Featured News Opinion OPINION | Contrast Christopher de Souza with Pritam Singh, and dancing on...

OPINION | Contrast Christopher de Souza with Pritam Singh, and dancing on MRT divides Singaporeans

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If you juxtapose these scenarios, could they be viewed as different strokes for different folks?

This week, news broke that Peoples’ Action Party member of parliament (MP), Christopher de Souza has been found guilty of professional misconduct. According to reports by the national broadsheet, The Straits Times, it was determined by a tribunal that Mr de Souza, a lawyer, had failed to make “a full and frank disclosure to the court when he was aware that his client had breached the conditions of a search order.”

The MP for Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representative Constituency (GRC) has told the PAP that he denies any wrongdoing and is appealing that finding to the Court of Three Judges. As some netizens clamour for him to step down, the PAP has said that it will wait for the verdict of the Court of Three Judges before deciding on the necessary course of action.

However, is this necessarily the right course of action? A credible Tribunal has already found Mr de Souza guilty of certain failures. Could the wait for a verdict from the Court of Three Judges come across as the PAP dismissing the credibility of the Tribunal?

While it is within Mr de Souza’s rights to appeal, shouldn’t he at least be suspended or go on a leave of absence until the Court of Three Judges has a verdict?

It isn’t every day that a lawyer is found by a tribunal to be guilty of misconduct. Indeed, it is a serious matter. Being an elected MP is also a job where one’s integrity should not be open to question. Balancing these two things, shouldn’t the PAP take the Tribunal’s findings seriously?

If the Court of Three Judges finds Mr de Souza not guilty, the PAP can reinstate him. A suspension or a leave of absence is not permanent and can be lifted depending on the Court of Three Judge’s verdict. In this way, the PAP can respect the findings of the Tribunal while still respecting Mr de Souza’s right to appeal.

Another question this debacle has raised is whether treatment would be different if Mr de Souza was from another party. Would the PAP (who have the majority in Parliament) be demanding his immediate suspension or expulsion had Mr de Souza been from another party?

Not too long ago, former Workers’ Party MP, Raeesah Khan was found guilty of lying in Parliament. She was fined $35,000 and is no longer an MP. On top of that, the leader of the WP, Mr Pritam Singh and a few other WP MPs (Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Faisal Manap) were put before a Committee of Privileges (COP) that lasted for days to ascertain if they were also responsible for Ms Khan’s lies. The COP even recommended for Mr Singh and Mr Manap be referred to the public prosecutor in relation to Mr Singh’s conduct before the committee and Mr Faisal’s possible contempt of Parliament for his refusal to answer “relevant” questions.

If you juxtapose these two scenarios, could they be viewed as different strokes for different folks?

Of course, it is important to note that the facts of these two cases are not the same. But remember, when Ms Khan lied, Mr Singh faced a gruelling inquisition with possible charges from the police should the police decide to act, for a lie he didn’t tell. Mr de Souza has been found guilty of professional misconduct as a lawyer, and he doesn’t even have to take a leave of absence.

Now onto social matters – this week, a dancing girl on the MRT drew mixed reactions from netizens. While some said she should be more courteous to other passengers, others saw no problem at all with her expression of happiness.

Some even linked it to patriotism! The netizen posting the video also urged the woman to be mindful of her country, as her actions are a representation of it. “Because if you really love your country, you should live (politely), respect other people, and don’t dance in public like (a) crazy girl.”

Personally, this should boil down to safety concerns. Was her dancing objectively endangering the safety of those around her? If not, just let people be. It doesn’t matter one bit and has nothing to do with patriotism. Singapore is a multi-faceted country, and we should own that. Some people like to dance, some people like to sing. So what?

If it isn’t a danger, just view it as entertainment to make your daily commute less boring. And if it isn’t your thing, just open a book and read it.

We are already not allowed to eat or drink on the MRT. Are we going to add no dancing to the list?

Why do we focus so much on what others are doing? Does this highlight our collective intolerance to differences, and following from that a need to repress ourselves? Does this also shine a spotlight as to why there is a stigma to discussing mental health? While I am not suggesting that this dancer has mental health issues, it does showcase society’s discomfort with anything standing out.

Something to digest this week!


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