US citizen Kamari Kenyada Charlton, 37, had accompanied his wife to Singapore to seek medical treatment for her pregnancy, and was arrested on 1 September 2010 at Changi Airport departure gates for overstaying. He faces a potential jail term not exceeding 6 months and 3 lashes of the rotan or more.
Mr. Kamari was permitted entry into Singapore on a 3-month tourist visa and his wife on a 6-month medical visa. Why the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority of Singapore (ICA) did not make allowance for husband and wife to be together throughout the duration of the medical stay is a reflection of their bureaucratic mentality. A relative of Mr. Kamari's wife who also overstayed in Singapore, by 194 days and thereby exceeding the same 3-month tourist visa restriction, was permitted to settle by paying a fine of S$500. The ICA inconsistency in enforcement reflects the arbitrary application of the law.
Mr. Kamari's lawyer, M. Ravi, appealed for a commutation of the American's potential sentence. But in a written response to Mr Ravi, the Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) rejected the appeal "after having carefully considered your representations". Mr. Ravi plans to take the case to Singapore's High Court on grounds of discrimination, contending Mr. Kamari faces differential treatment.
The same M. Ravi, defending British author Alan Shadrake, was given short shrift this week by the AGC who "opportunistically used the cover of court proceedings to threaten me with future contempt proceedings". “What a scandalous allegation is that,” he told Justice Quentin Loh. “She (Deputy Public Prosecutor Hema Subramanian) is saying I should be held in contempt of court.” Well, at least you can give the AGC credit for consistency in their modus operandi.
The last time an American was whipped in Singapore was in 1994, when teenager Michael Fay received 4 strokes and 4 months in jail for spray painting former High Court judge Amarjeet Singh's car, despite appeals for leniency by then U.S. President Bill Clinton. Amarjeet's gleeful take on the Fay punishment: "You know, once you loosen up or the laws become lax, everything comes in. The floodgates are opened. It doesn't pay to mess around with the system." His own son Dinesh Singh Bhatia was later caught in a spectacular October 2004 drug bust and sentenced to one year's jail for consuming cocaine. Justice does get served, it just takes a bit of time to come around.
The U.S. Embassy in Singapore said it is watching the Kamari case. Maybe Obama has already been updated by Twitter @BarackObama.