'Joe Public' backs caning of American

AMERICANS ARE watching with increasing fascination the plight of Michael Fay, their 18-year-old countryman who has been sentenced in Singapore to six lashes of the cane for vandalising cars with spray- paint and eggs. And many, rather than rallying to the youth, seem to consider the punishment perfectly fitting, writes David Usborne.

The unexpected public reaction in letters to newspapers and calls to radio stations, tells as much about how Americans view their society - increasingly ridden by crime - as they do Singapore. One recent poll suggested that 53 per cent of voters would support corporal punishment, a view at odds with the official response so far from Washington to the Fay case. Indeed, a fair-sized diplomatic rumpus is being stirred by the case, with President Bill Clinton having added his own voice to calls for clemency.

But Singapore, America's 11th most important trading partner, is apparently unmoved. Fay was arrested last October and confessed - under pressure, he now claims - to defacing the cars. A month ago, he received a sentence that President Clinton publicly called 'extreme': four months in prison, a fine of dollars 2,230 ( pounds 1,490), and six strokes on the buttocks with a four-foot, half- inch-thick rattan cane. He lost his appeal on Thursday.

The caning is not a blotting-paper-down-the-trousers affair. The offender is tied to a wooden, easel-type frame. The buttocks are then bared, although soft material is attached immediately above to protect against damage to the spine and internal organs. The cane will have been soaked overnight in water and antiseptic to prevent splitting and the introduction of infection. It will be wielded by a prison official trained in martial arts.

'On the very first stroke of the cane, the skin is split,' Fay's mother, Randy Chan, explained to viewers of the ABC programme, Primetime Live. 'By the second stroke, the buttocks are totally bloodied.' Mrs Chan, weeping before the cameras, could have said more. Others familiar with the punishment say the victims often pass out early on, and are revived by a doctor before the next strokes are administered.

Lawyers for Fay attempted to depict a troubled childhood. Fay, whose parents divorced when he was seven, lives with his father in Dayton, Ohio, but was visiting his mother and stepfather in Singapore when he crossed the nation-city's famously unbending authorities. In rejecting the appeal, Chief Justice Yong Pung How retorted that Fay had committed acts of vandalism 'relentlessly and wilfully over a period of 10 days'.

Meanwhile, Washington is sustaining its diplomatic pressure. 'We regret the appeal court's decision,' a spokesman for the State Department said on Thursday. 'We continue to believe that caning is an excessive penalty for a youthful, non- violent offender who pleaded guilty.' Caning, introduced to Singapore by colonial Britain, is outlawed under international human rights conventions.

In their letters and calls, however, many Americans betray almost an envy for the system in Singapore. With America so overwhelmed by crime, such a reaction is not surprising. On what grounds, after all, can the US lecture others on crime prevention?

Mike Royko, a columnist with the Chicago Tribune, reported receipt of a 'stack of letters several inches high' - 99 per cent of them in support of Singapore's sentence. This, for instance, from Claude Waife, of South Bend, Indiana: 'That American punk is getting exactly what he deserves. If we had similar laws, I'm sure our streets wouldn't be under control of the thugs and slugs.' And from Tom Lavin, of Niles, Illinois: 'I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts that this guy never does it again. We should do it in this country.'

The Singapore embassy in Washington, and even Tony Hall, the congressman from Dayton who is trying to gather support for Fay's cause, say they are receiving a flood of letters, mostly in the same vein. This cannot be helping Fay, whose slim, hope of escape from the cane now is last- minute clemency from the President of Singapore, Ong Teng Cheong. No date has been set for the caning, but neither has there been any word from the presidential compound.

(Photograph omitted)

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvRicky Gervais on the return of 'Derek' – and why he still ignores his critics
Sport
Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates his goal
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Homer meets Lego Marge in the 25th anniversary episode of The Simpsons, set to air on 4 May
tv
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatreReview: Of Mice and Men, Longacre Theatre
Life & Style
Infant child breast-feeding with eyes closed
healthTo stop mummy having any more babies, according to scientists
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Arts & Entertainment
film
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey gets the North Korean leader's look
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
Life & Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 63rd anniversary of the Peak District National Park
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal