but it's a matter of enforcement. People sentenced to 10 years in prison only serve three, that kind of thing."

While some expressed some sympathy for Fay, they added that he deserved the punishment.

"I feel bad for the fellow, but while in Rome, do as the Romans do -- and if you don't, you'll get what they get," Mike Consolazio of Yonkers said, adding that U.S. laws should be tougher.

But others -- like Linda Lotts of White Plains -- felt it was just wrong.

"I don't think they should give out that form of punishment," she said. "Maybe he could have paid for the damage he did, but he shouldn't get abused that way." Lynn DeWaters of White Plains, director of the Westchester chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said that the United States had become much more civilized than the days of the settlers, when criminals were whipped or put in stocks.

"It's cruel and unusual punishment," she said. "Our society should not condone that type of punishment, and I'm sure that if it was their child, you would see the opinions change dramatically of these people who support caning."

Staff writers Nancy Coveney, David McKay Wilson and Ed Tagliaferri contributed to this report.


The Washington Times, DC, 8 May 1994

Singapore says Fay recovers nicely

By Richard Hubbard
Reuters News Agency

SINGAPORE -- The government yesterday denied claims made by the father of American teen-ager Michael Fay that the boy was "bloodied" and had trouble walking after being caned for vandalism.

The government also said that the youth had shaken the hand of the man who caned him four times across the bare buttocks Thursday and also told his father to "shut up" about the flogging.

Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong later said Singapore was ready to leave behind the controversy over Mr. Fay's caning.

"As far as Singapore is concerned, the episode is closed. The decision has been taken, the teen-ager caned and the matter has been left behind us," he told reporters.

The government took the unusual step of allowing the Prisons Department to publish its version of a 45-minute meeting Friday between a U.S. consular official and Michael Fay, 18, who received four strokes of the cane a day earlier.

According to the government account, Mr. Fay laughed and smiled throughout his meeting. "He sat on a chair shortly after the interview started and remained seated throughout."

"When asked whether the caning cut his skin, Michael Fay said that it did and there were a few drops of blood," the Prisons Department statement said.

The Prisons Department said Mr. Fay "passed the message that his mother should be told 'not to worry' and "asked the U.S. consular official to tell his father to 'shut up'."

"Michael Fay walked back on his own to his cell after the caning, saying he wanted to act like a man. He shook the caner's hand and smiled when he went back to his cell," the Prisons Department statement said.

The government said the latest information was that Mr. Fay was cheerful and his general condition good. "The cane marks are almost dry and clean," it said.

The description contrasts sharply with statements made by Mr. Fay's father, George, and the father's lawyer, Theodore Simon, in the United States Friday after they were briefed by the consular official.

The Foreign Ministry yesterday called in U.S. Charge Ralph Boyce and Vice Consul John Coe about statements attributed to one of them concerning Mr. Fay's condition, a government spokesman said.

News-India Times, New Jersey, 13 May 1994

Graduate Student's Experience of Singapore

From News Dispatches

DAYTON, Ohio: Michael Fay, a resident of Dayton, Ohio finally received his punishment. However older Indians are familiar with this harsh practice since caning was a routine during British rule. Fay was struck four times on the bare buttocks with a four-foot, moistened rattan lash by a martial artist that left permanent scars on his body.

Dinesh Bhatia, 24, a Washington University graduate student and a pop musician in Singapore said that, "you get used to it because it's just a way of life." Incidentally Bhatia is one of the insiders in the Fay case. His parents' Mercedes was the one vandalized in what local authorities claim was identified as one of Fay's sprees. Bhatia's family has another supporter who is very vocal in defending the punishment. Davinder Singh, a prominent lawyer and Member of Singapore Parliament from the ruling People's Action Party. Responding to a question, he told Peter Jennings of ABC World News, "You know, once you loosen up or the laws become lax, everything comes in. The floodgates are opened. It doesn't pay to mess around with the system."

"The government has created a system that encourages and rewards discipline. Any relaxation may mean lower growth or tensions within the community between the different races."

He has been very adamant throughout this controversy. Defending his country against the criticism that people are afraid to speak out in public, Singh called it hogwash, saying the population in Singapore is an educated one and they make their own choices. He has been quoted as saying in the media that, "Ask them if democracy looms large in their eyes. Their main preoccupation today is how do I get a better job and what stocks should I invest in."

His argument comes from family experience. "I have two kids, and I don't have to worry about their safety, I don't have to worry about them being exposed to drugs or alcohol. For me it is very important."

blob See also: Singapore/Judicial, May 1994 Part II (Asiaweek feature)

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