Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Rule of the Law - Michael P. Fay's caning in Singapore

In case you do not remember, Michael P. Fay is an American who's brief shot to fame came from his sentence to caning in Singapore as an 18-year old who was convicted of theft and vandalizing private and public property. Mr. Fay, a student at the Singapore American School was convicted for vandalizing cars in addition to stealing road signs to four months in jail, a fine of 3,500 Singapore dollars (US$2,414) and six strokes of a cane in the buttocks in a public place. After requests for leniency  by the US government, the Singapore President of the time, Ong Teng Cheong, reduced the number of strokes from SIX to FOUR, as a sign of good will to President Bill Clinton. The sentence was carried out May 5th 1994 at the Queenstown Remand Centre. After his sentence Mr. Fay left Singapore for good.

What does Mr. Fay's conviction and sentence in Singapore have to do with us in Honduras? Plenty. This is a sign of unwavering respect for the law and the un-ambivalent carrying out of justice in a country, in spite of external pressures. You may disagree that the penalty was excessive in Mr. Fay's case, but the matter of fact is that the rule of the law was respected and carried out without hesitation.

We, in Honduras, need to learn this lesson from Singapore, especially now that President Lobo is apparently considering putting ours laws to the side in order to gain international acceptance, and allow Mr. Zelaya to roam free in Honduras without facing justice. The Supreme Court, Congress and the Ministerio Publico, need to stand together in one voice and say "Yes, Mr. Zelaya is free to return anytime he wants. This is constitutional right. However,once he sets foot in Honduras he will be arrested and put under the jurisdiction of the legal system, unless his attorneys organize his voluntary presence in front of a judge - which by the way has to be approved in advance by a judge- an the submit to eventual judgement by the legal system. This process is contemplated within Honduran law.

Anything less, sends the message that the executive branch dominates other branches of government. This is a break from the idea of separation of powers and independence of the branches of government, which are the pillars of constitutional democracies. We cannot allow this to happen.

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