Posted on Feb 09, 2021
Judicial corporal punishment is a controversial issue in many countries. In Singapore, it has been in practice since colonial days and is still being carried out today. Judicial caning in Singapore is only for men between 18 and 50 years of age with no medical contraindication. Unofficial sources on the internet puts the number of offenders being caned at slightly above 1000 a year, down from a high of over 6000 in 2007. The merits or otherwise, of caning is a complex subject. However, nobody can deny the gruesomeness of such a punishment. Such gruesomeness is perhaps intended so as to act as a deterrent for would-be offenders.

The most famous case of judicial caning in Singapore is arguably that of American Michael Fay, who was sentenced to 6 strokes of the cane, four months jail and a fine of $2200. for vandalism in 1994. A diplomatic row ensued as then American President Bill Clinton appealed for clemency and the sentence was eventually reduced to four strokes. Unofficial sources on the internet showed him committing more offences in the next few years in America but eventually became a good contributing member of society as he matured. Did caning influenced the way he live his life? There is probably no answer to that question.

In his third incarceration, Whye Kee was sentenced to 9 strokes of the cane. He described the caning as “every stroke is like kena bang by one lorry”. However, he also shed light on the existence of gang culture within the prison that caused him to put up a brave front. While scholars, lawyers and politicians can continue to debate the efficacy of judicial caning, that was the last time Whye Kee was imprisoned.