The thin line between right and wrong

Many a times we will be caught in the situation between having to deal with something that might seem apparently right (or at least right in the eyes of the law) and at the same time, appear to have the potential to be flamed and condemned as wrong (simply by means of humanistic nature and sympathy).


I’m sure everyone has experienced this before. Sadly and unfortunately, an incident of such nature has once again crept up to our society’s doorsteps. You might have read of the article published in Straits Times a while back, reporting on the lady who was convicted of selling the firing pin of an M16 rifle at the Beach Road Army Market.


Updates have streamed in on Channel NewsAsia and Straits Times as of now, stating that the Courts have meted out an imprisonment sentence of six weeks for Madam Loh Boon Cheng, 55, for the possession of the firing pin without a valid license and for selling it to a media intern sometime this year.


Mdm Loh Boon Cheng was sentenced to six weeks imprisonment. Photo | Straits Times


Some of you might know this intern personally, and might have harboured thoughts of ‘why you do this? what are you trying to achieve?’. I have too. I won’t deny having had such thoughts previously when I read the article. After all, the suspect in question is a 55 year old elderly, or so to say, SOON-to-be-elderly lady, who once suffered from breast cancer and has gone through chemotheraphy treatment. Yes, her husband was once found guilty and jailed three weeks for selling blank attachments and rifle magazines too, and some of you might argue that she deserves it for not learning her lesson. But what if you think about it in a more compassionate way? In a way that might win the case in her favour, that she has a husband and probably a few children to support at home? She’s 55 after all – and yes while the pin is dangerous, it still is part of her living.


So I chose to write this post on a neutral stance, not siding with anyone, be it the media or on the side of Madam Loh. While Loh was obviously in the wrong by possessing the firing pin, we cannot deny that it might only be one of the few ways of earning a living back there. Visitors who have been to the Army Market will realise the drastic amount of competitiveness each store displays while coming to retailing such items. And by such items, I’m not even referring to ‘firing pins’ and ‘blank attachments’, but rather, basic military necessities such as army water bottles and even camouflage cream.


The intern was supposedly on an undercover mission back then, and was promised anonymity and confidentiality when the story was published. This, however, and unfortunately, did not come true, evident from the number of times the various press publications splattered his name all over the papers. He has since risen to become the target of online flaming and attacks by netizens, accusing him of currying favour, promotion favours, nothing better to do… etc etc you name it, they have it.


The Twitter interface of local podcast host Mr Brown, on the issue of this whole incident. Photo | Courtesy of the intern’s blog

But what we failed to think of was this: it was supposed to be an operation, and an undercover one at this. While the only right thing to do in the eyes of the law was to uncover these explicit sales that are happening underground in our society, it also seems morally and ethically wrong that we will probably be causing someone to be slapped with a hefty fine or a painful jail sentence. So what exactly is right and what exactly is wrong in this case?


To those supporting Madam Loh in her actions and flaming this particular intern in question here, perhaps you should take a step back and think about what you would have done. On broken promises and assurances, this is the result that you get – with your full name exposed to the public and with people cursing and dabbing at you at the back of your head.


To those supporting the media and this intern in his act, have you once considered the plight of this lady here? That she was diagnosed with a killer disease once and almost lost her life? And also at the fact that she has a husband and children to support? Wouldn’t it bug your conscience to send her off to prison like that? Without people like these, especially to you army boys out there, who would help you when you accidentally lose a certain part of your rifle in your BMT or unit days? (That being said, I must clarify I’m NOT in favour of buying such stuff from army market. You lose it, you answer – simple as that.)


This is the line that never fails to appear in our everyday life. If you were in the intern’s shoes, what would you have done?


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