No Mercy

TAY TIAN YAN, Sin Chew Daily

When driving in Singapore, a Malaysian businessman made an illegal U-turn, drove on the wrong side of the road, and was stopped by a policeman.

The policeman explained to him how he had flouted the traffic rules and had to be taken to the police station to face legal actions.

The businessman said, "Let me go and we can be friends. Next time you come to Malaysia, I'll take good care of you."

In the end he was charged with intentional bribery.

The republic's junior court sentenced the businessman to a fine of S$15,000 (about RM36,000).

However, the prosecutor was unhappy that the verdict was too lenient, and appealed to the high court.

The high court judge sentenced the businessman to six weeks in jail after hearing the case.

Up till this point, many might react the same way as me: "Hey! Are you serious?"

If the incident took place in Malaysia, what the businessman has said would not have too much problem at all.

The businessman could always explain that he was just trying to be friendly and hoped the cop would be lenient to him. Moreover he did not offer cash bribe and there was no evidence of buying over the policeman.

Perhaps he would also claim that anyone stopped by the police in Malaysia would say the same thing, and this could be said as a Malaysian culture.

To be frank, how many Malaysians wouldn't do the same thing?

But now, I have to tune my brain to the Singapore channel, thinking from the Singapore perspectives.

"Singapore's system does not tolerate even the slightest speck, absolutely no grey areas, no space for anything that could initiate doubts."

Here is Singapore, and the businessman has encountered a Singapore policeman. In the midst of the Singapore culture, we have to come to terms with Singapore's judicial system.

Singapore's system does not tolerate even the slightest speck, absolutely no grey areas, no space for anything that could initiate doubts.

This is a society that places the laws above everything else, where the laws have preserved a very high level of social order.

To maintain the spotlessness of the system, we have to inculcate an uncompromising legal mysophobia.

Therefore, any slightest hint of bribery will be seen as non-conformity to this mysophobia of the judicial society. Stern punishments must be imposed even without any solid evidence of bribery.

Malaysians have no idea what this judicial spirit is all about, as it is blatantly absent in our social culture.

When rules are breached in Malaysia, the first consideration is not the legal issues, but how to bypass the laws and settle on humanity grounds.

Beginning with pleading for mercy, "Tolong, tolong," with the hope that the enforcement official will show some mercy.

But if this doesn't work, just hit straight on human weakness.

No one abhors money, and a little offering should see all the problems solved.

But such little personal issues could spawn massive social problems.

Singapore overcomes human greed and weaknesses through its rigid systems. The businessman thought the Singapore policeman standing before him was just another ordinary human being, who could have been easily dealt with with a little of emotional or even material enticement.

He was wrong. The policeman he was dealing with was actually representing Singapore's judicial system, whose integrity must never be impinged.

Not only Singapore, this kind of judicial spirit has become a common value system in all clean and incorrupt societies, and has formed a social contract that will preserve the social morality and order.

When people are thinking that Singapore's laws have been too rigid, in actual fact, perhaps that is because our understanding and acceptance of the judiciary is still at very pathetic levels.

Perhaps the businessman's experience will draw some compassion, but in Singapore, there is no space for even the slightest mercy. (Translated by DOMINIC LOH)