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It's time to send litterbugs to jail

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam's take on the state of our cleanliness confirms the findings of the Graciousness Survey (Take ownership to make S'pore cleaner: Tharman; Nov 5).

Littering, public toilets and urination in the public space are observed to be among the worst issues.

The need to be mindful of our neighbours and fellow citizens, and be public-spirited are habits championed by the Public Hygiene Council and the Singapore Kindness Movement for years.

At the recent IPS-Nathan Lectures, former head of civil service Lim Siong Guan reminded us that Singaporeans expressed the wish for a more gracious society in the next 50 years. He opined that we have to start now and move in a more deliberate, urgent and holistic manner.

That we desire to be gracious is hopeful. But it seems that we lack the will to be so.

It is time we made a social compact to generate the will to be gracious and not to litter.

I suggest that the Government stop cleaning up after us. Let there be no cleaning of public litter for some days. Let the litter accumulate so that we can see it, smell it and see how hazardous it is with rats and cockroaches swarming.

Because of the health hazard, we will have no choice but to organise ourselves to clean up the litter.

Thereafter, we can go back to normal cleaning by cleaners but with a new enforcement regime.

Anyone caught littering will pay a hefty fine for the first offence, and a sharp increase for every subsequent offence, including a jail sentence.

Every convicted offender will have to carry out a Corrective Work Order by cleaning the streets in public view.

I am afraid that this is the only way to enforce good habits. We have to be harsh to be kind to ourselves.

William Wan (Dr)

General Secretary

Singapore Kindness Movement

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 12, 2017, with the headline 'It's time to send litterbugs to jail'. Print Edition | Subscribe