Saturday, January 30, 2010

Let's Talk with Michael Fernandez: Part II

Source: Singapore Democrats

In this episode Mr Michael Fernandez relates his ordeal during his nine-year imprisonment under the Internal Security Act. Because of the intensity and interest of the subject we have broken up the interview into two parts. Following Part I of the interview, we present Part II here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lee Kuan Yew's remarks deeply offensive to Malays

Source: Singapore Democrats

In the recent interview Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew gave to the National Geographic Magazine he revealed his religious affiliation: "Most Chinese here are Buddhists or Taoists...I am one of them." No quarrel with that.

But what has raised eyebrows and caused disquiet, especially among our Malay Muslims, are two statements that Mr Lee that were reckless, outrageous and utterly devoid of any sense.

The first was the insinuation that the Malays are self-centred and selfish. Mr Lee had said, “Well, we make them say the national pledge and sing the national anthem but suppose we have a famine, will your Malay neighbour give you the last few grains of rice or will she share it with her family or fellow Muslim or vice versa?”

Why won't the Malay share his food, either with his neighbour or with a fellow Muslim, during a famine? Does Mr Lee have a special insight as to how Malays will behave in a crisis?

Such a generalisation is deeply offensive to the Malay community.

But this is not the first time Mr Lee has made such racist and provocative remarks. He has made similar disparaging comments against Singaporean Indians.

To set Mr Lee straight, there were numerous instances during the riots when Singaporeans of different races had banded together to safeguard the community's common well-being against crazy mobs.

If after 50 long years of PAP government the MM still does not have confidence in Singaporeans' solidarity, whose fault is it? Is he laying the fault on the Malays?

The other statement is, according to SDP CEC member Mr Jufrie Mahmood, a more serious one as it touches on the Malays' religious beliefs. Mr Lee said in the interview, "The influence from the Middle East has made them have head-dresses for no rhyme or reason.”

For no rhyme or reason?

"The need to dress modestly, which includes the wearing of head-dresses by Muslim women, is a religious obligation stated in the Quran," Mr Jufrie pointed out. "It has existed for centuries. Is this not reason enough?"

What is even more baffling, says Mr Jufrie, is that there has not been any attempt by the MUIS or the numerous Muslim organisations to correct him.

"For obvious reasons I had not expected the Muslim MPs to do it. But the complete silence from MUIS and other religious leaders is really telling," the SDP leader said. "This incident reminds me of a somewhat similar incident in the seventies.

"Encik Othman Wok, the then minister-in-charge of Muslim affairs had publicly said that he doubted there is such a thing as the hereafter (life after death), which is one of the pillars of the Islamic faith.

"My late father, who was then the President of MUIS, told me that he had gone to see him to tell him that as a Muslim and minister of Muslim affairs he should not have said such a thing.

"Mr Othman Wok's reply was that he was only expressing his personal opinion. He was nevertheless told that it was wrong for him to express it publicly and that he should keep his personal opinion to himself.

"Will the current MUIS President seek to correct the MM? I'm not holding my breath?"

Monday, January 25, 2010

Join us at SDP's 30th Anniversary Dinner!

2010 marks a special year, it's the 30th anniversary of the Singapore Democratic Party. And we are commemorating it like we have never done before.

We're starting off with a bang! On 27 Feb 2010 (Saturday) we're having a gala dinner entitled An Evening of Dazzle with the Democrats to showcase what the Singapore Democrats have done through the years as well as to peek into what we have in store for the future. It promises to be a meaningful evening of fun and entertainment.

Tickets are priced at $50 which includes a full cocktail dinner, free flow of wine and great entertainment. Plus you will receive a complimentary copy of the commemorative magazine worth $20. It is a publication full of colour and life, like none you've ever seen before in Singapore's politics.

So come and join us this evening and help us commemorate 30 years of democratic service in Singapore.

For tickets, call Jaslyn at 9239-3133 or email us at sdp@yoursdp.org

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Singapore: "Textbook example" of repressive state

Phil Robertson
Human Rights Watch

Recent convictions of democracy activists show intolerance towards pluralism

Singapore remains the textbook example of a politically repressive state. Individuals who want to criticize or challenge the ruling party’s hold on power can expect to face a life of harassment, lawsuits, and even prison.

As Singapore begins to emerge from the international financial crisis and focuses on elections that are likely to be held later this year, the government should act to improve its poor human rights record, Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2010, released today.

The 612-page report, the organization's 20th annual review of human rights practices around the globe, summarizes major human rights trends in more than 90 nations and territories worldwide. Its chapter on Singapore says the government fails to meet human rights standards in a number of critical areas, including freedom of expression, association, and assembly. While Singapore has touted its prowess as a leading economic nation in Southeast Asia, it continues to falter in respecting the rights of its own population, Human Rights Watch said

"Singapore remains the textbook example of a politically repressive state," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Individuals who want to criticize or challenge the ruling party's hold on power can expect to face a life of harassment, lawsuits, and even prison."

Freedom to express views publicly continues to be largely limited to the tiny Speaker's Corner in the city-state, while any procession or assembly for a "cause-related activity" must have prior police approval under the Public Order Act of 2009.

Draconian laws such as the Internal Security Act (ISA), Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (CLA), Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA), and Undesirable Publications Act remain available to the government to muzzle peaceful critics. In December 2009, three long-time government critics-Dr. Chee Soon Juan, Chee Siok Chin, and Gandhi Ambalam-were convicted of distributing flyers critical of the government. After refusing to pay fines, all three were sentenced to short prison terms.

But appearance-conscious Singapore sometimes forgoes criminal prosecution in favor of other forms of harassment, such as defamation suits seeking punitive damages that snagged the Wall Street Journal and the Far Eastern Economic Review, restrictions on publication licenses under the longstanding Newspaper and Printing Presses Acts, and enforcement actions limiting rights.

Human Rights Watch called for the repeal of laws allowing corporal and capital punishment, noting that the penal code authorizes caning for about 30 offenses, and sets out more than 20 drug-related offenses for which capital punishment is mandatory. Singapore resists all calls to rescind arbitrary detention without trial, refuses to recognize that caning constitutes torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, and insists on maintaining mandatory death penalties for offenses such as drug trafficking that are contrary to international human rights standards, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch criticized Singapore's continued legal ban on private and consensual sexual relations between men and called for it to be overturned.

"As Singapore looks to its future and new elections, the time is long overdue for it to abandon its stubborn defiance of international human rights standards," Robertson said. "Singapore should have the confidence to trust its people with full freedom of expression, assembly, and association, and recognize that their participation is critical for the country's continued prosperity."

youtube link: World Report 2010 by Human Rights Watch

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/01/20/singapore-textbook-example-repressive-state

Thursday, January 21, 2010

On seeing Dr Chee in cuffs, chains & shackles in front of his kids

Seeing Dr Chee Soon Juan cuffed, shackled and chained in front of his kids today was heartbreaking for me, but it also motivates me all the more to stand with him.

While in court I took a passage from a book I was reading and showed it to him through the bars of the prisoners' dock. The text was about finding the spiritual power to persist even when faced with the greatest of obstacles. Upon reading it, he looked up at me and replied with a small smile, "That's the essence of it, Seelan."

Thinking back of that moment now as I'm writing this, I'm moved to tears. I can't find the words to explain exactly why I cry, but I know its related to what I find in the strength of his spirit and the calmness in his resolve.

Standing together with Dr Chee is not an easy thing to do. The local media take every opportunity to slander him and destroy his reputation. The government bankrupts him so that he is financially crippled and can't stand for elections. And the worst thing is that people even within the opposition camp spread lies and misconceptions about him.

But I feel that I must stand with him because of his sincerity and sacrifice in fighting for democracy, equality and social justice in a place like Singapore.

Let the other "opportunists" rejoice in their small and simple winnings. We are in this for the long run, and even if our victory never comes at least we will know we did our best with honesty and integrity - standing by our principles.

Read: Cuffed, Shackled and chained

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dr Chee and Mr Ambalam: Cuffed, shacked and chained

Singapore Democrats

They shuffled into the courtroom clothed in orange overalls labelled "Cluster B", cuffed, shackled and chained. Six guards surrounded them as they were led into the dock.

Their crime? Distributing flyers.

Mr. Gandhi Ambalam and Dr. Chee Soon Juan are serving a one-week prison sentence after they were convicted of assembly without permit because they had distributed flyers that were critical of the Government in a group of six persons.


Ms. Chee Siok Chin was similarly treated two weeks ago when she served her jail term for the same conviction. She was transported to court in a high-security prison van that consisted of a small, dark, windowless, claustrophobic compartment the size of a coffin with all four limbs chained together.


But even before they could finish their sentences they were brought back to court to answer yet to more charges for illegal assembly.In court, Dr. Chee stood up to address the judge on three points. He said:

1. New prisoners are not given "yard" time for exercise for up to a week. This means that prisoners are locked in for 24 hours a day.

2. The lights in the cells are not turned on making the cells very dark and dingy.

3. He had brought in a book but was not allowed to take it into the cell until "clearance was given".


District Judge Chia Wee Kiat said that he would inform the prison authority of the issues.

Even in the dock, the wardens refused to remove the restraints until DJ Chia Wee Kiat ordered the cuffs to be removed. However, their ankles were still shackled and fastened to the bench. Ms. Chee asked the judge to remove the shackles on the feet of Mr. Ambalam and Dr. Chee. "Speaking from personal experience the shackles on the feet cause much pain as they cut into the ankles."

She went on to cite the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights before DJ Chia. She read out section 33 which states:


Instruments of restraint, such as handcuffs, chains, irons and strait-jackets, shall never be applied as a punishment. Furthermore, chains or irons shall not be used as restraints. Other instruments of restraint shall not be used except in the following circumstances:

( a ) As a precaution against escape during a transfer, provided that they shall be removed when the prisoner appears before a judicial or administrative authority;


Ms. Chee asked DJ Chia to order the shackles on their feet removed as "these men posed absolutely no security threat whatsoever" and that the judge had absolute discretion and jurisdiction in his court. Mr. Jufrie Mahmood, a co-defendant added that the shackles on Mr. Ambalam and Dr. Chee was an overreaction by the authorities as the two men are not common criminals and should not be treated as such. They are victims of blatant violation of human rights by the PAP Government.

After hearing these applications the judge directed Mr. Ambalam and Dr. Chee to be placed in another dock that had bars all around it, and the restraints to be removed.

Mr. Ambalam who is on medication for a heart problem also told the judge that the doctor in Changi Remand Prison was not following the prescription given by his specialist. The prison doctor had insisted that Mr. Ambalam consumes all his different pills at one go whereas the medicines were to be taken at prescribed times. The prison doctor's insistence that Mr. Ambalam takes all his pills at the same time contradicts that which is prescribed by the specialist shows a total disregard for the safety of his patient.

Is this how a confident government treats political opponents?

Also read: Ambalam and Chee serve jail sentence, pledge to continue fight

Monday, January 18, 2010

Woman from China "protests" at MOE for 2 days, but Singaporeans are arrested in 30 minutes

Just last week, a PRC woman was apparently staging a solo “protest” at the Ministry of Education (MOE) HQ at Buona Vista for 2 days straight to demand that MOE transfer her child to a top primary school in Singapore.

The tipoff on Temasek Review reads: “The lady has been coming to MOE HQ at Buona Vista for the past 2 days, arriving at 8am daily and refusing to budge from the customer service centre. During her stay in the customer service centre from 8am – 6pm she continues to wail, scream and shout with full theatrics!!! Despite, officers trying to reason with her.”

Read the report on Temasek Review.

And then contrast such an incident with the arrest of my friend and I last year just for holding a placard in support of Burmese activists in Singapore. We were arrested in 30 minutes and led away handcuffed into police cars. We were then put in the lockup at Cantonment Police HQ and interrogated for half the day.

I'm not saying the woman should be arrested, but watch this video of our protest and decide for yourselves whether we were causing a bigger disturbance to the public than the woman at MOE:


If her claim to "protest" is considered legitimate and allowed to continue, so should ours.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Remembering Martin Luther King

Today, January the 15th, marks the 81st birthday anniversary of Martin Luther King, an American clergyman, activist and prominent leader in the civil rights movement.

He is a symbol for civil disobedience all over the world and I make a tribute to him on his birthday every year. For this year I'd like to share with you one of his most moving and critical speeches made just before his assassination: "Martin Luther King, "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam" (It's a long one, but I promise it's well worth the listen)

Let's Talk with ex-ISA detainee Michael Fernandez (Part I)

Singapore Democrats

In this special episode Mr Michael Fernandez relates his ordeal during his nine-year imprisonment under the Internal Security Act. Because of the intensity and interest of the subject we have broken up the interview into two parts. We present Part I here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

2010 and the path ahead for activism in Singapore

http://www.intellasia.net/news/uploads/5/SingPoliceArrestR-420_1.jpg

It's been over 8 years since I first got engaged in activism in Singapore, and my faith remains as firm as ever in working for change.

The number of Singaporeans speaking up or at least becoming aware of the state of the nation is increasing, also thanks to local alternative news sites like Temasek Review and The Online Citizen - which I've been making an effort to contribute articles to. My most recent contribution being 'Is multiracialism also an aspiration?'.

It's good that much is being said and done online, but are we doing our best to disseminate our views and direct more Singaporeans to our websites and blogs? This is something I hope to focus on in 2010.

Fellow local activists and I are setting up a new NGO called Singaporeans For Democracy. We will be present at a discussion event this Thursday, make your way over and we'll have a chat.

Two other efforts that I'm involved in are the Singapore Anti Death Penalty Campaign's (SADPC) appeal for Yong Vui Kong, and the formalization of a Free Burma Campaign in Singapore.

I continue to admire the work of Dr Chee Soon Juan, and here's a quote to keep us all motivated for the path ahead:
“Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.” ~ César Estrada Chávez

Monday, January 11, 2010

Join Singaporeans For Democracy for a discussion this Thursday (Jan 14)

Please attend this discussion on Thursday. Our new NGO Singaporeans For Democracy will be present and open to questions.

Talk Politics #10: Critical NGOs and Civil Society
PLUS: the soft launch of Singaporeans for Democracy (SFD) website

Date: Thursday, January 14, 2010
Time: 7:30pm - 9:30pm
Location: Post Museum, 107 Rowell Road - MAP

One defining feature of the civil society is the autonomy of social actors to shape, criticize and reproduce essential social and political norms, values and identities through communicative - as opposed to coercive interaction. (Habermas).

In this session we will look to discuss:

(1) The role of constructive criticism in civil society - in shaping political discourse and social sensibilities

(2) Importance of a democratic space in which actors can articulate possibilities of social betterment. What chance for Global Civil Society?

(3) The gap between civil society and the state machinery - where does the NGO fit in? and should NGOs influence top-down policy making?

Also, for the first time, Dr James Gomez of the newly created NGO Singaporeans for Democracy (SfD) will share his thoughts and conduct a question-and-answer session on the newly formed SfD, and how SfD can contribute to the current political climate.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

It is Think Centre version 2.0, insists former WP member James Gomez

Seelan: Some news from The Online Citizen on a democracy NGO that fellow activists and I are starting up. I believe the news is out in the mainstream media today as well.

TOC report by Ravi Philemon

During JB Jeyaretnam’s birthday memorial yesterday, Dr James Gomez revealed publicly he is in the process of registering a political association called Singaporeans for Democracy (SfD).

In an exclusive interview with The Online Citizen, Dr James Gomez revealed that SfD has pushed the Registry of Societies (ROS) with the innovations to SfD’s constitution.

“In our constitution, we have specified that we will have the option of starting foreign chapters of our organisation; and one of the objectives in our constitution states that we will apply the use of new media tools for organizational matters, information dissemination, networking, mobilization and advocacy to promote democracy,” said Dr Gomez.

Dr Gomez believes that Singapore being the most wired nation in the world and being a global city, should be ready for such innovative constitutions from its civil society organisations. “We already have overseas voting,” he reminds. He was also quick to point out that SfD does not even need to register themselves with ROS, because they are already doing whatever they have stated in their objectives as they would do, in their own individual capacities.

“But we want to remain open, accountable and transparent”, says Dr Gomez and registering with ROS he believes will show to the people that they are serious players who want to play their part in shaping the national discourse. “And registration with ROS will also help us administratively, for example in opening a bank account and so on”, he says.

When asked if he will be joining any other political parties, Dr Gomez says that he has no such plans for the short-term. “I need time to properly establish SfD. I also want raise my profile as an academic”, he says.

James Gomez’s (JG) exclusive interview with The Online Citizen (TOC)

TOC: Is Singaporeans for Democracy (SfD) a political party?

JG: No. SfD is applying to Singapore’s Registrar of Societies to register as an independent non-governmental organisation that will focus on issues related to civil and political rights.

TOC: What does Singaporeans for Democracy want to do?

JG: SfD wants to campaign on selected civil and political issues and advocate for legislative reform to ensure that Singaporean enjoy meaningful democracy based on justice and equality as expressed in the National Pledge. For example, SfD will campaign and advocate for changes to the Films Acts to ensure that Singaporeans are able to fully explore this medium to express their political views.

TOC: What kind of approach will SfD take in campaigning for democracy?

JG: SfD will take a multi-partisan approach, this means working in coalition and in partnership with individuals, NGOs, political parties that share a similar ideal to further democracy. The nature of the coalition and partnership is expected to be dynamic based on the type of civil and political issue.

TOC: Who are the current members of SfD?

JG: SfD’s pro-tem committee is presently made up of Singaporeans who have had activist experience and a track record in promoting democracy as individuals, as NGO members or as political party activists in both the pre and post internet environment.

TOC: What kind of members is SfD looking for?

JG: SfD welcomes members and associate members who have a shared objective to promote democracy, who believe in the importance of a multi-partisan approach and are willing to stand together with other SfD members. Although activism experience is welcome, it is not a pre-requisite. But SfD prefers members who want to go beyond discussions and blogging.

TOC: Is SfD affiliated with any particular organisation or ideology?

JG: No. SfD is an independent organisation. However, it respects its members’ rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression. SfD places no restrictions or conditions over its members’ affiliations with other organisations.

TOC: How is SfD different from other political associations or NGOs in Singapore?

JG: We do not want spend time outlining differences with other organisations but rather to state that SfD focuses on citizen political activism, in particular to campaign and advocate for civil and political reform that will be ultimately reflected through changes in legislation. SfD is not affixed to any particular method of activism, it will be flexible and adapt as it goes along. SfD is not a discussion or a journalist group. It is an advocacy group.

TOC: Will SfD focus only on Singapore issues?

JG: SfD is a democracy NGO. Although its primary focus will be Singapore it will tap into other democracy issues, movements and organisations at the regional and global level. The purpose it to facilitate an exchange of ideas and to ensure regional and global solidarity with issues related to democracy. As part of our regional and global reach, we plan to have Singaporean focal persons in locations where there is a sizeable overseas Singaporean presence.

TOC: Will SfD use the internet?

JG: In current times not using the internet is not an option. However, SfD will be specifically looking into internet tools that can be used for social and political mobilization. We will also be using the internet to introduce innovations into how we hold SfD committee meetings, general meetings and voting on internal matters in order to include overseas based Singaporean members into SfD’s decision making processes.

TOC: Why the name Singaporeans for Democracy?

JG: We choose the name Singaporeans for Democracy because the words “Singapore” and “Democracy” are taken from the National Pledge and its fits naturally with our objectives and aims. However, we realise that various organisations have used or use different combinations of the same words to name their organisation. We are aware the term Singaporeans for Democracy was also once used by a now defunct website. SfD has no relationship with these organisations.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Chee Siok Chin begins jail term for distributing flyers critical of government policies

Source: Singapore Democrats

Ms Chee Siok Chin began serving her one-week jail sentence yesterday after District Judge Chng Lye Beng had found her guilty together with Mr Gandhi Ambalam and Dr Chee Soon Juan for distributing flyers without a permit.

A permit was required because, one, 5 or more persons were involved and, two, the police insist, the flyer was demonstrating "opposition to the actions of the Government."

The Deputy Public Prosecutor had during the hearing emphasized that it was not the distribution of the flyers per se that was illegal but the content of the flyer which was critical of the policies of the Government was also illegal.

The police witnesses had testified during the trial that distibuting flyers was a common and normal activity. They could not say what offence the Defendants had committed. One even said that in his opinion, the SDP leaders were not committing an offence.

Furthermore, the licensing officer testified that distributing flyers for a commercial cause did not require a permit whereas one was needed if the cause was political. This, of course, is not true because the law (Miscellaneous Offences Act) does not make such a provision.

The Defendants also argued that the fact that the flyer criticised the Government was irrelevant to the charge.

Despite all these, Judge Chng sided with Prosecution and convicted Ms Chee, Mr Ambalam, and Dr Chee, sentencing them to the maximum fine of $1000, or one-week jail in default. (See here)

The three have appealed the conviction. Ms Chee has chosen to serve her sentence first but will continue with her appeal because it is important that the High Court renders its decision and grounds if it upholds the conviction.

Even as she begins serving her sentence, Ms Chee will be brought to court daily for the on-going hearing before District Judge Toh Yung Cheong for a separate charge for "attempting to take part in a procession" during the WB-IMF meeting in 2006.

Immediately after Mr Chng made his decision on 18 Dec 09, Ms Chee stood up and told him:

"I continue to say that what we did was not a crime. Criticising one's government is a right guaranteed in a democratic society. By finding us guilty you are as good as saying that we do not have this right. By pronouncing us guilty you are also saying that Singapore is not a democratic society and that this government is an undemocratic one."

Visit Ms Chee's blog here: http://cheesiokchin.wordpress.com

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

JBJ: In our hearts forever

The 5th of January marks the birthday of Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, a true democrat that we will always hold dear in our hearts. Here is a video I made for his birthday last year:



Also read: Let us not insult our people (TOC)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Is multiracialism also just an aspiration?

Seelan Palay, for The Online Citizen

Is multiracialism, like our national pledge, just another highfalutin ideal?

Multiracialism is the cornerstone of independent Singapore that became a sovereign state in 1965, breaking away from the federation of Malaysia. It was open racial discrimination in the polity of Malaysia that peeved the leaders of Singapore to champion the cause of multiracialism in Malaysia.

Singapore leaders, led by the then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, justifiably opposed discriminatory practices based on one’s ethnic background, leading to Singapore’s independence within less than 2 years of being part of Malaysia.

On the fateful day of 9th August 1965, Lee Kuan Yew proclaimed to the world that Singapore would be an independent nation which will neither be “a Chinese Singapore, a Malay Singapore, nor an Indian Singapore”, alluding to the 3 major races living harmoniously in the former British colony.

But is Singapore’s aim to achieve a multiracial society just a pipe dream? As the National Pledge is now being described by none other than Lee Kuan Yew himself as just an “aspiration”, apprehension has been expressed, rightfully so, on whether the multiracial concept is also another “aspiration”, and not something that we should conciously aim for.

Reality on the Ground

I say this because of what is happening on the ground, especially in the service industry. Not long ago, the Sunday Times ran a story of China nationals working as restaurant assistants in Serangoon Road. It was reported that one of them had been working there for close to 2 years on a work permit. The person featured in the article (below) had also said that he had to work for 10 hours a day for a salary of $1000.

Following this startling newspaper report I went to Serangoon Road and was able to speak to one of the restaurant owners who said he could not get India nationals on work permit to do the same job. The Manpower Ministry, after a couple of unsuccessful applications to bring in India nationals, had told this owner verbally that if he were to apply for China nationals his request would be granted immediately. Why only verbal explanation? Why not put it down in black and whilte?

As far as the policy of the Ministry is concerned, there is no discrimination along racial lines when it comes to the issuance of work permits. The MOM policy is country specific and not race specific – at least that is what the government says. However, it looks like there is an unwritten policy not made known to the public. It has come to my attention that not only restaurants, but also other sectors such as departmental stores and freight forwarding agencies have been affected by this obscure policy that goes against the grain of multiracialism.

Why must it only be China nationals or Chinese ethnicity? What happened to the foreign talent policy of allowing people to work in Singapore based on one’s ability alone? Is foreign talent just a myth, a disguised form of racism which Lee Kuan Yew vehemently opposed when Singapore was in Malaysia? Are Mr Lee’s multiracial, multireligious and multilingual concepts also figments of his imagination?

Mandarin for all?

Yes, it looks like it, especially when one recollects what Mr Lee Sr had said in March this year: “In two generation, Mandarin will become our mother tongue,” And taking the cue from the Mentor Minister a government official said that Mandarin will become Singapore’s predominant common language. Singaporeans are being encouraged to speak fluent Mandarin, said the civil servant.

A major shift indeed from preivious position that Mandarin would only be promoted among Chinese Singaporeans.

This tacit policy is beginning to be noticed clearly in everyday life. It cannot be hidden that the recent Singapore contingent to SEA Games was mainly composed of China nationals. In certain sports, the “new citizens” even dominated totally, leading some of us to wonder since when China became part of Southeast Asia?

Besides, the PAP’s deliberate manipulation of the country’s demographics through the unpopular “dumping” of aliens, is causing great stress and despondency among average Singaporeans.

Insidious Foreign Talent Policy

Critics of the government’s foreign talent policy have rightly condemned it as yet another move to depress the wages of our workers and turn them into cannon-fodder for foreign multi-national corporations (MNCs) looking for cheap labour. This naked exploitation of our workers, who form the vast majority of our people, not only continued but intensified even during the time of Singapore’s economic meltdown, resulting in the projected contraction of the economy to minus ten percent for 2009. When daily hardships are the order of the day for our desperate workers, the government, unmindful of their plight, allows the influx of aliens in the name of its foreign talent policy.

It is obvious that the so-called foreign talent policy is a euphemism for something insidious that is best known only to the PAP top echelon. Like everything else, PAP says one thing in public, and does something else on the quiet.

This deceitful foreign talent policy of the government would definitely lead to alienation of a sizeable section of our people from being loyal to the country that is Singapore. Patriotism and love for the nation are under great strain.

As what Lee Kuan Yew of yesteryear said in 1965, let’s work towards a Singaporean Singapore. Not a divisive nation pulling along different directions based on ruinous tendencies of ethnicity, religion and language.

Seelan Palay is an artist and activist whose blog can be read at http://seelanpalay.blogspot.com