Workers’ Party secretary-general Pritam Singh has urged the public and the authorities to have more compassion for those who breach circuit breaker measures due to underlying mental health issues.
The Government has introduced several measures to fight the spread of Covid-19, including a circuit breaker period in which non-essential workers are asked to work from home, wear masks if they need to go out for essentials and practise safe distancing. Those who flout the circuit breaker measures could face fines or imprisonment.
Since the circuit breaker went into effect, a number of Singapore residents have been caught for not abiding by the rules. Footage of those who breached the rules has gone viral online and they have been criticised for not doing their part to flatten the curve of infection.
In a Facebook post on Saturday (May 9), Mr Singh wrote that while those who break the law and breach the circuit breaker measures should expect to be charged, the public should also keep in mind that some of these individuals could have underlying mental conditions and could have been pushed over the edge during the circuit breaker.
Asserting that the law exists to rehabilitate people so that they can reintegrate into society, Mr Singh said: “The enhanced circuit breaker may push some people with underlying mental conditions over the edge. As netizens, many of us 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.”
He asked: “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?”
In his Facebook post, the opposition party chief also spoke about the Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO) through which offenders who suffer from treatable psychiatric conditions may undergo treatment instead of imprisonment if it is determined that the psychiatric condition they suffer from contributed to the commission of the offence.
Read his post in full here:
“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. For those who abuse or use force against enforcement officers, they can expect to be charged. And rightly so.
“But the law does not just exist to punish people. It has a role to rehabilitate too, so people can reintegrate back into society.
“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.
“In 2010, Parliament introduced the option of community-based sentences such as the Mandatory Treatment Order (or MTO), where the offender undergoes psychiatric treatment instead of imprisonment. The regime was expanded in 2018, a change The Workers’ Party also supported.
“Before making a MTO, the court must call for a psychiatrist’s report from a psychiatrist who is appointed by the Ministry of Health. To be considered for an MTO, the offender must be: (i) Suffering from a treatable psychiatric condition; (ii) Is suitable for treatment; and (iii) The psychiatric condition contributed to the commission of the offence.
“The enhanced circuit breaker may push some people with underlying mental conditions over the edge. As netizens, many of us 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.
“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?
“Some examples of offences for which a MTO can be considered
1. Making of harassing or obscene telephone calls to emergency telephone numbers.
2. Injuring or defiling a place of worship with intent to insult the religion.
3. Theft in dwelling-house, etc.
4. Mischief by killing or maiming any animal.
5. Causing death by a rash or negligent act.”
Mental Health? (心智健康?)————————————-(Mandarin translation below courtesy of Koh Choong Yong 许俊荣)Many of us naturally…