Wednesday, December 31, 2008

More Burmese facing expulsion from Singapore

By Seelan Palay
Originally published on

Yet another two Burmese nationals working in Singapore have fallen victim to the Government for their support of the pro-democracy movement in their home country.

In the latest development, Singapore's Manpower Ministry is refusing to renew the work permits of Mr Moe Kyaw Thu, 35 and Mr Win Kyaw, 38, who had both worked here for 11 years each. Moe is a construction supervisor and Win, a technical supervisor. This drastic turn of events resulted from the two men's involvement in highlighting human rights abuses by the Burmese military junta following its crackdown of the pro-democracy movement in Rangoon led by monks in September last year.

Moe in particular appealed to MOM reiterating that he has no police record of any kind and he has fully respected the laws of Singapore while working here.

Both men have participated in the activities of the Overseas Burmese Patriots (OBP), an advocacy group formed in Singapore after the military crackdown. The group was involved in organizing and conducting a series of public campaigns in Singapore against the Burmese regime.

One of the activities was when over 40 Burmese, assembled in groups of four, held a peaceful protest along Orchard Road on 20 Nov 07 during the ASEAN Summit in nearby Shangri-la Hotel.

Following the event, the group was accused by the Singapore Government of deliberately breaking local laws. Its members were given a police warning for their participation in the protest. But none of the Burmese activists were ever charged with any unlawful act while pursuing their political objectives.

The hands of the PAP Government first became apparent in September this year when three members of the OBP were expelled when their work permits or residence in Singapore came up for renewal.

Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng defended the Government's action then, stating that the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority "considers this small group to be undesirable persons and rightly decided they should leave."

In the ongoing saga, despite their employers wanting to retain them, Moe and Win have been ordered to leave Singapore by the end of January 2009.

"If they send me back, my family will suffer greatly. I'd have to spend the rest of my life in prison." said Moe.

The latest expulsions go against the sympathy and support the Burmese pro-democracy activists receive throughout the world. The inhumane act of the Singapore Government is an indirect endorsement of the murderous Burmese junta.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

15 reasons to be a vegetarian (video)

Seelan: I have been a vegetarian/vegan myself since 2002. After watching a video showing how much animals suffer in slaughterhouses, I decided that I would never again want my body to be sustained on such cruelty and decided to switch to a plant-based diet. I did it gradually by first cutting out red meat, then white, then fish and finally eggs over the course of 3 months. I'd like to share with you all the following video and some other textual information after it.

Be a vegetarian.
  • Improve your health.
  • Prevent cruelty to animals and their tremendous suffering.
  • Save the planet.

1) Factory farms produce massive amounts of dust and other contamination that pollutes our air. A study in Texas found that animal feedlots in the state produce more than 14 million pounds of particulate dust every year and that the dust 'contains biologically active organisms such as bacteria, mold, and fungi from the feces and the feed'.

2) According to the nonprofit group Greenpeace, all the wild animals and trees in more than 2.9 million acres of rainforest were destroyed in the 2004-2005 crop season in order to grow crops that are used to feed chickens and other animals in factory farms.

3) According to a 2006 UN report, the livestock sector causes more greenhouse gases worldwide than the entire transportation sector.

4) Nitrous oxide is about 300 times more potent as a global warming gas than carbon dioxide. According to the U.N., the meat, egg, and dairy industries account for a staggering 65 percent of worldwide nitrous oxide emissions.

5) According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the run-off from factory farms pollutes our waterways more than all other industrial sources combined. The EPA reports that chicken, hog, and cattle excrement have polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 states.

6) It takes 16 pounds of grain and 2,500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat. One average meat eater could consume that pound of meat during a meal, while 16 people could have been fed on the grain it takes to produce that pound of meat.

7) The meat industry causes more water pollution in the US than all other industries combined because the animals raised for food produce 130 times more excrement than the entire human population--86,000 lbs per second. A typical pig factory farm generates a quantity of raw waste equal to that of a city of 12,000 people.

8) Every 2 seconds, a child starves to death somewhere in the world. Countries such as Ethiopia and some Central American countries use their farmland to supply the United States with cheap burgers instead of growing healthful grain foods for their own starving people.

9) The livestock population of the US consumes enough grain and soybeans to feed more than 5 times its human population. 90% of all corn and 80% of all grains and beans grown in the US are used to feed livestock animals.

10) 75 percent of U.S. topsoil has been lost to date, 85 percent of that loss is due to livestock rearing. Meat is murder on the environment A kilogram of beef is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution than driving for 3 hours while leaving all the lights on back home.

Fortunately there is something you can do - switch to a plant-based diet, or at the very least reduce your meat and dairy consumption.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Missing Kumar...

Exclusive Interview with S Indra Devi, wife of Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee and Hindraf legal advisor P Uthayakumar. Ends with 2 short video recorded statements of Uthayakumar himself.

Camera: Mohd Kamal Ishak
Editing: Indrani Kopal

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Woman protests against DBS at Raffles Place

Source: The Online Citizen
Tuesday, 23 December 2008

54-year-old cancer sufferer Lin Jin Jiao yesterday strapped a cardboard sign on herself and staged a protest against DBS Bank at Raffles Place during lunch hour. Lin had invested, and lost her retirement funds in the now-worthless DBS High Notes 5 (HN5) investment product. In her protest yesterday, she alleged that DBS Bank was guilty of mis-selling for investing her money in a high-risk venture (read the report here).

Click on picture to enlarge:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Release of Shafiie and Isrizal

The Latest Hooray
Friday, 19 December 2008

Singapore Democrats

A candlelight vigil was held on the night of 17 Dec 08, the last night of Mr Isrizal's and Mr Shafi'ie's prison sentence.

More than 30 friends, family, activists and supporters came to the vigil which stretched through the night as they awaited the release of the two men. Mr John Tan started serving his sentence on 16 Dec and will be released on 30 Dec 08.

Candles were lit and lined the kerb facing the main gates of the Queenstown Remand Prison. By midnight, there were just five who were able to stay through the night. But they were not alone as messages of support and pledges of solidarity had been penned on a large placard. SMSes of the same spirit were received throughout the night.

vigil is a kind of purposeful sleeplessness – the Latin root, vigilia, denotes "watch, watchfulness, wakefulness". Traditionally used in an ecclesiastical sense to describe a devotional exercise performed on the eve of a festival or holy day, in this instance it was a night to devote attention to our three prisoners of conscience.

Famously dubbed as the "kangaroo t-shirt trio", the contempt of court charges were brought against them by the Attorney-General who insisted that he took action in his capacity as the "Guardian of the Public Interest".

As a public interest issue, the question remains if this was the best course of action to take against three citizens for wearing t-shirts which bore an image with no words.

The night was cool and the air still. Sound carried from the guardhouse behind the gates. At one point, late into the night, the guard could be heard reporting on the vigil: "One was 'doing arts-&-craft', the others chatting whilst another was 'looking at the stars', etc." The arts-&-craft activity was in reference to the making of a "Welcome Back" sign.

A song* (see below) was written and rehearsed, sung tongue-in-cheek to the tune of Amazing Grace, to greet the two.

Morning came and supporters and well-wishers arrived to greet the two as the time of release neared.

At around 10 am, Mr Shafi'ie emerged. He strode to the gates, calm, composed and dignified. He was garlanded and warmly hugged. He was also presented with a booklet, a compilation of articles about his valour and strength in the face of such difficulty, especially at such a young age. The song was performed with gusto and to much laughter.

Mr Isrizal appeared soon after (at about 10.30 am). Upon exiting the prison, he punched the air shouting "Merdeka!" The same welcome was extended and he was also garlanded, hugged and "serenaded".

See more photos here

Watch video here
(Shafi'ie) and here (Isrizal)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Irene Fernandez's 13 year trial over

When it comes to persecuting activists, the Singapore government is no different from their Malaysian counterparts. Just to mention some very recent examples, see Jacob George's posts here, here and here.

Rights Champion Seeks Political Career

by Baradan Kuppusamy, Dec 8 2008, IPS

After winning a gruelling 13-year court battle against a charge of ‘maliciously publishing false news’, human rights crusader Irene Fernandez is seeking a political career to continue defending migrant workers and other vulnerable sections of society.

irene fernandez interview 251108 08"I refused to yield, I was focused and relentless and in the end won," said Fernandez, executive director of Tenaganita, a migrant rights NGO.

"It is also a major victory for human rights activism. The authorities now know that we will fight, and fight good and hard, and will not be cowed."

Fernandez now plans to run again for Parliament. She did not succeed in her first attempt in the 1999 general election, when she stood in the Subang Jaya parliamenary constituency on a Keadilan ticket.

"It’s important that I have the opportunity to be a member of Parliament, to be a voice for the communities that I have been working with," she told IPS.

It was believed by diplomats, the political opposition and human rights organisations that the authorities had targeted Fernandez for her persistent efforts to champion Asian migrant workers and to protect them from mistreatment and exploitation by employers and enforcement agencies.

irene fernandez court 03Her ordeal began in 1996 when she was charged under Section 8A(1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, with publishing ‘false news’, punishable with a mandatory minimum of 12 months’ imprisonment.

That year she had circulated a memorandum to the media, foreign missions and international human rights bodies, in which she drew attention to deplorable conditions in overcrowded immigration detention centres.

She alleged, in the memorandum, that migrant workers were mistreated, poorly fed, abused and regularly beaten.

The memorandum, based on research conducted by her staff and other experts, sparked an international outcry that severely embarrassed the government, but brought immediate relief to depressed migrant workers.

The government took steps to improve camp conditions, provide more nutritious food and medicine and assure the international community, but charged Fernandez in court.

After a long and harrowing trial and despite international objections, she was found guilty in 2003 and sentenced to a year in jail.

‘Political persecution’

She appealed the sentence immediately but for five years she was dragged from one court to another as her appeal suffered numerous delays and postponements.

On Nov 24, eight years after she filed her appeal, the attorney-general finally made the decision to withdraw the charge on the grounds that the appeal record was incomprehensible.

"The trial and sentence were hanging over me like (the) sword (of Damocles) for 13 years. I suffered hugely but remained unbowed,” Fernandez, 62, said.

"The trial was a heavy burden. I could not travel, stand for elections, raise funds or even speak at some forum. This was a case of political persecution designed to force me to give up on my campaigns and retire."

By persecuting her the authorities had wanted NGOs to do charity work and leave advocacy and political activism alone, Fernandez claimed.

"They wanted to cow human rights activists by making an example out of me. They wanted to show the people that rights activism is dangerous and dirty work and anti-national."

immigration department and refugeesShe has vowed to step up her work helping migrant workers, women and HIV/Aids campaigns.

"The struggle is far from over...there is a significant rise in the number of cases of sexual and physical abuse, torture of migrant workers. Conditions at detention centres and prisons remain deplorable.

"In fact the struggle has just started with the world economy in turmoil and millions of migrant workers on the front line of unemployment. Nearly four million - legal or undocumented - Asian migrant workers in Malaysia might end up being jobless if the turmoil persists.

In 2005 Fernandez won the Right Livelihood Award - the alternative Nobel Prize - in recognition of her wide-ranging human rights activism.

"Migrants are human beings. They have the same rights as all of us,’’ she said.

ambiga sreenevasan 030507 bar councilBar Council chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan said of the trial: "It is bad that Fernandez had to suffer for 13 years before justice was finally granted. The ordeal is over for her but for the judiciary, the journey ahead is long to regain its lustre as an equal and capable branch of a democratic government."

Brad Adams, Asia director of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said: "If Malaysia had respected rights, freedom, democracy and an independent judiciary, the system would have never charged her in the first place,

"It was a trial where freedom of expression was challenged, where human rights defender was criminalised and where there was absolute disregard for the rights of detainees and minorities like migrant workers and refugees.”

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Burmese in S’pore commemorate UN’s Universal Declaration

Thursday, 11 December 2008

by Andrew Loh

In a nondescript little corner on the fifth floor of Peninsula Plaza, pictures of the 2007 violent clampdown on Burmese protesters are laid out. A small group of visitors, which include Singaporean activists, examines the exhibits and engages in discussion.

The simple, yet poignant, observation is to mark the United Nation’s 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) on 10 December – and to remember the military suppression of pro-democracy protesters in Burma last September.

The famous pictures of the uprising led by Burmese monks bring the relevance of the UDHR to sharper focus for those present, especially the Burmese in Singapore.

“Even three years ago, I didn’t know there was such a thing as the UDHR,” said Marc Myo, a Burmese who’s studying at the Singapore Management University. “Today marks the 60th anniversary of the recognition that all humans are equal,” he explains. “It has given me enlightenment and motivates me to make human rights real for me.”

Marc was one of those involved in the protests which were held in Singapore during the uprising last year. Today’s event is a marked contrast to the public protests which the Burmese community in Singapore held at the Burma embassy and Orchard Road, where hundreds of Burmese took part in demonstrations over a number of days.

Speaking to The Online Citizen, Marc says he is both sad and happy about the UDHR’s anniversary. “I’m happy that we’ve achieved such a declaration,” he says, “but sad that we’ve not achieved such freedom [for Burma].”

Article continues here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Shafiie, Isrizal, John Tan - 3 brave Singaporeans



John Tan

Seelan: Two of my friends, Shafiie and Isrizal will be sent to serve a 7 day jail sentence starting today for opposing the Lee regime in Singapore. Both of them and John Tan (who starts his 15 day sentence next week) are being sentenced for the supposed "contempt of court" in wearing t-shirts with the picture of a kangaroo in a judge's gown on them during the defamation hearing between Lee Kuan Yew and the Singapore Democrats.

When asked to apologise to the court, all 3 valiantly refused. I salute my friends, they are deserving of all our respect for their courage, conviction and unyielding spirit!

I will add links to other reports as they appear later. But for now some information is available on the SDP website.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Washington Post on Dr Chee Soon Juan

A Public Enemy in Singapore
By Fred Hiatt, Washington Post
Monday, December 8, 2008; Page A19

Chee Soon Juan spent much of Friday in court. Nothing unusual in that. An opposition leader in Singapore, Chee spends quite a few days in prison and, when he's not in prison, quite a few more in court, as a defendant.

Singapore's ruling party has been in charge for a half-century -- since self-rule began in 1959 -- and the opposition Singapore Democratic Party has never mustered more than three seats in Parliament.

This may be because everyone in Singapore is happy with life. It might also have something to do with the fact that few people would want to live the life of Chee Soon Juan, the SDP's secretary general.

Chee returned to Singapore in 1990 after earning a PhD in neuropsychology at the University of Georgia. Two years later, he lost a bid for Parliament as a member of the SDP. No big deal, you might think, in a country that calls itself a democracy. But he was promptly fired from his university post, ostensibly for misappropriating postage stamps -- and that was just the beginning.

A timeline assembled by Canadian lawyer Robert Amsterdam, who is assisting Chee, suffers from a certain monotony. An excerpt: "1999: Jailed for speaking in public without a permit. 1999: Jailed for speaking in public without a permit. 1999: Fined for selling books without a permit. 2002: Fined for speaking about the ban on Muslim girls' wearing headscarves. 2002: Jailed for holding a May Day rally. 2006: Jailed for saying that the judiciary is not independent. 2006: Jailed for speaking in public without a permit. 2006: Jailed for attempting to leave Singapore without a permit. 2008: Jailed for saying that the judiciary is not independent."

That is a partial list just of the criminal charges. Chee also has been sued for defamation, most recently this year by Singapore's longtime leader -- now "Minister Mentor" -- Lee Kuan Yew and his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The Lees objected to an article in the SDP newsletter comparing their government to a charity that had been enmeshed in scandal. A judge ordered Chee to pay them the equivalent of about $400,000.

Chee already had been bankrupted by earlier defamation suits. "I told them to put it on my tab," he joked bleakly to me in a phone conversation Friday. But legal bankruptcy is no joke: It means he cannot run for political office nor leave the country without permission. He has asked for permission 20 times since 2006, he told me, and been turned down each time.

Singapore's ambassador to the United States, Chan Heng Chee, told me that her leaders go to court when their reputation is unfairly sullied because maintaining the trust of the people is so important. Human Rights Watch says that Singapore is "using defamation laws to silence peaceful political speech," which, according to the group's deputy Asia director, Elaine Pearson, "makes a mockery of Singapore's claim to be a model democracy." It also makes it difficult for Chee and his wife to feed their children, ages 9, 6 and 4.

Friday, Chee spent the day defending himself against the charge of "attempting to participate in a procession." (Singaporean lawyers are not eager to take his case, he said.) It is one of about nine charges he faces, two relating to his failed effort to hold a protest when World Bank and International Monetary Fund officials were in town in 2006, others related to his efforts to speak out during a 2006 political campaign. Officials say that he has a conscientious-objector strategy of wanting to break laws; he says that, since his applications for permits are always denied, he has no choice if he wants to exercise his right, under Singapore's constitution, to freedom of speech and assembly.

I asked why he persists, against such odds, and he spoke of the importance of democracy and human rights and openness in government. Then he turned the question around: Why, he asked, do the Lees persist?

"If the government here is doing so well, why is it so afraid to say, 'We'll just ask for a mandate from the people, and we'll get it?' " Chee said. "Why go to such extent to stifle free opinion and dissent?"

Singapore is, by many standards, doing remarkably well. Economic output per person is more than $27,000, 31st in the world and way ahead of its neighbors, according to the Economist. In China's elite Communist Party school, Singapore is cited as a model of how to maintain one-party rule while growing economically -- and not having to keep too many people in jail.

Ambassador Chan says that her country must have a "tighter democracy" than America's, because it is a small, multiethnic city-state in a challenging region -- a rowboat next to America's aircraft carrier.

"In an aircraft carrier, you can be playing soccer in one corner and have jets taking off in another, and the carrier remains stable," she told me. "In a rowboat, it makes sense for everyone to row in the same direction."

Amsterdam says that in his experience, which includes representing persecuted clients in Russia and elsewhere, governments do not go to great lengths to monopolize the media and control speech unless there is something they would rather their people not know. If he is right, Chee Soon Juan's rap sheet would indicate there is much this government would rather not share with its public.

Also check out Far Eastern Economic Review's article 'Singapore maneuvers in response to Chee'.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dr Teo Ho Pin, where is our money?

by Dhevarajan Devadas

After reading Dr Teo Ho Pin’s second forum page letter, I can only conclude that he is unable to understand what Singaporeans are demanding from him. Dr Teo, we do not want you to waste time “exploring” ways of how to keep residents informed of the town councils’ finances. We want you to inform us right now about what the town councils have spent our money on.

We do not need stock replies and interviews from you reassuring us. We want to know the exact details of your investments. And don’t you dare keep referring us to the annual reports as if they contain the information we want. As shown in the analysis by TOC, these reports lack any details about specific investments by the town councils.

It is already outrageous that you have invested our money in such high-risk investments without informing us. Now you conduct this ‘wayang’ about being on top of the matter when in reality you don’t seem bothered at all. Mr Mah Bow Tan has stated, “Each town council has the duty to explain to its residents how it invests its funds, what is its philosophy, what are the risks it takes”. So far neither you nor any of the other PAP town councils have done anything of that sort. You even have the audacity to say that the town councils’ investment strategies cannot be revealed!

We pay the service and conservancy charges (S&CCs) so that the town councils can maintain our estates. We are not paying so that town councils can accumulate enormous sinking funds and act like little “Temaseks” and “GICs”.

If town councils can build up such huge sinking funds that they can invest it in high-risk investments, why is there a need to collect the charges at the present rates? I can’t help but compare this to the old NKF collecting millions in donations but spending only 10 cents out of every dollar on the patients. The rest was wastefully spent or accumulated into huge reserves as we eventually discovered to our horror and disgust.

I believe that our current S&CCs can be reduced dramatically. Such a move would be timely in the face of the worsening recession. Nothing is more ridiculous than paying more than is necessary to the town council so that it can gamble our money away or accumulate it for that elusive “rainy day”.

Much has been said and written about the responsibility of the PAP town councils and MPs in this issue. Dr Teo, as the Coordinating Chairman for PAP town councils, you have the ultimate responsibility in revealing and explaining all the investments by the town councils. For a change, please start giving truly genuine answers to the residents.

So Dr Teo Ho Pin, where is our money?

Source: The Online Citizen

Monday, December 8, 2008

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Gopalan Nair back in the states

Seelan: Dear readers, if you didn't know already, Gopalan Nair is back in the states and is continuing to blog against the Singapore government. Here is an extract from his most recent post.

The Singapore Straits Times Report "Nair retracts apologies"
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
By Gopalan Nair

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The state controlled press, the Straits Times of Singapore of Dec 3, 2008, reports that 2 days after I reached American soil, I retracted any apology given in the Lee Kuan Yew controlled courts of Singapore, Court 15, Subordinate Courts, before Judge Leslie Chew. This is correct. All apologies are retracted. So is my undertaking not to write my mind on the dire lack of human rights, the shameful lack of independence of the courts and everything else that need to be addressed. I shall also be reposting the blog posts which I was required to remove of Sept 1 and Sept 6 of 2008 in this blog.

The newspaper report states that the Singapore attorney general is looking into my turn about. My advice to the Attorney General of Singapore is to do all he can and whatever he wants. But the sad fact, for him that is, I am on American soil. America is a free country.

If he determined to make a fool of himself, extradition is what he has to consider. To do that, Singapore has to apply through diplomatic channels to register the claim in a US court. A US court would then have to consider whether what I did would be a violation of the laws in Singapore. In considering the question, they will have to look into the question whether what I did would tantamount to a crime in the United States. It is here that Singapore would find themselves in a bind. America is a country of laws. And their judges are proud to defend those laws. Not like Singapore which uses its courts as their principle tool to silence dissent. There is no way that Singapore can even hope to succeed. But I would be glad if they tried, which would make me an even greater celebrity than what they already have made me.

Dictatorships all over the world use dirty tactics to stay in power for as long as they can. I say for as long as they can, because sooner or later they all collapse. One of these tactics is to unjustly condemn a man and then repeat that lie over and over, hoping that the lie will eventually take root.

Article continues at

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tamil Nadu Political Joke

A funny cartoon called "50-50, Safety-Safety" depicting the 2 major politicians of Tamil Nadu as acting up an arguement between each other but robbing the people in the process. Unfortunately it's only available in Tamil without subtitles.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Singapore falls short of banning production and use of cluster munitions

What it looks like when cluster bombs DON'T explode…

What it looks like when cluster bombs DO explode…

World Without War Sg: A joint press statement by the Ministry of Foreign affairs and Ministry of Defence states that Singapore has imposed an indefinite moratorium on the export of cluster munitions with immediate effect. It goes on to state that 'Singapore remains committed to the responsible use of cluster munitions for self-defence.'

While we welcome the government's initiative to halt its export of cluster munitions, we disagree that cluster munitions are essential for self-defence and we categorically reject their use for any purpose as they cause grievous harm to civilians even long after a conflict.

A recent example of an attack by the Sri Lankan army where cluster bombs devastated the lives of innocent civilians is reason enough to conclude that the very nature of such weaponry makes its use alarmingly prone to irresponsibility.

Charles Tan, our Singaporean correspondent in Australia elaborates on our website.