International Criminology World

World : Asia : Singapore

Although Singapore's history dates from the 11th century, the island was little known to the West until the 19th century, when in 1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles arrived as an agent of the British East India Company. In 1824, the British purchased Singapore Island, and by 1825, the city of Singapore had become a major port, with trade exceeding that of Malaya's Malacca and Penang combined. In 1826, Singapore, Penang, and Malacca were combined as the Straits Settlements to form an outlying residency of the British East India Company; in 1867, the Straits Settlements were made a British Crown Colony, an arrangement that continued until 1946.

The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the advent of steamships launched an era of prosperity for Singapore as transit trade expanded throughout Southeast Asia. In the 20th century, the automobile industry's demand for rubber from Southeast Asia and the packaging industry's need for tin helped make Singapore one of the world's major ports.

In 1921, the British constructed a naval base, which was soon supplemented by an air base. But the Japanese captured the island in February 1942, and it remained under their control until September 1945, when the British returned.

In 1946, the Straits Settlements was dissolved; Penang and Malacca became part of the Malayan Union, and Singapore became a separate British Crown Colony. In 1959, Singapore became self-governing, and, in 1963, it joined the newly independent Federation of Malaya, Sabah, and Sarawak (the latter two former British Borneo territories) to form Malaysia.

Indonesia adopted a policy of "confrontation" against the new federation, charging that it was a "British colonial creation," and severed trade with Malaysia. The move particularly affected Singapore, since Indonesia had been the island's second-largest trading partner. The political dispute was resolved in 1966, and Indonesia resumed trade with Singapore.

After a period of friction between Singapore and the central government in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore separated from Malaysia on August 9, 1965, and became an independent republic.

According to the constitution, as amended in 1965, Singapore is a republic with a parliamentary system of government. Political authority rests with the prime minister and the cabinet. The prime minister is the leader of the political party or coalition of parties having the majority of seats in parliament. The president, who is chief of state, previously exercised only ceremonial duties. As a result of 1991 constitutional changes, the president is now elected and exercises expanded powers over legislative appointments, government budgetary affairs, and internal security matters.

Today, Singapore is a parliamentary republic in which politics is dominated overwhelmingly by the People's Action Party (PAP), which has held power since the country gained autonomy from the United Kingdom in 1959. Opposition parties exist and regularly contest elections; however, after the October dissolution of Parliament and the subsequent November elections, the PAP holds 82 of 84 elected parliamentary seats and all ministerial positions. Elections take place at regular, constitutionally mandated intervals. The judiciary is efficient and constitutionally independent; however, there has been a perception that it reflects the views of the executive in politically sensitive cases as government leaders historically have utilized court proceedings successfully, in particular defamation suits, against political opponents and critics.


From 1965 to 1989, the government occasionally reported police actions targeting small subversive organizations. However, at no time were any of these groups considered a significant threat to the Lee government. From 1968 to 1974, a group known as the Malayan National Liberation Front carried out occasional acts of terrorism in Singapore. In 1974 the Singapore Police Force's Internal Security Department arrested fifty persons thought to be the leading members of the organization. After police interrogation, twenty-three of the fifty persons arrested were released, ten were turned over to Malaysia's police for suspected involvement in terrorist activities there, and seventeen were detained without trial under the Internal Security Act. One leader subsequently was executed in 1983 for soliciting a foreign government for weapons and financial support. The government alleged the Malayan National Liberation Front had been a front organization of the CPM, which in the late 1980s was still operating in the border area of northern Malaysia and southern Thailand.

In 1982 a former Worker' Party candidate for Parliament and fourteen of his associates were arrested for forming the Singapore People's Liberation Organization. Zinul Abiddin Mohammed Shah, who had run unsuccessfully for Parliament in the 1972, 1976, and 1980 elections, was accused of distributing subversive literature calling for the overthrow of the government. Shah was tried and convicted on this charge in 1983 and was sentenced to two years in jail. His associates were not prosecuted.

In 1987 twenty-two English-educated professionals were arrested under the Internal Security Act for their alleged involvement in a Marxist group organized to subvert the government from within and promote the establishment of a communist government. For reasons unknown, the Marxist group had no name or organizational structure. The government accused those arrested of joining student, religious, and political organizations in order to disseminate Marxist literature and promote antigovernment activities. Although twenty-one of the twenty-two persons arrested were released later that year after agreeing to refrain from political activities, eight were rearrested in 1988 for failing to keep this pledge. According to a 1989 Amnesty International report, two persons were being detained in prison without trial under Section 8 of the 1960 Internal Security Act. This number represented a significant reduction from the estimated fifty political prisoners held in 1980.

In January 1974, four terrorists belonging to the Japanese Red Army detonated a bomb at a Shell Oil Refinery on Singapore's Pulau Bukum and held the five-man crew of one of the company's ferry boats hostage for one week. The incident tested Singapore's capability to react to a terrorist attack by a group based outside the country and one having no direct connection with antigovernment activities. The counterterrorist force mobilized by the government after the bombing and hijacking comprised army commando and bomb disposal units and selected air force, navy, and marine police units. Negotiations with the terrorists focused on the release of the hostages in return for safe passage out of the country. Apparently the government's primary consideration was to end the incident without bloodshed if at all possible. The Japanese government became involved when five other members of the Japanese Red Army attacked the Japanese embassy in Kuwait and threatened to murder the embassy's staff unless they and the four terrorists in Singapore were allowed to travel to Aden in the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen). Singapore refused to provide transportation for the terrorists but allowed a Japanese commercial airliner to land in Singapore, pick them up, and fly from Singapore to Kuwait. The hostages were released unharmed, and no deaths or serious injuries resulted from the incident.



The country has a free market economic system. The country's population is 4,000,000. Financial and business services industries, manufacturing of semiconductors and telecommunications equipment, and petroleum refining and petrochemical production are key sectors of the economy. The Government has liberalized broadly market access for telecommunications and financial services providers. The country is in a recession. During the year 2001, economic growth declined sharply as electronic exports fell. The economy shrank by 2.2 percent during the year 2001, compared to a nearly 10 percent growth rate in 2000. Per capita gross domestic product was estimated at $23,015. Wealth is distributed broadly and the unemployment rate is low.



Singapore's immigrants commonly made their religious congregations a form of social organization. From the foundation of the city, colonial authorities had avoided interfering with the religious affairs of the ethnic communities, fostering an atmosphere of religious tolerance. It was characteristic of colonial Singapore that South Bridge Street, a major thoroughfare in the old Chinatown, should also be the site of the Sri Mariamman Temple, a south Indian Hindu temple, and of the Jamae or Masjid Chulia Mosque, which served Chulia Muslims from India's Coromandel Coast. The major religions were Chinese popular religion, commonly although inaccurately referred to as Daoism or Buddhism; Hinduism; Islam; Buddhism; and Christianity. Other religions included smaller communities of Sikhs and of Jains from India; Parsis, Indians of Iranian descent who followed the ancient Iranian Zoroastrian religion; and Jews, originally from the Middle East, who supported two synagogues.

The Chinese practiced Chinese popular religion, a distinctive and complex syncretic religion that incorporates some elements from canonical Buddhism and Daoism but focuses on the worship of gods, ghosts, and ancestors. It emphasizes ritual and practice over doctrine and belief, has no commonly recognized name, and is so closely entwined with Chinese culture and social organization that it cannot proselytize. In Singapore its public manifestations included large temples housing images of deities believed to respond to human appeals for guidance or relief from affliction and use of the common Chinese cycle of calendrical festivals. These occasions included the lunar New Year (in January or February), a festival of renewal and family solidarity; Qing Ming (Ching Ming in Wade-Giles romanization), celebrated by the solar calender on April 5th (105 days after the winter solstice), to remember the ancestors and worship at their graves; the fifteenth of the fifth lunar month (April or May), in Singapore known as Vesak Day and celebrated as marking the birth of the Buddha; the festival of the hungry ghosts in the seventh lunar month, a major Hokkien holiday, marked by domestic feasting and elaborate public rituals to feed and placate the potentially dangerous souls of those with no descendants to worship them; and the mid-autumn festival on the fifteenth of the eighth lunar month, an occasion for exchanging gifts of sweet round mooncakes and admiring the full moon. All Chinese temples held one or more annual festivals, marked by street processions, performances of Chinese traditional operas, and domestic banquets to which those who supported the temple, either because of residential propinquity, subethnic affiliation with a particular temple and its deity, or personal devotion to the god, invited their friends and business associates. To prevent the disruption of traffic and preserve public order, the government limited the length and route of street processions and prohibited the use of the long strings of firecrackers that had previously been a component of all Chinese religious display. Some festivals or customs that had little religious significance or were not practiced by the southeastern Chinese migrants were promoted by the government's Singapore Tourist Promotion Board for their spectacular and innocuous content. These included the summer dragon boat races, originally held only in China's Chang Jiang (Yangtze) River Valley, and the lantern festival in which paper lanterns in the shape of animals or other objects are carried through the streets by children or, if especially impressive, displayed in parks and temples. In China the lantern festival is celebrated in the first lunar month at the end of the New Year season, but in Singapore it is combined with the mid-autumn festival.

Canonical Buddhism was represented in Singapore as Sinhalese Theravada Buddhism. This form of Buddhism prevails in Sri Lanka and mainland Southeast Asia and differs from the Mahayana Buddhism of China, Korea, and Japan in both doctrine and organization. Theravada Buddhism was brought by Sinhalese migrants from Ceylon (contemporary Sri Lanka), who also influenced the architectural style of Thai and Vietnamese Theravada temples. These latter were staffed by Thai or Vietnamese monks, some of whom were originally members of the overseas Chinese communities of those countries and served a predominantly Chinese laity, using Hokkien, Teochiu, Cantonese, or English. Singapore was also home to a number of Chinese sects and syncretic cults that called themselves Buddhist but taught their own particular doctrines and lacked properly ordained Buddhist monks.

Hindus have been part of Singapore's population since its foundation in 1819, and some of the old Hindu temples, such as the Sri Mariamman Temple, were declared national historical sites in the 1980s and so preserved from demolition. Singapore's Hindus adapted their religion to their minority status in two primary ways--compartmentalization and ritual reinterpretation. Compartmentalization referred to the Hindus tendency to distinguish between the home, in which they maintained a nearly completely orthodox Hindu pattern of diet and ritual observance, and the secular outer world of work, school, and public life, where they did not apply categories of purity and pollution. Singapore lacked the tightly organized caste groups of communities found in India but replaced them in large-scale temple festivals with groups representing those of the same occupation or place of employment. The major Hindu holidays were the Hindu New Year, in April or May; Thaipusam, a festival during which penitents fulfilled vows to the deity Lord Subramanya by participating in a procession while carrying kavadi, heavy decorated frameworks holding offerings of milk, fruit, and flowers; and Deepavali, the Festival of Lights. Deepavali, a celebration of the victory of light over darkness and hence of good over evil, was a national holiday.

Seven of the ten national holidays were religious festivals; two of them were Chinese, two Muslim, two Christian, and one Hindu. The festivals were the Chinese New Year; Vesak Day; Hari Raya Haji, the Muslim pilgrimage festival; Hari Raya Pusa, which marked the end of the fasting month of Ramadan and was a time of renewal; Christmas; Good Friday; and Deepavali. Citizens were encouraged to learn about the festivals of other religious and ethnic groups and to invite members of other groups to their own celebrations and feasts. Public ceremonies such as National Day or the commissioning of military officers were marked by joint religious services conducted by the Inter-Religious Organization, an ecumenical body founded in 1949 to promote understanding and goodwill among the followers of different religions.

In the 1980s, members of all ethnic groups lived and worked together, dressed similarly, and shared equal access to all public institutions and services. Religion, therefore, provided one of the major markers of ethnic boundaries. Malays, for instance, would not eat at Chinese restaurants or food stalls for fear of contamination by pork, and a Chinese, in this case, could not invite a Malay colleague to a festive banquet. Funerals of a traditional and ethnically distinctive style were usually held even by families that were not otherwise very religiously observant. The Community Associations and the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board encouraged the public celebration of such ethnically distinctive and appropriately colorful and noncontroversial festivals as the Chinese lantern festival and the dragon boat races.

The marriages, divorces, and inheritances of members of religious communities and the management of properties and endowments dedicated to religious purposes were of concern to the government, which interacted with some religious bodies through advisory boards dating back to the colonial period. The Hindu Advisory Board, established in 1917, advised the government on Hindu religion and customs and on any matters concerning the general welfare of the Hindu community. It assisted the Hindu Endowments Board, which administered the four major Hindu temples and their property, in organizing the annual festivals at the temples. The Sikh Advisory Board acted in the same way for the Sikhs.

The Singapore Muslim Religious Council (Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura) played a very important role in the organization of Islamic affairs and therefore of the Malay community. Authorized by the 1966 Administration of Muslim Law Act, the council, composed of members nominated by Muslim societies but appointed by the president of Singapore, was formally a statutory board that advised the president on all matters relating to the Muslim religion. It acted to centralize and standardize the practice of Islam. The council administered all Muslim trusts (wafs); organized a computerized and centralized collection of tithes and obligatory gifts (zakat harta and zakat fitrah); and managed all aspects of the pilgrimage to Mecca, including registering pilgrims, obtaining Saudi Arabian visas, and making airline reservations. The council also helped the government reorganize the mosque system after redevelopment. Before the massive redevelopment and rehousing of the 1970s and 1980s, Singapore's Muslims were served by about ninety mosques, many of which had been built and were funded and managed by local, sometimes ethnically based, communities. Redevelopment destroyed both the mosques and the communities that had supported them, scattering the people through new housing estates. The council, in consultation with the government, decided not to rebuild the small mosques but to replace them with large central mosques. Construction funds came from a formally voluntary contribution collected along with the Central Provident Fund deduction paid by all employed Muslims. The new central mosques could accommodate 1,000 to 2,000 persons and provided such services as kindergartens, religious classes, family counseling, leadership and community development classes, tuition and remedial instruction for school children, and Arabic language instruction.

The government had regulated Muslim marriages and divorces since 1880, and the 1957 Muslim Ordinance authorized the establishment of the centralized Sharia Court, with jurisdiction over divorce and inheritance cases. The court, under the Ministry of Community Development, replaced a set of government-licensed but otherwise unsupervised kathi (Islamic judges) who had previously decided questions of divorce and inheritance, following either the traditions of particular ethnic groups or their own interpretations of Muslim law. The court attempted to consistently enforce sharia law, standard Islamic law as set out in the Quran and the decisions of early Muslim rulers and jurists, and to reduce the high rate of divorce among Malays. In 1989 the Singapore Muslim Religious Council took direct control of the subjects taught in Islamic schools and of the Friday sermons given at all mosques.

Modernization and improved education levels brought changes in religious practice. The inflexible work schedules of industrialism, which tended to restrict communal ritual to evenings and Sundays, and the lack of opportunity or inclination to devote years to mastering ceremonial and esoteric knowledge, both contributed to a general tendency toward ritual simplification and abbreviation. At the same time, prosperous citizens contributed large sums to building funds, and in the 1980s a wave of rebuilding and refurbishing renewed the city's mosques, churches, Chinese temples, Buddhist monasteries, and Hindu temples. Ethnic affiliation was demonstrated by public participation in such annual rituals as processions, which did not require elaborate training or study.

Immigrants tended to drop or modify religious and ritual practices characteristic of and peculiar to the villages they had come from. Hindu temples founded in the nineteenth century to serve migrants of specific castes and to house deities worshipped only in small regions of southeastern India became the temples patronized by all Hindu residents of nearby apartment complexes. They offered a generic South Indian Hinduism focused on major deities and festivals. Many Chinese became more self-consciously Buddhist or joined syncretic cults that promoted ethics and were far removed from the exorcism and sacrificial rituals of the villages of Fujian and Guangdong. The movement away from village practices was most clearly seen and most articulated among the Malays, where Islamic reformers acted to replace the customary practices (adat) of the various Malay-speaking societies of Java, Sumatra, and Malaya with the precepts of classical Islamic law--sharia.

In 1988 the Ministry of Community Development reported the religious distribution to be 28.3 percent Buddhist, 18.7 percent Christian, 17.6 percent no religion, 16 percent Islam, 13.4 percent Daoist, 9 percent Hindu, and 1.1 percent other religions (Sikhs, Parsis, Jews). The Christian proportion of the population nearly doubled between 1980 and 1988, growing from 10 percent to nearly 19 percent. The growth of Christianity and of those professing no religion was greatest in the Chinese community, with most of the Christian converts being young, well-educated people in secure white-collar and professional jobs. Most converts joined evangelical and charismatic Protestant churches worshiping in English. About one-third of the members of Parliament were Christians, as were many cabinet ministers and members of the ruling party, which was dominated by well-educated, Englishspeaking Chinese. The association of Christianity with elite social and political status may have helped attract some converts.

By the late 1980s, some Buddhist organizations were winning converts by following the Protestant churches in offering services, hymnbooks, and counseling in English and Mandarin. A Buddhist Society at the National University of Singapore offered lectures and social activities similar to those of the popular Christian Fellowship. Some Chinese secondary students chose Buddhism as their compulsory religious studies subject, regarding Confucianism as too distant and abstract and Bible study as too Western and too difficult. They then were likely to join Buddhist organizations, which offered congenial groups, use of English, and a link with Asian cultural traditions. In the late 1980s, other Chinese whitecollar and skilled workers were joining the Japan-based Soka Gakkai (Value Creation Society, an organization based on Nichiren Buddhism), which provided a simple, direct style of worship featuring chanting of a few texts and formulas and a wide range of social activities. The more successful religious groups, Christian and Buddhist, offered directly accessible religious practice with no elaborate ritual or difficult doctrine and a supportive social group.

In the 1980s, the government regarded religion in general as a positive social force that could serve as a bulwark against the perceived threat of Westernization and the associated trends of excessive individualism and lack of discipline. It made religious education a compulsory subject in all secondary schools in the 1980s. The government, although secular, was concerned, however, with the social consequences of religiously motivated social action and therefore monitored and sometimes prohibited the activities of religious groups. The authorities feared that religion could sometimes lead to social and implicitly political action or to contention between ethnic groups. Islamic fundamentalism, for example, was a very sensitive topic that was seldom publicly discussed. Throughout the 1980s, the authorities were reported to have made unpublicized arrests and expulsions of Islamic activists. The government restricted the activities of some Christian groups, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses who opposed military service, and in 1987 the government detained a group of Roman Catholic social activists, accusing them of using church organizations as cover for a Marxist plot. The charismatic and fundamentalist Protestant groups, though generally apolitical and focused on individuals, aroused official anxiety through their drive for more converts. Authorities feared that Christian proselytization directed at the Malays would generate resentment, tensions, and possible communal conflict. As early as 1974 the government had "advised" the Bible Society of Singapore to stop publishing materials in Malay. In late 1988 and early 1989, a series of leaders, including Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, condemned "insensitive evangelization" as a serious threat to racial harmony. Official restatements of the virtue of and necessity for religious tolerance were mixed with threats of detention without trial for religious extremists.



Singapore's criminal code included seven classes of offenses. Class one covered serious crimes against persons, including murder, rape, and assault with a deadly weapon. Classes two through four were concerned with arson, robbery, theft, and abuse of another's property. Class five crimes included forgery, counterfeiting, and fraud. Classes six and seven covered violations of the penal code in matters of public safety and violations of special criminal ordinances, particularly those related to drugs, firearms, gambling, vagrancy, vandalism, and petty crime.

A high percentage of murder cases were solved each year by police. In 1988 only ten of fifty-four murders had not been solved by police at the end of the year. The percentage of murder cases solved had steadily increased since the 1960s. In 1969 police solved 44 percent of seventy-eight murders. This number improved to 68 percent of fifty-seven murders in 1983, and in 1988 to 81 percent of the total.

Police were less successful in solving other types of crimes. In 1984, there were 677 incidents reported to police that included sexual and other types of assaults on persons, including robberies and beatings. Police solved approximately 50 percent of these crimes. In 1984 only 20 percent of the reported 1,620 armed robbery cases had been solved at the time statistics for that year were reported to the ICPO. Persons under the age of sixteen were classified as juveniles and given special treatment under the law. In 1984, few juveniles were charged with committing serious crimes. Juveniles were involved in no murders, 8 percent of the sexual assaults, and 10 percent of the armed robberies.

Most of the crimes for which statistics were available in 1984 involved various types of theft. Sixty percent of the crimes reported that year were classified as thefts that did not involve a dangerous weapon. Police solved 18 percent of the almost 23,000 reported cases of theft, and juveniles were believed to be responsible for 12 percent of these crimes. Between 1971 and 1983, police were successful in substantially reducing the number of car thefts. In 1971 almost 9,000 vehicles were stolen, compared with only 470 in 1984. In 1983, juveniles were responsible for 77 percent of all car thefts.

In the early 1970s, the government determined that the misuse of illegal drugs, particularly heroin, cannabis, and such psychotropic tablets as methaqualone, was a major problem. In 1973 Parliament passed the Misuse of Drugs Act, which mandated imprisonment for drug dealers and instituted new programs to rehabilitate users. The act also enabled the government to monitor the problem more accurately because most of the persons arrested each year on drug charges already had a criminal record. In the 1980s, more than 5,000 persons were arrested annually on drug charges. Only 10 percent of those arrested were newly identified users, however, and another 10 percent were found to be involved in selling illegal drugs.



In 1984 the country reported 35,728 arrests. The incidence of serious violent crime in that year was considered low and included 69 murders, 677 assaults, and 1,620 armed robberies. In comparison to the eighty-two other countries that reported criminal statistics to the International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO) in 1984, Singapore had a low rate of assaults and was close to the median for three other types of crime: murder, sexual offenses, and thefts. Although Singapore did not report figures on drug arrests to the ICPO, the sale and use of illegal drugs was known to be one of the country's most serious criminal problems.

In the 1980s, police instituted several new schemes designed to reduce the time required to dispatch officers to the scene of a crime and to improve the investigation capabilities of the force. In 1983 the Neighborhood Police Force System was introduced as an experimental project in one of Singapore's police divisions. This system, based on a successful Japanese program, placed small police substations in residential neighborhoods. The police officers assigned to those stations instituted crime prevention programs through their association with community organizations, and they assisted the criminal investigation department by soliciting residents of the neighborhood for information on specific cases. By 1989 the experimental project's success led to the establishment of neighborhood police posts in all ten police divisions.

A new crime report computer network was completed in 1987 enabling officers in their patrol cars to be notified minutes after a crime had been reported. The computer network maintained a record of the call and the status of the police units dispatched to the scene of the incident. During the 1980s, police routinely took blood and urine samples from all criminal suspects to determine if there was a possible link between the use of drugs and the suspect's behavior at the time of his arrest. This program enabled police and the courts to improve procedures for dealing with drug addicts who resorted to crime to support their habit.

Any citizen indicted for a crime had the right to obtain legal counsel and to be brought to trial expeditiously, unless the government determined that the person was involved in subversion, drug trafficking, or was a member of a criminal organization. Trials were conducted by magistrates or judges without a jury, and in most cases defendants could appeal their verdicts to a higher court. The death penalty could be imposed for individuals convicted of murder, kidnapping, trafficking in arms, or importing and selling drugs; between 1975 and 1989, twenty-four prisoners were executed for various drug offenses. Mandatory beating with a cane and imprisonment were required for most serious crimes, including rape, robbery, and theft. Government interference in the judicial process was prohibited by the Constitution. The chief justice of the Supreme Court and the attorney general were responsible for guaranteeing the impartiality of the courts and the protection of the rights of the accused, respectively.

More recently the crime rate in Singapore is low compared to other industrialized countries. An analysis was done using INTERPOL data for Singapore. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. The combined total of these offenses constitutes the Index used for trend calculation purposes. Singapore will be compared with Japan (country with a low crime rate) and USA (country with a high crime rate). According to the INTERPOL data, for murder, the rate in 2000 was 0.95 per 100,000 population for Singapore, 1.10 for Japan, and 5.51 for USA. For rape, the rate in 2000 was 3.04 for Singapore, compared with 1.78 for Japan and 32.05 for USA. For robbery, the rate in 2000 was 12.84 for Singapore, 4.08 for Japan, and 144.92 for USA. For aggravated assault, the rate in 2000 was 2.46 for Singapore, 23.78 for Japan, and 323.62 for USA. For burglary, the rate in 2000 was 24.72 for Singapore, 233.60 for Japan, and 728.42 for USA. The rate of larceny for 2000 was 454.4 for Singapore, 1401.26 for Japan, and 2475.27 for USA. The rate for motor vehicle theft in 2000 was 5.18 for Singapore, compared with 44.28 for Japan and 414.17 for USA. The rate for all index offenses combined was 503.6 for Singapore, compared with 1709.88 for Japan and 4123.97 for USA.



Between 1995 and 2000, according to INTERPOL data, the rate of murder decreased from 1.77 to 0.95 per 100,000 population, a decrease of 46.3%. The rate for rape decreased from 3.42 to 3.04, a decrease of 11.1%. The rate of robbery decreased from 31.21 to 12.84, a decrease of 58.9%. The rate for aggravated assault decreased from 6.76 to 2.46, a decrease of 63.6%. The rate for burglary decreased from 64.32 to 24.72, a decrease of 61.6%. The rate of larceny decreased from 913.6 to 454.4, a decrease of 50.3%. The rate of motor vehicle theft decreased from 10.18 to 5.18, a decrease of 50.3%. The rate of total index offenses decreased from 1031.27 to 503.6, a decrease of 51.2%.



The legal system in Singapore is adversarial in nature. English common law was superimposed on the existing Malay customary law and Muslim law. Consequently, the legal system in Singapore can be characterized as pluralistic. While the dominant common law which shaped the Singapore legal system applies to all segments of the population, Muslim law governs the Muslim community in religious and matrimonial matters. Muslim law is administered in accordance with the Administration of Muslim Law Act, Cap.42.


In 1989 Singapore's police force had 7,000 constables and inspectors, 3,000 national service conscripts, and 2,000 volunteers. The commissioner of police was responsible for law enforcement in all civil jurisdictions of the country. He was assisted by deputy commissioners for administration, civil defense, operations, and planning. Two auxiliary police organizations employed an additional 2,300 persons trained to provide security for the Port of Singapore and private businesses. The Port of Singapore police with 300 personnel in 1989, was delegated responsibility for maintaining law and order on the docks, checking cargo manifests, and inspecting vessels that were suspected of having contraband. The other auxiliary police force was the Commercial and Industrial Security Corporation, which was operated as a public service under the control of the minister for home affairs. The corporation was established in 1972 to relieve regular police from routine security and escort duties for private businesses. The 2,000 security personnel employed by the corporation were delegated the same powers and immunities as police officers in the course of their duties. The Commercial and Industrial Security Corporation was the only civilian security organization whose personnel were authorized to carry firearms.

The deputy commissioner for operations of the police force was responsible for overseeing two commands and four departments. The main island was divided into ten police divisions, which, along with the airport police division, came under the Area Command. The one other command, known as the Detachments Command, comprised police units responsible for counterterrorism, crowd management, protection of government officials, and the marine police. Two police task forces, with probably fewer than 200 specially trained officers, had replaced the police reserve units of the 1960s. Counterterrorist operations most likely would be conducted by elite units belonging to one of the task forces in coordination with army commandos and other units taken from the police and armed forces. A 700-member Gurkha unit was responsible for prison security and for supporting the police task force in the event that a civil disturbance got out of control. The British-trained Gurkhas, recruited in Nepal, had been employed by the police since 1949. The four departments under the control of the deputry commissioner for operations had jurisdiction over crime prevention, criminal investigation, traffic control, and the special constabulary, which included an estimated 2,000 volunteer constables who were trained to assist the regular police in patrolling residential neighborhoods.

The three other deputy commissioners were responsible for administration, planning, and civil defense. The deputy commissioner for administration managed recruitment, training, and logistics and was responsible for the National Police Cadet Corps, a student organization that in the late 1980s had more than 20,000 members and units in 129 secondary schools located throughout Singapore. The deputy commissioner for planning was responsible for research and force development and proposed plans for the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment and the introduction of new law enforcement tactics to improve the efficiency of the police force. The deputy commissioner for civil defense was in charge of civil defense planning and civil defense organizations.

Police personnel primarily were recruited from among high school graduates who were interested in law enforcement as a career. The professional force was augmented, as necessary, with national service conscripts and volunteers. In 1989 women comprised 15 percent of the force and were employed in all occupational fields. The high number of students interested in belonging to the National Police Cadet Corps provided the police with a large pool of potential recruits. Police recruits were required to be high school graduates without a criminal record and to be in excellent physical condition. Officers selected for promotion to senior grades had to be approved by the Public Service Commission. There were ten senior-grade levels: inspector, four grades of superintendents, and five grades of commissioners. Basic and advanced training for recruits and national service conscripts was provided at the Police Academy. Selected officers were awarded scholarships to attend local universities and to take courses in other countries. The six-month basic course for recruits emphasized legal procedures, police station and field operations, use of weapons, dealing with the public, and physical fitness. National service conscripts were given a three-month basic course, but with less emphasis on legal procedures. Most divisions of the areas and detachments commands selected from within to fill vacant billets for corporals, sergeants, and higher level positions. Officers were encouraged to enroll in career development courses that were devoted to such subjects as crisis management, community relations, crime investigation, and interrogation techniques. Exceptional junior officers received merit scholarships to the National University of Singapore to study management and other disciplines needed by the force. Senior officers were required to travel overseas for training to broaden their understanding of law enforcement practices in other countries. Some of the foreign schools attended were the Police Staff College in Britain, the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy in the United States, and the Police Academy in Japan.

Today, the police are responsible for routine security within the country and for the protection of the borders, including action against illegal immigrants and patrolling the island's territorial waters. The military forces are responsible for external defense. The Internal Security Department (ISD) in the Ministry of Home Affairs is authorized by the Internal Security Act (ISA) to counter such perceived threats to the nation's security as espionage, international terrorism, threats to racial and religious harmony, and subversion. The civilian Government maintains effective control over all security activities. Some members of the security forces committed human rights abuses.

The law prohibits torture; however, there were occasional instances of police mistreatment of detainees, and there were a few reports of police abuse during the year 2001. Persons who allege mistreatment by the police may bring criminal charges against government officials who are alleged to have committed such acts. The media report fully on allegations of police abuse of those arrested, and the Government takes action against abusers. The press reported that approximately 10 law enforcement officers were jailed for using excessive force on prisoners and suspects between 1995 and 1999. In July four prison guards were sentenced to 9 months in prison for handcuffing and beating a prisoner in January 2000. In September a police corporal was sentenced to 9 months in prison for kicking a man in July 2000. In 1999, the last year for which statistics are available, 56 complaints of police abuse of detainees were filed, of which 7 were substantiated.

The Penal Code mandates caning, in addition to imprisonment, as punishment for some 30 offenses involving the use of violence or threat of violence against a person, such as rape and robbery, and also for such nonviolent offenses as vandalism, drug trafficking, and violation of immigration laws. Caning is discretionary for convictions on other charges involving the use of criminal force, such as kidnaping or voluntarily causing grievous hurt. Women, men over age 50 or under age 16, and those determined unfit by a medical officer are exempted from punishment by caning. Although statistics for the year were not available, caning is a commonly administered punishment within the stipulations of the law.

The Constitution does not address privacy rights. The Government generally respects the privacy of homes and families; however, it has a pervasive influence over civic and economic life and sometimes uses its wide discretionary powers to infringe on these rights. Normally, the police must have a warrant issued by a magistrate's court to conduct a search; however, they may search a person, home, or property without a warrant if they decide that such a search is necessary to preserve evidence. The Government has wide discretionary powers under the ISA, CLA, MDA, and UPA to conduct searches without a warrant if it determines that national security, public safety or order, or the public interest are at issue. Defendants may request judicial review of such searches.

Divisions of the Government's law enforcement agencies, including the Internal Security Department and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Board, have wide networks for gathering information and highly sophisticated capabilities to monitor telephone and other private conversations and conduct surveillance. No court warrants are required for such operations. It is believed that the authorities routinely monitor telephone conversations and use of the Internet; however, there were no confirmed reports of such practices during the year 2001. The law permits government monitoring of Internet use. It is widely believed that the authorities routinely conducted surveillance on some opposition politicians and other government critics; however, no such reports were substantiated during the year 2001.

The Government is active in some areas normally considered private, in pursuit of what it considers the public interest. For example, the Government enforces ethnic ratios for publicly subsidized housing, where the majority of citizens live and own their own units, a policy designed to achieve an ethnic mix more or less in proportion to that in the society at large.



The law provides that, in most instances, arrests are to be carried out following the issuance of an authorized warrant; however, some laws provide for arrests without warrants. Those arrested must be charged before a magistrate within 48 hours. The great majority of those arrested are charged expeditiously and brought to trial. Those who face criminal charges are allowed counsel, and the Law Society of Singapore administers a criminal legal aid plan for those who cannot afford to hire an attorney. A functioning system of bail exists for persons who are charged. In death penalty cases, the Supreme Court appoints two attorneys for defendants who are unable to afford their own counsel.

Some laws--the Internal Security Act (ISA), the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (CLA), the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA), and the Undesirable Publications Act (UPA)--have provisions for arrest without a warrant. The ISA is employed primarily against suspected security threats. Historically, these threats have been Communist-related, but the ISA was employed against suspected terrorists during the year 2001. Opposition politicians have called for the abolition of the ISA, but the Government has rejected these calls, claiming that citizens accept the act as an element of the nation's security. The CLA historically has been employed primarily against suspected organized crime and drug trafficking.

The ISA and the CLA permit preventive detention without trial for the protection of public security or safety or the maintenance of public order. The ISA gives broad discretion to the Minister for Home Affairs to order detention without charge at the direction of the President, if the latter determines that a person poses a threat to national security. The initial detention may be for up to 2 years and may be renewed without limitation for additional periods up to 2 years at a time. Detainees have a right to be informed of the grounds for their detention and are entitled to counsel. However, they have no right to challenge the substantive basis for their detention through the courts. The ISA specifically excludes recourse to the normal judicial system for review of a detention order made under its authority. Instead detainees may make representations to an advisory board, headed by a Supreme Court justice, which reviews each detainee's case periodically and must make a recommendation to the President within 3 months of the initial detention. The President may concur with the advisory board's recommendation that a detainee be released prior to the expiration of the detention order but is not obligated to do so.

No one was detained under the ISA from 1989 through 1996. Two persons were detained in 1997, and four in 1998, all for alleged espionage. Of these six detainees, five were released after several months. One of those arrested in 1998 remained in detention at year's end 2001. There were no further reports of detainees under the ISA until December, when 15 suspected Islamic militants, some of whom are alleged to have ties to the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization, were detained. Thirteen of these subsequently were ordered detained for 2 years, while two others were released with restrictions on travel and contacts.

The CLA comes up for renewal every 5 years; it was strengthened and extended for another 5 years in April 1999. Under its provisions, the Minister for Home Affairs may order preventive detention, with the concurrence of the Public Prosecutor, for an initial period of 1 year, and the President may extend detention for additional periods up to 1 year at a time. The Minister must provide a written statement of the grounds for detention to the Criminal Law Advisory Committee (CLAC) within 28 days of making the order. The CLAC then reviews the case at a private hearing. CLAC rules require detainees to be notified of the grounds of their detention at least 10 days prior to the hearing. The detainee may represent himself or be represented by a lawyer. After the hearing, the Committee makes a written recommendation to the President, who may cancel, confirm, or amend the detention order. However, persons detained under the CLA may have recourse to the courts via an application of a writ of habeas corpus. Persons detained without trial under the CLA are entitled to counsel but only may challenge the substantive basis for their detention to the CLAC. The CLA is used almost exclusively in cases involving narcotics or criminal organizations and has not been used for political purposes. According to official figures, less than 400 persons were detained under the provisions of the CLA as of June 2000, the most recent year for which information is available.

Persons who allege mistreatment while in detention may bring criminal charges against government officials who are alleged to have committed such acts.

Both the ISA and the CLA contain provisions that allow for such modified forms of detention as curfews, residence limitations, requirements to report regularly to the authorities, limitations on travel, or, in the case of the ISA, restrictions on political activities and association.

The MDA permits detention without trial. Under the MDA, the director of the CNB also may commit--without trial--suspected drug abusers to a drug rehabilitation center for a 6 month period, which is extendable by a review committee of the institution for up to a maximum of 3 years. At the end of 1998, the most recent year for which there are statistics, almost 5,000 persons were detained under the provisions of the MDA for treatment and rehabilitation. Under the Intoxicating Substances Act, the CNB director may order the treatment for rehabilitation of a person believed to be an inhalant drug abuser for up to 6 months.

In November a man was arrested for an Internet posting which authorities alleged was an "attempt to incite violence or disobedience to the law" during the general election. The posting recalled and criticized a government decision that ruling party leaders had not violated the law by visiting polling stations during the 1997 election. The posting then rhetorically urged citizens to court arrest by trying to enter polling areas for similar visits. After his arrest, a judge ordered a psychiatric evaluation for the man. Prosecutors later withdrew the charges after the evaluation found the man to be suffering from a longstanding mental disorder. His wife agreed with a request by prosecutors that he undergo psychiatric treatment.

The Constitution prohibits exile, and the Government does not use it.



Singapore's judicial power is vested in the Supreme Court, consisting of a chief justice and an unspecified number of other judges. All are appointed by the president, acting on the advice of the prime minister. The judiciary functions as the chief guardian of the Constitution through its judicial review of the constitutionality of laws. The Supreme Court of Judicature Act of 1969, and various subsequent acts ensured judicial independence and integrity by providing for the inviolability of judges in the exercise of their duties and for safeguards on their tenure.

The Constitution establishes two levels of courts--the Supreme Court and the subordinate courts. The subordinate courts are the magistrates' courts, trying civil and criminal offenses with maximum penalties of three years' imprisonment or a fine of S$10,000 (for value of the Singapore dollar--see Glossary); the district courts, trying cases with maximum penalties of ten years' imprisonment or a fine of S$50,000; the juvenile courts, for offenders below the age of sixteen; the coroners' courts; and the small claims courts, which hear civil and commercial claims for sums of less than S$2,000. The Supreme Court consisted of the High Court, which has unlimited original jurisdiction in all civil and criminal cases and which tries all cases involving capital punishment; the Court of Appeal, which hears appeals from any judgment of the High Court in civil matters; and the Court of Criminal Appeal, which hears appeals from decisions of the High Court in criminal cases. The final appellate court is the Judicial Committee of Her Majesty's Privy Council in London. According to Article 100 of the Constitution, the president may make arrangements for appeals from the Supreme Court to be heard by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. In May 1989, Parliament abolished the right to appeal to the Privy Council except for criminal cases involving the death sentence and civil cases in which the parties had agreed in writing to such an appeal at the outset. The judicial system reflected British legal practice and traditions, except for trial by jury. Singapore abolished jury trials except for capital offenses in 1959; all jury trials were abolished by the 1969 amendment of the code of criminal procedure.

The chief justice and other judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister. The prime minister, however, is required to consult the chief justice on his recommendations for the Supreme Court. Judges of the subordinate courts are appointed by the president on the advice of the chief justice. Singapore's judges and superior courts repeatedly demonstrated their independence from the government by ruling against the government in cases involving political opponents or civil liberties. The government response in such cases was to amend the law or to pass new laws, but it did not attempt to remove or to intimidate judges. Although internal political struggle in Singapore from the 1950s through the 1980s was often intense, and the ruling government was quite willing to intimidate and imprison its political opponents, it always followed legal forms and procedures.

The attorney general is appointed by the president, on the advice of the prime minister, from persons qualified to become judges of the Supreme Court. A judge may be removed from office only for misbehavior or incapacitation, which must be certified by an independent tribunal. The attorney general, who is assisted by the solicitor general, is the principal legal advisor to the government, serves as the public prosecutor, and is responsible for drafting all legislation. The office of the attorney general, the Attorney General's Chambers, is divided into the legislation, civil, and criminal divisions.

Prosecution of criminal cases was the responsibility of the Office of the Attorney General. The attorney general was appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister. Public prosecutors were attorneys appointed by the Public Service Commission to advise police on the law in criminal matters and to present the government's case against the defendant. Criminal cases in which the maximum sentence did not exceed three years were referred to magistrates' courts, while more serious offenses were assigned to the district courts. There also was one Juvenile Court, which handled cases that involved children under the age of sixteen. Criminal cases appealed to the Supreme Court went through a three-stage process. Judges known as judicial commissioners eliminated cases that did not meet legal criteria for appeal. The High Court of the Supreme Court heard all cases appealed from a district court in which the convicted criminal received the death sentence and also selected cases approved by the judicial commissioners. The High Court also had unlimited original jurisdiction for cases deemed important to the state. The Court of Criminal Appeal was the final arbiter in criminal cases where the interpretation of law was subject to question.

Today, the Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respects this provision; however, laws that limit judicial review allow for some restrictions in practice. Some judicial officials, especially Supreme Court judges, have ties to the ruling party and its leaders. However, these ties generally do not appear to influence the judiciary's independence. The President appoints judges to the Supreme Court on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in consultation with the Chief Justice. The President also appoints subordinate court judges on the recommendation of the Chief Justice. The term of appointment is determined by the Legal Service Commission, of which the Chief Justice is the chairman. The 1989 constitutional amendments that eliminated judicial review of the objective grounds for detention under the ISA and subversion laws allow the Government to restrict, or even eliminate, judicial review in such cases and thereby restrict, on vaguely defined national security grounds, the scope of certain fundamental liberties provided for in the Constitution. Under the ISA and the CLA, the President and the Minister of Home Affairs have substantial de facto judicial power, which explicitly (in the case of the ISA) or implicitly (in the case of the CLA) excludes normal judicial review.

Government leaders historically have used court proceedings, in particular defamation suits, against political opponents and critics. Both this practice and consistent awards in favor of government plaintiffs have raised questions about the relationship between the Government and the judiciary and led to a perception that the judiciary reflects the views of the executive in politically sensitive cases. Two cases from the 1997 elections--defamation actions against Workers' Party (WP) politicians Tang Liang Hong and J.B. Jeyaretnam for statements they made during the campaign --perpetuated the perception of undue judicial sympathy for government plaintiffs.

The judicial system has two levels of courts: The Supreme Court, which includes the High Court and the Court of Appeal; and the subordinate courts. Subordinate court judges and magistrates, as well as public prosecutors, are civil servants whose specific assignments are determined by the Legal Service Commission, which can decide on job transfers to any of several legal service departments. The subordinate courts handle the great majority of civil and criminal cases in the first instance. The High Court may hear any civil or criminal case, although it generally limits itself to civil matters involving substantial claims and criminal matters carrying the death penalty or imprisonment of more than 10 years. The Court of Appeal is the highest and final court of review for matters decided in the subordinate courts or the High Court. In addition the law provides for Islamic courts whose authority is limited to Islamic family law.

If they wish, Supreme Court Justices may remain in office until the mandatory retirement age of 65, after which they may continue to serve at the Government's discretion for brief, renewable terms at full salary. The Constitution has a provision for the Prime Minister or the Chief Justice to convene a tribunal in order to remove a justice "on the ground of misbehavior or properly discharge the functions" of office, but it never has been used.

The judicial system provides citizens with an efficient judicial process. In normal cases, the Criminal Procedures Code provides that a charge against a defendant must be read and explained to him as soon as it is framed by the prosecution or the magistrate. Defendants enjoy a presumption of innocence and the right of appeal in most cases. They have the right to be present at their trials and to be represented by an attorney; the Law Society of Singapore administers a criminal legal aid plan for those who cannot afford to hire an attorney. Defendants also have the right to confront witnesses against them, to provide witnesses and evidence on their own behalf, and to review government-held evidence relevant to their cases. Trials are public and by judge. There are no jury trials.

The Constitution extends these rights to all citizens. However, persons detained under the ISA or CLA are not entitled to a public trial. In addition proceedings of the advisory board under the ISA and CLA are not public.

There were no reports of political prisoners.


In 1989 there were six types of correctional institutions: two maximum security prisons for males; three medium security prisons for males; one prison for females; four day-release camps; one reformative training center for persons between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one; and seven drug treatment centers. Queenstown Remand Prison, a short-term, maximum-security facility, served two basic functions: receiving and classifying newly convicted male offenders and holding persons awaiting trial or sentence. Changi Prison, a maximum security prison for males, was used for hardened criminals considered to be unlikely candidates for rehabilitation. Political prisoners detained under the Internal Security Act usually were also placed in the Moon Crescent Center within the Changi complex. Females convicted of crimes are thought to have been sent to separate maximum and medium security complexes.

All adult prisoners spent the last six months of their sentence in day-release centers. These prisoners were allowed to spend days at work and to visit their families without supervision. The purpose of the reformative training center for young adults was to provide rehabilitation. Sentences to this facility usually were for not less than eighteen months and not more than three years. Juveniles fifteen years old and under convicted of crimes were sent either to reform homes for girls or to reform schools for boys. Whereas persons convicted of importing and selling drugs were prosecuted as criminals and served time in prison, drug abusers usually did not go to jail. Singapore's Central Narcotics Bureau operated six rehabilitation centers and one anti-inhalant abuse center. Individuals who tested positive for drugs were required to spend up to six months in a rehabilitation center and possible additional time in halfway houses operated by the Central Narcotics Bureau.

In 1989 two privately operated programs attempted to assist prisoners and drug abusers find jobs and stay out of the correctional system. The Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises operated job training programs in the prisons and managed day-release programs for the prisons. The Singapore AntiNarcotics Association provided counseling for drug abusers after their release from rehabilitation centers. Although it did not have job training or placement programs, the association worked closely with the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises to find employment for drug abusers and monitored their progress after placement.

Today, prison conditions are believed to meet international standards. The Government does not allow human rights monitors to visit prisons.



It does not appear that violence or abuse against women is a widespread problem. The Penal Code and the Women's Charter criminalize domestic violence and sexual or physical harassment. A victim of domestic violence can obtain court orders barring the spouse from the home until the court is satisfied that the spouse has ceased his aggressive behavior. Court orders for protection against violent family members have increased in recent years, in part because the definition of violence includes intimidation, continual harassment, or restraint against one's will. The Penal Code prescribes mandatory caning and a minimum imprisonment of 2 years for conviction on a charge of "outraging modesty" that causes the victim fear of death or injury. The press gives fairly prominent coverage to instances of abuse or violence against women. There are several organizations that provide assistance to abused women. The Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) has a hot line that offers counseling and legal advice. The Family Protection and Welfare Service, an office of the Ministry of Community Development and Sports, documents physical and psychological abuse, and provides counseling and legal services to abused women. In July 1999, the Council of Women's Organizations established a crisis center for abused persons. The Star shelter accepts children, women, and men, and can accommodate up to 30 persons. The Government actively enforces the law against rape, which provides for imprisonment of up to 20 years and caning for offenders. Under the law, rape only can be committed by a man, and spousal rape is not a crime.

Prostitution is legal. Prostitutes are required to undergo periodic health checks and to carry a health card. Public solicitation, living on the earnings of a prostitute, and maintaining a brothel are illegal. The authorities periodically carry out crackdowns on solicitation for prostitution, and arrest and deport foreign prostitutes, particularly when their activities take place outside of informally designated red light areas. Sexual intercourse with girls under the age of 16 is illegal. There is no evidence that child prostitution is a problem.

Trafficking in women for the purpose of prostitution is a problem.



The Government demonstrates its strong commitment to children's rights and welfare through its well-funded systems of public education and medical care. Access to public education and medical care is equal for all children. In 2000 the Government enacted legislation that would make 6 years of education in public schools compulsory by 2003. Although school attendance has not been compulsory, virtually 100 percent of children are enrolled through grade 6, and the dropout rate for secondary school is low. The Children and Young Persons Act establishes protective services for orphaned, abused, disabled, or troubled children, and creates a juvenile court system. The Ministry of Community Development works closely with the National Council for Social Services to oversee children's welfare cases. Voluntary organizations operate most of the homes for children, while the Government funds up to 50 percent of all child costs, which include normal living expenses and overhead, as well as expenses for special schooling, health care, or supervisory needs.

There is no societal pattern of abuse of children.

The Ministry for Community Development and Sports sponsors activities promoting children's causes, including family stability. This agency, along with several NGO's, particularly focuses on keeping fathers involved in their children's lives and on preventing child abuse.



The law prohibits trafficking in persons; however trafficking in persons is a problem. The country is a destination for trafficking in women for the purpose of prostitution, primarily from India but also from Thailand, China, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Burma, Malaysia, and Colombia. Almost all foreign prostitutes reportedly are aware when they enter the country that they will be employed as prostitutes. However, some may have their passports held by employers after their arrival, or are subject to other coercive circumstances. In other cases, recruiters in source countries offer women jobs as maids, bar hostesses or waitresses, and sometimes offer up-front payment as inducement. Once in the country, these women are forced to work as prostitutes, and are subject to threats and violence if they resist. Employers may confiscate their passports, limiting opportunities to leave. Police reportedly conduct raids approximately once per month in an effort to maintain some control over the situation. While prostitution is legal, public solicitation is not, and police periodically carry out crackdowns on prostitutes, particularly those operating outside of informally designated red light areas. Foreign prostitutes, including trafficked victims, detained in these raids usually quickly are deported. Foreign prostitutes also are deported immediately if they test positive for HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases. Authorities prosecute some cases of trafficking. In February a court jailed for 30 months a man who trafficked 10 women from Thailand, 6 from Vietnam, and 4 from China to be waitresses on a Singapore-based cruise ship. The young women were required to work as prostitutes on the ship after their arrival.

The three major laws that govern trafficking and prostitution are the Women's Charter, the Children and Young Person's Act, and the Penal Code. The law makes trafficking in women and children--whether or not it is related to prostitution--punishable by up to 5 years' imprisonment, a $5,434 (SD10,000) fine, and caning. The Penal Code covers trafficking and wrongful constraint of men. Convicted traffickers would typically be found guilty of violating more than one law. There is no specific campaign to combat or prevent the use of fraud or coercion to recruit foreign women as prostitutes, although some persons have been prosecuted and punished for crimes involving such acts.

The Government substantially strengthened penalties against employers who abuse domestics in 1998, and vigorously prosecutes cases of abuse. In practice, successful investigation and prosecution of such cases require that victims remain in the country. The Government requires them to remain in the country until and while the case is prosecuted. Victims do not receive government assistance during this period or at other times, and sometimes state that they are unable to receive permission for alternative employment, leaving them dependent on support from the home country embassy. NGO's are not known to provide assistance to trafficking victims.

Religious organizations occasionally assist trafficking victims but are limited by the strict laws regarding immigration; there is a legal obligation to report to immigration authorities foreigners who have violated immigration laws. Victims' respective embassies often are the only avenue of assistance; however, embassies rarely are asked to provide assistance to nationals who have been arrested for prostitution. Some embassies find it difficult to ensure that victims' rights are addressed.



The Government of Singapore (GOS) rigorously and effectively enforces its strict laws against the domestic possession and sale of drugs, and does not permit the illicit production or processing of precursor chemicals or narcotics. Singapore is a major regional center for shipping and finance, and international traffickers exploit these facets of the country's infrastructure to transit narcotics and to launder drug proceeds. The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) of Singapore cooperates effectively on narcotics trafficking with other countries in the region and with the U.S. In 1998, the U.S. and Singapore made progress toward a "Designation Agreement" that would enhance cooperation in investigating drug money laundering and in the seizure of drug-related assets. Singapore is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention. It also is a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and its 1972 Protocol, as well as to the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. In July 1998, the GOS strengthened the Misuse of Drugs Act, adding three new laws aimed at recidivists and methamphetamine traffickers. Recent statistics show a drop in opiate use, but a rise in the use of methamphetamine and cannabis. Overall, the drug use relapse percentage has dropped over the past 4 years.

Singapore does not produce either precursor chemicals or narcotics. The CNB works with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration to closely track the import of small amounts of precursor chemicals for legitimate processing and use. The country is not known as a narcotics processing center and is not expected to become involved in such activities in the future. Singapore's rigorous and well-publicized enforcement of its strict anti-drug laws, including the death penalty for drug traffickers, remains an effective deterrent.

The total number of people arrested on charges of possession, use, or trafficking in drugs has been dropping since 1994. In 1998, the trend continued, as the number of arrests dropped 19 percent. Of those arrested, the number of first time offenders rose, but the number of repeat offenders fell. Although the number of people arrested for possession or consumption of drugs dropped in 1998, the number arrested for trafficking rose. Statistics also show the number of heroin, opium and "ecstasy" addicts has dropped, but the number of people arrested for use of cannabis and methamphetamine rose.

The criminal statutes governing drug offenses are strict. Anyone possessing the following amounts of drugs is presumed to be trafficking in that drug, and the defendant has the burden of establishing that he/she did not possess the drug for trafficking purposes: opium - 100 grams; morphine - 3 grams; heroin - 2 grams; cannabis - 15-30 grams depending on the type; cocaine - 3 grams; methamphetamine - 25 grams. The law imposes a mandatory death penalty on those convicted of possessing more than the following amounts of drugs: heroin - 15 grams; cocaine - 30 grams; opium - 1.2 kilograms; morphine - 30 grams; cannabis - 500-1,000 grams depending on the type; methamphetamine - 250 grams.

Apart from the "zero tolerance" policy for trafficking, Singapore uses a combination of punishment and rehabilitation against first time offenders. Many first time offenders are given rehabilitation instead of jail time. The prosecution rate has remained steady at one-third of those arrested over the past two years, despite the drop in the actual number of people arrested on drug charges. The average daily population of people in drug treatment centers was 4,752 for 1997, down from 6,990 in 1996, a reduction of one-third. Halfway houses and job placement programs exist to help addicts successfully readjust to society. At the same time, the GOS has toughened anti-recidivist laws. Three-time offenders now face mandatory longer sentences and caning.

The CNB reports that it mounted 26 operations against drug syndicates in 1997 in which 542 people were arrested. In 1997, authorities seized more than 82 kilograms of heroin, as well as 1.5 kilogram of opium, 4,300 kilograms of cannabis, and more than 55,000 psychotropic pills. Similar results are expected in 1998.

Intercepting narcotics transshipped through Singapore continues to be the greatest weakness in enforcement. Absent specific information about a drug shipment, GOS officials have been reluctant to impose tighter interdiction requirements at the port, out of concern that this would interfere with the free flow of goods and thus jeopardize Singapore's position as the region's primary shipping entrepot. GOS officials act effectively, however, when information is available. They also share information with DEA officers on a case-by-case basis.

In July 1998, Singapore amended the Misuse of Drugs Act to crack down harder on drug use. The amendments include three new provisions: (a) the "three strikes" law under which third-time offenders are subject to a minimum of 5 years imprisonment and 3 strokes of the cane; (b) Customs officials now may require urinalysis tests for every citizen and permanent resident returning to Singapore from outside the country. This has resulted in 80 arrests from the time of passage through the end of November 1998; and (c) a locally available methamphetamine known as "ice" has been added to the list of drugs for which the death penalty is prescribed for possession of more than a stipulated amount.

Singapore has taken effective legal and law enforcement measures to prevent and punish narcotics-related public corruption. Singapore's Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) is charged with the enforcement of Singapore's anti-drug laws. The CNB, and other elements of the government, are effective and virtually free of drug-related corruption.

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A Comparative Criminology Tour of the World
Dr. Robert Winslow
San Diego State University