There are many articles similar to the above written by netizens on blogs and FBs. It seems that most of them sympathize with our sticker lady’s predicament.
Under Singapore’s strict laws, she could be charged under the Vandalism Act.
Let’s examine Section 3 of The Vandalism Act, Chapter 341. It refers to penalty or punishment for acts of vandalism.
“3. Notwithstanding the provisions of any other written law, any person who commits any act of vandalism or attempts to do any such act or causes any such act to be done shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years, and shall also, subject to Section 231 of the Criminal Procedure Code, be punished with caning with not less than 3 strokes and not more than 8 strokes ….”
By any yardstick or measurement, the above vandalism law enacted in 1966 is definitely draconian. Even for first time offenders, it’s mandatory caning of 3 strokes except for women or old men. Even juveniles as in the case of an American teenager aged 18 years convicted under the same law are not spared the rotan. It caused so much controversy that the American President Bill Clinton had to intervene under pressure.
Why was this vandalism law enacted in the first place in 1966? It’s worth taking a look at the debate before it was passed in parliament.
Quote from Wikipedia …
“Taking part in the Parliamentary debate, the Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew commented that the bill, which sought to impose a mandatory caning sentence on persons convicted for the first time of vandalism with an indelible substance, was a “departure from what is normal criminal law legislation”. However, the punishment was necessary because … we have a society which, unfortunately, I think, understands only two things – the incentive and the deterrent. We intend to use both, the carrot and the stick. … fine will not deter the type of criminal we are facing here. He is quite prepared to go to gaol, having defaced public buildings with red paint. Flaunting the values of his ideology, he is quite prepared to make a martyr of himself and go to gaol. He will not pay the fine and make a demonstration of his martyrdom. But if he knows he is going to get three of the best, I think he will lose a great deal of enthusiasm, because there is little glory attached to the rather humiliating experience of having to be caned.”
The above statement is quite obvious. It’s intent is basically to deal with those hardcore recalcitrants especially those political activists in the 1960s spraying political slogans and anti government messages on public buildings and places. Those were chaotic days quite different from today’s more civilized and orderly environment. Remember we are now the third richest country in the world. We are no longer third world status.
Nevertheless, I’m not saying that the law is obsolete even though it’s archaic. We may have to invoke this piece of law if our society regresses to that anarchic state as in the 1960s or if the perpetrators harbour real evil with destructive intent.
Let’s go back to the so called “sticker lady”. Question is do we need to wield such a huge stick to whack her? Do we need an axe to kill an ant? Is there no leeway in the provisions of the law when it comes to ‘wanton artistic expressions’ which do not really destroy public property in the sense that fire was set and public amenities systematically demolished? Did her actions really incur the wrath of society?
Obviously not if we judge by the online netizens’ appeal for leniency. Having said that, expressions of art in this manner certainly cannot be condoned.
We should tamper justice with mercy. Do not wield this draconian law blindly and whack the wrong target. I’m not saying that sticker lady should be let off. As they say an offence is an offence. To commit theft of $5 or $5,000 is still theft. Sticker lady has committed an offence and she should be punished. It’s as simple that. She should not be let off.
Why not charge her under Section 11(1)(a) of the Minor Offences Act Chapter 184? ( I think it’s changed to Miscellaneous Offences Act )
It is clearly stated …
“11(1) Any person who commits any of the following offences shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $50:
(a) without authority in the case of public property, or without the consent of the owner or occupier in the case of private property, affixes or causes to be affixed any advertisement, bill or notice, or any paper against or upon any building, wall or fence, or writes upon, defaces or marks any such building, wall or fence with chalk or paint, or in any other way;”
I’m sure that any reasonable and logical person with compassion will have to agree with me that this charge preferred against the sticker lady is much more appropriate. Alas! Only the AGC has the prerogative to prefer whatever charges they deem fit. I hope they will consider the circumstances of the case and be compassionate towards this maverick creative sticker lady’s misadventure.
If the authority wishes to get rid of such “acts of vandalism”, there is plentiful around us. They could start off with napping those locksmiths always sticking their name card stickers onto letter boxes, door bells and lifts which are public property. No matter how I remove those irritating stickers, they keep coming back. These are the so called irresponsible social menace recalcitrants that need a bigger stick to whack the daylight out of them! Really langgar!
Why didn’t the police go after them instead? In short, let reason and compassion guide those in authority to mete out justice in an appropriate and fair manner. ‘Sticker lady’ deserves a second chance.