My letter to The Star was published yesterday. I wrote the letter in response to this news article.

Here’s my original unedited letter, though I actually did prefer the edited version that The Star had published.

It is heartening indeed to know that the judiciary and laws of this country have not abandoned juvenile criminals and delinquents like so many countries in the West did. In a time when our children are increasingly being victimised and brutalised by monsters masquerading amongst us as human beings, the last thing we needed is for the system and the law that has vowed to protect them…to victimise and turn on them instead.

Regardless of the crimes these children commit, they are not beyond hopeless and should not be regarded as so, as there’s still a strong chance for redemption and for them to walk down the path of righteousness once more.

Therefore, I laud the move by the Court of Appeals to rule that it is “unconstitutional” to hold a minor at the King’s pleasure for whatever crimes the minor had committed. Although I may not be well-verse in legal jargon, I firmly believe that holding a minor at the pleasure of the King infringes upon the child’s rights and is not the best possible way to rehabilitate and counsel the minor involved. Even though the child has committed a heinous crime and has gone astray, the said child still has every right to be given the chance to redeem himself and be given the chance to pick up the pieces of his life rather than be locked away in a prison, in the company of the worst possible criminals on Earth. There’s no doubt the child would probably be isolated away from the rest of the adult criminals, but just think about the repercussions on the child’s mental state when he is in imprisoned in such an environment?

I have followed this boy’s case for since it was first reported back in 2002, and my heart goes out to the boy. Even though I am shocked by his actions, I am convinced it was the result of years of pent-up frustrations, anger and emotions that’s too much for a child of 12 years old to cope. It still does not absolve him of the crime taking another life, bbut what he needs is not punishment, but intensive rehabilitation and counselling, and in this case, house arrest would’ve been a much better option. The child needs someone to talk to, someone who can understand him, someone who can be there for him in his darkest hour and I am glad to see that his parents have not cast him off like many parents of juvenile criminals are so wont to do.

There is hope yet for our juvenile delinquents in prison and reform schools throughout the country. We must learn and be willing to understand why a child commits a crime and must teach them to understand why it was wrong for them to commit the crimes they did. None of us, not even a child has the right to claim the moral high ground because there’s goodness and darkness in all of us – it’s all about the choices we make at the end of the day to whether walk down the path of righteousness or descent into darkness.
Five years in Kajang Prison…it’s more than what a child the boy’s age could bear. He deserves a second chance, like all of us do when we make mistakes. Let’s give this kid and other minors out there a chance to lead normal lives once they’ve put the past behind them and have truly been reformed. I am, for once, glad that our media is not like the Western media. I do not wish to see the same thing that happened to Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, the 10-year-old killers of young James Bulger, after they’ve been released from prison. Their chance to lead normal lives were shattered when their new identities and whereabouts were almost always published in papers before court injunctions stopped them.

I shall continue to follow this case with interest, and I hope for a positive resolution to come out of this ruling. Let’s hope this ends with good news.

Warm regards,

Name: Philipp C.K. Gan

I’ve always felt very strong about this case. I remember reading an article not too long ago that the boy like to read books, Harry Potter among them and I had bought a book on the Harry Potter universe and couriered it to Shelter Home’s James Nayagam who promised to pass the book on to the boy. I’ve also included a note (or card, I don’t remember) to encourage him. I never really did know if he received it but I do hope he did.

Like I mentioned in the letter, no matter the wrongs that people had done, they still deserve a second chance but someone mentioned to me how many chances does one deserve when the perpetrator continually repeats his offence? True, chances can be exhaustive, but the fact still remains, if we give someone a chance to better themselves, I have no doubt they will try to make the most of it.

Yeah, so maybe I am a bit more trusting and optimistic about people… but there are two things that I do believe – the inherent goodness that resides in all of us… and the redemptive powers of forgiveness. It is the latter that is the most important, as it not only affects the perpetrator, it also affects us. I cannot describe the great feeling of the healing and the release that comes when one forgives another for whatever wrong they’ve done against him/her. I’m living proof, and I am sure many others too, can testify to this.

That’s why I hope the girl’s family is ready to move on and ready to forgive the boy and to let him know that he’s forgiven because only then, can true healing begin in both of these families.

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  1. i’m quite cynical and i would usually advise friends from doing things like donating and stuff, but i think we all need good samaritans. i had had help from a samaritan before and i really appreciate it, even though i could not thank the person. we all need a little kindness that we don’t deserve sometimes.

  2. Maintenance

    What do our bridges, schools, health care, and safe city streets have in common?

    Yesterday, Cathy and I walked the tenth avenue bridge to get a sense of the scale of the collapsed freeway bridge.

    It is the biggest disaster I have been face to face with in my lifetime.

    As we walked I felt a sense of reverence for my community and a great sadness for the dead and injured. It was a moving experience to walk the quarter of a mile of twisted steel and concrete laying in the river.

    This is OUR city, we deserve safe streets, good schools, and bridges that don’t fall into the river.

    Community infrastructure is important. If our bridges are failing, it’s probable that our schools, court systems, child protection, and health care systems are getting the same mistreatment. As a CASA child protection volunteer, I believe this to be true.

    As a long time student of public policy, business person, and pragmatic human being, I am convinced that listening to experts and completing their minimal maintenance recommendations is exponentially more cost effective than gambling on the savings of not doing the maintenance.

    The following few paragraphs should provide a logical arguement for this thought. First the facts:

    Minneapolis City Pages September 5th Economy in Freefall article quoted Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty as estimating the additional costs of gas and extra miles due to the bridge collapse at $400,000 per day, or $146,000,000 over the next year.

    Any accurate calculation of additional costs to drivers must include at least a fair minimum amount for the 144,000 cars per day that used this bridge each day that now must find other routes.

    Forty eight cents per mile is the IRS allowance for automobile deductions and this does not include the headache factor of clogged traffic and longer commutes that I seem to be experiencing.

    Assuming an average of ten additional miles for each car each way (some of us take the longer 694/494 route around town (which is depending on east or west between thirteen and eighteen additional miles bypassing the city on freeways, others drive fewer extra miles through downtown city streets or the 280 detour).

    Multiplying an average ten miles each way for 144,000 cars per day equals 2.8 million miles per day times the IRS 48 cents equals $1,382,000 per day, or almost four times the governor’s estimate.

    Hoping that it only takes one year to finish the bridge, multiply 1.382,000 times 365 and it adds to a little over five hundred million dollars in hard costs to drivers for these detours. Eighteen months bridge construction time would equal over seven hundred and fifty million dollars in hard driver costs.

    With no extra consideration for the extra ten to twenty minutes at each end of our commute we can honestly call this the hard cost of the bridge collapse.

    Add this to the approximately two hundred million dollar estimated cost of a new bridge, and the sure to be substantial lawsuit settlements for wrongful death and injury from the victims of this disaster, and some minimal value for the businesses that are failing because of their new inaccessibility, and a billion dollars becomes a realistic estimate of the total hard costs of not maintaining our bridge.

    New York’s 20 year veteran bridge engineer Samuel Schwartz (NYT OP-ED 8.13.07) estimated that 178,000 dollars annual maintainance per year per bridge would keep all of his states bridges in pristine condition (“all bridges guaranteed never to collapse”, MINE).

    Compare 178,000 dollars to the 1,000,000,000 dollars cost of not maintaining this bridge and you can begin to see the actual cost of our anti tax policymaking that has won the hearts and minds of so many Minnesotans.

    It appears to be up to five hundred times more expensive to ignore the advice of qualified people (real engineering experts paid high salaries) than it was to gamble on the small savings to be gained by ignoring their advice. Even if we had spent $178,000 each year for twenty years, the total is $3,560,000 (far less than a billion dollars).

    Similarly, in the case of human beings it is much more cost effective to attend to the needs of a child than waiting until disaster strikes. Trying to resurrect a criminalized juvenile or adult with ten to twenty years of serious mental health problems is extremely difficult. A similar financial calculation for failing to help children in child protection systems to receive the help they need to make it in public schools. Traumatized children cost our community a fortune when we ignore them and wait until they are mentally unstable adults to deal with them. Experts will tell you that the time to help abused and neglected (traumatized) children is when you first have the opportunity. It is exponentially less expensive than waiting until they hurt someone.

    Our bridge failed the majority of its safety inspections over the last twenty years. Early and sustained annual maintenance would have been the way to save money, lives, and trauma.

    Bridges are designed to a factor of ten times their estimated strength needs. Ask any engineer about the significance of a bridge failure.

    It is not the engineers that ruined the bridge. It’s not the teachers that wrecked the schools, or social workers that are not taking care of children in child protection.

    The bridge collapse was the direct result of the people that made the policies, the same people that have been ignoring the engineers and the experts that know what is needed for systems and infrastructure to stay in working order.

    The same policy makers that are responsible for the declining conditions of our schools, transportation, courts, bridges, child protection systems and safe city streets.

    Policy makers that point fingers and blame others instead of admitting their own failures and especially those that are not working for long term workable solutions to our infrastructure problems should be tarred and feathered (at least run out of office).

    Would someone please print a large “YOUR GOVERNMENT AT WORK” sign and post it on the tenth avenue bridge to be seen by the thousands of us poor dumb saps as we drive by the billion dollar fiasco that to this point hasn’t been any policymaker’s fault?

    Who voted for that person anyway? Would you please vote for someone else next time?

    And would someone please tell the anti tax people to stay home and count their money at least until the bodies are buried and the wreckage is cleared?

    Mike Tikkanen

    I am also a spokesman for Invisible Children
    http://www.invisiblechildren.org/weblog

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