31 Jan 2004

Variable Component

Variable Component

The local press have been stating that the workers have agreed to the variable wage component. Sorry but I seem to have forgotten when I was asked.

Refering to the NTUC, Today Newspaper claims that the workers are happy with government and businesses completely altering their contracts on a mass scale.

Workers in Singapore are not allowed to form unions in order to protect their rights and minimise (as much as possible) exploitation. Yet business interests and government policies drop 'blanket' legislations on all workers. Surely what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

The new legislation allows bosses to vary the percentage of wages according to 'title'. This means that a 'manager' can have a higher percentage of varying wages. So be careful when your boss offers you that promotion to 'manager' or 'assistant manager'.

The NTUC yet again shows how incompetent they truely are. They are supposed to be acting in the interests of the worker, yet remain a toothless kitty cat.
Still waiting...

17 Jan 2004

Death Penalty

In the Today Newspaper an attempted rebuttal of the allegations of Amnesty International has been printed. The small article from the Ministry of Home Affairs is not referenced to any particular member.

It claims that the Death Penalty is an open issue in Singapore and that Singapore's judicary is transparent with regards to the death penalty, with a promise to produce a further rebuttal in the near future.

Recent cases reported by Amnesty will be huge obstacles to attempts at convincing myself and many others that the 'system' in Singapore is transparent. Actually it would make me laugh out loud if it wasn't such a serious issue.

The standard 'join a political party' was also stated. Sorry but 'politics' and issues of human rights belong to us all.

So before commenting further on this issue I will await the reply from the powers that be. Whatever approach is taken in attempts to 'prove' that it is a transparent system I have one small question.

"If it is so transparent, why doesn't the Prime Minister know the number put to death?"

15 Jan 2004

Singapore's Hidden Death Toll

AI Index: ASA 36/002/2004 (Public)
News Service No: 008
14 January 2004

Embargo Date: 14 January 2004 22:00 GMT

Singapore: High execution rate shrouded in secrecy
Amnesty International exposed today the shockingly high, hidden toll of executions in Singapore as it launched a new report about the death penalty in that country.

Singapore is believed to have the highest per capita rate of executions the world. A UN Report found that Singapore had three times the number of executions, relative to the size of its population, as the next country on the list - Saudi Arabia.

"It is high time for the government to seriously reconsider its stance claiming that the death penalty is not a human rights issue," Amnesty International said. "It is the cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice, and violates one of the most fundamental of all human rights: the right to life. By imposing death sentences and carrying out high numbers of executions, Singapore is going against global trends towards abolition of death penalty."

The small city-state has hanged more than 400 prisoners in the last 13 years. Official information about the use of the death penalty is shrouded in secrecy and the government does not normally publish statistics about death sentences or executions. It is not known how many prisoners are currently on death row, but the deplorable death toll from executions continues.

Amnesty International's new report "Singapore: The death penalty: A hidden toll of executions"examines how the death penalty often falls disproportionately and arbitrarily on the most marginalized or vulnerable members of society. Many of those executed have been migrant workers, drug addicts, the impoverished or those lacking in education. The report includes a number of illustrative cases including Rozman Jusoh, a 24 year old labourer from Malaysia executed in 1996 despite having sub-normal intelligence with a reported IQ of 74.

Drug addicts are particularly vulnerable. Many were hanged after being found in possession of relatively small quantities of drugs. Singapore's Misuse of Drugs Act contains several clauses which conflict with the universally guaranteed right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and provides for a mandatory death sentence for at least 20 different drug-related offences. For instance, any person found in possession of the key to anything containing controlled drugs is presumed guilty of possessing those drugs and, if the amount exceeds a specified amount, faces a mandatory death penalty for "trafficking".

"Such provisions erode the right to a fair trial and increase the risk of executing the innocent," Amnesty International stressed. "Moreover, it is often the drug addicts or minor drug pushers who are hanged, while those who mastermind the crime of trafficking evade arrest and punishment."

Despite claims by the government that the death penalty has been effective in combatting the trade in illicit drugs, drug abuse continues to be a problem particularly among socially marginalized young people. Observers have drawn attention to the need to combat the social conditions which can give rise to drug abuse and addiction, rather than resorting to executions as a solution.

"We call on the Government of Singapore to impose an immediate moratorium on executions and commute all pending death sentences to prison terms," Amnesty International said. "We are also calling on the authorities to end the secrecy about the use of the death penalty and encourage public debate."


According to the UN Secretary-General's quinquennial report on capital punishment (UN document: E/CN.15/2001/10, para. 68), for the period 1994 to 1999 Singapore had a rate of 13.57 executions per one million population, representing by far the highest rate of executions in the world. This is followed by Saudi Arabia (4.65), Belarus (3.20), Sierra Leone (2.84), Kyrgyzstan (2.80), Jordan (2.12) and China (2.01). The largest overall number of executions for the same period took place in China, followed in descending order by the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States of America, Nigeria and Singapore.

For the full text of the report, please go to:
"Singapore: The death penalty: A hidden toll of executions"

Other recent Amnesty International reports in the death penalty in Southeast Asia include:
"Socialist Republic of Viet Nam: The death penalty - inhumane and ineffective"
"Viet Nam: Death penalty -- a dirty secret"

Public Document
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566
Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web: http://www.amnesty.org

For latest human rights news view http://news.amnesty.org

12 Jan 2004

Doors close on free press

Original article can be viewed here.

There is no end in sight to the dangerous restrictions facing journalists in south-east Asia, reports John Aglionby

Thursday January 1, 2004

A former Vietnamese journalist, Nguyen Vu Binh, who used the internet to criticise his country's government is sentenced to seven years in a trial closed to foreigners. Zaw Thet Htwe, the editor-in-chief of Burma's First Eleven Sports Journal is sentenced to death for alleged treason after he published a story about the reported misuse of an international donation to promote football in the military-run nation.

One of Indonesia's most prominent news magazines, Tempo, is being constantly victimised by the courts after it wrote several critical articles about a powerful businessman with close ties to the ruling elite.

Meanwhile a senior editor at the Rakyat Merdeka newspaper is sentenced to six months for approving headlines that, amongst other things, likened President Megawati Sukarnoputri to diesel fuel.

The Philippine press appears free, but more journalists are being killed than ever before and few thorough investigations have been made into their deaths.

Meanwhile in Thailand, the creeping authoritarianism of the prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, and his party cronies is taking its toll. They are steadily increasing their control over the country's media - with the latest conquest being interests run by a cabinet minister taking a controlling stake in one of the most critical news organisations, the Nation Media Group.

There has been little to cheer about elsewhere in the region in the last few months. The new Malaysian prime minister, Abdullah Badawi, has put his own people in charge of the sycophantic mainstream media while the most critical news outlet, the website Malaysiakini has an unresolved year-long police investigation hanging over it.

Despite government claims of a new openness, few Singaporeans are brave enough to speak out. One young filmmaker who made a movie about teenage gangs was dumbfounded to have it banned for reasons of "national security", while almost everyone I interviewed on a recent trip to the island republic pleaded to be quoted in a positive light as they feared Big Brother's seemingly ubiquitous reach.

Lin Nuemann, a regional adviser to the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists, says his organisation's forthcoming annual report is going to be pessimistic about the state of press freedom in the region.

"What we're saying is that virtually every place is getting worse," he said. "Although you can't really say Burma is getting worse, because it's not got far to go."

This is all a far cry from the optimism that swept the region six-and-a-half years ago following the Asian financial crisis that mushroomed into political turmoil in several places, most notably Indonesia.

The crisis prompted a sweeping liberalisation of the press in Indonesia and significant moves elsewhere. But that momentum has dissipated and is now going into reverse. The open window that allowed a fresh wind to blow through the region's media is being steadily closed.

In a recent survey of global press freedom in 166 nations, Reporters Sans Frontières ranked south-east Asia's media as follows: Cambodia (81), Thailand (82), Malaysia (104), Indonesia (110), the Philippines (118), Singapore (144), Vietnam (159), Laos (163) and Burma (164).

"The elites are regrouping and there's much less patience for a vibrant free press now," Mr Neumann said.

The CPJ is most disturbed about Indonesia, according to Mr Neumann, where the pendulum appears to have swung most dramatically. "You have a combination of military and national security pressures and a not very well-organised court system," he said. "If it means an organisation like Tempo gets scared then you know the situation is serious."

What's worrying analysts and diplomats around the region is that with elections due in Indonesia (both parliamentary and the first ever direct presidential poll), Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines this year and a probable change of prime minister in Singapore, the room for alternative opinions to receive a fair airing is becoming increasingly limited.

The status quo is almost certainly going to remain, if not become more entrenched, in Malaysia and Thailand. Meanwhile the gun culture is so strong in the Philippines that no one will be surprised if journalists start to pull punches. Indonesia is a different situation, where anything could happen, although journalists know that no one will be on their side in the likely event that the politicians start playing dirty as the stakes mount.

Little change is expected elsewhere. Amnesty International is unsurprisingly gloomy after its recent, second, visit to Burma, while organisations such as Forum Asia are not holding out much hope for reform in Vietnam and Cambodia.

By John Aglionby of the Guardian.