Monday, September 28, 2009

World Day Against the Death Penalty (Singapore)

Forum & campaign to save the life of Yong Vui Kong.

Saturday, October 10, 2009
2:30pm – 5:30pm
Oxford Hotel, 218 Queen Street, Singapore

DP_Flyer_newAs the World Day against Death Penalty approaches on 10th October 2009, we the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign call upon the Singapore government to join 138 states throughout the world that have ceased executions in law or practice.

We mark this day by campaigning for the clemency of Yong Vui Kong, 21,a Malaysian who had been sentenced to death as a result of drug trafficking. He was 19 when he was caught for drug trafficking in June 2007.

Singapore is estimated to have one of the highest per capita executions rates in the world.Most death sentences in Singapore follow convictions for drug trafficking. The misuse of Drugs Act provides at least 20 different offences and contains a series of presumptions which shift the burden of proof from the Prosecution to the Defence. The UN Rights Committee have concluded that the death penalty for drug offences fails to meet the condition of “most serious crime”.

The UN Special Rapporteur on extra judicial, summary or arbitrary executions has called for the death penalty to be eliminated for drug-related offences and has argued that the mandatory nature of the sentence is a violation of international legal standards.

There is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters serious crimes in general more effectively than other punishments. The most recent survey of research findings on the relation between the death penalty and homicide rates, conducted for the United Nations (UN) in 1988 and updated in 1996 and 2002, concluded: “…research has failed to provide the scientific proof that executions have a greater deterrent effect than life imprisonment. Such proof is unlikely to be forthcoming. The evidence as a whole gives no positive support to the deterrent hypothesis.”

Yong Vui Kong is a case of a youth who had fallen into the snare of drug trafficking against the backdrop of his vulnerable circumstances. His parents were divorced when he was 10 and had to stop education as he comes from a poor family. His mother suffers from depression and is still kept in the dark about her son’s impending execution. His clemency petition had been submitted to the President a month ago.

We ask that the Ministry of Home Affairs provide annual statistics of executions in Singapore which is part of public information as acknowledged by the Minister of Law recently.

Please join us on 10 October 2009 at 2.30 pm, Oxford Hotel, to mark the World Day against Death Penalty in Singapore and say no to the execution of Yong Vui Kong by signing a petition to the President. This is one of the ways to tell the state that it does not have your mandate to go ahead with its planned execution of Yong Vui Kong which is done on behalf of the people.

In peace,
M. Ravi
Convenor of Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign

Forum speakers:
M. Ravi, Human Rights lawyer
Alex Au, Yawning Bread
Sinapan Samydorai, Thinkcentre
Breama Mathi, Maruah
Agnes Chia, Social worker
Moderated by local artist Alfian Saat

To visit the event’s facebook page click here

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Seelan Palay submits Francis Seow video for rating

Source: Singapore Democrats

Artist and human rights activist, Mr Seelan Palay, has sent a video entitled Francis Seow: The Interview to the Board of Film Censors for rating. The 40-minute interview shows the former solicitor-general speaking on a range of issues from his life in the US to Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his ministers.

Mr Seelan tells this website that the Media Development Authority insists that he submits the video as a political party film.

But Mr Seow is neither a member of a political party nor a politician, Mr Seelan points out. It doesn't matter, the MDA insists, the interview is a political party video and has to be submitted as one.

Mr Seow was detained under the ISA in 1987 after he decided to represent Ms Teo Soh Lung who was herself a lawyer and detained without trial during Operation Spectrum. She and her colleagues were accused of being part of a Marxist plot to overthrow the Government.

Mr Seow, on the other hand, was accused of colluding with the the CIA to form an opposition in Singapore.

The truth, as Mr Seow recounts in his book To Catch A Tartar, was that he had been in discussion with PAP stalwarts Mr Devan Nair (former president) and Dr Toh Chin Chye (former deputy prime mnister), who had grown disillusioned with the party they had helped found, to enable the former solicitor-general to take part in the 1988 general elections as an opposition candidate.

Mr Seow was shortly thereafter arrested and detained for 72 days. After his release, he contested the 1988 general elections and subsequently left Singapore. He has been living in the US since.

In the interview, Mr Seow talks at length about Mr Lee and how he instills fear in his subordinates, including cabinet ministers.

On his entry into the opposition Mr Seow said:

Lee Kuan Yew didn't want me to go into opposition politics because I was his law officer, his top law officer at that time. And if I went into the opposition, what do you think was going to happen? Life can be very difficult, right? So he thought this guy was chicken, we'll put pressure and he'll just ease off...

We will keep readers updated on the developments of Mr Seelan's application for the interview to be rated.

In the meantime, the Government rated the Singapore Rebel, a documentary made by Mr Martyn See about Dr Chee Soon Juan, M18 (for mature audiences) after banning it for several years. But the ban was insignificant as the film had already been watched by hundreds of thousands of people since it first appeared on YouTube.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Singapore lifts ban on film about Chee Soon Juan

Seelan: And to think it took them 4-and-a-half years to realise they should lift the ban. Singaporeans under the age of 18 apparently cannot watch it. But in the Internet age their M18 rating doesn't matter at all because if you're reading this and you're under 18, you can watch it right here!

AFP: Singapore lifts ban on film about opposition politician

Singapore on Friday lifted a ban on a film about a local opposition politician under revised guidelines introduced earlier in March this year.

The Media Development Authority (MDA) announced the lifting of the ban on Singapore Rebel on its website, saying the documentary no longer violates the revised Films Act. (Watch video here)

Previously, the 26-minute documentary about opposition politician Chee Soon Juan was banned because under the old guidelines, it was classified as a "party political film."

Before the amendments were introduced this year, the Films Act prohibited the making and distribution of films containing partisan political references or comments.

Under the amended Films Act, the documentary "should therefore not be regarded as a party political film," the MDA said in a statement posted on its website.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last year the government accepted that its policies must evolve to remain relevant in the current media landscape in which Internet use has become more widespread.

Singapore has often been criticised by human rights and media groups for maintaining strict political controls despite its rapid modernisation but the government says the strict laws are necessary to maintain law and order -- a pillar of the country's economic prosperity.

: Readers should note that the unbanning of the Singapore Rebel is not a change of heart of the PAP. The New Media has completely overtaken the Government's ability to censor information on the Internet. The ruling party has had no choice but to play catch up.

Read also Martyn See's Ban on "Singapore Rebel" lifted, rated M18

Friday, September 4, 2009

"Singapore is not an electoral democracy."

In Freedom House's 2009 report on freedom in the world, Singapore received a downward trend arrow due to the politically motivated handling of defamation cases, which cast doubt on judicial independence.

Some highlights from the report:

Singapore is not an electoral democracy. The country is governed through a parliamentary system, and elections are free from irregularities and vote rigging, but the ruling PAP dominates the political process. The prime minister retains control over the Elections Department, and the country lacks a structurally independent election authority. Opposition campaigns are hamstrung by a ban on political films and television programs, the threat of libel suits, strict regulations on political associations, and the PAP’s influence on the media and the courts.

Despite his expressed desire for a “more open society,” Lee Hsien Loong did little to change the authoritarian political climate. He called elections in May 2006, a year early, to secure a mandate for his economic reform agenda. With a nine-day campaign period and defamation lawsuits hampering opposition candidates, the polls resembled past elections in serving more as a referendum on the prime minister’s popularity than as an actual contest for power.

In 2007 and 2008, Lee continued to pursue his economic agenda while using the legal system and other tools to keep the opposition in check. The government also maintained that racial sensitivities and the threat of Islamist terrorism justified draconian restrictions on freedoms of speech and assembly. Such rules were repeatedly used to silence criticism of the authorities.

Singapore has traditionally been lauded for its relative lack of corruption. There is no special legislation facilitating access to information, however, and management of state funds came under question for the first time in 2007. Critics lamented the state’s secret investment of national reserves, and investigations into the state investment arm, Temasek Holdings, were launched by Indonesian and Thai watchdog agencies.

Singapore’s media market remains tightly constrained. All newspapers, radio stations, and television channels are owned by government-linked companies. Although editorials and news coverage generally support state policies, newspapers occasionally publish critical pieces. Self-censorship is common among journalists as a result of PAP pressure.

Read the full report here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Keep up the struggle, Anwar tells Young Democrats

Singapore Democrats

Keep up the struggle. Those were the words of Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim as we joined him on stage at the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) rally at Permatang Pasir, Malaysia.

The SDP's Young Democrats (YD) were there at the invitation of Angkatan Muda Keadilan (Keadilan Youth Wing), to observe the recently concluded by-election - which the opposition Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS) won handily.

Upon arrival at the PKR campaign operations centre at Taman Samagagah we met Mr Tian Chua, Member of Parliament and Strategy and Information Chief of Keadilan, and followed him on his campaign trail.

Muhd Khalis with Tian Chua at PKR's campaign office

Mr Khalis updated Mr Chua about the situation in Singapore and the continuous harassment of opposition members and activists by the Government. Mr Chua, who was himself detained under Malaysia's ISA, said that Singapore too must work towards true and real democracy.

He encouraged the YD to keep up with our work. He said: "It is important for youths to be part of the struggle."

We also had a chance to meet with Mr Shamsul Iskandar, Keadilan's youth chief. Mr Shamsul said that he was glad to know that SDP members and other activists are still pushing for change and reform even though there are many obstacles.

We were also introduced to a few other youth wing state leaders, among whom Mr Sim Tze Sin and Mr Chua Jui Meng (former health minister under the Malaysian Chinese Association).

During the rally later that night PKR deputy youth chief, Mohd Faris Musa, introduced us to the crowd and praised the Singapore Democrats for daring to take on the PAP.

The highlight of the evening was when we introduced ourselves to the Leader of the Opposition, Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Mr Anwar, who told us not to concede defeat and to keep up the struggle.

Mr Shamsul left us with these parting words: "PKR will always be supporting SDP in its journey. We always identify ourselves with groups that dare to challenge oppressive regimes. We hope to have more of such exchanges between the SDP and PKR in the future."

(From left) Khalis, Jarrod Luo with DEMA Media Coordinator Azrul and Burmese activist Phyo Win Latt

The YD delegation was also invited to attend the Malaysia Youth & Students Democratic Movement (DEMA) 10th Annual General Meeting in Kajang, Malaysia. DEMA is a national student movement organisation formed to push for human rights and a democratic society in Malaysia.

The exchange between the YD and DEMA was fruitful. When told about the reality of the political situation in Singapore, many of them expressed their concerns and reiterated their solidarity with our struggle for democracy.

Many of the DEMA's members were keen to find out more about Singapore's current political situation as well as the activity level of our youth and student movements here.

We also learned that youth groups in Malaysia faced obstacles put in place by their government in their struggle for human rights and democracy, not unlike our situation in Singapore.

Leaders of DEMA, Mr Lucas Yap Heng Lung and Mr Ryan Gan, expressed their desire to see more exchanges and to establish closer ties with the Young Democrats.

We all agreed that it is vital for our youths and students to play a bigger role in the political and activism scenes in our countries. History has shown that political change is always aided by the active participation of society's youths and students.

The YD aims to continue to network with other similar organisations or movements in the region and beyond. This is crucial in our work for freedom, justice and equality.

Jarrod Luo, Muhd Khalis and Mohd Shamin are members of the Young Democrats.