When Raven recommended this event to me, I registered for a spot immediately.
It was set rather late as compared to most library events, but it looked promising, at least from a fiction research point-of-view. So I went down anyway.
The event was moderated by journalist Michelle Martin, and featured forensic scientist Lim Chin Chin, criminal lawyer Sunil Sudheesan, and author Colin Cheong. Sharing their experiences with the darker side of Singapore, they spoke about being on the investigative front, defending accused people (guilty or not), and how fact, while sometimes stranger than fiction, spawns stories.
As they spoke about major cases in Singapore (e.g. Huang Na case) and their experiences from their own positions – forensic scientist, defense lawyer, news reporter – here were some of the takeaways which struck me the most:
- In a small country like Singapore, time is of the essence
And it is not just about bringing the criminal to justice and find closure for the victim’s kin. Bureaucracy comes into play and important people want answers, giving investigators additional pressure in trying to look at their cases in the most objective way possible, with the maximum number of perspectives.
When lives are at stake, the margin for error or missing things out due to time is close to zero.
- It’s not just about the perpetrators or people involved in the cases or crimes, but also their families
It is human nature to judge. And Sunil said something which stuck with me for the rest of the night –
“Accused persons may be found guilty, but you’ll always have innocent families.”
You can argue and accuse all you want, but this quote has more than a smidgeon of truth within it.
Perhaps the reason behind this convenient dehumanization of criminals, accused people, or people appearing at court is a selfish act of judgement. Because without looking at them and the people around them this way, people on the other side of the courtroom fail to become a “them”, and we have to realize these people are, like us, human.
Despite the Q&A somehow becoming similar to a “free legal clinic”, I enjoyed the stories and the experiences recounted by the panelists. With each word the panelists used in recounting their experience, you could feel the sincerity and the passion behind what they do. I was truly entertained and above all, truly informed.
I once told someone I read Crime / Mystery Fiction because it gives you hope – hope that the light at the end will still come despite all the crap which happens, the crap that makes you lose faith in humanity. This session has reaffirmed this stand for me.