The Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh said in a Facebook post on Saturday (9 May) that the circuit breaker measures may push some individuals with underlying mental conditions to break the law. He urged people to stop respond negatively – racism, misogyny, and demands of violence – against these individuals online.
“Many of us naturally respond very negatively to people who break the law. The refusal to wear masks without good reason is an example of unlawful behaviour. We have seen some examples on social media over this circuit breaker period. Such individuals will be summoned of course,” he wrote.
Mr Singh highlighted that the law has a role to rehabilitate so offenders can reintegrate back into society, and not just to serve punishment to offenders.
“There are some people in Singapore, indeed anywhere in the world, who may have underlying mental health conditions that explain why they break the law,” he remarked.
According to Mr Singh, the option of community-based sentences such as the Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO) was introduced in Parliament back in 2010, which enables offenders to undergo psychiatric treatment instead of imprisonment.
“The regime was expanded in 2018, a change The Workers’ Party also supported,” he stated.
Before the offender falls under the MTO, a psychiatrist’s report – who is appointed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) – is required to be presented in Court.
Mr Singh pointed out that for an offender to be considered under the MTO, the offender must be proved to be suffering from a treatable psychiatric condition; is suitable for treatment; and the psychiatric condition contributed to the commission of the offence.
Noting that individuals with underlying mental conditions may be pressured to go over the edge following the enhanced circuit breaker measures, he asserted that many netizens are “blind to all the facts” in any particular case.
“It is understandable to be upset about selfish acts, but let us not make things worse by poisoning the online conversation with racism, misogyny and demands of violence against offenders. Unfortunately, the ecology of social media and communication apps do encourage virality, but not necessarily or always – education, understanding and empathy,” Mr Singh said.
On that note, he raised the question, “Would we be more restrained in our online comments if we knew the person in an online video had a mental condition that could explain his/her actions?”
Mr Singh then highlighted a few examples of offences in which an MTO can be considered, which include: making of harassing or obscene telephone calls to emergency telephone numbers; injuring or defiling a place of worship with intent to insult the religion; theft in dwelling-house; mischief by killing or maiming any animal; as well as causing death by a rash or negligent act.
He included a link to an article from Channel News Asia that reported about the suicide rates in Singapore to be 8.36 deaths per 100,000 Singapore residents last year. His post also includes a Mandarin translated version of the entire text, courtesy of the WP’s Vice-Chairman for Hougang Constituency Committee Koh Choong Yong.