February 23, 2007

Singapore and the Law

(The Supreme Court)

Before stepping off of the plane in Singapore I pondered greatly the fact that I was stepping onto the soil of a country which has executed 400 Singaporeans since 1984. I also thought back to the many movies dealing with the imprisonment of foreigners due to framings or simple ignorance of the many laws that we, from more loosely governed democratic countries, would call crazy. In fact some of their laws seem so outrageous that I am sure many communist countries would even question their existence. So here is a list of laws from Singapore for you to peruse. I think that you will find them entertaining.
  • Bungee jumping is illegal.
  • The sale of gum was illegal. This law changed in order to appease the Americans in a deal that was struck between the two countries in very recent years. However, you can only buy gum from a pharmacy and your name is recorded when you purchase it. Not much has changed in this way though as it it still greatly frowned upon.
  • Eating in a public place is not permitted.
  • Owning a firearm, murder, and drug dealing are all punishable by death. Not to mention that they still widely use a corporal punishment called caning.
  • It is or was illegal to walk around your own home in the nude.
  • Failure to flush a public toilet after use will result in very substantial fines. (No more Phantom Logger!)
  • Public protests are not allowed to take place in the streets but rather are confined to an enclosed space, ironically away from public viewing.
  • It is considered an offense to enter the country with cigarettes.
  • Cigarettes were illegal in all public places. However, when we were strolling along the river downtown I saw a young couple sitting on a bench enjoying the pollution of a cigarette.
  • Freedom of the press and access to information (including the internet) is suppressed greatly in this country.
  • If you are convicted of littering once it will cost you S$1000 . The second offense costs the perpetrator double the original and with only three convictions, you will have to clean the streets on Sundays with a bright yellow bib saying, "I am a litterer."
  • And, finally for those of you who are in the habit of peeing in elevators, this too is illegal.
I did not run into any problems with the law while I was a guest in this strict country. I would even like to state for the record that I rather enjoyed knowing that I was the one who benefited from most of these laws.

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