Sunday, November 30, 2008

'They stole 11 months from me'

Seelan: Check out this short documentary by my personal friend and renowned Malaysiakini journalist, Indrani Kopal. 'They stoke 11 months from me' is the story of M Rajeswari, a vulnerable young single mother who shares her tragic story of how the system failed to defend her basic human rights.

Produced and edited by Indrani Kopal

Part 1

Part 2

Saturday, November 29, 2008

M Ravi still stands tall

SINGAPORE: Leading Rights Lawyer Faces Jail Term
By Baradan Kuppusamy, IPS

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 (IPS) - Singapore's embattled human rights lawyer and leading anti-death penalty campaigner, Ravi Madasamy, intends to defend his reputation "all the way" to the highest courts after being released on bail for allegedly causing a disturbance at a mosque.

On Aug 11, a Singapore judge ordered Ravi to be examined by the Institute of Mental Health after police arrested him on charges of harassment and causing a public disturbance during a prayer session.

Ravi, 40, who was discharged from the hospital earlier this month, remains on bail facing a possible three-year prison sentence, if found guilty.

Ravi has strenuously denied the charges and dismissed prosecution suggestions about his mental health. He represented himself in court as no lawyer in Singapore was prepared to take up his case.

Only a small group of committed local rights activists have rallied to his defence. The country's Law Society, which took him to court for allegedly disrespecting a judge, leading to a one-year practicing suspension in 2007, has distanced itself from the case.

"I am saddened but I will continue my mission," Ravi told IPS. "The environment is increasingly tough and dangerous."

Charles Hector, a prominent Malaysian human rights lawyer, described Ravi as "a victim of state repression".

"The Malaysian Bar is closely monitoring his plight," Hector told IPS. "He is a defender of human rights and we are very concerned. We are taking up his victimisation internationally.

"The Singapore authorities should immediately end the persecution and respect Ravi's right to free expression and advocacy to end mandatory death penalty."

Ravi has led a virtually one-man international campaign to save death row prisoners facing execution by hanging, mostly for drug trafficking in Singapore. He has also fought, in the courts and outside, to defend dissidents, persecuted opposition politicians, lawmakers and human rights activists. As a result he has been vilified and severely criticised by Singapore's government-controlled mainstream media and often accused of being a publicity seeker.

"I face numerous other problems arising out of my activism," Ravi told IPS.

"With all the happenings I came under tremendous pressure. "Because of the mounting problems my pace has slackened but my resolve is the same. I will press on to enlighten Singaporeans on the horrors of the death penalty. "People should know that mandatory death penalty [impelling judges to sentence people to death in capital convictions] is a step backwards into a barbaric era. We must campaign and people should want to end it." Ravi, who is also an author and manager of the anti-death penalty website first gained prominence in mid-2005 for trying to save death row inmate Shanmugam Murugesu, who was sentenced to death for possession of 1 kg of marijuana.

Murugesu, 38, a former military veteran and Singaporean civil servant, was arrested in August 2003 for carrying six packets of marijuana in his bags when returning home from Malaysia.

Under Singapore law, the death penalty is mandatory for possession of 500 gm of marijuana and 2 gm of heroin.

Before Murugesu's execution on May 13, Ravi and a few supporters organised a three-hour vigil at a hall in the Furama Hotel. "It was the first time citizens had organised to speak against the arbitrary, biased and discriminatory death penalty law," Ravi said. "It was an eye opener for us all."

In 2004, Singapore, with a population of 4.3 million, had the highest per capita rate of state executions in the world, according to Amnesty International. From then on, Ravi represented other death row inmates in court. He also travelled the world speaking out against state repression and the mandatory death penalty in Singapore. A colleague, requesting strict confidentiality, said police placed Ravi under strict surveillance. "They followed him, took photographs and filed reports," he told IPS. "The relentless scrutiny caused Ravi tremendous personal and professional stress."

Although on bail, Ravi has resumed practicing law until his trial date is set.

Last year, Singapore carried out two executions and sentenced two people to death, according to Amnesty.

American and Malaysian elections: A Lesson for Singapore

Friday, 28 November 2008
Gandhi Ambalam & Maurice Neo

What have the American presidential and the Malaysian parliamentary elections, both of which took place this year, have in common and what lessons have they brought for Singapore?

One was in faraway America mandated to take place once every four years and the other an equally mundane affair. But they both had a profound impact on the already receptive psyche of Singaporeans.

What was considered "unthinkable" unfolded in America. For the first time in the country's history an African-American was elected to the highest office of the land. A monumental achievement indeed, considering the fact that it was only in the 1960s that the Civil Rights Movement took place, one that was met with fierce resistance from some groups in the white community.

Earlier in Malaysia a political tsunami swept aside the well-entrenched racial politics of the ruling elite that dominated the country for more than half a century. The elections there ushered a historic new era in the country's politics.

Can we in Singapore be insulated from these two phenomena? There is no doubt that the PAP leadership through its well-oiled propaganda machine will try. Contrary to ground sentiment, the authoritarian ruling elite keeps mouthing the same old refrain that Singaporeans are not ready to accept changes to the status quo. But is this the true reflection of the average Singaporean?

A survey last year of close to 2,000 Singaporeans by two academics at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies found that over 91 per cent of all races polled said they would accept a prime minister of an ethnic group other than Chinese.

In Malaysia one of the biggest changes is the move from the debate on race to the question “Who are the politicians serving?” It was clear from the electoral results that across the board Malaysians demanded better service from politicians and did not buy the racial claptrap from the ruling elite. Malaysians wanted good governance not racial politics.

In the same vein, Singaporeans are not convinced by PAP's worn-out insistence that Singaporeans vote along racial lines, hence the necessity for the Group Representation Constituency (GRC) system.

Wasn't it in 1981 that the late Mr J B Jeyaretnam was elected to parliament in a by-election, defeating a candidate from the 'majority' community in the Anson ward? In the 1984 general elections that followed, Mr Jeyaretnam again defeated a Chinese candidate, who was endorsed personally by the then prime minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew as "ministerial material", with an increased majority.

The GRC system was concocted by the PAP and implemented in the 1988 general elections. The claim that the scheme was to maintain "minority" representation in Parliament was pure fiction. It was clear to independent political observers that the system was introduced to perpetuate PAP's stranglehold on power.

Lately, in continuing to propagate this racial myth, our state media has resorted to scaring the people that racial tension in Malaysia increased after the landmark elections this year. Perhaps what is most frightening for the Singapore autocrats is that Malaysia can no longer use racial fear as the instrument of policy in elections.

Instead, what the Singapore Government fears now is the contagion from Malaysia. The new found self belief and the ability to overcome fear propagated by the ruling elite is just the thing Singaporeans need.

The PAP goes to the extent of dismissing the Pakatan Rakyat's push for a less race-based politics, even to the extent favoring the cronyism of “Umnoputras”.The reality of the move towards democracy in Malaysia seems too much for the Singapore state to accept. The new dawn in Malaysia is too close for comfort.

As a result the racial myth in Singapore is still being perpetuated to instill fear. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently regurgitated that voters in Singapore are not ready to accept a non-Chinese prime minister anytime soon. He was echoing what his father said in 1988 when Lee Sr rejected Mr S Dhanabalan, who was far more qualified than Mr Goh Chok Tong in Mr Lee's own words, as prime minister.

But in America, Mr Barack Obama was elected president riding on the winds of change. The American people had the final say of who they wanted as their leader, black or white. Mr Obama's message of hope and change also resonated with many Singaporeans. But alas in Singapore it is the prime minister who has the last say of who gets to be the leaders.

Is it not clear from the rhetoric by the Lees that it is the PAP that is not prepared to accept a non-Chinese as prime minister?

But can the PAP continue to stem the tide of change that is fast reaching our shores, change not only from nearby Malaysia but also from faraway America?

Singaporean hostage dies in Mumbai attacks

Fri Nov 28, 2008 8:10pm

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A Singaporean woman was killed after being held hostage when militants attacked a top hotel in India's financial capital, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Friday. The Foreign Ministry said the woman was identified by her husband as 28-year-old Lo Hoei Yen, who was in Mumbai's Trident Oberoi hotel when the militants struck.

Local media said she was a lawyer in India on business.

The attacks and a two-day standoff with commandos killed 124 people, though 143 guests were freed earlier in the day from the Trident Oberoi.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

India is our friend, we are not against any country, remove the hindrance of ban: Pirapaharan

TamilNet, Thursday, 27 November 2008

While conveying his love and gratitude to the people and leaders of Tamil Nadu and leaders of India who have grasped the heartbeat of Eezham Tamils and have come forward with timely support, the LTTE leader V.Pirapaharan in his Hero’s Day speech on Thursday requested them to voice firmly for Tamil Eelam and to undertake conducive measures to remove the ban, a great hindrance to amicable relationship between India and the LTTE.

“At no stage did we ever consider India as an enemy force. Our people always consider India as our friend. They have great expectations that the Indian super power will take a positive stand on our national question”, he said. The LTTE leader also requested the world powers to remove the ban on it, citing that the LTTE never schemed any act against any country and the Tamil struggle is not against the geopolitical, national or economic interests of any country.

"We are waging a defensive war for the freedom of our people," the LTTE leader said.

"Even though the armed struggle was thrust on us by inevitable needs, yet we wish to stop the war and seek a peaceful resolution to the national question of our people. Our freedom movement is always ready for it. We are not opposed to a peaceful resolution. We have never hesitated to participate in peace talks."

Talking on the modus operandi of the previous peace efforts, Mr. Pirapaharan said, "some countries which identified themselves as so-called Peace Sponsors, rushed into activities which impaired negotiations. They denigrated our freedom movement as a terrorist organisation. [..] Humanitarian activities pursued by our law-abiding people in many countries, well within the purview of the law of the land, have been belittled and curtailed. [...] humanitarian activities were branded as criminal activities in those countries. [...] This further aggravated the racist attitude of the Sinhala state."

"In truth, this is not a war against the LTTE as the Sinhala state professes. This is a war against the Tamils; against the Tamil nation. In short, a genocidal war."

"We are conducting this struggle with the unrelenting support of the Tamil people, the world over."

"No great changes have taken place in the Sinhala political panorama. [...] In Sinhalam, from politicians to spiritual leaders, from journalists to ordinary people, their voice is raised only in support of the war."

"The Sinhala nation is refusing to acknowledge the historic homeland of the Tamils. In such a situation, how will it offer a just solution to our people?"

"Even the tinge of hope our people had that the Sinhala nation will abandon its path of violence and offer justice, has now evaporated."

"It is true Tamil Eelam is a small nation on the globe. However it is a nation with great potential. It is a nation with a characteristic individuality. It has a distinctive language, cultural heritage and history. Sinhalam seeks with its military might to destroy all these. It seeks to destroy Tamil sovereignty and replace it with Sinhala sovereignty. As the freedom movement of the people of Tamil Eelam we will never, ever allow Sinhala occupation or Sinhala domination of our homeland."

The LTTE leader expressed a special note of affection and appreciation to the Tamil diaspora youth for their committed and active role in contributing towards the liberation of Tamils.

For the full text of V. Pirapaharan's speech click here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tribute to Dr. M. K. Rajakumar (1932 -2008)

by Jeyakumar Devaraj

I first met Sdr Dr Rajakumar in 1979 as a member of a group of medical students who met up with him for a discussion. He was then the President of the MMA (Malaysian Medical Association). What struck me then was his energy and enthusiasm. He challenged us to visit rural areas to understand the problems faced by the ordinary people living in kampungs. “How can you be good doctors if you do not understand the background and the problems of the rural people?” he asked us. “A good doctor must be an advocate for the poor!”

At that time I did not know of his previous history of struggle and sacrifice - given the almost complete blackout of the struggle of the radical nationalists and socialists in our local media and history books. It was only much later that I learnt that he had been the editor of “Fajar”, a radical student newsletter produced by the Socialist Club of University Malaya (based in Singapore then). Fajar argued strongly for the eviction of the British Colonialist and full Independence for Malaya and Singapore. That was in 1953. Rajakumar and his group were arrested by the Colonial government and put on trial. Although they won that particular case (in a case that launched Lee Kuan Yew’s political career), many of the Fajar team including Rajakumar were subsequently arrested by the British under the Emergency Ordinance (fore-runner of the ISA) and was detained in one of the islands off Singapore.

When Rajakumar returned to Malaya as a doctor he became involved in the Socialist Front (a coalition of the Party Rakyat Malaya and the Parti Buruh) which was then a potent force in Malayan politics with Ahmad Boestaman as the Opposition Leader in Parliament, and good representation in Local Councils (at that time elected) in many towns and new villages in the west coast of Malaya. He joined the Labour Party and in the mid sixties was the defacto leader of Parti Buruh as the Assistant Secretary General because the rest of leadership had been detained under the ISA. It was a very difficult period. “We stopped nominating chairpersons for our branches in KL because the Special Branch would pick them up within a week,” he once remarked to me. It wasn’t long before Rajakumar was himself picked up by the SB and detained under the ISA from 1966 - 1969.

When he emerged from ISA detention, the political situation had changed drastically. Massive, sustained and often brutal repression which saw several thousand leaders and supporters of the Socialist Front detained under the ISA in the 1960’s, led to disillusionment with the electoral process. Some comrades took the decision to join the underground, others opted to lie low. The Parti Buruh disintegrated and disappeared from the political arena. The Parti Rakyat soldiered on only to see large numbers of its activists and leaders detained under the ISA following the Baling Demonstrations in 1974.

In this very difficult period for the Malaysian Left, Rajakumar immersed himself in MMA activities. He spearheaded the MMA review of the Malaysian Health Care System that was carried out in the late 1970’s. This comprehensive report emphasizes the concepts of social solidarity and health for all irrespective of social class and geographical location. This approach has remained the formal position of the MMA up till today. He set up the Malaysian Chapter of “Physicians Against Nuclear War” as a section within the MMA, together with Dr Ronnie McCoy, a close associate, who later became the president of the international federation, the parent body. Rajakumar also worked to improve the standard of General Practice in Malaysia and was instrumental in the setting up of the Academy of General Practitioners which now runs courses for GPs all over the country.

I last met Sdr Rajakumar three months ago. After several false starts we finally met for lunch. Though he was then still recuperating from a bad bout of pneumonia, he was enthusiastic as ever. “After 40 years we finally have a voice in Parliament. You have an important role in showing that our ideas are still relevant.” “Do not neglect grassroots work. You must keep meeting the ordinary people so that you can speak for them.” “Build the party. A good cadre is worth his weight in gold.”

I told him of my intention to publish a book comprising of papers and essays that I have written for various seminars and PSM congresses over the past 6 years, and asked him if he could write the forward. He said he would be happy to do so, and I later sent a copy of the intended book to him. I do not think he had the time to pen that forward.

The task of ending colonialism and of reconstructing countries on the basis of justice, democracy and solidarity has yet to be completed. We have achieved formal political independence but remain economically subservient to the Imperial Centre, slavishly dependent on FDI to the extent we are prepared to impoverish our own workers! We have grown our economy but the divide between the very rich and the bottom 60% of the population is getting wider, and this is manifesting itself in a rash of social ills from “Mat Rempitism” to child abuse. Despite 51 years of independence, we have made very little progress towards building inter-racial understanding and solidarity.

As we embark on the complex tasks that lie ahead, we can take heart and derive inspiration from the example and sacrifices of Sdr Rajakumar and the thousands of other Malaysians who remained true to their principles in very trying times, who believed that a society based on justice and solidarity is possible, and who did not ever “bend their knee before the insolence of power and wealth”!

Farewell Sdr Rajakumar. We will continue with the work of fleshing out the vision of a better society that we share!

Jeyakumar Devaraj
PSM Central Committee Member
And member of Parliament of Sungai Siput

Ban on yoga: Malay-Indians want Badawi to intervene

Tue, Nov 25, Yahoo news

The Indian community in Malaysia will appeal to Premier Abdullah Badawai seeking his intervention over the ban on yoga by clerics for the Muslims as haram.

Expressing that yoga was an ancient Indian art, the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) on Monday said that no religious connotations should be attached to it.

"We would like to set the record straight," Samy Vellu, the President of the MIC said, adding that they wanted any misgivings in any quarter in this regard to be clarified.

He said for this his organisation would take up the issue with Premier Abdullah and told the Indian community not to get emotional over the fatwa. "We understand the feelings of the people particularly the Hindu community," he said adding that the Council's decision to brand yoga as haram had upset some ethnic Indians.

The MIC's comment should not be construed as questioning the right of the National Fatwa Council, but we are merely pointing out the sensitivity involved in a multi-racial and multi-religious society like Malaysia, Samy Vellu added.

Meanwhile, Sultan of Selangor State, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, said that the National Fatwa Council's edict on yoga being haram for Muslims is yet to be implemented in Selangor as the state Fatwa Committee has yet to meet over the matter. The statement said the Selangor Fatwa Committee would meet to deliberate the matter "in greater detail so that a decision is not made hastily".

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

1st year anniversary of HINDRAF rally

Seelan Palay: Today, November the 25th, marks the 1st year anniversary of the mammoth HINDRAF rally in Kuala Lumpur. The HINDRAF 5 are still denied a fair trial and detained indefinitely under the ISA, but since then at least the people of Malaysia have woken up and taken concrete measures for democratic change.

I was there with my fellow activist Kai Xiong, facing armed riot police and water cannons and tear gas on the streets. I will never forget the spirit of the people that day who braved all that. The echos of their slogans still ring in my ears. We also met with Uthayakumar a day after the rally. I am confident that we shall meet him again soon.

When I got back to Singapore, I made a music video with the footage that I recorded. Here it is, for rememberance's sake:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Two women take hunger strike at Speakers Corner for Sri Lanka

"Blood flowing like a river"

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Andrew Loh / The Online Citizen

In a quiet little corner of Hong Lim Park on Saturday, two women sit silently. In their hearts were the victims of the on-going war in Sri Lanka.

As the sky threatens to open up and raindrops begin to fall, Madam Susila and Madam Annapoorani tell The Online Citizen (TOC) that they are observing a silent, non-violent demonstration.

“It’s a motherly feeling that we have towards the children of
Sri Lanka whom we see on the news,” says Mdm Susila. “We are here to show our concern for the war there.” The two women decided to go to Speakers’ Corner because it broke their hearts to see the victims of the war on television and they wanted to do something. “My heart just can’t take it,” Mdm Susila says.

She is 66 years old and has three children. Her two daughters are in
Malaysia and Canada. Her son in Singapore had earlier brought her to Hong Lim Park at 1pm and is very encouraging of her presence there today. “Singaporeans should help stop the war,” Mdm Susila urges. She has a special affinity with Sri Lankans as her cousin is married to a Sri Lankan woman who now lives in Singapore.

The two women at today’s demonstration have been friends for 48 years. Mdm Annapoorani, who is 75, tells TOC that her family of three boys and three girls has given her their “full support” for today’s event.

Accompanied by four friends, the women were undeterred as the rain got heavier at one point. They opened their umbrellas and continued to sit in quiet defiance. Mdm Susila suffers from asthma but she was determined to see through the six-hour protest, in spite of the weather. She and Mdm Annapoorani have been fasting since

Mr Thamizhmaraiyan, one of the friends of the women, told TOC that they had wanted to put an advertisement in the Tamil language newspaper, Tamil Mirasu. “We wanted to let people know about this protest and ask them to join us,” he said. But the newspaper rejected their advertisement. “We were willing to pay for the advertisement,” says Mr Thamizhmaraiyan, clearly disappointed.

Continue reading here.

What goes around...

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed” - Mahatma Gandhi

Shrinking economy tests Singapore
Saturday, 22 November 2008
John Burton
Financial Times

Singapore's government faces its biggest test since taking office in 2004 after forecasting that the economy will shrink 1-2 per cent next year.

The prediction followed weaker than expected third-quarter gross domestic product figures.

Official data said the city-state's GDP contracted 0.6 per cent year-on-year in the three months to September compared with an initial estimate of a 0.5% decline.

A recession next year would be the fourth that Singapore has suffered since independence in 1965 but some economists believe it could be the country's worst. The sudden downturn may prompt the government to call an early election before scheduled polls in 2011 in case economic pain leads to a backlash against the People's Action party that has ruled Singapore for 50 years.

The economic slowdown threatens to widen Singapore's large income gap between the rich and poor. The government of Lee Hsien Loong, the prime minister might also come under criticism for investments in western financial groups that have turned sour.

The Government of Singapore Investment Corp, which manages foreign reserves, has invested in UBS and Citigroup in the past year. Temasek, the state investment company, took a stake in Merrill Lynch.

Mr Lee and his father, Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's independence leader, head GIC, while the premier's wife is in charge of Temasek. The severity of the downturn could determine the continued durability of the Singapore model, seen as a pioneer of authoritarian capitalism, in which the public gives up some civil liberties in return for economic prosperity.

Song Seng Wen, an economist at CIMB-GK, a local brokerage, said Singapore could see its GDP shrink 3-5 per cent annually over the next few years.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Uthaya denied right to visit his hospitalized mother and police harrasment of his mother in hospital

HINDRAF Media Statement 20/11/2008

The oppression and suppression carried out by the UMNO led government tools ie Home Office and the PDRM towards HINDRAF never seem to cease.

P.Uthayakumar's mother, Madam Kalaivaniy was admitted in the hospital for eight days from 12th Nov 2008 to 19th Nov 2008 due to hypertension, high blood sugar level as well as to treat her gall bladder.

Repeated requests were made to Kamunting Detention Centre upon her admission to inform her son and request for permission for Uthaya to visit his mother but to no avail. UTHAYAKUMAR was not even made known of his mother being hospitalized until this Sunday on 16th Nov 2008 when his fiancée visited him.

In addition to this, four Special Branch officers from the Malaysian Royal Force had visited Uthaya's mother in the hospital on 18th and 19th Nov 2008 to ascertain whether it was really Uthaya's mother and further interviewed those nurses attended to her and asked them if they were aware that this is Uthaya's mother.

Even the bedridden Uthaya's mother was not spared by this callous government agents as she was questioned and asked whether she would want her son to visit her.

The Malaysian police force has taken intimidation and harassment to new heights in questioning and interrogating Uthaya's hospitalized mother as well as enquiring the nurses on their awareness of whether she being Uthaya's mother. What is the relevant of this? If this is not intimidation and harassment, then I really don't know what this is.

Besides, does it take four Special Branch officers to verify the admission by personally visiting, questioning and interrogating hospital personnel and his mother? What a waste of public funds or is this merely another act of intimidation and harassment towards those who seek what is fair and just.

We urge the Prison authority at least in compassion and humanity grounds allow Uthaya Kumar to visit his mother in her residence as she is recovering from her illness and is unable to travel and was not fit to travel for the recent Deepavali visit.

Thank you
P. Waytha Moorthy

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Town Council losses: Who's accountable?

Letter to Straits Times Online Forum by Ms Karen Woon

I REFER to yesterday's front-page report, "Town councils' exposure: $16 million", in which People's Action Party town councils (TCs) lost $16 million as a result of bad investments.

It is public money and $16 million is no small change. Most of us have never seen, or ever will see, $1 million in our lifetime.

Town council funds are obtained from our monthly conservancy charges and should be used for the maintenance of our estate. So, why was there such a large sum of money left behind for investment? Does it mean the council has overcharged us? Would such excess funds be better utilised to upgrade the estate facilities, or better still, be returned to each individual household via rebates?

The town council is a non-profit organisation. Why is there a need to invest such sums of money in an investment tool?

Are there enough transparency and audit processes in place to ensure checks and balances against the use of such funds? We have already heard of many large non-profit organisations like the old NKF and Ren Ci mismanaging their funds, what about town councils?

If a council made a tidy profit from such investments, what would happen to the principle sum and the investment gains? Again, is there enough transparency in this area?

Now that the council has made a loss in an investment gone wrong, does it mean there are insufficient funds left to support ongoing or future projects? Does the entire estate have to suffer the bad judgement of a few individuals. What fall-back plan does the town council have in making good these losses?

The Government has advocated high pay packages to public servants, because their pay should be commensurate with the risks they take, just like the CEO of a private organisation. But when mistakes are made, the CEO has to answer for them, most often at the cost of his job. So who should take the rap for these mistakes? And what actions will be taken to prevent future cases like this?

Karen Woon (Ms)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Time for India to re-think, says Singaporean scholar

TamilNet, 17 October 2008

The all-party resolution in Tamil Nadu should provide New Delhi an opportunity to do some introspection about its Sri Lanka policy, says TS Gopi Rethinaraj of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore in an article that appeared in Hindustan Times on Thursday.

Unless India is able to lock SL in a broad bilateral security relationship, their leadership will have no qualms about allowing China or Pakistan to get a foothold, he says. "This is the real danger of India's current policy facilitating the military defeat of the LTTE. If India were to take a hard-nosed view of its interests, a subtle shift in its position on the LTTE will go a long way in safeguarding its strategic interests in the region besides securing the interests of ethnic Tamils in the island."

India's current policy towards the ethnic conflict is influenced by the fear that an independent Tamil Eelam will rekindle secessionist tendencies in TN. How-ever, this view is incorrect, he says.

The Hindustan Times on Friday published a modified version of the op-ed piece that appeared in the April 2008 issue of Pragati: The Indian National Interest Review. Full text of the article follows:

Time for some introspection

The all-party meeting chaired by Tamil Nadu's (TN) Chief Minister M Karunanidhi on October 14 passed a resolution that MPs from the state would resign if the Centre failed to ensure a ceasefire in Sri Lanka (SL) in two weeks. Since current Indian perception of the ethnic conflict has been clouded by Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, it is instructive to review India's past involvement in Sri Lanka and future options.

The goal of India's SL policy since the 1950s was to prevent any hostile power getting a foothold in the neighbourhood. So, over the years, India pursued various policies - some of them at the expense of Sri Lankan Tamil interests - to placate the Sinhalese leadership. Even India's support to Tamil militant groups in the 1980s angered the Sinh-alese leadership. India's current policy towards the ethnic conflict is influenced by the fear that an independent Tamil Eelam will rekindle secessionist tendencies in TN. How-ever, this view is incorrect.

India's policy since 1991 has sought the military defeat of the LTTE for the latter's role in Rajiv Gandhi's assassination and the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) debacle. From the beginning, however, India's SL policy failed to appreciate the historical roots of the ethnic conflict, which can be traced back to the wars between the Tamil and Sinhala kingdoms during the past several centuries. The LTTE's conduct also has its share of problems. It has put an entire generation of Tamils through immense hardship. This bitter history makes rapprochement between the Sinhalese and Tamils almost impossible. Given these ground realities in Sri Lanka, what are India's options?

It is clear that India cannot afford to remain fixated on its past bitterness with the LTTE while crafting its response to the ethnic conflict. The current policy stagnation, besides exacerbating the difficulties of Sri Lankan Tamils, can also be detrimental to India's security. During the Cold War, there was some anxiety in India as Sri Lanka began building a closer relationship with the US. Such concerns are irrelevant now in the light of closer defence cooperation between the US and India. However, there is another potential threat to India's southern frontiers: China is already playing a major role in building ports and potential naval bases in some Indian Ocean littoral states.

India formally extracted concessions from SL through the 1987 peace accord - currently in tatters - that Colombo will not allow any external powers in a way detrimental to Indian interests. However, Lanka has been building parallel defence cooperation tracks with China and Pakistan and the island has been brimming with Chinese and Pakistani intelligence operatives. Yet, India has helped SL to maintain its territorial integrity. This could prove to be costly. India cannot allow this situation to persist while putting pressure on the LTTE and providing military assistance to SL. A credible case could be built that an independent Tamil Eelam will be - for ethnic, linguistic, and religious reasons - friendlier towards India than the Sinhalese dispensation in Colombo.

Although the LTTE is banned in some countries there is also a realisation that any solution ignoring the militant outfit will not be viable. India should review its current policy and exert pressure on SL to seek a political solution for the ethnic conflict. Some argue that India's current free trade agreement with SL will buy more influence among the Sinhalese leadership.

Unless India is able to lock SL in a broad bilateral security relationship, their leadership will have no qualms about allowing China or Pakistan to get a foothold. This is the real danger of India's current policy facilitating the military defeat of the LTTE. If India were to take a hard-nosed view of its interests, a subtle shift in its position on the LTTE will go a long way in safeguarding its strategic interests in the region besides securing the interests of ethnic Tamils in the island. The all-party resolution should provide the UPA an opportunity to do some introspection about its Sri Lanka policy.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Report: Peace Vigil for Sri Lanka (Photos updated)

Over a hundred people from all walks of life attended our Peace Vigil for Sri Lanka yesterday, an unprecedented public demonstration on this issue in Singapore.

Several people came to know our activity through the report in the Straits Times on Nov 13. Word of the event was also publicised through SMS, email, Facebook as well as blogs online.

The vigil began with an introductory address by S. Sivabalan, after which organisers and attendees proceeded to light candles to signify their hope for peace in Sri Lanka. They also left their personal messages on the board provided.

We distributed flyers and badges to those present who shared their views and concerns on the war.

Several curious on-lookers also approached us to enquire about the situation in Sri Lanka. They indicated surprise and mentioned how little they knew of the conflict.

Along with the discussions taking place all around, some observed silence throughout as a mark of respect for the deceased.

Prominent figures in Singapore’s civil and political society, including members of the Reform Party, Singapore Democratic Party and National Solidarity Party came to show their support. Braema Mathi of AWARE and blogger Ng E-Jay of Sgpolitics also graced the event

The glow of candle lights grew along with the crowd as the evening went on, with the elderly, teenagers and whole families turning up.

At about 7pm, V. Rajarahm ended the day by thanking the attendees and gathered everyone to take a final group photograph.

The team wholeheartedly thanks everyone who showed your support and stand in solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka. We hope to see you at our upcoming forum.

2 other reports on our event are available at Sgpolitics and The Online Citizen.

Photographs by Chan Sijia


Friday, November 14, 2008

2 events for your weekend

Dear readers, make this weekend a memorable one by joining me and supporting 2 events.

Saturday, Nov 15, Peace Vigil for Sri Lanka
5 to 7pm, Speakers Corner, Clarke Quay MRT Exit A
More info at

Sunday, Nov 15 & 16, Alamak (Drama by Agni Koothu)
8pm, The Substation Arts Centre, Armenian Street
More info at my earlier blogpost.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Unique agitation by All India Students Federation

TamilNet, Wednesday, 12 November 2008, 21:49 GMT

A special train, carrying over 2000 students of Tamil Nadu, members of the All India Studens Federation (AISF), left Chennai on Wednesday to march towards the Indian Parliament in New Delhi, demanding end of attacks on Eezham Tamils, stoppage of military aid to Sri Lanka and initiation of peaceful political solution to the crisis. Students from many other states of India will join them in the agitation scheduled for Friday. Such an event is first in the history of AISF, said S. Mahendran, senior leader of the Communist Party of India, guiding the students.

AISF Train to Delhi campaign
More than 2,000 students throng the platform before going onboard the 'Messenger of tears' train

“Your voice is going to be the voice of all. Your voice is going to be echoed in several languages when students from 18 states will join you in Delhi”, said D.Pandian, Secretary, CPI, Tamil Nadu, in his address of send off to the students at the Memorial Hall, Chennai, Wednesday afternoon.

“Ceasefire is not one-sided, said some. But when the CPI raised the matter the LTTE responded with their preparedness. Why India is still unable to press for it?”

“Rajapaksa says the Tigers have to lay down arms. A Tamil will die standing on his feet, and never by begging on his knees”, Pandian said.

Addressing the send off, MDMK leader Vaiko said that the whole world was watching the event and that he was grateful to CPI for undertaking the venture. “It was the initial effort of the CPI on October 2, that awakened Tamil Nadu on the plight of Eezham Tamils”, he said.

Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi President Thol. Thirumavalavan who addressed the students said, "We were fooled because we believed that the Karunanidhi-Pranab Mukherjee will put a fullstop to the war in Eelam."

The speakers included, Udhayakumar, the Students Secretary of the AIADMK, Ravindra Thuraisamy, advisor, AISMK, actors Manorama and Satyaraj and poet Arivumathi.

The student participants are from all the districts of Tamil Nadu and the special train has been named ‘Messenger of Tears’ (Ka’n’neer Thoothuvan).

Many dignitaries, including CPI central committee member R. Nallakannu were at the platform, Chennai Central Station for the sen off.

Actor Satyaraj flagged off the train.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Peace Vigil for Sri Lanka in Singapore

Dear readers, my friends and I are organising a peace vigil for Sri Lanka. Please attend and spread this information to everyone you know. You can also help promoting it by featuring the online advert on the right on your own blog or website.


Speakers Corner (Clarke Quay MRT Exit A)
Saturday, 15 November 2008
5pm - 7pm

The civil war in Sri Lanka is one of the world’s deadliest ongoing armed conflicts, causing significant harm to the civilian population, environment and severe damage to the economy of the country. Now 25 years running, it has claimed at least 215,000 lives and displaced more than 1.5 million people.

The possibility of a lasting peace was raised when a cease-fire agreement was signed with international mediation in 2002. However on January 2, 2008 the Government of Sri Lanka formally announced unilateral withdrawal from the ceasefire agreement and since then, the conflict escalated to critical levels in recent months. Donor countries such as the United States, Canada, Norway and Japan have expressed deep regrets on this decision by the Sri Lankan government.

On September 9, 2008, the Government of Sri Lanka ordered all local and international aid agencies to leave the northern areas of conflict and take their equipment with them. UN agencies and international relief organisations including Oxfam, Save The Children and the Danish Refugee Council that have been delivering food and medical aid to nearly 200,000 refugees in the affected region have started to pull out.

History has demonstrated that such wars can never be won. The international community must take decisive steps to pressure the Government of Sri Lanka to abandon the path of militarism and opt for a negotiated political settlement. Our prompt intervention will avert the loss of many more precious lives.

Join us at Speakers Corner this Saturday, Nov 15 to light a candle and show your support for peace in Sri Lanka.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tigers reiterate consent to ceasefire

TamilNet, Saturday, 08 November 2008

Liberation Tigers Political Head B. Nadesan, when contacted by TamilNet on Saturday, following reports of Tamil Nadu leaders seeking clarification on LTTE's stand on ceasefire, said "there is no hesitation on our side to reiterate our position that we have always wanted a ceasefire." It is the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) that unilaterally abrogated the ceasefire, Mr. Nadesan said and added that the Tigers were only fighting a defensive war since Colombo has thrust upon Tamils an aggressive war.

The LTTE Political Head also said they have always reiterated that they have been committed to the Ceasefire.

Earlier, the State Secretary of the Communist Party of India (CPI), Mr. D. Pandian issued a public statement urging those who were fighting for the democratic rights of the Eezham Tamils, especially the political leadership of the Liberation Tigers, to come forward to announce their stand in a clarifying manner.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Friday, November 7, 2008

A dent in Singapore's financial hub dream

A dent in Singapore's financial hub dream PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 06 November 2008

Megawati Wijaya
Asia Times

When the United States and Europe showed early signs of financial distress last year, Singapore came to the rescue of a handful of big investment banks hit by subprime mortgage problems. But as the financial contagion spreads, the island nation's open economy is emerging at least in the short term as one of the region's biggest losers from the crisis.

Despite the island state's emergence as a regional financial hub and its limited exposure to the toxic securitized financial products which have blown big holes in Western banks' balance sheets, Singapore's economy is in a bad way. That's because its economic growth is still highly reliant on commercial trade, with merchandise exports representing over 220% of gross domestic product (GDP), according to a Credit Suisse research report.

Typically, around 20% of those shipments are destined for US markets, making Singapore's economic growth highly correlated to America's performance, according to the same research. As such, Singapore is already technically in recession, where a slump in exports pushed quarterly growth into negative territory for the second quarter in a row.

Third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) contracted 6.3% from the previous quarter, a steeper decline than the 5.7% contraction in the previous three months. The Ministry of Trade and Industry revised down its full-year economic growth forecast for the second time this year, recently trimming its projection to "around 3%" from 4% to 5% previously.

Swiss investment bank UBS sees the economy growing at 3.5% this year, but recently revised down sharply its 2009 forecast from 4.8% to 1.5%. Meanwhile, inflation earlier this year reached a 26-year high and consumer prices are on pace to rise between 6% and 7% this year, according to the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). The Straits Times Index also fell to its five-year low of below 1,600 in the last week of October from the comfortable 3,500 in the beginning of the year.

"The direct financial exposure of Singapore financial institutions to the US sub-prime mortgages is relatively small," said Anand Srinivasan, associate professor of finance at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School. "However, the indirect impact of a worldwide recession is bound to be large."

Singapore's National Trade Union Congress has (NTUC) warned that retrenchment will rise next year as business continues to deteriorate.

Read and comment on the full article here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wall Street Journal accused of attacking Singapore judiciary

"I will hit you where it hurts. Then we will see your commitment to a free press." - Lee Kuan Yew

AFP - Wednesday, November 5

SINGAPORE, Nov 4, 2008 (AFP) - Singapore's attorney-general on Tuesday accused the Wall Street Journal Asia of seeking to undermine the city-state's judiciary and sought a "substantial fine" on the newspaper's publisher.

Attorney-General Walter Woon said two editorials and a letter by Singapore pro-democracy activist Chee Soon Juan published by the business newspaper alleged the judiciary was not independent and lacked integrity.

Woon asked High Court judge Tay Yong Kwang to find Dow Jones Publishing Company (Asia), Inc. in contempt of court and impose a fine "sufficient to hurt but not to cripple" the publisher.

"It will suffice if (the publisher) is brought to realise the consequences of its behaviour and is induced to refrain from further attempts to undermine the courts and judges of Singapore," he said.

The Wall Street Journal Asia had "cast aspersions on the independence, impartiality and integrity" of the Singapore judiciary twice in the past, Woon noted.

He said the case was "not about the freedom of speech per se" but "about the rule of law and the vital role that the courts and judiciary play in its maintenance."

Woon had earlier applied for contempt proceedings against Dow Jones as well as international editor Daniel Hertzberg and managing editor Christine Glancey.

But judicial sources told AFP on Tuesday that Hertzberg and Glancey had applied to have the serving of the court summons on them set aside.

This means the court will proceed first with the case against Dow Jones Publishing and will have a separate hearing for the application by Hertzberg and Glancey at a later date, the sources said.

Senior Counsel Philip Jeyaretnam, representing Dow Jones Publishing, argued that his client had not undermined the judiciary.

"It is necessary for your honour to consider whether there is one sole word that is in contempt of the court," he told the High Court.

Dow Jones Publishing released a statement Tuesday defending its publication of the articles.

"Today in court we defended our right to report and comment on matters of international interest, including matters concerning Singapore," said the statement.

"We also argued that in this instance, what we published simply does not constitute contempt of court."

International human rights groups have accused Singapore leaders of using the courts to stifle dissent, but they argue this is necessary to protect their reputation from unfounded attacks.

Singapore's leaders have won hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages from defamation suits filed against critics and foreign publications.

Most recently, the Far Eastern Economic Review was found by a High Court judge to have defamed the country's founding father Lee Kuan Yew and his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The Far Eastern Economic Review is a sister publication of the Wall Street Journal Asia.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Tamil film fraternity fasts for Eelam cause

TamilNet, Sunday, 02 November 2008, 02:20 GMT

Packed with performance and punch lines, the entire Tamil film fraternity staged a powerful show of strength at a one-day fast in Chennai Saturday to express solidarity with the Eezham Tamils. The actors demanded the Tamil Nadu state and the Indian Union Government to immediately find a peaceful and permanent solution to the Sri Lankan problem.

Tamil Nadu actors on one-day fast

Rajinikanth struck an emotional chord when he shared his personal experience of interacting with Eezham Tamils and praised 'the music of their dialect'. At the same time, he expressed concern over the fact that Eezham Tamils did not enjoy the rights they deserve in their land.

Tamil Nadu actors on one-day fast
"Did they enter the war on purpose? They demanded their rights through all kinds of peaceful methods, when nothing worked out, they were forced to take up arms," Mr. Rajinikanth said. "The urgent need is to stop the war. The voice that we rise over here must be heard by Rajapaksa," the famous actor explained in his speech. He directly addressed the Sri Lankan President and said: "Rajapaksa! What are the Tamils demanding? Equal status. It is in your best interests if you recognise their rights. You have the three armed forces: the army, the navy and the air force. But have you been able to wipe out all the Tamils who have been fighting for their rights? You have not been able to do this in the past two-years of the war, as in the past thirty years. You are unable to accept your defeat. Because, for you, it is a question of ego. Accept the truth and grant them equal rights."

On the same vein, Rajinikanth targeted the Sri Lankan nation and warned them in no uncertain terms: "When poor and innocent people of suffer, a country will never improve. The people there are dying in large numbers for the past several years. Please understand that their dead bodies are not being buried, they are being planted into the land. Don't forget that these seeds will grow again tomorrow!"

The super star implored the Sri Lankan President to give the Tamils their rights and their traditional land because it was in the best interests of Sri Lanka.

Tamil Nadu actors on one-day fast
Kamal Haasan said that it is the responsibility of the International Community to ensure that a ceasefire is implemented in Sri Lanka immediately.

"This meeting is taking place so that we express our feelings; we have been asked to keep away from inflammatory speeches. This is a world that takes offence when an apparent fact is mentioned – and we have seen what happens when our brothers Seeman and Ameer expressed their opinions," the charismatic actor said.

"In a society that does not guarantee fundamental rights, it is natural for radicalism to take root. When the nation attains independence, the so-called terrorists will be the martyrs and freedom fighters. Only time can be a judge. A peaceful solution should have come to Sri Lanka, but because of its absence, people have been forced to take up arms. Tamils all over the world have united for the sake of the Eezham Tamils," he said. "People in Tamil Nadu who have so much of infighting should realize this," he added at the end of his soul-stirring speech.

Tamil Nadu actors on one-day fast

Tamil Nadu actors on one-day fast
Tamil Nadu actors on one-day fast
Desiya Murpokku Dravidar Kazhagam (DMDK) Chief and actor Vijayakanth remarked in his speech that people of Tamil Nadu had the right to criticize both the State and the Union Governments. "Rajapaksa is staging a major drama. The State and the Union Governments should question him. He bombs the innocent civilians and he has never showed any humanitarian concern," Mr. Vijayakanth said.

South Indian Film Artists Association President Sarath Kumar, who also heads All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi (AISMK), called for a permanent solution to the ethnic strife in the island nation.

Vijay urged his fans to send telegrams to the Indian Prime Minister requesting him to intervene in the Sri Lankan problem. Ajith called for lasting peace on the island nation even as he used the opportunity to condemn critics who had spread rumours of his unwillingness to participate in the fast.

Parthipan posed the question how the funds being collected in Tamil Nadu are going to reach the Tamils caught up in Sri Lankan offensive and urged all concerned to ensure independent channeling of the funds and also enable monitoring and feedback by engaging a team from various sectors, including a member on behalf of the South Indian Film Artists Association.

Vivek acknowledged that the Eezham Tamil Diaspora was responsible for arranging live performances abroad for actors and actresses from the Tamil film industry. "In every grain of rice that we eat, the contribution of the Eezham Tamils is there. So, we have a moral duty to voice for their rights and concerns," he said.

Many of the actors who spoke at the event also focused on the history of Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka, saying that the Tamils were natives of the island and justified the Tamil demand for equal status. One of the actors also said it Eezham was not an offspring of Tamil Nadu to describe Eezham Tamils' relationship with Tamil Nadu as of an umbilical cord. Quite opposite, Eezham and Tamil Nadu shared a common womb and thus siblings, he declared.

Mayilsamy, named Thileepan, who fasted unto death in Jaffna in 1987 as one of three personalities who had greatest impact on Tamils, the other two being Mother Theresa and M. G. Ramachandran (MGR). Actor and Director Manivannan in his address said Mahatma Gandhi conceived non-violence agitation as a form of struggle against apartheid in his early ages in South Africa. "Gandhism, which originated in South Africa, and brought independence to India, attained its symbolism in Jaffna," where Thileepan sacrificed his life in his fast-unto-death campaign demanding justice from India in 1987.

Several actors expressed solidarity with the Tamils who have been uprooted due to the Sri Lankan offensive and forced into jungles amid shelling, bombardment and life-threatening snakebites.

Donations poured in throughout the day. Rajinikanth contributed 10 lakhs to the relief fund, and Kamal Haasan shelled out another 5 lakhs. Within an eight-hour span of the fast, over 45 lakh rupees was collected for the Eezham Tamils Relief Fund by the South Indian Film Artists Association headed by Sarath kumar and Ratharavi.

Other famous actors who enthusiastically participated in the fast were: Sathyaraj, Vijayakumar, Vikram, Prakashraj, Surya, Prabhu, Dhanush, Karthi, Karthik, Arjun, Vadivel, Jeyam Ravi, Silambarasan, Napolean, Goundamani, S.V Sekhar, Jeevan, Prasanth; and actresses Manorama, Kushboo, Radhika Sarathkumar, Sripriya, Nayanthara, Trisha, Sneha, Keerthi Chawla and others.

Tamil Nadu actors on one-day fast

Sunday, November 2, 2008

New Charges: AG goes after Gopalan Nair for contempt of court

Source: Jacob George

According to this media release, the Attorney-General "has applied to court for contempt proceedings to be instituted against Gopalan Nair" for "stating, inter alia, that the courts were being abused for political ends" and "has also attacked the independence and impartiality of the Singapore Judiciary and District Judge Leong in his web log".

Gopalan Nair aka Singapore Dissident is currently in jail for 3 months. He began serving the sentence on Sept 20. See this blogpost about that case and also this video,

This will be the third contempt of court proceedings brought by the Attorney-General. The other two are against the "kangaroo court" activists and Wall Street Journal Asia.

Maybe, since he's at it, the Attorney-General should also bring contempt of court proceedings against the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) for their July 2008 report and/or Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada for their Oct 2007 report.