Tuesday, September 30, 2008

States Times report on JBJ's death

Even in death, they deny him any dignity. After highlighting his losses, the unknown writer of this Straits Times article goes on to say "Yet, the old warhorse refused to believe that he was irrelevant to Singaporeans." The first version of the article sourced from AFP did not include the line, so it can be concluded that it was added by the ST. I have emphasised it below.

Jeyaretnam dies
Straits Times

Veteran opposition politican J. B. Jeyaretnam, died early on Tuesday just days before a constitutional challenge he hoped would propel him back into parliament, his family said.

Mr Jeyaretnam, 82, died at about 1.30am from a heart attack at his son's home in Singapore, a relative told the AFP from the family home in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

Earlier, he had complained of breathing difficulty.

He was rushed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Mr Jeyaretnam, a lawyer, recently formed the Reform Party to challenge the more than 40-year rule of the People's Action Party, which was founded by former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

One of the rare few to speak out against the Government, he made political history in 1981 when he became the first opposition politician elected to parliament.

He was unable to contest the 2006 general election after he was made bankrupt in 2001 for failing to pay S$265,000 in defamation damages to then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong. He was discharged from bankruptcy in May last year.

Mr Jeyaretnam was to appear in the High Court on Oct 15 to seek an order that a by-election be held for a seat that is currently vacant.

Ms G. K. Pamela, another of Jeyaretnam's relatives, said the court challenge was related to Jeyaretnam's desire to enter parliament again.

'That was his wish,' she told AFP in tears.

'Such a good man. Why did God take him?'

Singapore Democratic Party activist Chee Siok Chin said she was shocked at the veteran opposition figure's death.

'There's no doubt about it. Mr Jeyaretnam has been the icon of the opposition here and it's a great loss,' she said.

Mr Jeyaretnam made his final political comeback earlier this year to form the new opposition party.

He left the Workers' Party (WP) after years at its helm and was succeeded by Mr Low Thia Khiang, who is now MP for Hougang.

When he broke the PAP's 15-year monopoly of the Parliament in 1981, most of today's young Singaporeans were not even born yet.

After losing his parliamentary seat in 1986 for making a false declaration of the WP accounts, he spent a month in jail and was fined S$5,000. Mr Jeyaretnam spent most of the last two decades battling outside the legislature.

Of the five General Elections since then, he has contested only once, in 1997.He finished as top loser through the bruising Cheng San GRC bout, earning a 45.2 per cent of the valid votes.

That brought him back into the House as a Non-Constituency MP, a brief tenure that ended in 2001, when he was declared a bankrupt for failing to pay after losing a defamation suit against five Indian PAP MPs, among others.

When he left his 30-year-long WP vehicle in that same year, after accusing his successor Low of not helping him clear his debts, he was effectively banished to the margins of the opposition scene here.

Yet, the old warhorse refused to believe that he was irrelevant to Singaporeans.

Mr Jeyaretnam's niece, who gave her name only as Kavinia, said he had not been feeling well for the past three weeks.

But as recently as July, when he hosted a dinner to launch his new party, Mr Jeyaretnam still appeared strong.

Sporting his usual lamb-chop style sideburns, Mr Jeyaretnam stood before the crowd and, in typical style, spoke for almost an hour.

'Come, walk with me, let us walk together... for peace, justice, truth... fearing no one except God,' he had urged the gathering.

Mr Jeyaretnam is survived by two sons, Kenneth and Philip. His wife, Margaret, whom he had met when they were law students in Britain, died of breast cancer a year before he was elected to Parliament in 1981.

-- With additional reporting from AFP.

J B Jeyaretnam has passed away

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Information has been received that veteran opposition politician and senior lawyer Mr Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam has died. He passed away in the hospital this morning apparently of a heart attack. Mr Jeyaretnam was in court arguing a case up until yesterday. After a week of cross-examining a witness, he said that he was tired and wanted to rest. He passed away this morning. His body is at the Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

Updates will be posted here soon.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hindraf Detainee fasts in Solidarity with Jemaah Islamiah and Darul Islamiah Detainees for abolishment of ISA During Month of Ramadan


No. 135-3-A, Jalan Toman 7,
Kemayan Square,
70200 Seremban, Negeri Sembilan
Malaysia. Tel: +606-7672995/6
Fax: +6-06-7672997 Email waytha@hotmail.com

Media Statement - Hindraf Detainee fasts in Solidarity with Jemaah Islamiah and Darul Islamiah Detainees for abolishment of ISA During Month of Ramadan.

This is the fourth week in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan that Hindraf legal adviser P. Uthayakumar who is currently in detention without trial in an open court of law and held at the Kemunting Taiping, Kemta Prison is fasting in solidarity with fellow Jemaah Islamiah (JI) and Darul Islamiah (DI) detainees for the abolishment of the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA). P. Uthayakumar hopes Prime Minister Badawi would urgently release all ISA detainees especially for the Jemaah Islamiah detainees, some of whom have been detained for seven years now on the occasion of this Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

At Kemta Prison there has been zero racial or inter religious conflicts of any kind among the Chinese, Indian and Malay Muslims. Hindu P. Uthayakumar and two other Chinese Buddhists who are fasting on the occasion of the Ramadan month are invited to join the Malay Muslims detainees during the breaking of the fast. This unity coexistence and racial and religious harmony is because of the equality before the law (Article 8 of the Federal Constitution) and there are no special privileges for any detainee irrespective of race and religion and no detainee asserts supremacy or the social contract.

In fact the 49 UMNO controlled BBC members who were sent to Taiwan for a working visit should instead have come and stayed in Kemta Prison to learn appreciate and implement true multi-racialism and multi-religionism in the works. But UMNO and the Prison authorities have denied Uthayakumar and the other two Chinese detainees who were fasting the right to buy special food and cakes which has been accorded to the Muslims detainees. They are trying to break solidarity between the Muslims and the non- Muslim detainees.

In fact many JI and DI members support Hindraf's 18 point demands to Prime Minister Badawi dated 12/08/2007 and struggle for equality and equal opportunities especially for Indians who have for the last 51 years been excluded from the mainstream development. One JI member specifically said that while the government gave him and his siblings' scholarships to study overseas and who are now all professionals in the business and corporate sector and graduates, and his Indian neighbours in Kluang, Johor are in the same position their parents and grand parents had been living. In fact this JI member in welcoming P. Uthayakumar on their first encounter with Uthayakumar in the first week in Kemta Prison was "I have been here for seven years and didn't give up. Keep up the struggle". This golden word has helped and has and will keep up Hindraf's struggle for as long as it takes.

Thank you,

Yours faithfully,

P. Waytha Moorthy
Chairman- (Currently in London)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Critics of Singapore's judiciary face reprisal

Reported by International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) & Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

(CPJ/IFEX) - The following is a 19 September 2008 CPJ press release:

New York, September 19, 2008 - A court in Singapore sentenced a blogger to three months in jail on Thursday, one week after the nation's attorney general sought contempt proceedings against The Wall Street Journal Asia. Both actions come in response to critical analysis of Singapore's judiciary in connection with a prominent defamation suit.

Blogger Gopalan Nair, a former Singapore citizen who obtained U.S. citizenship in 2005, had accused a high court judge of "prostituting herself" during a hearing to assess damages in a successful defamation suit filed by the ruling Lee family against an opposition newspaper, according to local and international news reports. Police had detained Nair for six days in May after he published the comments on his Web site Singapore Dissident, having traveled to Singapore to observe the three-day hearing. Nair, who plans to appeal the verdict, must begin serving the sentence on Saturday, the Straits Times said.

In a separate case, Singapore's attorney general is seeking contempt proceedings against the publisher and two editors of the Dow Jones-owned Wall Street Journal's Asian edition for two editorials and a letter that allegedly impugned the "impartiality, integrity and independence of the Singapore judiciary," according to the Web site of the attorney general's office. One of the editorials, "Democracy in Singapore," published June 26, concerned comments made in the same defamation hearing Nair attended.

"Open discussion of the issues raised by this prominent defamation case is a part of a fair judicial process, and should not lead to further punitive measures," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator. "Online commentators like Nair should not have to serve time for criticizing the authorities, even in harsh terms."

The May defamation hearing attracted widespread attention because it pitted Lee Kuan Yew, the founding leader known as Singapore's minister mentor, against defendant Chee Soon Juan, who heads the opposition Singapore Democratic Party. The rivals squared off in court over the government's frequent use of libel charges against critics. "When the subject turned to the moral underpinnings of democracy-freedoms of speech, assembly and association-the debate went game, set, and match to Mr. Chee," the June 26 editorial in the Journal read. The editorial also described Nair's detention.

A letter by Chee, published by the Journal, and a second editorial citing an International Bar Association Human Rights Institute report on human rights in Singapore are also cited in an application to court to proceed with the contempt charge. A hearing will be set if the attorney general's application is accepted by the court, the Journal said. In a statement posted on its Web site, the attorney general's office said it will seek "appropriate sanctions."

"The dialogue took place in a courtroom and is therefore privileged-which means we can report on it without risking a lawsuit, which Mr. Lee often files against critics," said the newspaper's June 26 editorial commentary.

CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit http://www.cpj.org

Updates on the Nair case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/94776

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Waythamoorthy: Press Statement 24th September 2008

With video interviews at the end of the posting.


Samy Velu’s Statement “They no longer pose danger to the country”

P. Uthayakumar he has always maintained that his release should be on the basis that the Government acknowledges the oppression suppression and marginalisation of the Indian community over the last 51 years and that measures be taken to rectify the economic and social imbalance of the Malaysian Indians. He insists he is not desperate for his release at the expense of scarifying Malaysian Indian Rights.

Uthayakumar also insists that his release should be on the basis that the Government admits the very arrest under the ISA was politically motivated and had nothing to do with threat to National Security and the baseless allegations of links with terrorist organisations.

While HINDRAF welcomes Dato Samy Velu’s initiative to speak to the PM on their release we insist that he should openly admit and apologize to Malaysian Indians for justifying the arrests of the 4 lawyers last December 13th.

The confidence of the Malaysian Indians could only be regained if Dato Samy Velu apologizes in a gentleman manner to the Indian community for his errors and statements last December and I am certain the Indian community would forgive him.

Uthayakumar has also asked me to repeat his call made in March this year that the 4 remaining ISA detainees were never involved in the day to day affairs of HINDRAF nor were they involved in organising the Nov 25th rally or the presentation of the 18 demands at Putrajaya on 12th August 2007.

Manoharan and Kengadharan were purely acting in their capacity as advocates and solicitors in that they represented various cases filed in court on behalf of HINDRAF and its supporters and they were particularly targeted to instil fear among Lawyers from acting for HINDRAF. Their arrests have no justification whatsoever and is a great affront to Lawyers performing their duties.

HINDRAF praises these two great Legal personalities who were made scapegoats in the attempt by the Government to frame HINDRAF in a bad picture.

Ganapathi Rao’s participation in HINDRAF was merely for a short period ie about 3 months prior to his arrest under ISA. I can never imagine how a person could be categorised as a threat when his involvement was for such a short period. He was merely targeted as he had delivered speeches on Budget 2008 as he revealed the truth and the extend of the marginalisation in the budget that was presented by the PM.

P.Waytha Moorthy
Currently in London

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Police ban on Tamil language discussion at Speaker’s Corner proves the liberalization is mere tokenism

An article by my fellow socio-political blogger Ng E-Jay.

As featured on sgpolitics.net (click the link to view the many comments made on his original post)
22 Sept 2008

If the public ever needed concrete proof that the recent liberalization of Speaker’s Corner for demonstrations is mere tokenism on the part of the authorities which hardly returns Singaporeans their basic rights, we should look no further than the banned event which was supposed to be held last Friday.

Mr Thamilselvan Karuppaya, a real estate agent, had intended to hold a demonstration at Speaker’s Corner last Friday to talk about the use of Tamil on public signs. Changi Airport had earlier dropped the use of Tamil on its public signs, replacing it with Japanese instead, in an apparent bid to appeal to Japanese visitors who make up an increasingly larger share of the tourist pie.

National Parks Board (NParks) referred the matter to the police when it received Mr Thamilselvan Karuppaya application to hold the demonstration. The police informed Mr Thamilselvan to apply for a Public Entertainment License last Tuesday, but rejected his application at the last minute. Mr Thamilselvan cancelled the event accordingly, but he said, “We are not going to keep quiet on this topic.” (ST, “Police turn down estate agent’s application to speak on Tamil language issues”, 19 Sept)

As expected, the police dished out the usual excuse on the need to maintain racial and religious harmony. A police spokesman said in a statement that “the topic of his speech is a sensitive one impinging on race”, and that “Singapore is a multi-ethnic society and maintaining community harmony is a key imperative that we must not take for granted”.

There are a few points I want to raise here.

Firstly, I feel that Mr Thamilselvan topic is not a racially or religiously sensitive topic, yet the authorities have framed it as such, and used it as an excuse to ban the event. This is unjustified.

Secondly, why in the first place must issues surrounding race, language or religion be kept out of public discourse? If we keep assuming that Singaporeans are unable to conduct public discussions concerning such issues in a civilized manner, then this assumption becomes reality.

Thirdly, the Government has always lauded Changi Airport as a national icon. It is thus reasonable that Changi Airport should use all 4 official languages, English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil, on its public signs. To drop the use of Tamil and replace it with Japanese purely for commercial reasons is unbefitting of Changi Airport’s iconic status.

May I remind readers that Changi Airport is managed by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), which is a statutory board under the Ministry of Transport, and is funded by taxpayer’s money.

CAAS replied last week that “as English was India’s second language, it was advised by the Singapore Tourism Board that English signs were sufficient.”

Well, English is Japan’s second language too, so English signs should similarly be sufficient for Japanese visitors. Enough said.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bangladeshi Migrants in Singapore

Al Jazeera's Tony Birtley reports migrant workers from Bangladesh are part of a growing number who are being ripped off in highly organised scams. Workers are leaving their homes for the promise of money and security in Singapore, only to discover they have been duped and no jobs exist.

Visit the website of H.O.M.E., a local NGO that addresses the plight of migrant workers in Singapore.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Two other reports on the Tamil language issue

Seelan Palay: As far as I checked, there wasn't any article following up on the issue in today's (Sept 20th) Straits Times. There was a letter published in the forum section though, from an Indian man who was very against the idea of the speech and actually praised the police for acting well. I will respond to that in my next blog post.

Below is an article featured in the Japanese press and a report on what happened on Friday at Speakers' Corner by the Singapore Democrats.

Japanese on signs at the expense of Tamil irks Singapore's Indians
Japan Economic Newswire Via Acquire Media NewsEdge
SINGAPORE, Sept. 20 (Kyodo)

Singapore's use of Japanese on signboards in an apparent bid to lure more Japanese tourists has roused concern among some ethnic Indians who make up almost 10 percent of the city-state's citizens, with some feeling snubbed at the exclusion of their native language Tamil.

The city-state has four official languages -- English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil -- to accommodate its multiethnic population, which is majority Chinese with sizeable Malay and Indian minorities.

Signs are mostly in English, which is the administrative and working language.

But government offices often convey policy information in the four languages and announcements for passengers at commuter train stations are delivered in the four languages, one after the other.

And all Singaporean students are required to study their native languages in school, in addition to English.

In recent years, however, multilingual signs have mushroomed at Changi international airport and at tourist hotspots bearing only three of those four languages plus Japanese, with Tamil not among them.

The increasing appearance of such signs is widely seen as a deliberate policy to make Singapore more tourist-friendly to non-English speakers, including Japanese.

Last year, Japan was Singapore's sixth largest source of tourists after Indonesia, China, Australia, India and Malaysia.

Thamiselvan Karuppaya, a 40-year-old ethnic Indian real estate agent, applied to speak Friday on the issue at Speakers' Corner, a park in Singapore's financial and business district that has been designated since 2000 by the government as a venue for citizens to air grievances.

But he had to abandon his plan after the police objected on ground the issue touches on racial sensitivities.

Singapore forbids speakers at the park from touching on race and religion for fear it might ignite tension among the races in the wealthy Southeast Asian state, which though peaceful now, saw violent riots between Chinese and Malays in the 1960s.

Karuppaya's friend Rethinam Sabapathy, 51, told Kyodo News that some street signs near the country's biggest Hindu temples also fail to use Tamil.

"All this doesn't make sense. It's a mistake. They are trying to attract more Japanese by using Japanese language for the signboards. But as Tamil speakers, we have a slight feeling of 'unwantedness' creeping into us," Sabapathy said.

"The Japanese are very nice people known for manufacturing good cameras and for their sumo wrestlers, but it's wrong to put up Japanese language because they come here to get the real multicultural flavor of Singapore," he said.

In response to inquiries from Kyodo News, Rebecca Lim, deputy director for Infrastructural Development at the Singapore Tourism Board, said multilingual signs in Singapore are meant to serve the needs of tourists, especially those who are non-English speakers.

She said the agency encourages multilingual signs that "take into consideration the needs of our non-English speaking visitors from key visitor-generating markets such as Indonesia, Malaysia, China and Japan."

This is why Chinese, Malay and Japanese were added to English for signs at the Changi Airport, she said in an email response to Kyodo.

Aside from the signboard issue, Sabapathy, who works as a horticulturalist, said ethnic Indians do not feel marginalized as the government does promote their native language by ensuring the continuance of a Tamil newspaper, the state-run broadcasting station runs a Tamil radio channel and brochures explaining government policies also include Tamil.

Singapore's local population of 3.6 million is made up of 2.7 million ethnic Chinese, 491,000 ethnic Malays and 313,000 ethnic Indians.

If foreigners working in the state are included, Singapore's population is 4.6 million.

In a statement Friday, Singapore police said they have informed Karuppaya the issue he was planning to raise in his speech "is a sensitive one impinging on race."

"Singapore is a multi-ethnic society and maintaining community harmony is a key imperative that we must not take for granted," it said.

Japan was once the shining star of Singapore tourism but it has in recent years been overshadowed by tourists from emerging Asian economies flocking to Singapore in ever greater numbers due to buoyant economies and a boom in low-cost airlines.

Some 594,000 Japanese visited Singapore last year -- a far cry from 10 years ago when more than 1 million Japanese visitors swamped Singapore annually.

Singapore, which last year attracted more than 10 million visitors, is in a major drive to woo even more tourists.

It is building two multibillion-dollar integrated resorts with casinos that are expected to be ready some time next year, while it will be launching the world's first Formula One night motor racing on its streets next on Sept. 28.

2008 Kyodo News International, Inc.

Spectators cornered at Speakers' Corner
Saturday, 20 September 2008
Singapore Democrats

"I think we better leave this place now before pictures of us appear in the Straits Times tomorrow," the man in his 40s told the rest of the group of about ten bystanders in Tamil as he quickly made his exit down the escalator leading to the Clarke Quay MRT station.

He was obviously referring to a photographer from the newspaper who was inching his way closer to the group with his zoom lens trained on them.

The group was engaged in an animated conversation at the Speakers' Corner, expecting to hear a talk on the use of Tamil in public signs.

The event that was publicized through SMS messages was to have started at 6.00 pm yesterday. But the police stopped it at the last minute when they refused to give a licence to the organizer under the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act.

Despite the cancellation, close to fifty people at different times turned up hoping to see and hear firsthand what was happening there.

Except for a couple of local reporters, one from the Straits Times and the other from MediaCorp, and an equal number of activists, none dared to step on the grass field. Most were seen seated in small groups on the benches dotting the footpath of the Park, engaged in the common topic of the status of the Tamil language in Singapore.

The Tamil language issue was chosen for airing by a real estate agent and his ten friends after the government said it was relaxing rules at the speakers' corner from the 1st of this month.

The organizer was peeved by the exclusion of Tamil on the signages at Changi Airport and directional signboards all over the island.

As part of the relaxation, the government said the National Parks Board (NParks) and not the police will handle all applications from people to speak or demonstrate at the Speakers' Corner.

Since his permit was not approved, the organizer was not around at the park yesterday.

A group of five youths who said they were students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) came not knowing that the cancellation of the event was already reported in the papers.

One of them, after reading the newspaper report commented: "Why ban it? Language is nothing to do with race or religion, the taboo subjects that cannot be raised at Speakers' Corner."

"So it is not NParks that approves and it's still the police. What a joke!" another student quipped.

Sitting on one of the benches with three of his friends in another corner of the park, a man in his 60s was speaking passionately about the issue.

He said: "I kept contacting the leading personalities in the Tamil language and literary circles since this morning for their stand on the issue. They kept pushing me from one to the other. None was prepared to have an opinion on the issue,"the man said in disgust.

"Even the Indians leaders in the PAP are afraid to raise this issue," added his friend.

In the meanwhile, those who have read about the cancellation and others who had not seen it strolled into the Park only to be told of the denial of permit by the few who remained there.

At about 9.00 pm, a man in his 50s with his family, including two teenage children, walked in but soon left disappointed. The Speakers' Corner managed yet again to retain serenity and quiet.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Speech on Tamil language issues at Speakers' Corner disallowed

Seelan Palay: I read this article yesterday morning but went down anyway to help inform people who had turned up without knowing it had been disallowed. If there is a report on it today, I'll post it up later.

Police turn down estate agent's application to speak on Tamil language issues

Published in The Straits Times, September 19 2008
By Zakir Hussain

Police have warned a real estate agent, who had planned to go to Speaker's Corner today to talk about the use of Tamil in public signs, against doing so.

A police spokesman said in a statement to the Straits Times yesterday: "Police communicated its concerns to the applicant that the topic of his speech is a sensitive one impinging on race. The applicant then informed the police that he would not proceed with the speech."

The spokesman added: "Singapore is a multi-ethnic society and maintaining community harmony is a key imperative that we must not take for granted."

The police caution comes three weeks after rules at the Hong Lim Park venue were liberalised.

With the change, speakers need only to register online at the National Parks Board (NParks) website any time before they speak and state the topic of their speech or demonstration.

Only race and religion remain out of bounds.

The person who applied to speak on the Tamil language issue is Mr Thamilselvan Karuppaya, 40.

He told the Straits Times he had registered at the NParks website over the weekend, on behalf of a group of 10 friends.

He received a call on Tuesday from the police, telling him he had to apply for a Public Entertainment License. He did so.

Yesterday, he found that his application had been rejected.

Asked by the Straits Times if he was still going to the Speakers' Corner to speak today, Mr Tamilselvan retorted: "You expect me to give a talk and go to jail?"

He then added: "But we are finding a way to get a license approved. We are not going to keep quiet on this topic."

Police said NParks had referred the applicant to them as "NParks had asserted that the speech was closely related to race and, hence, required express approval from the police as it does not fall under the exemption conditions for speeches at Speakers' Corner."

Said its spokesman: "Police would like to remind the public that a Public Entertainment License is still required for those who wish to hold events concerning race and religion at Speakers' Corner."

In the past two days, a number of Singaporeans - Tamils and non-Tamils - received SMSes telling them about today's aborted event at Speaker's Corner.

The SMS, which was also recieved by The Straits Times, called on "all Singaporeans to tell the Singapore Tourism Board to 'Put Back Tamil' on the signages at Changi Airport and directional signboards all over the island".

The police yesterday urged people who had received the SMS to "take note that the applicant has informed the police he would not be proceeding with the event".

Earlier this year, Mr Thamilselvan wrote to the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), which runs the airport, about the absence of Tamil signs there.

The CAAS replied last week that directional signboards were previously only in English. From April 2005, they were also in Chinese, Malay and Japanese, to cater to the large number of visitors speaking those languages.

As English was India's second language, it was advised by the Singapore Tourism Board that English signs were sufficient.

Mr Thamilselvan was not satisfied with this, saying he was asking only for the four official languages to be reflected.

Contacted by The Straits Times, another Tamil housing agent, Mr N. Rajendran, 60, felt a distinction should be made between commercial and official recognition of Tamil.

Lawyer R. Ravindran, 48, a former MP, said: "It is still premature to allow issues such as race, language or religion to be discussed in an open forum. Other channels should have been pursued first."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mahathir s/o Iskandar Kutty

Seelan: I personally don't care what race Mahathir is, because the enemies of freedom come in all races. This is still interesting news however.

Mahathir Kept Hidden His Little Secret - The Indian Muslim
Source: malaysianunplug.blogspot.com

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad started life not as a Malay but a Malayalee -the people of Kerala in south India, where his father came from.

At university in Singapore, Mahathir was listed as an Indian.

Perhaps this explains why Mahathir became more Malay than many Malays, all the while pursuing a politics which had scant time for Malay instincts for consensus and compromise.

(Note: Mahathir was born and named as Mahathir s/o Iskandar Kutty @ Mahathir Mohamed. Mahathir's father, (Iskandar Kutty) was a school teacher of Indian origin, specifically Malayalee (people who speak Malayalam), not to be confused with Malay, having migrated from the southern state of Kerala, while his mother was a Malay. - Malaysian Unplug)

Mahathir is full of paradoxes on racial issues. Many of his policies have had the effect of reducing the racial element in government decisions, watering down the agenda to advance Malay interests. As a result he is well regarded by many in the Chinese business community.

(Yet) Dr. Mahathir angered many non-Malays when he said Malay leaders and Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Ahmad Ismail should not apologise for saying Chinese Malaysians are "squatters"

Mahathir has been quick to promote himself as the embodiment of "Asian" identity and values, with diatribes against the west, usually couched in racial terms.

Yet, despite his trumpeting of Asian identity, Mahathir appears ashamed to admit his Indian heritage.

In his new book, A New Deal for Asia, he writes about his father in such a way as to imply that he was a Malay dedicated to the improvement of his fellow Malays rather than the hard-working Indian immigrant and government servant that he was.

No mention of Mahathir's Indian Muslim background ever appears in the media. The subject is taboo.
- Philip Bowring.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Breaking news: Gopalan Nair sentenced to three months prison

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Singapore Democrats

Mr Gopalan Nair has been sentenced to three months imprisonment today in the High Court. Judge Kan Ting Chiu heard submissions from both sides this morning and thereafter found Mr Nair guilty of "insulting" Judge Belinda Ang. He called the blogger back at 3 pm and passed the sentence.

Mr Nair was charged with insulting Judge Belinda Ang in his blog where he wrote about her handling of the defamation hearing between Lee Kuan Yew and the SDP. Mr Nair, a former Singaporean who is now a US citizen, will have to report to the court this Saturday to begin serving his sentence. He will appeal the sentence.

Activists hand over petition on Gopalan Nair to US embassy
Ng E-Jay

Today, five activists handed a petition to the US embassy calling on the embassy to render Mr Gopalan Nair more assistance and work with the local authorities to expedite his request to return to the US to take care of his financial affairs and his law practice which has been adversely affected during his absence.

However, Mr Nair’s request to return to the US must now be put on hold, as will be explained later.

Local activists Seelan Palay, Chong Kai Xiong, Muhd Khalis, Rachel Zeng and Ng E-Jay were met by US embassy staff Mr Learned Dees and Mr Aruna Amirthanayagam near the front gate of the embassy at around 2.30pm. They handed the petition to the officials and took a group photo.

The petition had garnered a total of 89 signatures, including signatures from Malaysian, Burmese and American supporters.

The activists emphasized that the petition was meant as a show of solidarity from members of the public, to which Mr Dees replied, “We will accept it as such.”

Today at around 5pm, Judge Kan Ting Chiu passed a 3 month jail sentence on Mr Gopalan Nair for insulting Judge Belinda Ang in a blog posting. Mr Nair is slated to begin his jail sentence on Saturday, 20 Sept. He will be appealing this sentence.

The case of allegedly insulting Justice Lai Siu Chiu in an email sent in 2006 has been stood down.

Since Mr Nair has been sentenced to jail, the earliest possible date he can return to the US is after his jail sentence. We hope at that time, the US embassy can continue working with local authorities to expedite his return.

Mr Nair was previously been fined $3,000 for using abusive words towards police officers and disorderly behaviour at the junction of Bukit Timah Road and Race Course Road on July 4. He considered appealing against the conviction, but has since dropped his appeal.

The full text of the petition to the US embassy is as follows:

On 31 May 2008, Mr Gopalan Pallichadath Nair, a US citizen, was arrested at Broadway Hotel in Singapore while on vacation and charged with using insulting words towards High Court Judge Belinda Ang in an e-mail criticising her handling of a case. Justice Ang was presiding over a hearing to assess damages in a defamation suit that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew won against the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), its Secretary-General Chee Soon Juan and his sister Chee Siok Chin.

Mr Nair was remanded for one week at the Central Police Division to assist in investigations. His passport was also impounded.

On 5 June 2008, Mr Nair was released from custody, but his passport was not returned to him despite appeals from his lawyer. To this day, Mr Nair is unable to return to the US. His legal practice in Fremont California near San Francisco has been left in limbo and his finances have greatly suffered. Mr Nair’s home mortgage in the US is also in jeopardy and the possibility of his having to declare bankruptcy increases the longer he has to remain in Singapore.

Mr Nair vehemently denied sending any emails. His charge was subsequently amended to one of insulting Judge Belinda Ang in his blog post. In the days ahead, further charges were tendered against him: one of sending an insulting email to High Court Judge Lai Siu Chiu in 2006 while she was presiding over a contempt of court case involving SDP chief Chee Soon Juan, and one of disorderly behaviour in public and use of abusive language against police officers.

Mr Nair’s appeals to have his passport returned and for him to be allowed to go back to the US to attend to his personal finances and other matters have been repeatedly denied. This is despite the fact that he has posted a significant bail amount of several thousand dollars and has shown his willingness to cooperate with the authorities. Given that he is likely to have to remain in Singapore for a few more months to attend his various trials, granting Mr Nair’s request for a trip back home in the interim period is not only reasonable, but humane.

On behalf of Mr Nair, we appeal to the US embassy to work with the Singapore authorities to grant his request as soon as possible.


Shun meat, says UN climate chief

Seelan Palay: Finally, the UN itself says it. I stopped eating meat 7 years ago for several reasons, the environmental impact of it's production being one of them but mainly because of the videos I saw of what happens in the slaughterhouses. I could not bear to contribute to the unnecessary death of innocent animals anymore. Visit and look through the website of the Vegetarian Society of Singapore if you'd like to know more, before it's too late.

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Cow road sign
Livestock production has a bigger climate impact than transport, the UN believes

People should consider eating less meat as a way of combating global warming, says the UN's top climate scientist.

Rajendra Pachauri, who chairs the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), will make the call at a speech in London on Monday evening.

UN figures suggest that meat production puts more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than transport.

But a spokeswoman for the UK's National Farmers' Union (NFU) said methane emissions from farms were declining.

People may not realise that changing what's on their plate could have an even bigger effect
Joyce D'Silva
Compassion in World Farming

Dr Pachauri has just been re-appointed for a second six-year term as chairman of the Nobel Prize-winning IPCC, the body that collates and evaluates climate data for the world's governments.

"The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that direct emissions from meat production account for about 18% of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions," he told BBC News.

"So I want to highlight the fact that among options for mitigating climate change, changing diets is something one should consider."

Climate of persuasion

The FAO figure of 18% includes greenhouse gases released in every part of the meat production cycle - clearing forested land, making and transporting fertiliser, burning fossil fuels in farm vehicles, and the front and rear end emissions of cattle and sheep.

Rajendra Pachauri, IPCC chairman
Dr Pachauri has chaired the Nobel Prize-winning body since 2002

The contributions of the three main greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide - are roughly equivalent, the FAO calculates.

Transport, by contrast, accounts for just 13% of humankind's greenhouse gas footprint, according to the IPCC.

Dr Pachauri will be speaking at a meeting organised by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), whose main reason for suggesting people lower their consumption of meat is to reduce the number of animals in factory farms.

CIWF's ambassador Joyce D'Silva said that thinking about climate change could spur people to change their habits.

"The climate change angle could be quite persuasive," she said.

"Surveys show people are anxious about their personal carbon footprints and cutting back on car journeys and so on; but they may not realise that changing what's on their plate could have an even bigger effect."

Side benefits

There are various possibilities for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with farming animals.

They range from scientific approaches, such as genetically engineering strains of cattle that produce less methane flatus, to reducing the amount of transport involved through eating locally reared animals.

"The NFU is committed to ensuring farming is part of the solution to climate change, rather than being part of the problem," an NFU spokeswoman told BBC News.

BBC Green Room logo

"We strongly support research aimed at reducing methane emissions from livestock farming by, for example, changing diets and using anaerobic digestion."

Methane emissions from UK farms have fallen by 13% since 1990.

But the biggest source globally of carbon dioxide from meat production is land clearance, particularly of tropical forest, which is set to continue as long as demand for meat rises.

Ms D'Silva believes that governments negotiating a successor to the Kyoto Protocol ought to take these factors into account.

"I would like governments to set targets for reduction in meat production and consumption," she said.

"That's something that should probably happen at a global level as part of a negotiated climate change treaty, and it would be done fairly, so that people with little meat at the moment such as in sub-Saharan Africa would be able to eat more, and we in the west would eat less."

Dr Pachauri, however, sees it more as an issue of personal choice.

"I'm not in favour of mandating things like this, but if there were a (global) price on carbon perhaps the price of meat would go up and people would eat less," he said.

"But if we're honest, less meat is also good for the health, and would also at the same time reduce emissions of greenhouse gases."


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ravi Released Finally

From a blog post by Chia Ti Lik:

In the midst of running back and forth from Sub court to High Court to office. I received two phone calls from Dr. Chee Soon Juan and Ms Chee Siok Chin to get myself acting for Ravi at his mention in the Subordinate Courts yesterday afternoon.

I had to tear myself from the files that needed my attention to attend at Court 26.

There i saw John Tan, Siok Chin, Dr. Chee, Choon Hiong, Rizal, Uncle Yap and others.

Ravi was in the dock with a nice clean haircut.

The matter had been stood down to 3pm from the morning mention. DPPs did not turn up by 320pm so the court stood down the matter further till 330pm. I got myself re-appointed as co-counsel at 330pm when the case was rementioned.

The prosecution produced a set of written submissions. We had to seek for extra copies from the DPPs as Ravi was leading his own arguments and we were playing supporting roles and as Ravi was kept in the dock, we could not make do with just one copy. The matter was stood down again for some time to sort out the fresh submissions.

Arguments were made by the DPPs Mark Tay and Lim Tse Haw, the defence replied in the following manner Ravi, Violet and myself took turns to respond. The prosecution’s reply came from DPP Mark Tay.

At the end of it all, the Court ordered that Ravi be released on bail of S$10,000 and for him to return on 15th December 2008 with his private doctor’s report on his state of mind and readiness to take the plea.

I scrambled out of Court 26 at the end of it all. Rushing to attend to a little hiccup at the bail centre where Ravi’s sisters were trying to bail Ravi. The matter was resolved. I bade farewell to Choon Hiong and Rizal who stayed back to receive Ravi at the front door of the Courthouse.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Malaysian Govt’s use of ISA is cowardly, absurd, haphazard and despicable

Seelan Palay: I whole-heatedly condemn the recent 3 ISA arrests in Malaysia. My friend and fellow local socio-political blogger Ng E-Jay has best summed up my views on the matter.

Malaysian Govt’s use of ISA is cowardly, absurd, haphazard and despicable
Written by Ng E-Jay
13 Sept 2008

The arrest of Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamaruddin, Sin Chew Daily News reporter Tan Hoon Cheng, and DAP’s Teresa Kok under Section 73(1) of the Malaysia’s Internal Security Act is nothing but a despicable, haphazard, and cowardly measure on the part of the BN to intimidate the opposition and silence dissent.

It is a last-miniute, terribly ill-conceived, fumbling, desperate measure by Malaysia’s ruling party to hang on to power which is fast slipping away from their weakening grip.

The Government’s charge that these 3 people are stoking racism is becoming the standard excuse for clampdowns of this nature. Of course, when people start being labelled as racists when they are in fact defending the rights of citizens and criticizing the Government for itself practicing racism, you know the Government has sunk to a new low.

The BN must think that it can use paper to cover fire, that outright lies can delay the inevitable. History will not judge its actions kindly.

Even if these 3 people are racists, there are adequate laws outside ISA that can be used to prosecute them. To invoke the ISA shows the world the real intentions of the Malaysian Government, which is so obvious I will not bother to elaborate.

Although Sin Chew Daily News reporter Tan Hoon Cheng has been released, there is no news of the other two.

Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar has been quoted as denying that the crackdown was aimed at suppressing dissent, and that one of the reasons Tan Hoon Cheng was taken into custody was because the authorities “received reports her life was threatened“.

I cannot even begin to describe how lame, absurd, and illogical this statement is. If a person’s life is being threatened, he or she deserves police protection, not detention under a draconian law.

Clearly the use of ISA in this instance is haphazard and reeks of total lack of planning and control. It reveals that the BN has lost its nerve and is trying to grasp at straws in a final, flailing bid to remain in power.

The BN has lost every ounce of morality and credibility and no longer deserves to be in power.

One Nation Under Lee receives warm reception in Johor Baru

Source: Singapore Democrats

One Nation Under Lee is going places in Malaysia and its screening is attracting large audiences.

After its successful showing in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur at the Freedom Film Fest 2008 last week, the organizers KOMAS, Malay acronym for Malaysian Human Rights Communication Centre, moved the venue to Johor Baru.

So when the 45-minute English documentary, banned by the Singaporean authorities, was shown yesterday at a local hotel across the causeway it understandably attracted many Singaporeans.

The film was warmly received by the audience and Mr Seelan Palay was on hand to take questions from the floor.

A foreigner in the audience who had lived in Singapore for seven months said that from her experience in Singapore, the country is a good place to live in contrary to what the movie portrays. She also noted that the protests and demonstrations that were shown in the film are not spontaneous like in Malaysia. This shows the people in general are contented.

Mr Michael Fernandez, a former trade unionist imprisoned without trial by the PAP government, said that the outward appearance of tranquility is a fa├žade, a situation that has been brought about through years of ruthless state repression of an entire generation.

Mr Fernandez said that he was glad to see youngsters like Seelan, Martyn See and others who are taking an interest in what is happening around them.

He said the youth in Singapore, especially the students in tertiary institutions in the 1950s, 60s and 70s were actively engaged in society. Their language backgrounds were never a barrier as students from the Singapore University, the Nantah, and the Singapore Polytechnic came together to speak up on issues not only affecting youths but also the general public.

He said he could still remember the time when university students protested against the Suitability Certificate that the PAP introduced. The student exuberance and vibrancy were, however, bullied into silence. This has led to entire generations of students growing up in a state of apathy.

Mr Fernandez also pointed out it was wrong to compare tiny Singapore with Malaysia which is so much bigger and where there is much more room for dissent and alternative views to flourish.

Singapore playwright Robert Yeo and blogger Alex Au were also present and contributed to the discussion.

There was a suggestion from an appreciative Singaporean that more such films were needed to bring about greater awareness, especially among the youths and the workers who have forgotten the role of trades unions and what the word "strike" meant, the ultimate weapon that employees have against unscrupulous employers for whose interest the PAP government exists.

Mr Seelan took the questions and comments in his usual relaxed and jovial demeanour.

Malaysian reviewer, Mr Andrew Sia, had this to say about the film: "Even though part of it seems like a Powerpoint presentation, it manages to engage – a lesson here for shoestring budget film makers."

Also, at the end of the second day of the three-day film festival, filmmakers from Singapore and Johor held a brainstorming session to coordinate their work to achieve greater synergy.

The next place the organizers planning to screen One Nation Under Lee is Kuching, Sarawak on Saturday, 20 Sept. And finally, the documentary on Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore will be shown to audiences in Penang on Saturday, 27 Sep 08.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

One Nation Under Lee screening in JB

Source: Singapore Rebel

Malaysia's premier showcase of human rights films will travel to Johor Bahru this weekend. It will be the closest location by which Singaporeans can watch One Nation Under Lee in a public space. Director Seelan Palay will be present at the post-screening Q&A session.

Venue : Tropical Inn
Address : 15, Jalan Gereja, Johor Bahru, MAP
Dates : 12 to 14 Sept 2008
Time : 11am til 10pm
Admission is FREE

One Nation Under Lee will screen on Saturday at 4.30pm.

Click here for complete list of films and schedules.

Related news: The seizure of the video One Nation Under Lee by the Singapore Government will be raised in Geneva this Friday, 12 Sep 08, during the 9th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Full report available here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Gopalan Nair pleads Not Guilty and Steven McDermott's commentary

US blogger pleads innocent, to stand trial in Singapore
September 9 2008

SINGAPORE (AFP) — An American blogger charged with insulting a Singapore judge pleaded innocent in court Monday and vowed to contest the allegation.

Gopalan Nair allegedly accused a judge of "prostituting herself" by being biased in favour of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, former premier Lee Kuan Yew, in a defamation case they filed against an opposition politician.

"Not guilty," Nair, who is representing himself, told the Supreme Court when asked to enter a plea after the charge was read out.

The judge, Belinda Ang, had presided over the case against Singapore Democratic Party leader Chee Soon Juan.

Nair, a former Singaporean lawyer who has US citizenship, allegedly wrote on his blog that she was "nothing more than an employee of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his son and carrying out their orders," according to the charge read out in court.

The 10-day hearing was to have begun Monday but was adjourned for two days at Nair's request to allow him more time to prepare his defence and settle personal matters.

Nair also said he needed to arrange for money to be sent from the United States to pay a 3,000 Singapore dollar fine (2,117 US) issued against him in another case.

Nair was found guilty last Friday for abusive behaviour against two police officers and disorderly behaviour.

Under Singapore law, Nair faces a jail term of up to one year and a 5,000 Singapore dollar fine if found guilty of insulting a public servant.

Nair was to have faced a second charge of insulting another judge, but the state prosecutor told the court the charge would be "stood down." A legal expert said this means that charge would be heard separately.

"The public is engaging in chatter that the Singapore elite does not like"

Steven McDermott runs a blog that campaigns against censorship in Singapore and campaigns for the freedom of jailed dissidents.

Arguing that Gopalan Nair's court case is to encourage self-censorship is misguided. This is state censorship.

The widening gap between the promises of ‘opening up', ‘lighter touch' and the events surrounding the oppression of freedom of speech in Singapore is wide enough to see. The perception of the gap is so wide the Singapore government is trying to manage it with its usual method of vacuous consultations (The Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society, 2008). Even before the committee returns with their advice, the government continues to demand, through its influence in the national press and judiciary, that freedom of speech and other forms of political activity be curtailed in the pursuit of economic success. So what's new this time?

In past cases, for example mr.brown in 2006, the Singapore government argued that there was a significant distinction to be made between what was published in the Singapore national press and their ‘lighter touch' approach to publishing on the Internet. The distinction no longer exists.

Gopalan Nair has not published his articles in the national press - he published them on his blog. The warning is clear, what was once considered the idle ‘chatter' of the young and restless, unless seditious, is now taken seriously and may land you in court. How more ‘hard-headed' can it get?

This hard-headed approach is a reaction to the government's fear that Singaporeans, ex-Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans have harnessed new communication technology and are changing the dynamics of the relationship between the government and the public. Recent election events, when bloggers were elected to parliament, in neighbouring Malaysia has roused the old cadre of Singapore, who for too long felt immune to the ‘chatter' of the Kopitiams (coffee houses) and taxi drivers.

The ‘public' as defined by the interactions and postings of the Internet networks and communities, rather than by the state has undermined the Singapore government's reliance on ‘auto' or ‘self-regulation'. Tactics have shifted to supervision and intimidation. The Singapore state has lost its monopoly on deciding on how the public perceives itself and its relationship with state apparatus.

The public is engaging in chatter that the Singapore elite does not like. This is no longer the idle chatter of the young and restless. Attempts to manage it are futile. The apparatus of oppression, although hard-headed may prove to be more effective in the short term.

The fear for the Singapore government is that one day that chatter may erupt into a ‘roar'."

A blogger stands up to the Singaporean government - Report on The Observers

Monday, September 8, 2008

Conflicting information from IMH about M Ravi

Saturday, 06 September 2008
Singapore Democrats

Mr M Ravi was brought to the High Court on Friday morning to argue a Criminal Motion he had filed against the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) where he has been remanded since 18 Aug 08.

Ms Chee Siok Chin had tried to visit Mr Ravi but was told by the hospital that Mr Ravi was not allowed visitors, not even family members, as he is in remand. This is obviously not true because Sheila, one of Mr Ravi's sisters, had in fact visited him.

Sheila spoke to the hospital staff about Ms Chee's visit because Mr Ravi had requested to see Ms Chee. But this was turned down. It is understood, however, that one of Mr Ravi's clients was allowed to visit him on several occasions.

Another area of inconsistency is Mr Ravi's treatment. While the hospital says that the lawyer would not be given medication, Mr Ravi's family members said that he had been given medication. In fact, the prosecutor revealed in court Mr Ravi was on medication.

This sort of conflicting information raises serious questions about how Mr Ravi is being treated.

Mr Ravi argued before High Court Judge Tay Yong Kwang that he should not be further remanded at IMH. He pointed out that, since a diagnosis had already been made, then he should be free to seek treatment from other psychiatrists rather than be held at the IMH. Custodial rights, the lawyer argued, cannot and should not be returned to those against whom he is taking out the criminal motion.

Judge Tay dismissed the application. He did not give reasons for his decision.

Seelan: Here are 3 relevant links sent to me by a concerned member of the public who believes that Ravi does not appear consistent with being mentally ill when he makes such good arguments in court. Is the state purposefully extending Ravi's detention to destroy his immense work in human rights and law practice?

Lawyer M Ravi fails in attempt to cut short his remand at IMH

Lawyer's remand extended

Accord is sought by U.S. and Soviet on mental wards

Film-makers on the fringe

This is a Straits Times report which was published on 5 Sept 2008.

Film-makers on the fringe
By Sue-Ann Chia, political correspondent

WHEN the death knell sounded on a 10-year-old law that imposes a total ban on political films two weeks ago, film-maker Martyn See cheered.

The move marked the biggest effort in 20 years by the Government to loosen its hold on political expression here, declared the 39-year-old.

As a mischievous tribute, he pulled together 100 films on local politics, compiling them on his blog a week after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his Aug 17 National Day Rally speech that an outright ban on political films was no longer sensible.

The 100 short clips - 'films' is too formal a term to describe them - are the work of assorted groups and individuals, most with a decidedly anti-establishment stance.

They include two by Mr See which did not make the censor's cut. One is on Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan and the other on former political detainee Said Zahari.

He plans to re-submit them to the Board of Film Censors once the ban on political films is formally eased - likely early next year - just to test the new system.

He wants to do so because the prospective change comes with caveats: Films which are partisan or give a distorted and slanted impression will still be off-limits.

His own view is that there should be no caveats. 'If it is not sheer stupidity to continue enforcing bans on these films when they can be viewed at a click of a mouse, I don't know what is,' he wrote on his blog.

How did he come to be such a fighter against Section 33 of the Films Act, which bans party political films?

Political awakening

ATTRIBUTE it to a second political awakening that came in the wake of the 2001 general election.

He had had a first awakening back in the mid-1990s, when a photocopy of a banned book came his way.

The book was To Catch A Tartar, written by former solicitor-general Francis Seow, describing his detention under the Internal Security Act in the late 1980s.

'My eyes were opened to the darker side of the PAP's history,' he says.

'I read it from cover to cover. I felt...frightened, depressed and angry at the same time.'

His hitherto placid political outlook changed then, but it was only later - after the November 2001 election - that he was really roused into action.

What caught his attention was Dr Chee Soon Juan heckling then prime minister Goh Chok Tong about an alleged loan to former Indonesian president Suharto.

'Chee Soon Juan got hammered very badly. I wondered, is this guy as bad as the media made him out to be? So I decided to check him out myself,' he says.

A few months later, in 2002, he asked to meet Dr Chee.

For the next two years, he 'interviewed' the SDP leader regularly, visited him at his home and his office, and observed him when he staged public protests - filming all the while.

He had reams of footage but no film, until Mr Lee Hsien Loong was sworn in as Prime Minister in 2004.

Mr Lee's inauguration speech, promising the opening up of civil society, inspired him to compile his shots into a 28-minute film which he titled Singapore Rebel.

He submitted it for screening at a film festival. But the film never made it past the censors.

It was deemed 'party political', and banned under Section 33 of the Films Act.

He was questioned four times over 15 months by the police and even had his video camera seized.

'They dropped the investigation a couple of months after the 2006 general election. I guess they wanted to watch if I would participate in the election,' he says.

He never did. But he continued to produce politically incorrect films.

Singapore Rebel

MR SEE titled his directorial debut Singapore Rebel. Although about Dr Chee, it sums up Mr See himself - someone bent on capturing alternative politics on celluloid.

He began his film-making career nearly 20 years ago, right after national service, learning the ropes of video editing in production houses. Along the way, he became a freelance video editor, working for renowned local directors such as Mr Eric Khoo and Mr Jack Neo.

He spends 90 per cent of his time doing such work to 'pay the bills', but the remaining 10 per cent is now consumed by his passion - making films on local political issues.

While being questioned by the police over Singapore Rebel, he produced another film, on former political detainee Said Zahari. This was also banned.

His latest, on Dr Chee and the protests he staged during the IMF-World Bank meetings in 2006, however made the cut. Speakers' Cornered was given an NC-16 rating and screened at the Substation on July 26 this year.

Despite the overwhelmingly pro-opposition - especially pro-SDP - angles in his films, he insists he is not an opposition supporter or sympathiser.

He says: 'I fill a vacuum created by the media when they don't cover opposition politicians or political dissidents. I consider myself a citizen journalist, not a Michael Moore type of film-maker.'

Asked why he bothers to submit his films for classification when he can upload them on YouTube, he deadpans that the law requires it.

The more compelling reason is that he wants to push the envelope in the area of political expression.

'Who better to do that than me,' he says, 'since I'm already over the OB markers. I want more film-makers who want to document the political scenes to emerge.'

In this, he has found a following of sorts.

Mr Ho Choon Hiong, 33, first heard about Mr See when Singapore Rebel was banned three years ago.

He was among a group of 12 film-makers who wrote to the Government then, asking for greater clarity as to what constituted a party political film.

The incident led to him meeting Mr See.

Their subsequent exchanges emboldened him to capture on celluloid assorted scenes of political activism in Singapore.

Unlike Mr See, he was introduced to politics early by his father, who used to be a student activist at Chinese High School in the 1960s.

Like Mr See, however, his political interest was stoked by the 2001 polls and Dr Chee.

After meeting Mr See, he produced a plethora of very short films, on topics ranging from the 2006 election to protests by Myanmar nationals in Singapore. He sent six to the film censors for classification in May.

'I have to take a few steps and hope to be undeterred more and more,' says the film studies graduate from Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

'I want to put my own perception of truth out.'

So far, his 'films' have been ignored by the authorities.

A prolific activist

NOT so for Mr Seelan Palay, 24, another amateur film-maker.

He had his film, One Nation Under Lee, seized by officials from the Board of Film Censors as it was being screened in a hotel recently.

The reason: It had not been passed by the censors.

His first effort - detractors panned it as a slide show rather than a film - it portrayed Singapore as lacking in press and political freedom, and tightly controlled by Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Point out that One Nation Under Lee is decidedly one-sided - it takes potshots at the Government while hailing Dr Chee as a hero - and he insists he has no political agenda.

He isn't politicised by anyone either, he insists.

'I learnt everything from reading, out of personal interest,' says the activist.

He has been involved at various times with the Vegetarian Society, the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society, and the now defunct SG Human Rights Group.

Earlier this year he attended rallies by Hindu protesters in Kuala Lumpur, and upon his return to Singapore, decided to mount a one-man protest fast outside the Malaysian High Commission.

He also takes part in protest actions organised by the SDP occasionally.

He is not a troublemaker, he insists. He is just doing what he believes in.

Nothing to fear

WHAT keeps the trio going?

'Our conscience pricks us,' says Mr Ho. He sees it as his duty to document what he believes gets sidelined by the mainstream media.

The trio use the same counter when you point out that their version of 'truth' sometimes takes an extreme slant. Others have noted that it was the publicity over the banning of some of their films, rather than the quality of the films themselves, that made the public more keen to view them.

But they are not perturbed.

For Mr See, his mission is simple.

'I live by the Singapore Pledge. I live by the Constitution that guarantees freedom of expression, association and assembly,' he says.

And he aims to guard these freedoms by showing that there is nothing to fear.

The other two, less articulate about their aims, appear to go with the flow as acolytes of Mr See, enjoying the thrill of defiance every once in a while.

They are all drawn to Dr Chee, whom they see as championing freedom of expression and provoking the Government with his illegal public protests.

Still, they say, they have no intention of joining the SDP or any political party. Ironically, they fear being hemmed in by party discipline.

Mr Palay, for instance, will tell you that he supports the SDP's cause but has no wish to sign on as a member.

Have they made an impact on the political scene? They believe so, pointing to more local film-makers who remain anonymous but, like them, upload political-type films on YouTube.

They also claim some credit for the Government's decision to consider lifting the ban on political films.

It was, they say, the banning of Mr See's Singapore Rebel that sparked a debate on the relevance of the Films Act.

Future films

FOR now, the three men have film ideas that they hope will see the light of day.

Mr Palay wants to do a film on the unspoken rule limiting use of dialects in films.

Mr Ho is aiming to do documentaries on two women: Dr Chee's wife, and his own long-lost Malaysian nanny whom he is still trying to locate.

As for Mr See, he has two targets too. One is the reclusive former political detainee Chia Thye Poh. The other is Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

In the latter film, he wants to trace the People's Action Party's formation and rise to the pinnacle of power in Singapore.

Why do a film on the PAP when its story has been told so many times before? 'It is a compelling story,' he says.

So are they really rebels with a cause?

Says Mr See: 'There's definitely a purpose to what we're doing. I see it as lessening the climate of fear here.

'I want more film-makers like me to emerge, wanting to document the political scenes in Singapore.'

Saturday, September 6, 2008

M Ravi still detained at IMH

M Ravi continues to be detained at IMH, Straits Times report follows.

Lawyer fails to get out of IMH
By Selina Lum
Sep 06 2008

A LAWYER sent to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for three weeks of psychiatric observation failed in a High Court bid on Friday to have himself released.

Shackled and handcuffed, M. Ravi spent more than an hour arguing his case from the dock, during which he revealed that an IMH psychiatrist diagnosed him as bipolar.

Ravi, 39, who often referred to himself in the third person, claimed his continued detention at IMH was unlawful.

'The petitioner M. Ravi is a passionate lawyer with a highly stressful practice,' he said. 'His detention is unprecedented.'

His arguments were rejected by Justice Tay Yong Kwang, who saw no reason to overturn the earlier orders of two district judges.

Ravi faces two criminal charges of disturbing a religious prayer session and harassment stemming from an incident at a Chinatown mosque last month.

He was sent to the IMH for observation on Aug 18. He was admitted under a provision that allows an accused person suspected to be of unsound mind to be detained for observation at a mental hospital for up to a month.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Monday, September 1, 2008

Lawyer M Ravi held on further remand in IMH till Sep 15

Seelan Palay: This afternoon I was at the court case of my friend, local human rights lawyer M Ravi.

Ravi argued that he had his own private psychiatrist since 2006 who was the best person to evaluate him. He and his lawyer, Violet Netto, requested that he be allowed to consult his own psychiatrist instead of further remand at IMH. However, the request was denied and the judge ruled that Ravi will be further remanded in the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for another two weeks until September 15.

He also spoke of how he felt his treatment at IMH was very degrading and that he was not given any food for the first two days of his stay there. No one other than family members are allowed to visit him.