Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fines! Fines! Fines!

Twenty five years ago, Mr. Gideon Khoo from the Penang Hiding Place jokingly said, "Singapore is really a fine country". Looks like now we are even finer than before, and perhaps can be ranked as the finest country, if not in the world, at least in Asia!

I am all for fines, especially if they are reasonable and help to bring about better habits in throwing things into rubbish bins and refraining from speeding and drink driving.

However, recently most of us were appalled by the report of a Mr. Kassim who was fined $200 for sleeping on a bench in the park. The National Parks Board had claimed that Mr. Kassim had misused the bench by having a siesta.

I can empathise with Mr. Kassim for I am also one of those who simply have to doze off when overpowered by the great necessity to rest. I had even dozed off while standing in the mrt with my hands holding on to the hoops of the railings! I had dozed off while practising my piano or violin. I had also dozed off while I was waiting for the red lights to turn green one early morning at 3.00a.m. after second sister who was visiting Singapore insisted that I should drive back home since their hosts had turned a bedroom into a library cum office. Luckily the policemen who woke me up were kind enough not to fine me. Despite that, it set me thinking and realising that I should stop driving. If I were to meet my maker, it is fine....but if my car should cause a fatal accident to another pedestrian or motorist, I would never be able to forgive myself.

So often my heart went out to the poor taxi drivers who had to park their taxi and snooze, taking a break from exhaustive driving. I only phoned the police officers to wake them up lest they perish from carbon monoxide poisoning, as some of them had slept with air con and engine on!

In fact, if the Authorities had realised, they should actually have applauded Mr. Kassim for choosing to take a nap than to be sleepy eyed when he is at the wheels. A tired bus driver is certainly a danger to the many passengers in his bus and to others on the road.

As many readers have shared, many of us are not aware that it will amount to a fine if we are caught sleeping on a bench. As one reader has commented, "Put hand bars in between the bench so that people will not be tempted to lie down and sleep. $200 fine is exorbitant for a poor bus driver. Wow! With $200, Mr. Kassim can get a good night's rest in one of the 5 star hotels when there is a promotion. $200 can also feed my orphan in Nepal for 5 months!

I appeal to the Authorities, "If you wish to fine, fine in the right and reasonable way and don't anyhow fine or what in Hokkien people would say, "Ai fine hor......fine tioh lor lah. Mang luan chu fine hor." Life is already so stressful in Singapore; let the people relax a little. Please do not be overly possessive about things....please don't be like those possessive people whose houses look like hotels because they are so spic and span. I'd rather go to homes where the owners are warm and hospitable, and I am allowed to lie down on the floor, play the piano, run around with the kids and dog, open the fridge door, or eat with my fingers.

For once, please let us be humble without having to win the No. 1 position......let us just be fine; there's no necessity for Singapore to be the finer or finest country in the world.!

Gan Chau


The Oriental Express said...

What on earth is wrong with sleeping on a park bench, especially if the park is not crowded? It sounds lovely, and utterly harmless, to me. That's another image from my childhood: something harmless, indeed healthy and enjoyable, that is now pointlessly criminalized because it's not "bourgeois" enough or something. Like hanging your laundry out to dry on a clothesline. That's not quite criminal yet, but it is in many places breach of contract, and ever so poor taste. I laughed recently to read a suggestion in the newspaper that people should try it as a new, improved way to dry clothes: the sun sterilizes them, they smell wonderful, and the carbon footprint is zero! Duh! I knew all that when I was a little kid, and so did my mother and her mother before her. I won't bother enumerating the beneficial effects of sleeping on park benches. I will note that you still see it in Canada and HK often enough. And I don't think you can be fined for it. I'd say there's an etiquette for it: you should take off your shoes (or have them projecting over the end of the bench) to keep the bench clean, and if the park is a bit crowded and people would want to use the bench for sitting, probably better to sleep on the lawn. I prefer that anyhow. It's softer!

James Dunlap
Lovells Hong Kong (852) 2840 5003

Alex said...

Haha. I concur that the government doesnt need to be so jumpy and uptight about everything. Otherwise very hard to establish meaningful rapport wwith the people.