Monday, January 12, 2009

Report on our arrest & joint response by MHA and MOM

2 arrested for protest
12 Jan 2009

ST photo, AFP report

POLICE on Monday arrested two Singaporean activists for staging a protest in support of Myanmar nationals allegedly being forced to leave the city-state for involvement in political activities.

Seelan Palay and Chong Kai Xiong stood outside the Ministry of Manpower's building in the city's business district for about an hour before they were handcuffed by police without showing any resistance.

They wore red T-shirts and held a banner that read 'Stop ill-treatment of Burmese activists'.

The protest was in support of two Myanmar nationals, Moe Kyaw Thu and Win Kyaw, whose work permits have not been renewed by Singapore, effectively forcing them to leave, Palay said.

He said the two men were among 40 Myanmar nationals who took part in a protest against their country's ruling junta during a summit of Southeast Asian leaders hosted by Singapore in November 2007.

'We can't just stand by as Singaporeans, as personal friends, and watch them being expelled one by one,' he said.

Moe Kyaw Thu told AFP that he was required to leave Singapore by January 27. Win Kyaw could not be contacted for comment on Monday.

The Ministry of Home Affairs did not immediately reply to emailed queries from AFP on the case of the Myanmar nationals. A few others who took part in the same protest in 2007 have also had their work permit renewals turned down.

Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng in September defended the government's decision not to renew the visas of some Myanmar nationals working or studying in the city-state, saying they were 'undesirable' people.

Singapore has eased rules governing protests in a designated public park but it remains illegal elsewhere to hold a public gathering of five or more people without a police permit.

Singapore is home to an estimated 30,000 Myanmar nationals, many of them drawn by jobs as labourers that pay far above what they could earn in their poverty-stricken homeland. - AFP.

Response to Media Queries on Arrests of Two Singaporeans who Staged a Protest in MOM

The following statement is jointly issued by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

12 January 2009

In response to media queries, Police confirm the arrests of two Singapore citizens, Seelan Palay and Chong Kai Xiong. At about 12 pm, the two entered the premises of the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to stage a protest against the non-renewal of the work permits of some Myanmar nationals. They repeatedly defied orders from MOM’s security personnel to leave the premises. The Police were then called in for assistance against their trespass. The Police arrested them and are investigating them for the offence of criminal trespass. The two have since been released on bail.

2. The media has also inquired about MOM’s decision not to renew the work permits of a few Myanmar nationals. The many Myanmar nationals who work, study or reside in Singapore are welcomed. They are also free to organise and express their political views so long as these are pursued within the framework of our laws. This position applies to all foreigners living in Singapore. We similarly expect no less of Singaporeans when they go overseas and live in other countries.

3. A handful of Myanmar nationals here however has decided not to observe this basic obligation of respecting the laws of the land and the local sensitivities of its people. They have shown in their actions and attitude a wilful disregard and contempt for the law and the Singapore authorities. In fact, some of them who have acted in this manner, notwithstanding their having benefited from education subsidies and the hospitality of Singaporeans, even demand the right to stay in Singapore as if it is a matter of their personal entitlement. They threaten to lobby political pressure through the media and agitate foreign public opinion against the authorities so as to compel them to concede to their demands. These persons are not welcomed in Singapore. They should leave Singapore once their existing passes expire. They are free to leave for any country of their choice or any country which will have them.

4. Our laws apply equally to every person. No one is allowed to break the law with impunity regardless of how morally superior he thinks his cause is.

Source: Ministry of Manpower