I was saddened yet at the same time angry when I read this news report:
Straits Times, Aug 18, 2009
Jailed for living in illegal tent
By Sujin Thomas
HOMELESS and unemployed, Noor Mohammad Yassin Ismail pitched a canvas tent at East Coast Park in May, 2007, and lived there for almost a month – without a lease or licence to do so.
He was discovered on June 26 of that year, after he was apprehended by park rangers.
In court on Tuesday, Noor was asked to produce his Identity Card or passport but he said that he had lost both items.
It prompted District Judge Mr Shaiffudin Saruwan to retort in jest: ‘I suggest you use a bicycle chain to tie yourself to a tree or you may lose yourself as well.’
Pleading for leniency, Noor, who is tanned and skinny, said that he seldom ate, only doing so if friends gave him food.
He added that his mother is paralysed and looked after by a younger sibling, while an elder sister does not care about him.
He was fined $800 but could not afford to pay the fine so he was jailed four days instead. He could have been fined up to $2,000.
It is bad enough that this poor (literally) man who doesn’t even have food to eat and a place to stay is jailed, but when I read what Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan said to him as he sentenced him, I was completely aghast! Does the judge have no compassion whatsoever? He jails a destitute man and then insults him.
What is my country coming to? A land where the powerful elites sneer at the weakest members of society instead of helping them?
I thank reporter Sujin Thomas for highlighting this case.