In the Parliamentary sittings on 2 Feb, Workers’ Party (WP) member of parliament (MP) for Sengkang GRC Jamus Lim’s (Jamus) asked the following written question of the Minister of Law and Home Affairs, K Shanmugam (Shanmugam):
“whether the Government will consider expanding the coverage of the Yellow Ribbon Project such that ex-offenders for non-violent crimes will, contingent on an extended period of good behaviour following successful reintegration in society, be eligible for the elimination of their criminal history from public records and hence not report this record for employment purposes.”
While the written response to Jamus’ questions is to ask for clarification as to what offences is he is referring to but Shanmugam has shot down Jamus’ suggestion on his Facebook page saying that there were many serious non-violent crimes such as sexual grooming, the outrage of modesty, criminal breach of trust and theft in dwelling.
He also used the example of a 29-year-old who had recently molested a 3-year-old and postured that if Jamus’ suggestion was taken up, such a man could continue working with children despite his crimes. Shanmugam then queried whether this was the outcome that Singaporeans would have wanted.
However, Shanmugam seems to have made a colossal assumption. He has assumed that sexual grooming, the outrage of modesty and paedophilia are non-violent crimes when many people would likely consider these to be violent crimes.
He has also presumed that Jamus considers such crimes to be non-violent when Jamus has never said that.
Why is Shanmugam making a Facebook post on Jamus’ question which has yet to be clarified and using the worst possible examples possible? Is Shanmugam accusing Jamus based on his own wrongful assumptions?
It is also imperative to note that Shanmugam appears to have chopped and changed Jamus’ original question in a way that has skewed the meaning to create a particular slanted narrative.
Jamus did not suggest that the Government adopt the removal of criminal records. He was asking whether or not the Government would consider this. This is a question and an invitation for debate and discussion – not a suggestion that it be implemented as is (which is what Shanmugam is implying). A question is different from a suggestion.
Yet, Shanmugam has made a presumption that Jamus was suggesting this be implemented as is and proceeded to hammer a nail with a sledgehammer while completely missing the public debate and discussion part.
In addition, it is noteworthy that Lim’s question on the removal of criminal records for non-violent criminals was premised on “an extended period of good behaviour following successful reintegration in society”.
This suggests that should this ever be implemented, that there would be a mechanism put in place to ensure that only those who no longer pose a risk to society have their records removed. Yet, Shanmugam has appeared to wilfully disregard this part of Jamus’ question with his subjective interpretation.
Instead of seeing Jamus’ question for what it is, Shanmugam makes assumptions and subjective interpretations to paint the picture that Jamus is advocating the removal of criminal records of people who will endanger society while in the same vein inserting his own view of what constitutes a violent crime and tarring Jamus with his own presumptions.
Is the Minister trying to stoke disproportionate reaction with the public in a bid to sully Jamus’ credibility?
True enough, TODAY in its article – titled ‘Shanmugam rejects idea by WP’s Jamus Lim to expunge records of ex-offenders’ non-violent crimes for employment purposes‘ – has reported on K Shanmugam’s Facebook post in the way that he has painted.
Given the sway of the mainstream media, one can only wonder how many readers would refer to the original parliamentary question posed by Jamus to give him the benefit of the doubt.