Singaporeans who do not understand what ‘mandatory’ means

Comments (18)
  1. Richard says:

    Maybe TOC should not have those ang moh speaking interviewers "mandatory" here "mandatory" there

    As far as I see those kids at bugis are the chao ah beng. Don't mean that if they don't understand the english word mandatory that they have never thought of the question before. Maybe if u substitute it for its chinese equivalent, and phrased the question in chinese, they could answer the question better.

    1. Daniel says:

      But you see, our laws are written in English, not Singlish. Maybe we should re-write all our laws in Singlish so that ah bengs can understand them before they break them out of ignorance and get sent for hanging. Really sad story here. If they are that old and still need a Chinese translation, then our education system has failed them.

    2. Chris Ong says:

      Hi Richard,

      A time for Chinese interviews to be conducted? Would be interesting if they went to coffeeshops to really canvass for opinions on the ground.


    3. JacqOwyong says:

      Our laws are written in English and therefore i think it is only appropriate for everything else to be in English? The entire issue here, i feel, is less on whether we should be using "mandatory"or not. Instead, we should place our focus on educating the level of English in Singapore.

  2. xxx says:

    To be fair, i thought that one of the TOC interviewers had a hard time herself explaining what 'mandatory' in the legal context meant.

    1. Chris Ong says:

      Yes I kind of agree too. Perhaps it's framing its legal connotations in an accessible way to the ordinary joe on the streets poses the hardest challenge. But I guess even an commonsensical definition of the word mandatory would suffice to drive home her to point to those she was intervewing.

      Thanks for your comments.

  3. Chetan says:

    Nice piece Christopher, I'm not suprised at all by this finding, however inaccurate it may be as a representation of the views of most singaporeans. The term "mandatory" holds a legal definition that might be difficult for even many university students to pick up on. And picking up on the meaning of this term is crucial because it makes the Singaporean law's stance on drug trafficking seem all the more harsher. If the word in question is removed, then we might end up having less disagreement about the issue of capital punishment for drug trafficking. Understanding what is entailed by this term is crucial for a discussion of this issue.

    1. Chris Ong says:

      Good point you've highlighted.

      If there are indeed legal ramifications of the word, then perhaps an analysis of it might reveal more than meets the eye on Singapore's law against drug trafficking.

      Thanks, Chetan

  4. popo says:

    doesnt it mean die die must die if found guilty?

    1. Chris Ong says:

      Thanks for the link, LCC!

      Great work by TOC again, as always.

  5. Law student says:


    Actually, nowhere in the Misuse of Drugs Act would you find the word "mandatory". Instead, the punishments for the various offences are set out in table form under the Second Schedule of the Act, and the sole punishment "Death" is prescribed for cases where a specified quantity of drugs is exceeded.

    Thus, "mandatory" has no special legal meaning, at least in the context of drug offences. It is simply a term of reference that the media/public has decided to use.

    1. Chris Ong says:

      I guess what's startling is that a large number of Singaporeans are struggling even for a common-sense definition of the word 'mandatory'


  6. contrarian says:

    If you claim that "Insofar as an issue does not skid their immediate bread and butter concerns, the average Singaporean can be safely assumed to be cooly apathetic towards it.", then either you convince them otherwise, or you have lost in a free contest of ideas.

    If you cannot persuade or convince them to your cause, then it is not for you to decide what the majority wants if they persist in their belief in what is in their best interest, and "choose to pay selective attention to only their bread and butter concerns".

  7. Do not get your girls wear a plain white bridesmaid dress on stage in order to avoid distracting.

  8. bra genie says:

    I cannot believe it’s thatstraightforward.

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