Tuesday, March 31, 2009

S.J.V. Chelvanayagam (31.3.1898 - 26.4.1977)


Born in Ipoh, Malaysia in 1898, Samuel James Veluppillai Chelvanayakam, fondly called by Tamils as Thanthai (Father) Chelva, returned to Sri Lanka at the age of four and eventually became a lawyer, politician and leader of the Tamil community.

"I wish to announce to my people and to the country that I consider the verdict at this election as a mandate that the Tamil Eelam nation should exercise the sovereignty already vested in the Tamil people and become free."
- Statement by S.J.V. Chelvanayagam after winning the by-election for the Kankesanturai Parliamentary seat on 7 February 1975, two years after he had resigned the seat to seek a mandate for Tamil Eelam.

Read more about the man known as the Gandhi of Sri Lanka here and here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Banned film hits 40,000 views on Internet

Singapore Democrats
Sunday, 29 March 2009

A video made by Mr Seelan Palay about the dictatorial control of Singapore has attracted wide viewership on the Internet. Entitled One Nation Under Lee, the 40-minute film also features interviews with the late J B Jeyaretnam and former solicitor-general Mr Francis Seow.

Released last May, the documentary has been viewed more than 40,000 times on YouTube. It has also been screened in film festivals in other countries, especially Malaysia where it toured four states as the featured Singapore film in the Freedom Film Festival 2008.

It was first screened in Singapore at the Excelsior Hotel. Even though the event was a private one and only invited guests were allowed, officials from the Media Development Authority nevertheless forced their way into the function and demanded that the film and the projector be handed over. (See Part I and Part II of MDA gatecrash.)

Since then One Nation Under Lee has been banned by the Government. Nevertheless, the film has been widely disseminated on the Internet as viewers forward it to their friends.

Singapore continues to retain the Films Act, which governs the importing, making, distributing or exhibiting of films. Local filmmaker Martyn See, who has had two films banned by authorities because of their political content, called the law "regressive".

Sunday, March 29, 2009

புதிய பராசக்தி (Puthiya Parasakthi)

Please watch this excellent rendition of the climax scene of the 1952 Tamil classic, Parasakthi.

To readers who can't understand Tamil, I apologise that there are no subtitles provided. Please read the plot synopsis here if you wish to understand the original context of this scene in the film. The edited version below is used to explain and express the trials and tribulations of the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sad Life of Singaporeans (A poem for us)


Dear readers, our guest writer Mr. Parameswara loves this poem by another local blogger and would like to share it with all of you.




Sad Life of Singaporeans


Once upon a time,
in nineteen sixty-nine.
HDB were not only subsidized,
but standard of living also very nice.
One spouse working, all can survive,
children are children all running around so nice.

Fast forward 40 years, it is the dreaded two thousand nine,
HDB flats had all became smaller in size.
Now termed "market subsidized,
their prices are not so kind.
Cost of living had grown so high,
now both spouses have to work nine to nine.

We all have to work like mice,
just so we can get some rice.
While ministers all sitting on cloud-nine,
busy scheming for our every dime.
PAP MPs, all pretending to sign,
but in reality, have no minds.
Terrorist escaped, no need to resign,
fixed the oppositions also never mind.

Children from two, are getting up-sized,
before they even recognize, whatever is life.
Their minds are filled, with all sort of lies,
that Lee Kuan Yew is the only one who ever sacrificed.
Golden age came and went, in a flash of an eye,
economy chewed to death, by rodents and mice.

The government is simply, not so nice,
hinting us to send our elderly, far off to die.
Asking to explain, they are not kind,
"Lesser mortals" we became, while they walk high.
Is this the end? We can't resign.
This sad story of Singaporeans is our life.

Source

Thursday, March 26, 2009

PAP: Not even ONE person can protest in Singapore

Tuesday, 24 March 2009
Singapore Democrats

First it was five or more. Now it's not even one.

The PAP introduced the Public Order Act in Parliament yesterday that will ban all “cause-related” events, even if there are less than 5 persons. The introduction of this Act is not just the tightening of laws against protests, it is an outright ban of Singaporeans' right to peaceful assembly.

Already the people have no avenue of public protest because laws such as the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act and the Miscellaneous Offences Act prohibit 5 or more persons gathering in a public place without a permit.

Under the latest Public Order Act, even a one-person protest will require a permit which, by the way, the Government has indicated it has no intention of granting. Of course, public gatherings in support of the PAP will continue with impunity.

In addition the Films Act has been amended to ban the filming of illegal public events. This move is designed to stop the publicising of civil disobedience acts.

Taken together these laws and the way they are exercised are designed to ensure that public assembly is completely stopped.

Such legislation comes at a time when there is growing public anger at the Government. Not only is the economy the worst performing one in Asia, the country's rulers continue to lavish themselves with salaries that are the highest in the world for politicians.

The new legislation is also meant to curtail the growing interests of Singaporeans in conducting peaceful protests.

It is a clear sign that this Government is fearful of the future and knows that it cannot face the public in an open debate. It is therefore doing the next best thing – clamping down on dissent.

As the world moves to a new age where openness, transparency, and democratic accountability are the hallmark of good governance, the PAP is going in the opposite direction.

This signals one thing: That the PAP is determined to keep itself in power regardless what happens to the country and how unhappy the people get.

Singapore to launch tougher public order law (Adds analysts' comments)
By Nopporn Wong-Anan, Reuters

SINGAPORE, March 24 (Reuters) - Singapore, which already has tough restrictions on freedom of assembly, plans to tighten them further ahead of a major Asia-Pacific summit in the city-state.

The Public Order Bill, introduced in parliament on Monday before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November, was needed to "squarely address gaps in the current framework to enhance the ability of the police to ensure security during major events", the Ministry of Home Affairs said.

It would also allow police to order a person to leave an area if they determine he is about to break the law.

All outdoor activities that are cause-related will need a police permit, no matter how many people are involved. That is a change from the current law requiring a permit for gatherings of five or more people.

Opposition politicians and activists were quick to criticise the proposed law. "Even in communist China, peaceful protests are tolerated," said Chee Siok Chin of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party.

The bill allows police to stop people from filming law enforcement if it could put officers in danger. The bill cited live media coverage of Indian police trying to rescue hostages in the Mumbai attacks last November as posing risks to the officers.

Police could stop small peaceful protests against unpopular visiting government leaders, such as from Myanmar, if the law was introduced, activists said.

Last week, three Singaporeans tried to present a bouquet of orchids to visiting Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein for him to give to detained Myanmar opposition leader Aung Sann Suu Kyi.

Thein Sein was having an orchid named after him at the Botanical Gardens, a Singapore tradition for visiting heads of government.

The law is certain to pass, since the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) has an overwhelming majority in parliament.

It also passed an amended law on Monday to ease a decade-long ban on political party documentary-like films, but introduced restrictions on dramatised political videos.

"These two sets of amendments should be viewed as part of the longstanding periodic adjustments the PAP has made to limit politics to tightly controlled electoral contests conducted in the absence of a meaningful civil society," said Garry Rodan of Murdoch University in Western Australia.

Others said the two laws were pre-emptive measures for the government to prevent a repeat at the APEC meeting of confrontation between police and protesters that took place during the World Bank/IMF meeting in 2006, and also to deal with potential social unrest during Singapore's worst-ever recession.

"As long as the government feels a threat, it needs greater measures to deal with greater problems," said Terence Chong at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. (Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Bill Tarrant)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Change has come to S’pore

By Andrew Loh, Monday, 23 March 2009

Tekka Mall is no more. It has been renamed “The Verge”.

As I stood there watching the workers remove the old name and replacing it with the new one, I was saddened that yet another part of our heritage is being consigned to the memory bin. Soon Tekka Market, which is just across the road and currently undergoing a $12.9m facelift, will also be renamed.

Tekka, meaning “foot of the bamboos” in Hokkien, is along Serangoon Road in Little India. The newly-named The Verge has two buildings. The main building will be refashioned into an IT, lifestyle and F&B hub while the other, called Chill @ The Verge, is targeted at the younger set with its entertainment and F&B outlets.

As the workers took down the old “Tekka” signboard, no one seems to pay it any mind. One can’t blame them, seeing how so much change is going on in Singapore at the moment. Go anywhere nowadays and you will inevitably come across a construction site, or an HDB upgrading programme being carried out, or some road works being done – downtown or in the heartlands. From the ION in Orchard, the two Integrated Resorts, the refurbishment of Tekka Mall and Tekka Market, the “expunging” of Seletar Airbase and its quaint colonial era houses, to the soon-to-disappear Kampong Buangkok, Singapore seems to be in a frenetic race to install the new and remove the old.

While Singapore chases after economic development and all that it brings, such as jobs, one wonders if this should be at the expense of erasing our history. The recent debate over Minister Mentor Lee’s remarks on learning Chinese, or Mandarin, and the gradual eradication of our dialects and their attending traditions, cultures and history, shows that Singapore is undergoing more than just physical changes. They are emotional ones too.

What effect do all these have on the national psyche of our people, I wonder. Would we end up being good in building businesses and making money, but have no roots at all to our past? That things in Singapore have to always be new and shiny, and anything that taints this image should – nah, must – be dismantled and replaced?

Tekka Market has been around for decades. The older folks, especially, have fond memories of the place. Indeed, my grandparents and parents used to mention “Tekka” to me, even though I did not know why it was such a special place to them. There is something really heartwarming whenever I hear the elderly relate stories of these places (which may have since been demolished) and observed how these are so intricately-linked to their life experiences.

When The Verge officially opens later this year, I won’t be celebrating it. My thoughts will be on those elderly Singaporeans who shall no longer utter the name “tekka” and how this means that another part of our heritage has been erased – even from our lips.

Change, indeed, has come to Singapore.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

New restrictions to Films Act introduced under the guise of liberalization

Source: Martyn See, March 23, 2009

The amendments to the Films Act bill has been passed in Parliament. State-owned CNA was the first off the blocks, calling it "a significant step to further liberalize and expand the space for political debate." The Straits Times and others will likely to parrot the enthusiasm, and there will be no end to the Government hailing the amendments as the a sign of Singapore opening up.

While I leave the analysis to the bloggers and commentators, I will just spell out here in layman's terms what the amendments really mean to you.


WHAT HASN'T CHANGED IN FILMS ACT


The only major amendment is in Section 33 of the Films Act.

The rest of the Films Act remains largely unchanged. For example, the following sections still applies.

1. Section 14 requires that you submit any video in your possession (this includes video images stored in your handphone and private videos in your collection) to the Board of Film Censors (BFC).

2. Section 21 spells out the penalties if you possesses, exhibits or reproduces any unlicensed video.

3. Section 23 authorises the police to
enter and search your home, seize any unlicensed video(s) and to take into custody any person reasonably believed to be guilty of an offence under the Act.


WHAT HASN'T CHANGED IN SECTION 33


Section 33 prohibits the making, exhibition, distribution and import of "party political films", which are defined as videos or films that makes "partisan or biased references to or comments on any political matter." It also states that the penalties for such an offence is a conviction to a fine not exceeding $100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years.

In general, the above has not changed. It still applies.

The only change to the above is that instead of the BFC, an Independent Advisory Board will now decide what constitutes "partisan or biased references" . The Board is slated to be headed by ex-district court judge Richard Magnus. The members of the Board have not been announced as yet.


WHAT IS "ALLOWED"

What is "allowed" here, as the Minister and the media gloat, is really a misnomer as there were no prior restrictions on such videos.

1. The new amendment states you can now make a video that contain the whole or material proportion of a political event(s) that are held according to the law. Please note that this new addition is NOT a liberalization as there were no sections of the previous Act that disallowed this. For example, my film Speakers Cornered (2006) was passed by the BFC prior to this new ruling. Ironically, this new amendment may actually criminalize Speakers Cornered as the participants of that protest are now undergoing trial!

2. The new amendment states you can now make political videos that do not contain any animation and must composed wholly of an accurate account of a political event or persons. Again this is NOT a liberalization as there were no sections of the previous Act that disallowed this. In fact, this is a new restriction dressed up as liberalization. Sneaky.


WHAT IS REALLY ALLOWED (where previously banned)


This is the only part that fits the bill of liberalization (but is negated later by more new restrictions).

The new amendment states that you can now make, exhibit and distribute videos composed wholly of a political party's ideologies and manifestos. But here's the catch - the videos must be made "on the basis of which candidates authorized by the political party to stand will seek to be elected at a Parliamentary election." Does this mean that someone like Dr Chee Soon Juan, who is ineligible to stand for elections due to his bankruptcy, is not allowed to appear in such videos? Will something like this be criminalized?


WHAT IS NOW NOT ALLOWED (where previously allowed, or not stated)

Get ready, here are the bombshells.

1. You are now not allowed to make an unbiased and non-partisan political video that contains any form of animation. Like this.

2. You are now not allowed to make an unbiased and non-partisan political video that contains "wholly or substantially based on unscripted or "reality" type programmes." Something like this.

3. You are now not allowed to make an unbiased and non-partisan political video that depicts "events, persons or situations in a dramatic way." Something like this.

4. You are now not allowed to make an unbiased and non-partisan political video that contains scenes of an illegal political event. Something like this.

________________________________________________

Singapore eases law on political films

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore passed an amended law on Monday to ease an 11-year-old ban on films that promote a politician or political party, but the amendments also introduce restrictions on dramatized political videos.

The relaxation of rules on political films was meant to keep up with the spread of video and other news content on the Internet, but these had to be "held in accordance with the law," Lui Tuck Yew, a junior minister at the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, told parliament.

The amended Films Act allows films that are factual and objective, and do not dramatize or present a distorted picture of politics in Singapore, Lui said.

"Films with animation and dramatization and distort what is real or factual will be disallowed, as the intent of the amendments is to ensure that these films do not undermine the seriousness of political debate," he said.

The southeast Asian city-state, which has been ruled by the People's Action Party for more than 40 years, had banned the production and screening of all political films, imposing a maximum fine of S$100,000 ($73,000) or a two-year jail term on offenders.

The ban came into effect in 1998, two years after the opposition Singapore Democratic Party applied for a license to sell a videotape about the party.

Public gatherings of more than four people without permits are also banned, making it difficult for opposition politicians to reach out to voters.

The amended bill won overwhelming support in a parliament that has been dominated by the PAP since Singapore's independence in 1965.

Nominated member of parliament Siew Kum Hong, who opposed the bill, said the amendments did not go far enough as it would still allow the prosecution of people who film political rallies without realizing whether the event was lawful or not.

"Singaporeans are today far more sophisticated and media savvy than before and should be trusted for the merit and demerit of films for themselves," he told parliament.

Martyn See, a Singaporean film-maker who had two films banned by authorities because of their political content, called the law "regressive."

"It shows off a government that is incapable of trusting its own citizens to watch political films."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Orchids for Aung San Suu Kyi but it’s not from PAP

John Moe, Saturday, 21 March 2009
As featured on yoursdp.org

The Singapore Government honoured unelected Burma Prime Minister General Thein Sein by naming a new orchid after him ("Dendrobium Thein Sein") at the Botanic Gardens on Thursday. This was roundly rejected by Singaporean activists.

The Singapore Government wants a first world class image for Singapore, but the ruling People's Action Party leaders failed to consider whether the hypocritical Burmese general deserves such an accolade.

The Government of Singapore enjoys warm relations with the military junta for self-interest and in doing so continues to ignore the desires of ordinary Burmese.

Singapore's bilateral trade with Burma reached up to $1.2 billion dollars in fiscal year 2007-08, making with Singapore Burma's second largest trading partner after Thailand. The total amount of Singapore exports to Burma amounted to $816 million, while its imports reached $402 million.

But the biggest question to ask is, is the PAP government doing business well? The portfolios of Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) and state-owned Temasek Holdings reportedly fell by 25% and 31% respectively.

The Singapore Government rarely mentions either the democratic process of Burma or human rights situation of its own city-state. In Singapore the freedom of speech and assembly is strictly prohibited.

But true-hearted and valued Singaporean activists have shown their concern for Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been serving long years of illegal detention under the Burmese military rulers.

Singaporeans activists amazingly dedicated a bouquet of eight Orchids intended to echo the digit 8 of the uprising started by students in Yangon on on 8 August 1988. Student protests spread throughout the country. Hundreds of thousands of ocher-robed monks, young children, university students, housewives and doctors demonstrated against the regime. 8-8-88, a date that now carries great significance in Burma, was violently suppressed and a new military junta holds power till today.

Did the PAP find out what was the role of the invited Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein during the 8-8-88 days?

Aung San Suu Kyi


The Singapore Government does not dare to honour, a hero for democracy in Asean like Aung San Suu Kyi. The first-world class Tiger island should honour the first-world class democracy icon with places such as Aung San Suu Kyi Garden or Aun San Suu Kyi Street instead of naming a flower Dendrobium Thein Sein, after a brutal military elite.

The United States House of Representatives awarded Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi the Congressional Gold Medal, bestowed to only a few prominent people, including Mother Theresa, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King Jr, Robert Frost and Elie Wiesel. It remains the highest civilian award in the United States.

Aung San Suu Kyi was also given the honorary citizenship of Canada by the Canadian Parliament, the highest civilian award in Canada. She was only the fourth person in Canada’s history to receive this award.

Minister Mentor Mr Lee Kuan Yew may not have forgotten her father, Aung San, who founded the modern Burmese army and negotiated Burma's independence from the United Kingdom in 1947. He was assassinated by his rivals in the same year.

Singapore Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Loong should be aware that according to the 1990 general elections result, Aung San Suu Kyi earned the right to be Prime Minister as leader of the winning National League for Democracy. Her subsequent detention by the military junta prevented her from assuming that role till today.

As a matter of fact the PAP Government very much hesitates to appreciate a global democracy icon like Aung San Suu Kyi. The Singapore Government's motives are obviously absurd because one of strongest Singapore pro democracy activists, Dr Chee Soon Juan and Burma’s Nobel Laureate are of the same vision, mission and values to stand against such totalitarianism.

The PAP has been well aware of the corrupt Burma generals and their mismanagement of the economy. During the extravagant wedding of Senior General Than Shwe’s daughter, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew commented that, "Flaunting these excesses must push a hungry and impoverished people to revolt," and that the ruler's daughter looked "like a Christmas tree" in the video.

MM Lee also commented that Burma's ruling generals "are rather dumb generals when it comes to the economy. How could they so mismanage the economy and reach this stage when the country has so many natural resources?"

Despite knowing and saying all this, the PAP Government has been ordering Burmese pro democracy activists to leave the island. Thousands of Burmese nationals who are working in Singapore find the invitation of the Burmese premier’s, and his flower-naming ceremony, hugely demoralising.

The Burmese are working hard-in-hand with Singaporeans intending to overcome this recession. Burmese love Aung San Suu Kyi but they hate the military generals who violate human rights through murder, torture and rape of the innocent, including nuns and monks.

The Burmese are overwhelmed with gratitude to the Singaporean activists who stood up for righteousness when they displayed a banner reading “Long Live Aung San Suu Kyi" and placed at the gate of the Burma Embassy in Singapore the bouquet of orchids.

Sadly, it’s not from the PAP.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lee Kuan Yew mentions PAP & SDP in the same breath

From a recent lecture at NUSS:

On the political front, when asked what would happen to the country if there was a major shift of power, Mr Lee said he was not concerned as to which political party was in charge.

He said: "If you get capable people forming the next government, people who know what they have to do to make Singapore work, then I'm not worried. I'm not worried whether it's PAP or SDP or whatever government."


Seelan: Notice that he put only PAP & SDP on par. Even if he doesn't mean it well, it at least means that the SDP is the party that is on his mind enough to mention it offhand. Perhaps he himself sees (or someone has told him) that the SDP has the capability to become the party of the future.

Dr Chee, your efforts and sacrifices will be rewarded. I will stand by you till that day comes, and even if it doesn't, I will take pride in knowing that the days of my life here in Singapore were spent standing with you.


Source article:
MM Lee describes Singapore's future at NUSS lecture
By Asha Popatlal & Cheryl Lim Meiling, Channel NewsAsia, 20 March 2009

SINGAPORE: In 25 years' time, Singapore will be a country that reflects the state of the major powers and its Asian neighbours.

While the look and colour of its society might change, its major resource - talent - will remain a predominant issue, said Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew on Friday.

He was speaking to an audience of about 500 students, alumni and invited guests at a National University of Singapore Society (NUSS) lecture on the topic of "Singapore and Singaporeans – Quarter Century From Now".

The evening started with Mr Lee officially opening the Alumni Complex at the university – the largest graduate club in the country.

During the dialogue, he said Singapore's future might have a different ethnic and demographic composition as many immigrants become new citizens and permanent residents.

But the main ethnic groups would still be the Chinese, Malays and Indians. The population would also be more educated.

Mr Lee said: "We are caught in a bind – we've got to decide this is our country, our society and we must remain the majority. Yes, we will take immigrants; yes, we will take talented people, but we must be the majority.

"Otherwise, they will change us if they are the majority. So I think 25 years from now, Singapore will be more cosmopolitan because we've got many people from China, India, Malaysia and from the region. We have European children doing National Service."

The minister mentor also painted "optimistic and pessimistic scenarios" of where the world and ASEAN would be. But he said the more likely outcome would be "somewhere in between".

On top of that, Mr Lee spoke about where Singapore's economy could go from here.

"I cannot tell you what's going to happen. I can say the optimistic scenario is in two or three years, we're out of this (crisis). At the worst, four, five or six years. As the IMF said, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan are going to be hit. Why? Because we are export dependent.

"I've got economists saying you've got to change your system. Wall Street Journal has said, 'Oh, this won't work, consume yourself'. Four million people to consume and keep an industry that supplies the world with top-end goods - it's rubbish," he said.

On the political front, when asked what would happen to the country if there was a major shift of power, Mr Lee said he was not concerned as to which political party was in charge.

He said: "If you get capable people forming the next government, people who know what they have to do to make Singapore work, then I'm not worried. I'm not worried whether it's PAP or SDP or whatever government.

"But I am worried about the quality of people who get into power. Integrity (is) crucial, (and) ability, experience and a willingness to do what is necessary for the people, and not for yourself."

- CNA/so/ls

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Defense, extradition pacts with Singapore frozen

Abdul Khalik & Lilian Budianto
The Jakarta Post,
Friday, 20 March 2009

Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono accused Singapore on Thursday of not signing an extradition pact with Indonesia out of fear it would be obliged to return money stashed away by corrupt fugitives who fled to the city state during the 1998-2001 financial crisis.

The Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA), also negotiated along with the extradition agreement, seems to have collapsed as well.

“They [agreements] are frozen,” he told The Jakarta Post.

“Singapore doesn’t want this extradition arrangement because it would have to return money from corrupt individuals who ran from Indonesia, along with the hot money it gets from other countries,” he said.

Juwono said there were 80 Indonesian fugitives living in Singapore.

He said when he met with Singapore’s senior minister Lee Kuan Yew in Jakarta last year, the city state’s founder stated that it did not make any sense to return the money.

Indonesia and Singapore signed both the DCA and the extradition treaty in 2007. However, the House of Representatives slammed the government over the terms of the DCA, claiming it compromised the nation’s security and as such, both agreements were never put into practice.

The Indonesian government then asked for some changes to be made to the agreement which were promptly rejected by the Singaporean government.

The foreign ministries of both Singapore and Indonesia then agreed to not discuss the agreements when meeting diplomatically.

Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo said recently that Singapore and Indonesia set aside the discussion of the DCA because the latter had raised new terms and issues after it had already been signed.

“We set aside the issues for the time being,” said George Yeo.

“There has been no progress on the DCA because Indonesia insisted on substantive changes to the implementing arrangements despite having earlier agreed to it,” Rajpal Singh, first secretary of the Singaporean Embassy, said.

“Singapore stands ready to proceed with the agreed and signed package of the DCA and Extradition Treaty when Indonesia is prepared to do so,” he said in a statement to The Jakarta Post.

During a press conference held following the visit of George Yeo last week, Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said they agreed not to discuss the DCA or other agreements.

George Yeo was in Jakarta last week to sign the western maritime boundary agreement with Indonesia after a five-year negotiation process.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Yes, that we may dream again

By Chee Siok Chin

That We May Dream Again. That's the title of a collection of brief accounts written by ex-detainees of the Marxist arrests in 1987 by the Internal Security Department.

It is a thin book that one should be able to finish reading in a couple of hours. However, it took me three days to complete it. It wasn't that I had to plod through it and it certainly was not that the accounts were dull.

It was more because after almost each chapter, I found it difficult move on for the experiences suffered by the detainees were heart-wrenching. It was not easy to read about how some of my fellow Singaporeans were used, bullied and persecuted by our own Government.

I have met two of the detainees who contributed to this book. Vincent Cheng and Kevin de Souza. Both men exude sincerity and humbleness. Although there is no hint of bitterness when he spoke to me about his experiences under detention, Vincent Cheng writes in his chapter,

I still feel angry at the injustice of the whole incident, and that the perpetrators have not been brought to account. 'Operation Spectrum' was political rape. I cannot forget nor forgive, the harsh treatment meted out to me in prison to extract information – the freezing room, the slapping and the beatings, including the blow to my abdomen.

He goes on to say “Victims of injustice must not give up the fight to regain their dignity. I believe that forgiveness and letting go is genuine and meaningful only when justice has been, or is seen to have been, done.”

Mr Cheng speaks on a topic close to my heart – justice. The main motivation for his involvement with helping the oppressed and the poor in Singapore then.

He articulates my very thoughts and feelings when he says, “Working for justice necessarily calls for involvement in public life, in 'politics'...Advocacy is an integral ingredient of justice, and this makes the questioning and restructuring of public policies a necessity, even if the authorities do not appreciate it.”

These words concisely sum up why some of us, the SDP and our Friends, have chosen to stand up to the PAP Government despite the charges, trials, jail terms and bankruptcies meted out against us.

When Mr Lee Hsien Loong, who was the deputy prime minister, he said this about the re-arrest of the alleged Marxist conspirators. “The Government does not ill-treat detainees. It does however apply psychological pressure to detainees to get the truth of the matter.”

This directly contradicts Mr Cheng's account of the beating he received at the hands of his captors. Who is telling the truth?

Another detainee, Ms Tang Lay Lee, provides another account of her torture:

“Are you a Marxist?”

“No. I'm a Catholic.”

PIAK!

“Are you a Marxist??”

“No. I'm a Catholic.”

PIAK!

“Are you a Marxist???”

“No. I'm a Catholic.”

PIAK! PIAK!

“Are you instigating workers??”

“No. I'm helping workers.”

PIAK!

In his chapter, Kevin de Souza writes,

The period of detention turned out to be the most traumatic years of my life – the strip search, the blindfolds, the interrogations in cold rooms, the sleep deprivation, the television interviews, the slaps on the face, the tree-legged chair I was forced to balance...the solitary confinement and, most of all the fear of the long-term incarceration without trial.

Either Mr Lee Hsien Loong had no idea what the ISD was doing to its detainees or he was lying through his teeth.

These extracts may be frightening to those who are already afraid. But for those who are tired of the bullying and the lies perpetuated by this Government, this compressed book offers us hope and encouragement to stand up to injustice and oppression in our own country.

Christina Tseng, an associate and friend of several of the detainees, writes at the end of her chapter,

The Kingdom of Heaven is not just about what will happen after we are gone from this earth. It begins with what we do on earth. I believe if more people work towards a better society, if we are motivated by love, justice, peace and compassion, and cared more about the environment, more people will certainly start to experience heaven on earth. I hope this event can help younger Singaporeans appreciate how we can all play a pert in building a better society, whether we are Christian, Muslim or of other faiths.

I have drawn encouragement from the authors of this book. What each of them had gone through gives me strength to continue with my work and struggle for freedom, transparency, dignity and rights for my fellow Singaporeans.

Thank you Vincent Cheng, Tang Lay Lee, Kevin de Souza, Lucy Tan, Christina Tseng, Joseph Ng and Theresa Yeo for sharing so that we may all dream again.

The book can be purchased here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Singapore fares worst

By Vithoon Amorn
Reuters, Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Singapore will be Southeast Asia's weakest economy, shrinking nearly 5 per cent this year, while Thailand faces its worst recession in 11 years, reflecting a collapse in exports across Asia, a Reuters poll shows.

The Philippines and Indonesia will be the only economies in Southeast Asia to record growth this year but that growth will be sharply slower than in previous years with Indonesia hit by falling prices of commodities, the bulk of its exports.

Singapore's gross domestic product, or the value of all goods and services produced, is set to shrink 4.9 per cent in 2009, according to the median forecast of the Reuters quarterly poll.

It would be the city-state's worst-ever economic slump and mark a sharp a turnaround after averaging 6.4 per cent annual growth over the past five years. But analysts foresee it rebounding 3.9 per cent in 2010 as fiscal stimulus kicks in.

In contrast, Southeast Asia's biggest economy, Indonesia, is poised to expand by 4 per cent this year, and 5.1 per cent in 2010, as exports contribute only about a third of GDP, making it much less dependent on trade than its neighbours.

Still, the growth forecast is well down from a 4.8 per cent estimate in a poll three months ago. Weak exports and falling commodities prices weigh on growth, and analysts said the government needs to take further steps to support the economy on top of last month's US$6.1 billion (S$9.31 billion) fiscal stimulus package.

In Malaysia and Thailand, demand is hurt by crumbling exports. Thailand's economy is set to shrink 1.5 per cent this year while Malaysia will see a 1.2 per cent contraction. The poll forecast Malaysia would pick up slightly next year, with GDP growing 2.8 per cent while Thailand is set for a 2.9 per cent expansion in 2010.

The forecast that the economy will shrink 1.5 per cent this year reverses a 2.8 per cent growth forecast three months ago and an actual 2.6 per cent expansion in 2008.

For the Philippines, the poll forecast the economy to expand by just 2.3 per cent this year, lower than a 3.3 per cent growth estimate in a similar poll in December and below government expectations for at least 3.7 per cent growth, as a deepening global recession chokes exports and slows remittance inflows.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Singaporean activists protest against naming of Orchid after Burmese General

3 activists including filmmaker Ho Choon Hiong, lawyer Chia Ti Lik and myself gathered at the Singapore Botanical Gardens this morning to protest against an "Orchid Naming Ceremony" hosted for the Burmese junta leader Thein Sein.

As Singaporeans we want to register our disapproval over the naming of Singapore's national flower, the Orchid, after a leader of the despotic military junta of Burma.

We made our way through the park in red t-shirts, intending to hand a bouquet of 8 Orchid stalks (symbolizing the '88 revolution) with a greeting card to the General, to request that he help deliver them to pro-democracy leader Miss Aung San Suu Kyi.

When we arrived at the location of the ceremony at 8.15 am however, we were approached by a group of National Parks staff who informed us that the event was over in 5 minutes and that the General had since left.

Plainclothes police officers who had also been present at previous similar events were spotted at various points in the park long after the General's departure. I noticed one particular officer who was pretending to take photographs of flowers and told him, "Hey, you damn obvious lah!". He took a nervous glance at me and then looked in another direction.

A decision was then made to walk to the Burmese Embassy on St. Martin's Drive to request them to hand the bouquet and card over to Aung San Suu Kyi. After a brief inquiry, the security guard on duty shouted at us from a distance that they refuse to accept the gifts.

Standing outside the locked gates the embassy, I went ahead and read out the contents of the card:

"Dear Aung San Suu Kyi,

Today marks an unimportant occasion whereby an Orchid will be named in Singapore after Thein Sein, a general of the Burmese junta.

We feel that it is more befitting to be named after you.

This bouquet of 8 Orchid stalks is to honour you and your countrymen who have sacrificed so much for freedom and democracy in Burma.

Respectfully yours,
Singaporeans for Burmese democracy"

We then unfurled a banner bearing the words, "Long Live Aung San Syu Kyi", and shouted out the slogan thrice with raised fists.

We left after placing the bouquet and card at the doorstep of the embassy, hoping that one day, an Orchid flower will be honoured in the name of Miss Aung San Suu Kyi, the rightful leader of Burma.

Related reports:
Singapore activists protest tribute to Myanmar PM (AFP)
Singapore activists protest orchid named after Burmese PM (Mizzima)
Spore Botanic Garden to honor Myanmar junta leader
(Reuters)
Singapore urges Myanmar to cooperate with world
(AFP)
Singapore urges Myanmar to reconcile with opponents
(Reuters)
Naming orchid after Thein Sein opposed (Radio Free Asia)
Singapore protestors give Thein Sein a message for Daw Suu
(Democratic Voice of Burma)

One more Asean Summit, same old jingle

By John Moe, one of the two Burmese activists recently exiled from Singapore
March 16, 2009, JMoe's Blog

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ 14th Asean Summit chairman’s statement was an old folk song used to sang at the Asean summit. Comparatively whilst 13th Asean Summit affiliated in Singapore 2007, Myanmar activists in Singapore peaceful protested Asean Summit at the Orchard Road near the Shangri-la hotel which is the place of Asean governments assembled. Activists displayed large banner of “Listen to Burma’s desires and do not follow Junta’s order” it called for Asean to stop while military soldiers brutal crackdown on the peaceful monk-lead Saffron Revolution.

Subsequently those Myanmar activists were deported from Singapore, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Ministry of Manpower (MOM) notify to Myanmar activists after their immigration passes expired, activists were told to leaves the island without given any reasons. The activists revealed their concerns of overall Myanmar political crisis and courage of national reconciliation. Woefully pro-democracy activists’ lives were end up as refugees.

Myanmar activists from Singapore have been seeking asylum to the United Nation Human Rights Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) around the world such as; Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia and United States. An Indonesia civil society helps temporary shelter with assistances for some asylum seekers from Singapore.

Since July 2008 Myanmar activists had been departing Singapore in batches, in fear of facing unjust discriminatory laws and inhumane punishment if they return to Myanmar. Many studied in Singapore chose to build their lives in the island which they consider their second home. They made a choice to live in harmony within a multi-racial society, evidently Singapore government was an ill-treated to the Myanmar those whose were working diligently for freedom and democracy.

Singapore government’s monopoly news media intentionally bent the Myanmar activists image turning it into a ferociousness group, a distorted image used to rebuke the Singapore Democrats Party and Dr Chee Soon Juan.

Expulsion of Myanmar pro-democracy activists from the glamorous island shows accurately the Singapore government is bias towards with Myanmar military junta and ignoring of the over 50 million Myanmar people’s desired despondently. Expulsion of Myanmar activists is not the proper solution, Asean countries have to tackle with the root cause of the military junta's oppressing and violating human rights issue in Myanmar.

14th Chairman’s statement mentioned ASEAN Human Rights Body “promote and protect human rights of ASEAN's peoples would be one of the most important undertakings to make ASEAN a genuinely people-oriented community.” Astonishingly read that statement despite two Civil Society activists could not affiliate under the one roof. That was absolutely discontent for the Asean leaders ineffectively negotiate with military Junta and Cambodia counterpart for their dissent. Even though Asean charter stated under article (2) (i) Respect for fundamental freedoms, the promotion and protection of human rights, and the promotion of social justice.

No matter how the entire world convinces Myanmar military elites to respect human rights; the words of Human Rights, Democracy and Civil Society are yet to translate into Myanmar language for the military junta’s dictionary.

For the evidences learnt from the past, to be cautious for the 2010 general election and aware of Myanmar military junta’s tactics; Myanmar constitutional referendum was hold in Singapore for Myanmar national to vote, that was first time such a practise outside the country of Myanmar, during the Myanmar referendum held at St Martin's Drive in April 2008, thousands of Myanmar arrived to their embassy where officials repeatedly refused to accept Myanmar voters due to unfavourable votes. Only Myanmar with invitations to vote was admitted. In majority of voters were not granted an invitation although they had their right to vote as abiding tax payers to Myanmar government. There are about 80,000 eligible Myanmar voters but about 3,000 junta’s supporters were the only one permitted to vote.

Asean nations failed to react on the super-ultra cheated referendum in 2008 nationwide. Instead of reacts on treacherous regime, Myanmar activists were receive typically brusque action from Singapore government in spite of many Singaporeans expressed their conciliated public opinion of Myanmar activists on peaceful protests.

Ultimately military announced the constitution had been approved by 92.48% of voters, Notwithstanding 14th Asean Chairman’s statement had expressed again forthcoming Myanmar general election, statement said “the release of political detainees and the inclusion of all political parties in the political process leading to the general elections in 2010”. Singing again the old jingle, it is dubious speculation for the release of all political prisoners and the political parties’ participation. Obviously military general doesn’t allow single attendee from civil society to coven face to face at the Asean summit. Will there be any opportunity for Myanmar opposition party to take part in the 2010 general election. There seems to be The Unite Nations, Asean and the western leaders’ shows their optimism for 2010 general election which is already thrown into abyss.

The two Civil Society activists episode, palpably exposed military junta have had more influences to Asean than Asean influences onto military general clique. Asean incurred the opprobrium due to labyrinthine military generals.

Asean leaders should not believe military junta’s travesty anymore. This is the time Asean to halt defensive posture for the military elites. If Asean is not seriously address the political root cause of Myanmar, there will never conclude problems of Rohingya migrants, ethnics’ rebellions along the border, drugs trafficking and discrediting of Asean nations.

Presently, Asean leaders have been signalling western nations to lift up sanctions on Myanmar. If the western and European lifted up the sanctions on Myanmar, there will be huge victory for plethoric wealthiest generals and their business ethos. Ultimately there will not occurred genuine change of Myanmar politics. Sanctions should hold up until post election 2010 for the counterproductive of democratisation process of Myanmar.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Petition against Whale Sharks in captivity at Sentosa

Resorts World at Sentosa wants to import whale sharks for the attraction and entertainment of visitors. Whale sharks are vulnerable to extinction and have never done well in captivity. They can grow as large as two city buses, migrate thousands of kilometers in the wild, and live up to a hundred years. It is just plain cruel to keep them in glass cages.

Whale sharks have never fared well in captivity. Two whale sharks died within five months of each other at the Georgia Aquarium.

Write to the Minister of National Development, the Singapore Tourism Board and Resorts World at Sentosa before this tragedy happens on our shores.

Please sign the petition.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Singapore charges WSJ editor with contempt

Associated Press

Singapore is charging a senior editor of the Wall Street Journal with contempt of court for three articles last year about the city-state's judiciary, the Straits Times reported Saturday.

High Court Justice Tay Yong Kwang approved an application by the attorney general's office to start proceedings against Melanie Kirkpatrick, deputy editor of the Journal's editorial page, the newspaper said, citing court documents.

The attorney general claims the articles, which appeared in the editorials and opinion section of the Journal's Asia edition, "contained passages that scandalize the Singapore judiciary," the paper said.

The Journal is published by Dow Jones & Co, which is owned by News Corp. Dow Jones' spokesman in Asia, Joe Spitzer, did not immediately respond to a message on his voicemail seeking comment.

Tay found the Journal in contempt of court in November and fined it 25,000 Singapore dollars ($16,250) for publishing the same articles.

At that time, Attorney General Walter Woon argued that editorials published in June and July questioned the judiciary's independence from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the ruling People's Action Party. Not meting out punishment in the case would undermine the country's rule of law, the court said.

Woon also objected to a letter to the editor written by Chee Soon Juan, head of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party.

Singapore's leaders have sued journalists and political opponents several times in recent years for alleged defamation, winning damages against Bloomberg, the Economist and the International Herald Tribune.

Human Rights Watch called on Singapore last year to stop using defamation lawsuits to stifle criticism and bankrupt opposition politicians, citing the High Court's decision in October to order Chee and his party to pay $416,000 to Lee and his father, Lee Kuan Yew, in damages from a 2006 case.

Government leaders justify suing political opponents, saying it is necessary to defend their personal and professional reputations since it bears on their ability to govern properly and command respect from the public.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spore Botanic Garden to honor Myanmar junta leader

Reuters

Myanmar's Prime Minister Thein Sein will visit Singapore and Indonesia next week, just after regional group ASEAN urged its military junta to be inclusive in elections and to free political prisoners.

Thein Sein's itinerary has not been made public, but Singapore's Botanic Gardens said it would host an "Orchid Naming Ceremony" for Thein Sein on Wednesday, as part of his official visit to Singapore and Indonesia, a spokeswoman told Reuters.

Myanmar ruling junta's newspaper New Light of Myanmar reported on Friday that Thein Sein, the number four in its hierarchy, would visit the two countries "in the near future".

His visit comes after a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian leaders at the start of the month in Thailand, at which they backed stimulus plans, opposed protectionism and said they would coordinate policies to confront a deepening global financial crisis.

The 10 leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) urged military-ruled Myanmar "to be as inclusive as possible" in preparing for elections next year, allow all political parties to participate, and free political prisoners.

The problems with Myanmar illustrate the challenges ASEAN faces in becoming an integrated political and economic community.

The Myanmar junta, which has ruled the former Burma since 1962, declined to recognise a 1990 landslide election victory of the opposition National League for Democracy and put its leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for most of six years.

The United States wants ASEAN, which includes Singapore, to press for reform and political progress in Myanmar. Last month it urged the generals to release more political prisoners.

Singapore, a strong U.S. ally and a growing centre for wealth management, has opposed sanctions on Myanmar and is believed to be home to the generals' offshore bank accounts.

It is a tradition for Singapore to name orchids after visiting dignataries, but an exiled Myanmar politician condemned the orchid naming ceremony.

"The naming of an orchid after PM Thein Sein could be worse than watering a poison ivy," said Soe Aung, a spokesman for Bangkok-based Forum for Democracy in Myanmar.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Appeal by Pushpa, wife of ISA detainee M. Manoharan


Dear Fellow Malaysians,

It is not easy for me to write this appeal but I am compelled to as a result of what is happening to me and my family.

One of the reasons for the Government to put people away under the ISA is to break the spirit of the detained and at the same time create trepidation amongst family members thus disrupting the harmony therein.

Manoharan is a good son, son in-law, husband and a good father to our lovely three kids ranging from 9-11 years. My husband has aged parents and his mother is wheel-chair bound. They are both dependant on him for monthly expenses as well.

One year and two months have passed since my husband's detention. His recent appeal was rejected by the court, and we are told that he shall be in detention for two years.

Our three children are deprived of their social activities, love, guidance and they have lost confidence and constantly living in fear. They are also having nightmares so they are not themselves anymore. I am worried for them as I feel that they are scarred for life with this stigma that their father is a ‘prisoner’ what the future holds for them.

As you are aware my husband M. Manoharan was a legal adviser to the banned Hindraf and is currently under detention under ISA, without trial. He is a graduate in Economics from UM and also a law graduate from UK. He was having a reasonably successful legal practice in Suite B-4-1, Tower B.Plaza Pantai, Off Jalan Pantai Baru, Kuala Lumpur, under the name M. Manoharan & Co. He started his practice in 2001 with very little funds. I stopped work as a teacher and helped out in my husband’s legal firm. There have been many occasions when his firm has performed legal work free of charge for poor and destitute people.

I am a homemaker and now at a loss as to how to manage his law practice as there are no funds or new cases coming in. I tried to downsize his legal firm from ten staff to six staff from 1st Jan 2007 and have used up all our savings to maintain the office. I have also been issued a summons to settle the arrears in rental amounting to RM120K plus interest. Thus, I am in urgent need of financial assistance to help save his firm which is on the verge of closing down. His allowance as Member of Parliament puts food on the table but is far short of the monthly minimum required to pay bills.

I need to keep the firm afloat as this is important to keep my husband sane and give him a reason to push on. It will definitely break his heart and he will be devastated if the firm is closed down. I have exhausted and stretched my resources to the maximum to keep the firm running but cannot cope with the mounting pressure any more.

My husband has laid down his life, his career and his personal life to fight for the basic rights of right - thinking Malaysians and I am now appealing to the generosity of the same kind-hearted people to help us tide over this difficult period of settling our debts, which have chalked up due to my husband’s unfair detention without trial. I shall be grateful to receive whatever assistance to sustain the legal firm as well as to start paying up our outstanding debts.

Sincerely Yours,

Pushpa

Friday, March 13, 2009

Burma 8888 - In memory 20 years on



Also watch the 8888 Uprising documentary Part 1 and Part 2.

Read more here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why we do what we do

Thursday, 05 March 2009
Singapore Democrats

There are those who still don't understand the SDP's strategy and approach to politics. Why do Singapore Democrats insist of defying the law and ending up in court instead of doing the ground work necessary to win elections?

The answer is simple: Because the PAP has absolutely no intention of allowing the opposition to win power through elections.

The ruling party will continue to introduce new laws and amend existing ones to block any meaningful inroads the opposition makes in elections. The introduction of the GRC system, the increase of election deposit, the restriction of the use of the Internet by opposition parties, etc are done to ensure that opposition parties remain crippled.

There is even a law that prohibits five or more people from “demonstrating opposition to the actions of the Government” or to “promote a cause or campaign” under the Miscellaneous Offences Rules.

Already the SDP and its supporters have been charged under such a law simply for distributing flyers. What's there to stop the Government from applying this law to the other opposition parties especially if they start making political headway?

And isn't the opposition's work all about promoting a campaign or cause? How can we limit our numbers to less than five in public if we want to reach out to the public more effectively? Most important, if the opposition cannot demonstrate opposition to the actions of the Government, why exist at all?

The one reason why the opposition has fared so poorly at the polls is that we have always been one step behind the PAP. When its support eroded, it introduced the GRC system. When the opposition adopted the by-election effect, it threatened the voters with HDB upgrading. When we started to attract more quality candidates, it upped the election deposit.

If we don't arrest the rules-changing, we will forever be chasing our tails. We need an independent elections commission, not an elections department that says "Yes sir" to the PM all the time.

We must stop letting the PAP fool us. More important, we must stop fooling ourselves that under present arrangements the opposition will be able to entrench ourselves as an institution.

Does this mean then that the opposition should abandon electoral politics in Singapore? No, of course not. The Singapore Democrats have said many times before: Elections are the only way for a party to come to power and govern society.

So why does the SDP participate in elections that are neither free nor fair?

Because they are good a opportunity to raise awareness of political issues. With the advancement of cyber technology, we can use elections to educate the people on their rights and responsibilities as citizens, as well as the benefits of an open and democratically accountable government.

But remember, elections only last for nine days and the excitement dies down very quickly. It is the interim four or five years that the opposition needs to get down to serious work to reform the system.

With the Internet, our work is greatly facilitated and there is no excuse for the opposition to retreat into its shell in between elections.

The success of the SDP's effort may not be immediately apparent, but like all responsible leadership we understand the need for delayed gratification. We are confident our work will bear fruit in the not-too-distant future.

In that vein we ask all Singaporeans not to be seduced by the temptation of instant success. Just as Rome was not built in a day, democracy in Singapore will take time to entrench.

But the work to reform the political system must start now.

Elections must be part of the strategy, not the strategy itself. We need to work amongst our own opposition parties to foster greater cooperation and understanding. We need to help civil society to develop civil society. And we need to encourage our fellow citizens to become actively involved in this coming elections and thereafter the work in democracy-building.

In other words, we need to invest for the future. There is not a moment to tarry.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Academic Joel Kovel on the responsibililty of intellectuals

Seelan: I came to know of American academic and author, Joel Kovel through his book, 'The Enemy of Nature'.

Unfortunately, Mr. Kovel was recently terminated from Bard College. He made a statement arguing that his termination of service is prejudicial and motivated neither by intellectual nor pedagogic considerations, but by political values, principally stemming from differences between himself and the Bard administration on the issue of Zionism.

I'd like to highlight one particular part of his statement on the responsibility of the intellectual:

"A fundamental principle of mine is that the educator must criticize the injustices of the world, whether or not this involves him or her in conflict with the powers that be." - Joel Kovel

Read his statement in full here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Straits Times snips off MM Lee interview

Source: Blowin' In The Wind

The Straits Times has run the Reuters interview with Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, omitting a few paragraphs.

Here’s the omitted last paragraph from the original Reuters report:

Singapore's opposition parties wield little influence and often complain of poor access to mainstream media.

Reuters also quotes him as saying about the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) buying Citigroup and UBS shares:

"How could we have known this was the extent of the damage? You look at all the big-name banks that have gone down, misjudged the situation, ruined their careers," he said.

"When the market fell, we went into UBS and Citi. But we went in too early. That is part of the ride."

And did the Straits Times notice what Reuters says about the Citigroup shares seems to contradict earlier reports based on what GIC said?

According to the Reuters report, published by the Straits Times:

GIC last week converted its $6.88 billion worth of Citigroup preference shares into common stock at a price of S$3.25 a share to shore up the embattled U.S. lender, realising in the process a loss of around half its initial investment.

The Straits Times’ sister paper Business Times earlier reported:

The Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC) will convert all its preferred shares in Citigroup into common stock to cut its losses. The swop will give it an 11.1 per cent stake in the troubled US bank, which announced a sweeping plan to boost its common equity base. The conversion will pare GIC's paper loss on its original US$6.88 billion investment in Citi from 80 per cent or US$5.5 billion to 24 per cent, or US$1.67 billion, based on Thursday's closing price of US$2.46 for Citi shares.

That report was apparently based what GIC said. For the Financial Times reported:

GIC will exchange its preferred shares for 2.1 billion common shares at a price of $3.25 a share against a conversion price of $26.35 under the original terms of the 2008 investment. But GIC said it would only suffer a 24 percent paper loss on the conversion based on Citi’s closing share price on Thursday of $2.46 since its stake would be nearly three times the size of the 4 percent stake it would have received under the original 2008 terms governing the preferred share conversion.

Also read Wayang Party's "MM Lee: what will they say of me after my coffin is closed?"

Monday, March 9, 2009

Is The Singapore Government Fascist?

Facism is "A political system that glorifies the nation, minimizes individual rights, and operates through an autocratic central government that tightly controls all economics, political, and social behavior."

"I am often accused of interfering in the private lives of citizens. Yes, if I did not, had I not done that, we wouldn't be here today. And I say without the slightest remorse, that we wouldn't be here, we would not have made economic progress, if we had not intervened on very personal matters - who your neighbour is, how you live, the noise you make, how you spit, or what language you use. We decide what is right. Never mind what the people think." - Lee Kuan Yew, Straits Times, 20 April 1987

Is The Singapore Government Fascist?
Written by ACS
16 Nov 2008

British Union Of Fascists

People's Action Party

According to historian Dr. Rex Curry, the People’s Action Party’s logo was adopted from the British Union of Fascists(BUF), a outlawed political party in the United Kingdom known for it’s association with the German Nazi Party. Dr Curry is also the author of "Swastika Secrets".

The British Union of Fascists, formed in 1932 has the same “lightning bolt” in its logo, identical to the one on the PAP logo.

He explains in his article that the "lightning bolt" in the PAP logo is red by the representation of socialist symbolism. And that it is influenced by German and Soviet communist ideology. The “S-shaped lightning bolt” stands for “socialists”, similar with the shape of the Swastika, which is also the same “S-shape” overlapped. The PAP allegedly was also a member of Socialist International.

Perhaps it should be noted that factions within the PAP split in 1961 to form another political party; the Barisan Socialis. The latter had most its leaders arrested in 1963 for “communist activities”. In that case, why does the present PAP still continue to use the “lightning bolt”, which has its origins in socialism, communism and fascism, as part of its logo? Singapore is clearly not even a socialist state by the definition of the term.

Ironically, the description of the logo on the PAP website does not include explanation for the "lightning bolt".

The full article in question in full at the following link: http://rexcurry.net/peoples-action-party-pap-singapore-socialism.html

PS: A letter of enquiry was sent to the People's Action Party on 28 Oct 2008. The PAP has not responded.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Welcome back Jufri Salim!



Looks familiar?

Also read SDP's report on Jufri's release here.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Introducing guest writer Mr. Parameswara: Temasek Fullterton Fund Speak Up!

Seelan: Dear readers, I'd like to introduce to you Mr. Parameswara, a guest writer who will be contributing articles to my blog from now on. Below is his first article, please feel free to forward it to your friends. And contact me at seelanpalay@gmail.com if you would like to contribute articles to be featured here, your piece will be listed under the 'Guest Writers' category on the right.

TEMASEK FULLERTON FUND SPEAK UP

“NBFC FULLERTON INDIA lays off 3000 workers”, as reported in The Economic Times of India on the 5th of March. A quick check in the online editions of Straits Times, AsiaOne, Business Times and Today, reveal no such reports.

Temasek has invested $300 million in this company, that’s a lot of tax payer’s money. Having to give pink slips to 21 % of the work force, implies a serious situation. Yet in an important situation like this which involves tax payers money, there seems to be a dread silence from the online media.

I think Singaporeans would like a statement from Temasek.

1. Is the report true? - If it is not, then tell the stake holders, i.e. Singaporeans.

2. If the report is not true, - refute it, as it will cause an image problems for Temasek, and hence, its business, come out and make a statement, there is a lot of money involved here, and the future of NBFC FULLERTON INDIA.

3. If the report is true, - in view of the current situation, and the current market targets of the company, is it still prudent to carry on lending to these segments of the market, and what criteria has been put in place to identify quality customers.

4. If the report is true - How much business have been lost, what percentage are non performing loans, how much will have to be written off.

5. If the report is true – Are there plans for further cuts in both employees and branches.

It is important that Singaporeans be told, rather than be taken by surprise. This is good coporate governance and transparency.

PARAMESWARA
March 06 2009

Friday, March 6, 2009

Online Civil Disobedience in Singapore

Thursday, 05 March 2009

That there has been online civil disobedience is a fact. Vivid evidence of it has been present with the blog positing of articles and rally pictures in particular during GE 2006.

Yet during the Institute of Policy Studies forum “Getting Their Hands Dirty: Recent Developments in Singapore’s Political Blogosphere” on 4 March 2006, its researchers, in particular Ms Tan Simin, went out of the way to persuade the audience present that what we have now in Singapore is “online civic participation”.

Weighing in, IPS director Ong Keng Yong, who intervened and spoke at length during the Q&A when discussion heated up surrounding the term online civil disobedience. He said “online civil disobedience” should be countered least it is picked up by bloggers and the media and its use by them becomes widespread.

However, choosing not to acknowledge that in the context Singapore’s internet regulation that online civil disobedience has taken place and is perhaps even ongoing is to ignore that there is a problem with the current state of regulation governing the breath of online political expression.

The term online civil disobedience is important because to some extent because the regulation surrounding online political expression is still unclear, many sites and bloggers maybe still operating illegally.

For instance, during the initial period of Think Centre in 1999, several of its online activities were investigated and its members administered police warnings for their online political expression. The fact that there has been no wide spread current governmental persecution of new online actors does not make such acts legal or illegal.

Thus it was not surprising that among the registered attendees included representatives from the Strategic Planning and Development and Policy and Operations divisions of the Ministry of Home Affairs as well as from the Public Communications Division of the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts.

The crux of the review by IPS was to understand the political blogosphere landscape and to speculate its potential to make an impact on Singapore’s politics. Hence, the emphasis was equally on anonymous sites and bloggers in particular with high hit sites such as Wayang Party Club.

But the sub text that emerged from the presentation was that there is some ambiguity over the legality of these expressions in Singapore’s political blogosphere.

What is also important is that IPS researcher Mr. Tan Tarn How clearly acknowledged that anonymous bloggers are in reality only blogging in pseudonymous because governmental agencies in Singapore have the technical capacity to find out the identity of such bloggers or already know their identity.

There were several themes in the IPS seminar that came up that are worth highlighting here which give an indication on how the researchers view Singapore’s political blogosphere:

1. There was an attempt to suggest that anonymously run sites’ content may not be authentic or reliable.

2. Even sites that were not run anonymously were admonished for not being fully “professional”.

3. In the IPS sample, there is a clear attempt to avoid analysing or including political sites or sites of activists.

4. The term “online civic participation” is actively promoted while trying to simultaneously negate terms like “activism” and “online civil disobedience’.

The IPS forum apart from providing an insight into research on the political blogosphere in Singapore also provided and insight into the research culture and choice of analytical terms promoted within such institutions and among some of its researchers.

Online civil disobedience is an important concept to mull over because in Singapore’s short internet history, it possible to make the claim that online civil disobedience is a precursor to the current offline civil disobedience which is organised with the help online mobilization tools.

Trying to water down such terms does not help sharpen our analysis of the emerging political blogosphere and its political impact in Singapore.

Dr. James Gomez is presently Visiting Scholar, Department of Political Science, Keio University, JAPAN.

Seelan: James had also informed me that I had been mentioned in the forum as an example of a local 'activist blogger'. Visit his newly launched blog at http://jamesgomeznews.com/blog/. Check out TOC's report of the event here.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The mess that is our presidency

Seelan: An old article by Alex Au that I find very interesting and worth mentioning again. Please forward it to your friends. 3 side-columns of information from the article can't be reposted here because of text formatting, but can still be viewed at the source.

The mess that is our presidency
Yawning Bread, May 2005

Wee Kim Wee (President of Singapore, 1985 – 1993) died recently and was given a state funeral. Many citizens had a collective cry. He was a genuinely well-liked man; his personal humility impressed thousands. He lived up to the role of a non-political head of state, as symbol and unifier, yet with a common touch. In his passing, he filled that role one last time: his state funeral gave people reason to feel Singaporean regardless of race, creed and political affiliation.

Once it was over, a tiny little question was asked and a huge can of worms opened.

Why, a reader wrote to the Straits Times to ask, was Ong Teng Cheong (President of Singapore 1993 – 1999) not likewise given a state funeral when he died in February 2002?

The government's reply was an empty one (see the excerpt from the Straits Times on the right). Basically it said that the policy on state funerals was "still evolving" and is decided on a case-by-case basis by the Prime Minister and the cabinet. You'd notice that it completely failed to address the key question: WHY didn't Ong get a state funeral?

Two former presidents have passed away before. Yusof Ishak and Benjamin Sheares, the first and second presidents of Singapore respectively, both died in office and were given state funerals.

Thus, of the 4 former presidents who have passed away, only one, Ong Teng Cheong, didn't get a state funeral.

Most Singaporeans think they know the reason: Ong had taken his office too seriously and challenged Goh Chok Tong's government on a number of issues, particularly that relating to the value of the reserves. Worse yet, upon leaving office, he made his grievances public. It was nearly scandalous, coming from someone who had once been a Deputy Prime Minister and a People's Action Party (PAP) stalwart.

To understand what happened, we need to go back to the early 1990s.

* * * * *

In the general election of August 1991, about a year after Goh Chok Tong took over from Lee Kuan Yew as Prime Minister, the PAP lost an unprecedented 4 seats out of 81, compared to the outgoing Parliament that had only 1 opposition member. Their share of the vote (in the constituencies that were contested, and many were not) slipped to 61%.

Soon after, (although Ong himself said the idea had been bruited by Lee Kuan Yew as far back as 1982) the government began to speak of the need for a president with some "executive" powers. What they meant was a president with some blocking or veto powers. The fear, as expressed, was that of an "irresponsible" opposition party winning votes through profligate populism, promising tax cuts and subsidies at the same time. Singapore would be ruined, the government said.

So a constitutional amendment was passed (it's easy when you have 77 seats out of 81 in parliament) in order to establish a new rule. Under this new requirement, when a government leaves office, the state assets are sequestered. The incoming government can spend what revenue it acquires through its taxation or other policies, but it cannot spend the "nest-egg" built up by the previous government without the consent of the president.

The idea is that no new government (meaning the opposition) can raid the bank so carefully built up by the previous thrifty government (the PAP) in order to "buy" votes to keep themselves in power.

Goh foresaw that in the event of a showdown between a government that wanted to spend the reserves and a president that wanted to be more prudent, it would be necessary for the president to have a stronger mandate from the people. Thus, at the same time as the veto powers were enshrined in the constitution, provision was also made for direct elections (i.e. by citizens) to fill the office of President. Previously, when the presidency was just a ceremonial position, it was Parliament who voted the candidate into office.

Furthermore, to ensure that only candidates who were financially trustworthy could every make it to the newly empowered presidency, the constitution was changed to stipulate that only those who met these criteria were eligible to stand for election: they had to be at least 45 years old, and have had at least three years' experience as ministers, heads of statutory boards or key government agencies, or have headed a company whose minimum paid-up capital was $100 million, or had equivalent experience.

These conditions make it virtually impossible for the opposition parties to field any candidate for the foreseeable future, which is hardly a surprise since the whole idea of veto powers is to put a safe person in place in order to deny any non-PAP government freedom of manoeuvre with the finances.

However, while all this was very neat in theory, in practice, it's been unraveling ever since.

Ong Teng Cheong was elected to the presidency in 1993. One of his first moves was to ask the civil service for a list of assets that the government had started off with. Six years later, one of his complaints at the end of his term of office in 1999, was that he never quite got a full accounting. Another of his complaints was that he was never given enough staff to check the numbers given to him.

Here is the relevant portion of Asiaweek's interview with Ong (issue dated 10 March 2000)

It was this issue that caused the dispute between you and the government?

Yes. But I don't want to go into details and upset everybody. The thing is that the elected president is supposed to protect the reserves, but he was not told what these are until five years later. From the day the Constitution was amended in 1991 to provide for an elected president, he was supposed to fulfil that role. My predecessor, Wee Kim Wee, although he was not elected, was supposed to play that role during the last two years of his term. But he did not actively check. So, when I came in in 1993, I asked for all this information about the reserves. It took them three years to give it to me.

The holdup was for administrative reasons?

Either that or they did not think there was any urgency. You see, if you ask me to protect the reserves, then you've got to tell me what I'm supposed to protect. So I had to ask.

Why did they not want to tell you?

I do not know. Don't ask me, because I don't have the answer. I've been asking them. In fact, in 1996, exactly halfway through my term, I wrote prime minister Goh a letter. At that time, everybody was expecting a general election in December or January. After the election, a new government would be sworn in. When that happens, all the reserves, whether past or current, become past reserves and are locked up on the changeover date. As president, I have to safeguard them and they can only be drawn upon with my permission. So I said to Mr Goh It's already halfway through my term, but until today I still don't know all these figures about the reserves.

So the government had been stonewalling you, the president, for three years?

Yes. What happened actually was, as you know, in accounting, when you talk about reserves, it's either cash reserves or assets reserves. The cash side is straightforward investment, how many million dollars here and there, how much comes from the investment boards and so on. That was straightforward -- but still we had to ask for it. For the assets, like properties and so on, normally you say it's worth $30 million or $100 million or whatever. But they said it would take 56-man years to produce a dollar-and-cents value of the immovable assets. So I discussed this with the accountant-general and the auditor-general and we came to a compromise. The government would not need to give me the dollar-and-cents value, just give me a listing of all the properties that the government owns.

They agreed?

Well, yes, they agreed, but they said there's not the time for it. It took them a few months to produce the list. But even when they gave me the list, it was not complete.

It seems the Singapore government does not know its own assets?

Yes. It's complicated. It's never been done before. And for the assets of land, I can understand why. Every piece of land, even a stretch of road, is probably subdivided into many lots. There are 50,000 to 60,000 lots and every one has a number. If you want to value them all, it would take a long time. In the past, they have just locked everything up and assumed it is all there. But if I am to protect it, at least I want to know the list.

When they eventually gave you the list -- the incomplete list, did you have enough staff to do the checking and other work?

No, I did not. I only had one administrative staffer and two part-timers from the auditor-general's office.

You can see the Asiaweek article at
http://www.singapore-window.org/sw00/000310a3.htm

The government took exception to many of the points Ong made in this interview. You can see their response at
http://www.singapore-window.org/sw00/000310st.htm

As you can sense from the tone of Ong's words, there was some acrimony. We can deduce two things from these remarks Firstly, Ong obviously felt very strongly about living up to his job, and secondly, the government was either embarrassed they couldn't give an accounting, or too injured in their pride to co-operate ("He had the temerity to ask! Who does he think he is? The President?")

To make things worse, Ong contemplated standing for reelection again in 1999. The government, citing his lymphoma, refused to support his proposed candidacy, and instead arranged to put up S R Nathan as their preferred candidate. Even then, Ong still considered contesting and if he did, observers felt, he would likely have trounced the government's Nathan. Ong had the benefit of wide respect, name-recognition, incumbency and belonging to the majority race. Moreover, he had the fierce loyalty of many Chinese-speaking Chinese, being one of them, unlike Prime Minister Goh. Nathan, on the other hand, was unknown, and of Indian descent.

Although it didn't come out into the public till later, it was a moment of crisis. It risked splitting the PAP down the middle, and making Goh's government look like a loser.

Fortunately for the PAP, Ong changed his mind and retired. Nathan's name was submitted on Nomination Day... and no one else's. So it was a walkover. There was no contest. President Nathan, the elected president -- the one who was supposed to have a strong mandate to stand up to the government of the day if necessary, remember ? -- came to office without being elected.

Nathan's term is expiring in August this year. He has said he does not wish to stand for election again. Regardless, most people don't even think there will be a contest. Whoever the government nominates is expected to be a shoo-in.

* * * * *

Take a step back and survey the damage done.

In fear of an opposition party winning control of Parliament and forming a new government, the PAP skewed the constitution to tie the hands of any new government. The office of President was invested with new blocking powers, which till now, no one is sure whether they are workable. If accounting for reserves is open to such dispute, deciding whether the new government has spent previously accumulated reserves will be well-nigh impossible. Instead, experience has shown that the president can be stonewalled by whichever government is in power.

And what about the moral authority of the President that comes from getting a direct mandate from the people? Well, that fine hope is holding up as well a raw egg splattered on the floor. If we routinely have Presidents hustled in on walkovers, they have even less of a mandate than before 1991 when at least they were voted into office by Members of Parliament!

The PAP keeps talking about strengthening our institutions through the changes they make. So far in this story, I haven't seen much strengthening, have you?

* * * * *

Now let's come back to funerals. The government's refusal to offer a state funeral to Ong Teng Cheong appears churlish and spiteful. The non-answer, when asked why, tells you everything you need to know.

But there is one big message that people either haven't noticed, or if they have, won't mention. It is that the PAP is mortal. This steamroller of a political party is quite capable of fratricidal bust-ups and unrelenting grudges. And we can well wonder what surprises may be uncovered once the old authoritarian, Lee Kuan Yew, passes on.

© Yawning Bread

More about Ong Teng Cheong.