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Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam’s continued silence on Ms Monica Baey’s case is telling. Under his watch, the police and AGC have not prosecuted the perpetrator, Mr Nicholas Lim.
Contrast this with the case of 20-year-old Edmund Zhong who was investigated by the police for merely saying that he wanted to throw an egg at the Minister.
Mr Shanmugam had then promptly said that the police could not ignore the comment and defended their action to investigate Mr Zhong – even gratuitously releasing information regarding Mr Zhong’s views on weed.
In another case, Mr Shanmugam had also acted quickly when he directed the police to investigate the driver who had picked up and filmed PM Lee Hsien Loong’s son. In that incident, Mr Shanmugam even divulged the man’s past record.
In the NUS matter, however, Mr Shanmugam has chosen to stay tight-lipped even though the situation has caused much anger and fear among students at NUS.
Such double-standards is troubling.
The lack of concerted action by the authorities over the years has contributed to a situation where more than 20 cases of sexual offences have been committed on campus over the last three years.
To underscore the severity of the problem, two more cases of voyeurism have been reported just in this past week at NTU.
University campuses and hostels have become a haven for sex offenders.
But even when the problem is brought to the fore, the Home Affairs Minister remains reticent. The SDP commends Ms Baey for her courage in dealing with the matter and NUS students for their commitment to holding university officials accountable. Their initiatives highlight the need for the authorities to act.
It is imperative that Mr Shanmugam addresses, without further delay, the problem of sexual harassment at university campuses as well as the broader point regarding the intended effects of our criminal justice system.
There are three aspects of the criminal justice: retribution, deterrence and rehabilitation. Retributive justice speaks to the issue of making the offender pay for his actions where the punishment must fit the crime. Additionally, punishment seeks to deter potential criminal behaviour. Rehabilitative justice, which is an equally important consideration, seeks to re-educate and reform the offender and give him/her the opportunity to get back on the right path.
Those looking into the situation at NUS must necessarily consider these aspects when it comes to handling crimes and offences committed by its students. We must find a wise balance between achieving justice for the victim and granting compassion for the offender when it is warranted.
Students and parents seek the best – not perfect – outcome for all concerned. The overarching objective is to create an environment where students can freely and safely go about their activities.
To this end, Minister K Shanmugam must pull his head out of the sand and lead the effort for reform.