ISEAS is technically a stat board (and it receives regular govt funding), so one would have tot it would produce Institute of Policy Studies/ ST kind of constructive, nation-building
BS analysis. But it has again surprised* with this from its latest ASEAN Monitor (a quaterly publication). Power to ISEAS’ academics and staff. IPS should learn from it on how to avoid writing rubbish that does it no gd.
Very few countries are as self-conscious as Singapore. This is true for image as well as policymaking. The education minister and former economist, Heng Swee Kiat, has been tasked by the Prime Minister to lead a committee of younger ministers to review policies across the board, ostensibly to better prepare the country for the next 20 years. The challenge would be to enthuse the general public who may have come accustomed to such ‘re-thinking committees’ which have, over the years, included the Economic Review Committee (2001) and the Remaking Singapore Committee (2002).
A potentially divisive issue brewing is the ruling by the Court of Appeal to allow a legal challenge to 377A of the penal code which criminalises sex between men. In 2010, Tan Eng Hoon was arrested and charged under Section 377A for engaging in oral sex in a shopping mall toilet. Tan, represented by human rights lawyer M Ravi, applied to the High Court to declare Section 377A unconstitutional because it violates Article 12 of the Constitution which guarantees equal protection and treatment under the law; an application the High Court subsequently turned down.
The Court of Appeal has, however, overruled the High Court, and decided that there are sufficient grounds on which 377A may be legally challenged. The legality of homosexual acts is an emotive one given the significant Christian and Muslim communities. Observers may recall the highly, not to mention religiously, charged parliamentary debates over 377A five years ago and conclude that old wounds may soon be scratched open.
Finally, after years of campaigning from local activists, the government announced that the death penalty would no longer be mandatory for certain drug trafficking cases. If the courts are satisfied that the drug trafficker was not involved in drug distribution activities, cooperated substantially with the authorities or suffers from amental disability, the judge may exercise discretion. This qualified concession, nevertheless, represents a small victory for activists who will be encouraged to further press for the abolishment of the death penalty. Their growing momentum may soon see signs of a conflict between progressive and conservative forces shaping up within the country.
Key points: The country is becoming increasingly polarised over a vast variety of issues from politics to morality. Expect more frequent debate and confrontation, not necessarily always playing out in the mainstream media.
*Other posts containing ISEAS’ analysis on S’pore