Minister for Education Mr Ong Ye Kung said there is a need to review the disciplinary frameworks in Autonomous Universities (AUs), amid growing concerns of voyeurism in Singapore.
Speaking in Parliament, Mr Ong revealed that the six AUs handled a total of 56 cases of sexual misconduct involving their students in the past three years. He noted that the perpetrators in 10 of such cases received jail terms of between 10 days and eight months. These were serious offences, involving outrage of modesty or multiple instances of voyeurism.
In addition to police investigations, the universities also carried out its own disciplinary processes and meted out a combination of penalties within its power. These range from official reprimand which will be reflected in a student’s formal educational record, to suspensions and expulsions, Mr Ong said.
He further explained that there is a need to balance the objectives of deterrence and redress for the victims against rehabilitation of the offender.
“Balancing these objectives is important for an education institution, but it should not end up with penalties that are too lenient and have too soft a bite,” Mr Ong said.
He also pointed out that Singapore must recognise voyeurism as a growing concern. As children are exposed to the Internet at an early age and technological advances have also made video recording easier and more undetectable, Mr Ong said this has led some to think that voyeurism is not a serious offence.
“As our circumstances change, the AUs must likewise keep up with the times and ensure that their policies and processes remain relevant in establishing a safe and supportive environment for all students,” he said.
Separately, Minister for Law and Home Affairs Mr K Shanmugam said there are no free passes for university students who are perpetrators in sexual misconduct cases. He stressed that the police will not show any leniency in situations where there is premeditation and deception in committing the offence.
He also emphasised the seriousness of a conditional warning and the offender would be liable to be prosecuted for both the current offence and the subsequent fresh offence.
Stiffer penalties for irresponsible drivers
Recalcitrant motorists who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs could face a lifetime ban from driving and double jail time, under proposed changes to the Road Traffic Act.
In the amendments proposed, motorists who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol will face double the penalties that are currently stipulated in law. Their driving licences will also be immediately suspended, to prevent them from driving irresponsibly until the Courts have decided on their case.
Two new classes of irresponsible driving offences – dangerous driving and careless driving – will also be included into the amendments, and will correspond broadly to rash act and negligent act offences in the Penal Code.
In a statement, the Ministry of Home Affairs said the proposed amendments aim to deter irresponsible driving. The ministry added that the public is supportive and saw the changes as timely and necessary.
Merderka Generation Fund established
Parliament has passed the bill to establish the $6.1 billion Merdeka Generation Fund.
Second Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong said that the amendments to the Pioneer Generation Fund Act will ensure that the Merdeka Generation Fund (MGF) is separate from the Pioneer Generation Fund. MGF will have separate financial statements and auditor’s reports that will be presented to Parliament.
Announced by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat during Budget 2019, the Merdeka Generation Fund will help pay for the healthcare costs of nearly 500,000 Singaporeans.
Eligible Singaporeans will start receiving their welcome folders and Merdeka Generation cards from late June 2019.