4 Feb 2005

Youbloodyfool Responds

My response to the learned guest writer is simple and to the point, it's about Equality...Autonomy...Respect... Communication...Non-violence

Its about ensuring an alternative interpretation is available to those who wish to read it. Maybe we should just give up and let the situation remain as it is, when sites like Singapore Review can be hacked on a number of occassions and no investigation follows.

Mellanie Hewlitt
3 Feb 2005
Normal Services Resumed

We apologize to our readers over the flood of junk mails that was
released from our Newsgroup earlier today. The exact cause of the incident
is still unknown and we have once again tightened security on daily
administration of the newsgroup.

I guess this really must be an elections year for Singapore. We hope
that latest attacks will not deter articles and subscription to this
newsgroup. So please lend us your continued support, keep reading and keep
sending us those articles.

Yours faithfully

Mellanie Hewlitt
Singapore Review

And by way of ensuring freedom of speech, published below is the letter I am responding to.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Guest editorial from BW:


There’s a certain person who has dedicated a whole site to criticize all things Singaporean -the students, the government, the way of life. The title of the site, although he argues that it is from another source (TV or whatever I don’t care) is meant to provoke and embarrass us. That is why this post has the title “you bloody fool”. I got this from a primary school *teacher* who used this phrase a lot. So in his style, I’m not calling anyone a bloody fool. I’m just alluding to what my primary school teacher said. Do you think anyone will really listen to what you have to say after you’ve called them “a bloody fool”?

Firstly, whether one’s criticism is correct, one should try to approach it from an angle that is constructive first. Maybe this is a question of taste but if it is, then to me, it is done in bad taste. I see pages after pages of bad-mouthing and using words like “repressive” loosely. Honestly, this gets to me and after seeing things like that, I feel deterred from extracting the main idea which may after all have some truth.( I would like to remind that person that he is after all a subject of the crown. Yes, in this day an age, in a land ruled by a monarch. )

After using loaded words like “corruption” and “nepotism” and “repressive regime” you would think that a fair critic, someone who is genuinely criticizing to enlighten us and persuade us, would not forget the historical circumstances of which some of our arcane policies are borne out of. Even most Singaporeans recognize that a lot of our flaws come about due to historical circumstances or because some of our strengths are derived from it. That does not mean that change is not necessary. But at least be fair and acknowledge it. Where it the balanced view?

The post about Singaporean students who don’t think could have been something worth pondering over if not for the fact that it was done in anecdotal fashion with the fake suggestion that one re-thought his/her career choice because of this particular student. Pretty disingenuous of you! How sly! I mean, erm, what a critical thinker! What about the Singaporean students who go for exchange and write such brilliant essays that the lecturers cannot but believe that they must have been plagiarized? What about the Singaporean students who win international science and mathematics competitions? What about the Angus Ross prize winners? Those add up to quite a number in tiny Singapore, you know. And presumably people who don’t win are not all brain-dead drones. Isn’t it funny if only those brilliant people can think and all of us can’t? I would love to see how smart his students from overseas are. Now let me ask: what was the meaning behind the suggestion that one would quit? Is it because it entered one’s mind? If so then I’m worried about both the educators and those being educated. I hope that other educators out there can take setbacks like that in good stride. Or is it because, and I say so because I think it’s possible, that one wanted an outpouring of sympathy? If so, oh you poor, poor, poor man. How could those students do that too you! The audacity!

Why does the guy do it? Even after leaving, he has nothing better to say and just has to carry on with that cheap sniping, daily, weekly, monthly. I would like to think that after being here for sometime, one would at least find something, anything that he likes.

I’m saying this against my better judgment. I’m not one who likes to make such harsh criticism about others. But I’m saying it anyway because I think there’s a difference between providing constructive criticism and being malicious. Now, if you’re reading this, show me how well you can take constructive criticisms. Or perhaps you can’t do it, as I see from hate-page that to you, the only way to react to anything, is to slam and condemn.


The views expressed in this guest editorial are the views of its author and do not necessarily reflect the views, ideas or opinions of Balderdash, its owner and main poster, Agagooga, or any of its team. Balderdash makes no representation concerning and does not guarantee the source, originality, accuracy, completeness or reliability of any statement, information, data, finding, interpretation, advice, opinion, or view presented.


Anonymous said...

There are many sites that actually discuss Singaporean issues without resorting to being offensive. Some are obviously very anti-govt, some are not. The difference between them and yourself is that they at least engage the issues and try to discuss them critically without being downright offensive.

Please disabuse yourself of the notion that you are the only one giving an alternative views. I think it does other well-meaning bloggers a great deal of injustice.

Nobody is taking away your freedom of speech. You are free to say whatever you want. The pt is that you
1) Don't seem to have good intentions
2) Don't care whether the way you present your arguments are balanced. You don't care whether you offend Singaporeans
3) are not aware or simply don't care whether what you're doing (more specifically, the way you're doing it) is not helping Singaporeans who DO want to make a changes.

I urge you to walk in the shoes of a Singaporean and look through the pages on your site. Tell me what you see. Then take a look at what other people are doing. I'm sure you will be ashamed but it's not too late to change.

The Legal Janitor said...

I think the biggest problem with Melanie Hewlitt and Singapore Review is that the idea of them being hacked by someone related to the Government is still essentially a hypothesis.

Until there is concrete evidence, I see no reason to conclude that they were hacked by anyone from, or anyone related to the Government.

Keep in mind, this is the Internet. Anything and everything gets hacked all the time. It would be wise not to jump to conclusions without concrete evidence, when there are other more likely explanations available. Ockham's razor, dear friend.

Also remember, SG Review has a subscription base of about 2600. I hardly think there's any cause for the Government to hack into such a small list. A waste of time if you ask me.

Moreover, I really don't see the big deal even if SG Review is lost. It's just a tiny mote in this information stream we call the internet. There are lots of other alternative voices here. Even if SG Review is lost, they can easily migrate to another platform.

Lastly, SG Review isn't exactly crucial to debates about Singapore anyway. The quality of commentary leaves much to be desired.

Agagooga said...

Personally I don't see anything wrong with this site. After all, one could say that it's a polar opposite of the Straits Times *g*

But maybe Steven would like to post about what he likes/finds good about Singapore (surely there must be something), just to prove a pedagogical point ;)

Mock Turtle said...

I don't really see how using the word 'repressive' is innately offensive. It's like all these people getting their underpants in a tizzy over LKY being called a 'despot'. Has it occurred to anyone that euphemism may be equally offensive - to the victims of repression and despotism?

What would it take to make Steve a critic with "good intentions"? If he prefaced every post with "I hate saying bad things about Singapore, but it's just true"? Screw that. If someone isn't deliberately and knowingly seeking to mislead, those are intentions good enough for me.

- a Singaporean.

Eufrasia said...

It's not about who is right and who is wrong. It's all about freedom of speech! Like everybody else, Steve has a right to communicate his opinion about Singapore and about anything else. And everybody has a right to dislike Steve for doing so and to communicate his/her dislike. The bottomline is that people should be allowed to have freedom of speech. If you don't agree with Steve's opinion, then instead of badmouthing Steve, you should just communicate your opinion and criticize Steve's opinion back. I believe Steve won't mind, bet he would even like it!

Trowa Evans said...

My opinion, for what it is worth, is that you must accept that Steve's commentary is intended to be polemical and critical. Constructive introspection doesn't necessarily entail displaying a balanced of good and bad, but even investigating if the positive is truly represented as a "beneficial" effect. I think if you want a healthy dose on the benevolent aspects of Singapore, you need not look very far. However if one were to embark in finding alternative information or news, that would prove to a more perilous task.

Steve's blog is filled to the brim with information that reinforces his views and analysis. You are free to disagree with his personal opinions, which we do get a sense of from evaluating his posts but you should at least delineate what are his personal views and his supporting information. Your response, thus far, has been an ad hominem argument directed at what could be construed as Steve's perceived "hatred" for Singapore. You did bring up some points we can consider, and I would invite you to see why Steve or anyone else can choose to interpret them differently from the official orthodox discourse.

Anonymous said...

Dear Steve,

I enjoyed reading through your Blog.

As a fellow Brit I've lived in Singapore for 12 years and, whilst acutely aware of the political & free speech issues you raise, I manage to live my life here without fixating on them.

Britain and the United States have just been responsible for imposing the most farsical travesty of "democracy" imaginable on the people of Iraq - one in which voters didn't even know the names of the candidates until polling day (let alone their policies!) As Brits, I don't think we're in any way qualified to lecture other countries about "democracy".

The United Kingdom isn't a true democracy anymore than the United States. Singapore may be a one-party state, but a two-party state without proportional representation isn't much better in my book (it's a case of choosing between tweedle dum or tweedle dee). And if you think either political party in Britain represents your interests as a Labour, Tory or LibDem voter then you're too naive. ALL political parties & leaders, whether in the UK or US, are given their instructions "from on high" (ie. the bankers and the corporates who finance them).

Case in point, the vast majority of Britons are supposedly against the Iraq war, yet we're still at war. Why? Because Phony Tony doesn't report to Steve "I'm-expressing-my-opinion-that-we-should-pull-out-of-Iraq" the voter, he reports to his real bosses the international bankers and corporates. You need to read some Eustace Mullins, my man, and get au-fait with the real way the world works. If you really want to change the system you've gotta enter the ring yourself, not snipe from outside. But watch out because politics is a dirty business, it's not some Oxbridge debating society. People like Harry Lee have been engaged in political streetfighting for decades and like him or loathe him (and I'm no great fan of the man myself) you have to admit that he's been extraordinarily clever, even if he's getting a bit senile these days.

Democracy is a big myth. Perhaps the closest you can get is in Europe with proportional representation systems. Or if you go back to 5th Century Athens or something, where the citizens 'did' wield real political power. But I would say to you "let's get our own house in order (meaning the UK) before we go lecturing Singaporeans on their political system".

Look Steve, I can go about my life in Singapore relatively safely and peacefully and not be blown up, shot or abducted, as is the case in that wonderful new "model democracy" in Iraq that the western media are all crowing about right now. I know that my kids aren't going to wind up like that little boy Ali, with both arms blown off. I can be safe, as can my family, I can try to make a good life and be happy. That's better than not knowing whether your daughter is going to be kidnapped and ransomed every time she leaves for school in the morning.

So Steve, chill out man. Don't get yourself all in a twist about Singapore's 'lack of democracy' and 'authoritarian regime'. THE UNITED STATES CAN, UNDER THE PATRIOT ACTS 1 & 2, BANG PEOPLE AWAY WITHOUT TRIAL NOW FOR AS LONG AS THEY LIKE!!! AND THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT BRINGING FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY TO THE REST OF THE WORLD?!

Finally Steve, PEOPLE GET THE GOVERNMENTS THEY DESERVE. Singaporeans won't thank you for standing up for their 'missing' liberal human rights. They'll despise you for it in fact. Best not to get too involved my friend. If Singaporeans really want an alternative system, then they must fight for it, and yes, they must go to jail or be martyred just like the British social progressives did in the 19th and early 20th Century. No rights ever got handed to anyone on a silver platter merely because of a good argument. Until Singaporeans take matters into their own hands and wrench a genuinely free & open form of society, then they'll just have to put up with the one they're stuck with. Meantime, we in the democratic West ought to watch our own hard-won social and political freedoms very closely indeed. But as far as I can see, the UK and U.S. will wind up becoming more Orwellian than Singapore at the present rate.

Best regards

Anonymous said...

Eufrasia> For the last time, that is precisely what is being done. I am communicating my displeasure. And I have a right to the freedom of speech too (Many people around here seem to forget that). You say I’m badmouthing him. Please tell me which part of the main post constitutes as badmouthing. How, may I ask, has his freedom of speech been taken away? Hope this is clear enough to those people who have been repeating this mantra of freedom of speech again and again and again and again as if freedom of speech automatically gives credence to anything (/rubbish) one has to say. It simply amazes me how many people feel that simply because one has a right to the freedom of speech one is necessarily free from error and should be immune from criticism.

Trowa Evans> Please read the 2nd paragraph of the “youbloodyfool” post again. Maybe it will provide an answer to this : “You are free to disagree with his personal opinions, which we do get a sense of from evaluating his posts but you should at least delineate what are his personal views and his supporting information.”

As for the post being an “ad hominem” argument, let me simply say that I could have been less aggressive in my post and that is what I first thought I should do first. Rest assured that I, as I have said many times before, do not approach people with differing opinions quite like this all the time. However, I don’t think it is not an appropriate response to someone who has adopted the approach of Steven. I certainly don’t see why his readers should feel offended if they argue that I should not be offended as well. If you expect other readers to approach his blog/hate page with a view that one should be able separate the vitriol and the valuable analysis (which is few and far between) then I suggest you re-read what I have said and consider what I have said more carefully as well.

Parkaboy> As for him having ill-intentions, I’m not the only one who buys into this view. As I have argued elsewhere, is he trying to raise the awareness of Singaporeans or trying to disillusion people who are trying to effect a change? I think it’s more of the latter. As I have argued before, (and also as one of the other readers who commented argued) there is a difference between constructive criticism and (destructive?) cynicism.

With all due respect, has Steven actually responded directly to any of the main criticisms by me or otherwise except to say that it is his right to say anything he wishes? If that is the only argument you have, then yes Steven, for the love of God, you have the right to do and say what you want. I can heap insults at the UK too and that may be my right. But that does not make *it* right.

Anonymous said...

Fellow Brit here again. As to whether Steve has been constructively critical or destructively cynical, to place some of this into perspective, if I knew of some foreigner (ie. non-British person) who came to work in the UK for 3 years, moaned about the system and the society and then went back to wherever and started up a Blog whose sole refrain was how awful the UK system was, I'd tell him to go take a running jump.

Britain is full of foreigners of all shades an colours who continually bleat on about the country's shortcomings. Or else they want to build a mosque or a Hindu temple or what have you slap in the middle of a picturesque English village. So you can understand how upset that makes native British people to have to listen to or put up with that sort of rubbish. If they don't like Britain then they can jolly well piss off back to the Eastern European or African toilet from when they came!

In Steve's case it's the same thing only in reverse. No one asked him to come work in Singapore, no one asked him to comment or start a Blog criticising the system or the society here. He may have the best of intentions, but as I've averred in my earlier posting I feel he's a bit naive.

So there's not enough freedom of personal expression in Singapore? BIG DEAL! There's TOO MUCH freedom (of expression) in the UK!

By that I mean, to take but one example, that if you defend yourself against burglars who are trespassing on your own property, who may have the intent to do harm to you or your family, and in the process of tackling them you harm one of them above and beyond what the law deems to be reasonable, YOU are the one who is liable to go to jail and not them! (and they are also liable to sue you into the bargain!) Now what sort of fucked up system is that!!!!? How many Singaporeans know of the sad case of Tony Martin, who was in exactly that legal predicament?

Or else, some junkie scumbag beats up an old lady or a pregnant woman in the UK and they get a slap on the wrist from the justice system and a "Naughty boy, don't do it again!" Yes, that's just great. I'm all for that kind of freedom to do whatever the hell I like, not!

In Singapore, if you pull that kind of stunt you get the cane and you go down for 20-30. That's a more sensible solution IMHO. Hey, at least our grannies and womenfolk can walk the streets late at night anywhere in Singapore with perhaps only 1-2 street crime murders in any given year. Yup, I reckon I'd go for that.

But getting back to my original point, Steve's not a Singaporean and until he returns to take up citizenship he's simply not entitled to critique or criticize Singapore's system. Just as the United States has no call to criticise China for its human rights record, not when they're forcing pregnant women to be stripped searched in full view of other passengers at airports, as I hear they're doing these days.

He can express an opinion freely, of course. But he's not entitled to criticize and Singaporeans (who, for all I know, may like the way things are done here) are quite within their rights to tell him to go to hell. You can't force free speech down people's throats because you feel they should have it. It's up to them to decide whether they want it badly enough. Just my four penny worth.

Anonymous said...

Dear YouBloodyFool,

"Steve's not a Singaporean and until he returns to take up citizenship he's simply not entitled to critique or criticize Singapore's system."

Steve's certainly qualified to comment and criticize Singapore's system, the fact that he is/was a resident lends credibility to his articles/rants. Even if Steve had not been to Singapore before, he still has a RIGHT to say what he wants about Singapore. Whether anyone would bother listening is another matter...

Point is, you don't have to be a US citizen to hold US dollars. How many people have even been to Rwanda but condemned and screamed genocide anyway. If commentry on politics can only be made by politians (who form a political party), it does not count as freedom of speech.

What's interesting is when you assert your freedom of speech and right of reply, but tries to suppress your opponent's.

Trowa Evans said...

There are two anonymous persons around, so I am perplexed as to their identification being two of the same persons or different commentators. But for now, I will restrict it to it being of the same person, a "fellow Brit". I first thank that you are responding in a less hostile manner and elaborating yourself much more.

There are a few valid points that you brought up and let me be the first to acknowledge I concede with them. One is namely that Singaporeans, or citizens of any country, "deserve" what they get. I agree that until Singaporeans themselves push themselves to empower themselves, they won't change the government administration or any legislations they are unhappy about. I also agree that if one alluded to the startling impositions of "democracy" in case examples such as the US, UK and Iraq, authoritarianism seems a lot more benevolent (hence Singapore's model has been described as "benign authoritarianism" or "illiberal democracy" in academic journals). I also wholeheartedly agree that just having more opposition party representation does not a "democracy" make. You have also contrasted the kind of practices both Singapore and UK have that would likewise suggest "human rights" as a kind of travestity.

There are a few points of discontention that I may subtly suggest, though these issues are immensely complex. One being to juggle humans rights along with criminal procedures. Steven so far it seems to me, has been concentrating on the mandatory death penalty on drug trafficking, and has made no mention about relaxing our laws to give criminals more rights in every other aspect, certainly not to burglars and etc. I understand that you were simply using an analogy, and to illustrate how "human rights" can backfire, but thats not the kind of "human rights" Steven may be considering. In regards to the peace being secured in Singapore, there are again many complex reasons for such an environment, and it is only an extension of our imagination that either democracy can be responsible for it, or imposing it will break every single social fabric into chaos.

There has been a fair bit of going around in circles about freedom of speech/expression. I will just say this: Freedom of expression implies hearing opinions you may hate or never wished was spoken. I hardly argue about this because I myself have not decided if that degree of freedom is healthy (nor can it be universally applied). But in terms of posting up opinions online, even if it is hate material, you certainly have the right. I don't think you are suppressing Steven but you certainly aren't happy with the way he uses that right.

This is where I would only voice my opinion, and where the matter can't be resolved as there aren't any objective standards to hold by. I believe, that even as a foreigner, Steven is still free to say what he wants. The only difference is that I don't think he is being a bigot for what he has said so far. Perhaps I haven't been visiting this blog long ago or you know something about Steven that I don't or as a fellow Brit, there are some cultural differences, but to me, Steven is only voicing what could be astonishingly similar to what some marginalised Singaporeans might relate to. There are indeed some foreigners or even fellow Singaporeans who rant and vilify Singapore and truly have nothing substantive to say, but Steven has been around to at least comment and judge on what he has experienced, and at the same time post up some articles to back his reasoning. You are quite right though that he doesn't have that right to verbally coerce Singaporeans into listening to him, and I would think that just having a blog with many articles, as displeasing as the content are, doesn't constitute as "forcing democracy and humans rights down people's throat". Finally, I can't speak for the UK case examples you have illustrated since I have no background knowledge in that. But just because Steven didn't mention anything about his own home country doesn't mean that he doesn't care, or he isn't aware. I do think though it would probably be more constructive or effective as a Brit to amend changes in your own country but Steven has only so far made commentary and not substantively push for changes in Singapore. Perhaps his blog and commentary could be seen as superfluous considering Singapore isn't his own home country, but I think with two way discussions, Steven might at least hear something different.

I have said quite enough so I will probably end it here. In regards to my previous comments, I still beg reservation for them in respond to your first letter though I would correct them in light of your explanation of your position. Thank you for your reply.

Eufrasia said...

For the anonymous who criticised my comment :

Once again, it is about freedom a speech. I am not saying that freedom of speech makes anyone immune of criticism. But I do believe that freedom of speech does allow you to communicate anyone's opinion. If you said that Steve's opinion is rubbish, then it's ok. I can also say that your opinion is rubbish, cos freedom of speech does allow me to say so. It's FREEDOM OF SPEECH , my friend. I guess you are not really familiar with that concept. I am not saying particularly that you are badmouthing Steve, but you did offend Steve as a person in your mail, by saying that this man blablabla.... I am saying that instead of criticizing Steve as a person, you should just criticize his opinion bout things if you disagree with that. I will put an analogy to make my point clear now. It;s like this : So what if you think that Karl Marx is wrong with his theory of communism and blabla,, you can always criticize his opinion about that, and many people did indeed. However, it is not so wise to criticize karl Marx as a person. That's what I am trying to say. you may want to ask me when did u criticize Steve as a person. Well, you did say that even after leaving, Steve has nothing better to say and that he can just slam and condemn, etc etc. Believe it or not, I don't blame you for that. It's all freedom of speech. And so who cares if Steve was being constructive or just being malicious. he just communicates his opinions about things, for crying out tloud. And you can always keep criticizing his opinion about things, but you cannot criticize him for doing what he's doing now, i.e. communicating his opinion. Cos it's all about FREEDOM OF SPEECH!!!!

Anonymous said...

this blog is done by one person. I question his intent for choosing his approach and his obviously prejudiced selection of material even after being repeatedly told that it is offensive and that it can be done in a more CONSTRUCTIVE way. That is why I said what I said. If I'm not familiar with the concept of freedom of speech then I'm afraid I'm not the only one around here I am not attempting to shut down his site or shut him up so please stop repeating the F.O.S thing. It doesn't lend any credibility. I'm asking him, in Singapore lingo to "wake up his idea".As for offending him as a person, please also note that he has offended a lot of Singaporeans through his lack of tact (this lack of tact occurs almost everywhere which I have carefully pointed out already: his scant regard for what the offensive title is doing, his arrogant dismissal of people's opinions which you can check for yourself, his unsubstantiated criticism which he does not care to justify). No offence but I really find it funny that he's claiming to be offended. If he were so sensitive why hadn't he spared a thought for us - people who do care about Singapore and who do want to effect change. Maybe sensitive and considerate are two separate things. One can be inconsiderate and sensitive at the same time.

To anon 8.51am. I think you're mixing up two different people. Don't worry, it's not your fault. If you're talking to the British anon
that's fine. If you're referring to me, nobody's suppressing his opinion. He's still here, isn't he?

I think I've been repeating myself quite a bit. So I don't think I will go on with this. I thank you for all your feedback. However, there are some who just want to have their say even though I have already directly addressed them. I cannot add more to this but I thank you for your interest.

Mock Turtle said...

I have a vague feeling the person who claims to be a "fellow Brit" is actually Singaporean. See the part that goes "at least OUR grannies" when referring to Singapore.

Also, I think the tone of that comment sounds distinctively Singaporean rather than British. Moreover the person spells "criticize" with a "z". Which is also suspicious (even if Singaporeans also adopt British spelling, it's weirder coming from a Brit.)

I could be wrong. Just my hunch.

Anonymous said...

Third post from me today, and nope you're wrong, I 'am' a Brit & not a Sporean. Lived her for over a decade now.

Interesting debate. Perhaps when I say that Steven has no right to comment on Singapore's system I should re-phrase that as being 'not entitled' to criticize the system here. Not entitled unless or until he becomes a citizen of Singapore, at which time he is entitled to take an active role in influencing the course of civic society here.

Like the Pakistani, West African or indeed Singaporean who comes to my home country of Great Britain to study or work, and mouths off about the society and its people, they're just not entitled to do so and if they don't like it they can piss off home where they came.

I can fully understand how Singaporeans take umbrage when us 'ang mohs' come over here and then pick the place to pieces. It may be a small and insignificant little country, but it's still their country for better or worse and it's a perfectly natural human instinct to feel pride in one's country (I am not for globalisation, I might add).

This is the spirit of national self-determination whereby the 'citizens' of a country get to frame their own social & political system without outside pressure, influence or comment from non-nationals (which is why I fundamentally disagree with the UK and US's present nation-building efforts, nobody appointed me as a Brit to tell the Iraqis what sort of government or society they should have. Baghdad was not in the UK last time I checked the atlas!


So the UK deserve to have Phony Tony and the Americans definitely deserve GW Bush, because they've given these crimminals far too much benefit of the doubt, instead of recognising them for the globalist shills they are really are (and remember, all politicians are just front men anyway - except perhaps in Singapore, where the elite and the political elite arguably coincide! - well at least it's more honest than hiding behind MPs and Congressmen who only have a pretence of executive power!)


Now, if you're smart you'll realize this statement cuts both ways. Could be a good or bad thing, depending on your point of view, right? Yes, of course they're corrupt and self-serving, but Steve you show me a politician WHO ISN'T !!!? Schroeder, Putin, Chirac, Blair, GW, they are ALL the same! It's just that some cover themselves with more of a patina of accountability than others. At the end of the day they serve their financial backers, not you the voter (and if you believe otherwise then sorry, you must be the one in liberal lah-lah land!)

Anyway, this post won't change a thing and Steve will continue his posting, continue offending some Sporeans and bolstering the marginalised others who agree with him. It may surprise you to know that my sympathies ARE with the marginalised Singaporeans who want a more adult accountable society. But unfortunateky, if you really feel strongly about the society you visualise you have two simple choices before you:

1. Get involved in politics either as an opposition MP (a better, more sensible one than the emotional and rather silly Dr. Chee) or even become a 'dissident'. Yes you may need to be locked up for many years like Nelson Mandela to achieve what you want. But who said politics is easy. If you truly love Singapore and truly believe your countrymen want something different or better then the struggle will be worth it.

2. Live with it! Just get on with your life, be happy, make money (or not), take comfort in all the good aspects of Singapore and try to ignore the shortcomings.

We all have to do that with out countries of birth - I'd be the first to admit that the UK is not perfect, far from it and I've already alluded to the silly legal system we have over there, but my solution was simply to find a place on the planet where I 'was' happy and I'm pleased to say that unlike Steve I'm happy in Singapore, despite the repressive political cliimate. I'm not a Sillyporean so who cares about politics here anyway? I know the Straits Times would love to get hold of my contact and hold me up as a paragon of expat wisdom that Singapore is the perfect country - but that's not going to happen.

I am not endorsing Singapore's system (neither am I entitled to comment on it, as an outsider). I'm merely saying I'm contented with how my life has been here, whereas Steve evidently was not. So it goes!

And one more thing. I read with interest Steve's comment (and the transcript) of Tim Sebastian's Hard Talk interview with Goh Chok Tong. Ok, admittedly GCT stumbled and fumbled a bit because he's more used to the compliant/acolyte local style of press questioning. Yes, Sebastian can be a tough customer. But if think in any way that the Media in the UK and USA remain the doughty 'fourth estate' there to check and balance the politicians - you are just PLAIN WRONG! Have you ever seen GW's (few) press conferences where the hand-picked media are all eagerly sucking peanuts out of his ass?? Nonsense!

I applaud GCT for putting himself under Tim Sebastian's questioning, FOR WE WILL NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS SEE GW BUSH BEING SUBJECTED TO THE SAME EXPERIENCE - AND HE IS THE ONE PERSON IN THE WORLD WHO TRULY NEEDS TO BE CHECKED, BALANCED AND SCRUTINISED. Little Singapore doesn't have the capability of catapaulting the planet into the next global conflagration (ie. WW3). Bush and Blair - those paragons of democracy and freedom - DO!

Anonymous said...

Follow-on thoughts .. 'Human rights', 'freedom' and 'democracy' are just new words for the old old story of Western imperialism - the new big stick by which the powerful nations bend others to their will. We've seen that in Afghanistan and Iraq. It'll be coming to a Syria and an Iran in a theatre near you mighty soon.

What 'is' democracy anyway? By whose standard do we measure democracy? Arguably the only fully functional democracy occurred in 5th Century Athens. All the rest since then has been kingship, oligarchy, plutocracry under a perverted guise of faux democracy. We certainly don't have 'true' democracy in the UK or the United States. Democracy isn't about the richest political party being able to win through more intensive advertising and more glitzy conventions! That's just crap! That's just elective rotational oligarchy! Please show me a country that has democracy today, because I can't think of one.

So it helps a little to define one's terms before mouthing off about these things.

The US' next war will be against Iran. Excuse me, but Iran did have a fully functional 'democracy' under Mottasedeq before it was unceremoniously toppled by CIA intervention and the Shah (ie. 'king') was appointed to replace it. Go read "The President's Secret Wars" and learn how the CIA has waged war against popular democracry all over the world. Latin America's another good example: Guatemala had a nice incipient democracy back there in the 1950s, until US corporate interests became unhappy that their land rights were being impinged upon, at which time they called in the CIA to do they same as they did in Iran. Venezuele has a popular democracry and a popularly elected president, but no, Hugo Chavez doesn't toe Washington's line so he must go.

I am a little sick of seeing us Westerners impose our utterly notions of democracry on the rest of the world. That's why Steven needs to get his head out of his ass and, as a professional sociologist and academic, start getting his own backyard in order first (ie. UK society and politics) BEFORE he comments on Singapore society.

Anonymous said...

An example of the wonderful 'freedom and democracy' that the Iraqi people are enjoying now, c/o the British public (who are mostly ignorant morons these days anyway..)

Life Under American
Bombs In Iraq
By Dahr Jamail

One of the least reported aspects of the U.S. occupation of Iraq is the oftentimes indiscriminate use of air power by the American military. The Western mainstream media has generally failed to attend to the F-16 warplanes dropping their payloads of 500, 1,000, and 2,000-pound bombs on Iraqi cities -- or to the results of these attacks. While some of the bombs and missiles fall on resistance fighters, the majority of the casualties are civilian -- mothers, children, the elderly, and other unarmed civilians.

"Coalition troops and Iraqi security forces may be responsible for up to 60% of conflict-related civilian deaths in Iraq -- far more than are killed by insurgents, confidential records obtained by the BBC's Panorama programme reveal." As the BBC reported recently, these numbers were compiled by Iraq's Ministry of Health, in part because of the refusal of the Bush and Blair administrations to do so. In the case of Fallujah, where the U.S. military estimated 2,000 people were killed during the recent assault on the city, at least 1,200 of the dead are believed to have been non-combatant civilians.

"Some of my friends in Fallujah, their homes were attacked by airplanes so they left, and nobody s found them since," said Mehdi Abdulla in a refugee camp in Baghdad. His own home was bombed to rubble by American warplanes during the assault on Fallujah in November -- and in Iraq today, his experience is far from unique.

All any reporter has to do is cock an ear or look up to catch the planes roaring over Baghdad en route to bombing missions over Mosul, Fallujah and other trouble spots on a weekly - sometimes even a daily basis. It is simply impossible to travel the streets of Baghdad without seeing several Apache or Blackhawk helicopters buzzing the rooftops. Their rumbling blades are so close to the ground and so powerful that they leave wailing car alarms in their wake as they pass over any neighborhood.

With its ground troops stretched thin and growing haggard -- 30% of them, after all, are already on their second tour of duty in the brutal occupation of Iraq - U.S. military commanders appear to be relying more than ever on airpower to give themselves an edge. The November assault on Fallujah did not even begin until warplanes had, on a near-daily basis, dropped 500-1000 pound bombs on suspected resistance targets in the besieged city. During that period, fighter jets ripped through the air over Baghdad for nights on end, heading out on mission after mission to drop their payloads on Fallujah.

"Airpower remains the single greatest asymmetrical advantage the United States has over its foes," writes Thomas Searle, a military defense analyst with the Airpower Research Institute at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. "To make airpower truly effective against guerrillas in that war, we cannot wait for the joint force commander or the ground component commander to tell us what to do. Rather, we must aggressively develop and employ airpower's counterguerrilla capabilities."

"Aggressively employ airpower's capabilities" -- indeed they have.

"Even the Chickens and Sheep Are Frightened"

"The first day of Ramadan we went to the prayers and, just as the Imam said Allahu Akbar ("God is great"), the jets began to arrive." Abu Hammad was remembering the early stages of the November Fallujah campaign. "They came continuously through the night and bombed everywhere in Fallujah. It did not stop even for a moment."

The 35 year-old merchant is now a refugee living in a tent on the campus of the University of Baghdad along with over 900 other homeless Fallujans. "If the American forces did not find a target to bomb," he said, "they used sound bombs just to terrorize the people and children. The city stayed in fear; I cannot give you a picture of how panicked everyone was." As he spoke in a strained voice, his body began to tremble with the memories, "In the morning, I found Fallujah empty, as if nobody lived in it. It felt as though Fallujah had already been bombed to the ground. As if nothing were left."

When Abu Hammad says "nothing," he means it. It is now estimated that 75% of the homes and buildings in the city were destroyed either by warplanes, helicopters, or artillery barrages; most of the remaining 25% sustained at least some damage as well.

"Even the telephone exchange in Fallujah has been flattened," he added between quickening breaths because, as he remembers, as he makes the effort to explain, his rage grows. "Nothing works in Fallujah now!"

Several men standing with us, all of whom are refugees like Hammad, nod in agreement while staring off toward the setting sun to the west, the direction where their city once stood.

Throughout much of urban Iraq, people tell stories of being terrorized by American airpower, which is often loosed on heavily populated neighborhoods that have, in effect, been declared the bombing equivalents of free-fire zones.

"There is no limit to the American aggression," comments a sheikh from Baquba, a city 30 miles northeast of the capital. He agreed to discuss the subject of air power only on the condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals from the U.S. military.

"The fighter jets regularly fly so low over our city that you can see the pilots sitting in the cockpit," he tells me, using his hand to measure the skyline and indicate just how low he means. "The helicopters fly even lower, so low, and aim their guns at the people and this terrifies everyone. How can humans live like this? Even our animals, the chickens and sheep are frightened by this. We don't know why they do this to us."

"My Whole House Was Shaking"

The terror from the air began on the first day of the invasion in March, 2003.. "On March 19th at two AM, we were sleeping," Abdulla Mohammed, father of four children,, says softly as we sit in his modest home in Baghdad. "I woke up with a start to the enormous blasts of the bombs. All I could do was watch the television and see that everything was being bombed in Baghdad."

Near his home, a pile of concrete blocks and twisted support beams that once was a telephone exchange remains as an ugly reminder of how the war started for Baghdadis. "I was so terrified. My whole house was shaking," he continues, "and the windows were breaking. I was frightened that the ceiling would fall on us because of the bombs."

Nearly two years later, he still becomes visibly upset while describing what it felt like to live through that first horrific "shock and awe" onslaught from the air. "It was unbelievable to see things in my house jump into the air when the bombs landed. They were just so powerful." He pauses and holds his hands up in a gesture of helplessness before he says, "Nowhere felt safe and there was nothing we could do. People were looking for bread and vegetables so they could survive in their homes, but they didn't know where to go because nowhere was safe."

He lives with his wife and sons in central Baghdad, but at a location several miles from where the heaviest bombings in the Bush administration's shock-and-awe campaign hit. Nevertheless, even at that distance in the heavily populated capital, it was a nightmare. "Everyone was so terrified. Even the guards who were on the streets left for their homes because everything was being destroyed," he says. "The roads were closed because there were so many explosions."

"My family was shivering with fear," he adds, staring at the floor. "Everyone was praying for God to keep the Americans from bombing them. There was no water, no electricity, and all we had were the extra supplies that we had bought before."

Like the sheikh from Baquba, he and his family continue to live in fear of what American warplanes and helicopters might at any moment unleash. "Now, there are always helicopters hovering over my neighborhood. They are so loud and fly so close. My sons are afraid of them. I hear the fighter jets so often."

He suddenly raises his hushed voice and you can hear the note of panic deep within it. "Even last night the fighter jets were so low over my home. We never know if they will bomb." After pausing, he concludes modestly, "We can only hope that they won't."

"Even the Mosques Quit Announcing Evening Prayers"

There is no way to discuss American reliance on air power in a war now largely being fought inside heavily populated cities without coming back to Fallujah. While an estimated 200,000 refugees from that city continue to live in refugee tent camps or crowded into houses (with up to 25 families crammed under a single roof), horrendous tales of what it was like to live under the bombs in the besieged city are only now beginning to emerge.

Ahmed Abdulla, a gaunt 21 year-old Fallujan, accompanied most of his family on their flight from the city, navigating the perilous neighborhoods nearest the cordon the American military had thrown around their besieged city. On November 8, he made it to Baghdad with his mother, his three sisters (aged 26, 20, and 18), and two younger brothers (10 and 12). His father, however, was not permitted to leave Fallujah by the U.S. military because he was of "fighting age." Ahmed was only allowed to exit the besieged city because his mother managed to convince an American soldier that, without him, his sisters and younger brothers would be at great risk traveling alone. Fortunately, the soldier understood her plea and let him through.

Ahmed's father told the family that he would instead stay to watch over their house. "The house is all we have, nothing else," commented Ahmed despondently. "We have no land, no livestock, nothing."

Recounting an odyssey of flight typical of those of many Fallujans, Ahmed told me his father had driven them in the family car across winding, desert roads out the eastern side of the city, considered the quietest area when it came to the fighting. They stopped the car a kilometer before the American checkpoints and walked the rest of the way, holding up white "flags" so the soldiers wouldn't mistake them for insurgents. "We walked with our hands up, expecting them to shoot at us anytime," said Ahmed softly, "It was so bad for us at that time and there were so many families trying to get out."

Those inhabitants still trapped in the city had only two hours each day to emerge and try to find food. Most of the time their electricity was cut and water ran in the faucets only intermittently. "Every night we told each other goodbye because we expected to die," he said. "Every night there was extremely heavy bombing from the jets. My house shook when bombs hit the city, and the women were crying all of the time." In his mind he still couldn't shake the buzzing sound of unmanned surveillance drone aircraft passing overhead, and the constant explosions of the "concussion bombs" (or so he called them) that he claimed the Americans fired just to keep people awake.

"I saw a dead man near our home," he explained, "But I could barely see his face because there were so many flies on him. The flies were so thick and I couldn't bear the smell. All around his body, his blood had turned the ground black. I don't know how he died."

The sighting of such bodies, often shot by American snipers, was a commonplace around the city. They lay unburied in part because many families dared not venture out to one of the two football stadiums that had been converted into "Martyr Cemeteries." Instead, they buried their own dead in their gardens and left the other bodies where they lay.

"So we stayed inside most of the time and prayed. The more the bombs exploded the more we prayed and cried." So Ahmed described life inside Fallujah as it was being destroyed. Each night in the besieged city seemed, as he put it, to oscillate between an eerie quiet and sudden bursts of heavy fighting. "Even the mosques quit announcing evening prayers at times," he said. "And then it would be so quiet -- except for the military drones buzzing overhead and the planes of the Americans which dropped flares."

It was impossible, he claimed, to sleep at night because any sound -- an approaching fighter jet or helicopter -- and immediately everyone would be awake. "We would begin praying together loudly and strongly. For God to protect us and to take the fighting away from our city and our home."

Any semblance of normalcy had, of course, long since left the environs of Fallujah; schools had been closed for weeks; there were dire shortages of medicine and medical equipment; and civilians still trapped in the city had a single job -- somehow to stay alive. When you emerged, however briefly, nothing was recognizable. "You could see areas where all the houses were flattened. There was just nothing left," he explained. "We could get water at times, but there was no electricity, ever."

His family used a small generator that they ran sparingly because they could not get more fuel. "We ran out of food after they Americans started to invade the city, so we ate flour, and then all we had was dirty waterso eventually what choice did we have but to try to get out?"

"Why do the Americans bomb all of us in our homes," asked Ahmed as our interview was ending. And you could feel his puzzlement. "Even those of us who do not fight, we are suffering so much because of the U.S. bombs and tanks. Can't they see this is turning so many people against them?"

"I Saw Cluster Bombs Everywhere"

Fifty-three year-old Mohammad Ali, who is living in a tent city in Baghdad, was one of those willing to address the suffering he experienced as a result of the November bombings. Mohammad is a bear of a man, his kind face belying his deep despair as he leans on a worn, wooden cane. He summed up his experience this way: "We did not feel that there was an Eid [the traditional feasting time which follows Ramadan] after Ramadan this year because our situation was so bad. All we had was more fasting. I asked God to save us but our house was bombed and I lost everything."

Refugees aren't the only people ready to describe what occurred in Fallujah as a result of the loosing of jets, bombers, and helicopters on the city. Burhan Fasa'a, a gaunt 33 year-old journalist is a cameraman for the Lebanese Broadcasting Company. He was inside the city during the first eight days of the November assault. "I saw at least 200 families whose homes had collapsed on them, thanks to American bombs," he said. "I saw a huge number of people killed in the northern part of the city and most of them were civilians."

Like so many others I've talked with who made it out of Fallujah, he described scenes of widespread death and desolation in what had not so long before been a modest-sized city. Most of these resulted from bombings that - despite official announcements emphasizing how "targeted" and "precise" they were - seemed to those on the receiving end unbearably indiscriminate.

"There were so many people wounded, and with no medical supplies, people died from their wounds," he said. He also spoke of cluster bombs, which, he -- and many other Fallujan witnesses -- claim, were used by the military in November as well as during the earlier failed Marine siege of the city in April. The dropping of cluster bombs in areas where civilians live is a direct contravention of the Geneva Conventions.

"I saw cluster bombs everywhere," he said calmly, "and so many bodies that were burned -- dead with no bullets in them."

A doctor, who fled Fallujah after the attacks began and is now working in a hospital in a small village outside the city, spoke in a similar vein (though she requested that her name not be used): "They shot all the sheep. Any animals people owned were shot," she said. "Helicopters shot all the animals and anything that moved in the villages surrounding Fallujah."

"I saw one dead body I remember all too well. My first where there were bubbles on the skin, and abnormal coloring, and burn holes in his clothing." She also described treating patients who, she felt certain, had been struck by chemical and white-phosphorous-type weapons. "And I saw so many bodies with these strange signs, and none of them with bullet holes or obvious injuries, just dead with discoloring and that bubbled skin, dark blue skin with bubbles on it, and burned clothing. I saw this with my own eyes. These bodies were in the center of Fallujah, in old Fallujah."

Like Burhan, while in the city she too witnessed many civilian buildings bombed to the ground. "I saw two schools bombed, and all the houses around them too."

"Why Was Our Family Bombed?"

I was offered another glimpse of what it's like to live in a city under attack from the air by two sisters, Muna and Selma Salim, also refugees from Fallujah and the only survivors of a family of ten, the rest of whom were killed when two rockets fired from a U.S. fighter jet hit their home. Their mother, Hadima, 65 years old, died in the attack along with her son Khalid, an Iraqi police captain, his sister Ka'ahla and her 22 year-old son, their pregnant 45 year-old sister Adhra'a, her husband Samr, who had a doctorate in religious studies, and their four year-old son Amorad.

Muna, still exhausted from her ordeal, wept almost constantly while telling her story. Even her abaya, which fully covers her, could not hide her shaking body as waves of grief rolled through her tiredness. She was speaking of her dead sister Artica. "I can't get the image out of my mind of her fetus being blown out of her body," said Muna. Artica was seven months pregnant when, on November 10, the rockets struck. "My sister Selma and I survived only because we were staying at our neighbor's house that night," she said, sobbing, still unable to reconcile her survival with the death of most of the rest of her family in the fierce pre-assault bombing of the city.

"There were no fighters in our area, so I don't know why they bombed our home," cried Muna. "When this happened there were ongoing full-scale assaults from the air and tanks were attacking our city, so we slipped out of the eastern side of Fallujah and came to Baghdad."

Selma, Muna's 41 year-old sister, recounted scenes of destruction in the city -- houses that had been razed by countless air strikes and the stench of decaying bodies that swirled through the air borne on the area's dry, dusty winds.

"The rubble from the bombed houses covered up the bodies, and nobody could get to them because people were too afraid even to drive a bulldozer!" She held out her hands as she spoke, as if to ask her God how such things could happen. "Even walking out of your house was just about impossible because of the snipers."

Both sisters described their last months in Fallujah as a nightmarish existence. It was a city where fighters controlled the area, medicine and food were often in short supply, and the thumping concussions of U.S. bombs had become a daily reality. Rocket-armed attack helicopters rattled low over the desert as they approached the city only adding to the nightmarish landscape.

"Even when the bombs were far away, glasses would fall off our shelves and break," exclaimed Muna. Going to market, as they had to, in the middle of the day to buy food for their family, both sisters felt constant fear of warplanes roaring over the sprawling city. "The jets flew over so often," said Selma, "but we never knew when they would drop their bombs."

They described a desolate city of closed shops and mostly empty streets on which infrequent terrorized residents could be spotted simply wandering around not knowing what to do. "Fallujah was like a ghost town most of the time," was the way Muna put it. "Most families stayed inside their houses all the time, only going out for food when they had to." Like many others, their family soon found that it needed to ration increasingly scarce food and water, "Usually we were very hungry because we didn't want to eat our food, or drink all of the water." She paused, took a deep breath undoubtedly thinking of her dead parents and siblings, and added, "We never knew if we would be able to get more, so we tried to be careful."

I met the two sisters in the Baghdad home of their uncle. During the interview, both of them often stared at the ground silently until another detail would come to mind to be added to their story. Unlike Muna who was visibly emotional, Selma generally spoke in a flat voice without affect that might indeed have emerged from some dead zone. "Our situation then was like that of so many from Fallujah," she told me. "None of us could leave because we had nowhere to go and no money."

"Why was our family bombed?" pleaded Muna, tears streaming down her cheeks, "There were never any fighters in our area!"

Today fighting continues on nearly a daily basis around Fallujah, as well as in many other cities throughout Iraq; and for reporters as well as residents of Baghdad, the air war is an omnipresent reality. Helicopters buzz the tops of buildings and hover over neighborhoods in the capital all the time, while fighter jets often scorch the skies.

Below them, traumatized civilians await the next onslaught, never knowing when it may occur.

Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who has been reporting from Iraq since November, 2003. He writes for the Sunday Herald in Scotland, Inter Press Service, The NewStandard internet news site and the Ester Republic among other publications. He is the special correspondent in Iraq for Flashpoints Radio, as well as reporting for Democracy Now!, the BBC, Irish Public Radio, Radio South Africa, Radio Hong Kong, and many other stations throughout the world.

Copyright 2005 Dahr Jamail.
All Rights Reserved

Agagooga said...

People deserve the government they get? This fatalistic point of view can be used to justify institutionalised racism and genocide.

The Tutsis in Rwanda deserved to be butchered.

The Jews in Germany deserved to be sent to concentration camps.

The Chinese in China deserved to be ruled over by the Qing Emperors.

Agagooga said...

Most of those who advocate democracy and human rights are horrified by Iraq, mind you. "The West" is not a monolithic whole, with a uniform opinion and mindset. Bear in mind that at least half of the USA disapproves of Bush and his policies.

Anonymous said...

Yes, sad to say that Singaporeans truly deserve the Govt they have. Until the majority of them are mature enough to focus their attention span a little further beyond where to eat next and which po-piah is the best, and throw the 'out of bounds markers' out into the gutter with a flourish, then they will simply continue to be bullied and cajoled like babies. And if most people are willing to go along with the system you have here (as seems obvious to a long term resident like me) then, hey-ho! you're going to have this system for many years to come.

Do you think the British working people won voting rights and union membership rights by merely debating with the establishment powers that be? No, we had attrocities like the Peterloo Massacre and so forth before any rights were granted. It was a long, hard (and violent) struggle. And votes for women, do you know about the suffragette movement and how many of them sacrificed themselves literally for the women's vote?

Politics is power. REAL power. Let's not forget that simple reality. You don't get any sort of power, political or otherwise - or even the power to speak your mind openly and freely GIVEN to you just like that. You have to fight for it. So it goes!

And of course I'm not condoning what happened in Rwanda, that's nonsense (btw, I can remember the actual events, not just from the recent movie Hotel Rwanda!) but please don't talk to me about the Jews being gassed .. as far as I'm concerned they're doing the same thing to the Palestinians. You'd think a race which has suffered through so much would have learned some collective compassion, but no.

soci said...

"Like the Pakistani, West African or indeed Singaporean who comes to my home country of Great Britain to study or work, and mouths off about the society and its people, they're just not entitled to do so and if they don't like it they can piss off home where they came. " Dear 'fellow-brit',Is there a sense of racism in your writing or am I missing something?

As for BW, asking me to respond to his 'argument' It would be nice if you would begin by picking on specific points of my argument or blog that you wish to criticise. Rather than simply saying I 'hate' Singapore. Life is too short for 'hate' of any form.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter what race or colour, the point is that non-British people don't have to stay here if they disagree with the way things are done (and it's the same in Singapore).

Let me put it another way, if someone from down the street moved into your house and started going around saying, "I don't like your choice of wallpaper, or your kitchen is really crap, etc." you'd not be best pleased.

Racisim is just another vapid word to throw around like 'democracy' & 'freedom'.

It's used by bleating liberals the way that Jewish people use the word 'anti-semitic' (in other words, over-used these days, to the extent of rendering the term meaningless).

Many of the problems of the present age are caused because terms are bandied around without being properly defined. GW Bush insists with that chimp-like expression on his petulant face that he's "bringing democracy to the world" but who's version of democracy and does anyone really want it anyway? It will be this kind of Orwellian Newspeak that will get us into the next world war, pronto!

Life is indeed too short for hatred of any kind. So why spend your life immersed in hatred of Singapore's political system when you have no active stake in that system? This is obviously your little interest area I know, but for a professional academic you need to grow up a bit and realise how futile it is to bash another country's system when the majority of people in that country are obviously content with the status quo.

Anonymous said...

Citizens deserve the government they get, some say..
Well, then one can only blame the Burmese, North Koreans, Cubans, Tibetans, Saudis, Syrians, Iranians, Zimbaweans for their consent in living under authoritarian rule. Glad that we cleared that up.

I am a Singaporean citizen and I have been residing in Singapore for the last 30 years.

On face value, Singapore seems like a nice island. The streets look clean, the tap water is drinkable, the airport is magnificent, the public transport is effcient and the government is incorruptible (or so they claim).

There are some who go as far to say that S'pore is "darn great!". They are usually one of three groups of people...
1) Holiday-makers and transit travellers who visit S'pore for a week or less.
2) High-income earning expatriates living the lap of luxury.
3) Members of the business or political elite.

Singapore is "darn great" only for those who keep their noses out of politics, civil liberties, human rights, social justice and other such "touchy" subjects. Life can be "darn great" in totalitarian countries like Cuba and China too if you are a member of the above three groups or that you simply stay away from politics.

Here are 20 facts about Singapore and I'll leave it to all here to judge if you would like to spend the rest of your life here is this island of 4 million people.

1. The Singapore Government has the right to arrest and detain ANYONE in Singapore without trial under the Internal Security Act. Here is a quote from Lee Kuan Yew in 1986, "We have to lock up people, without trial, whether they are communists, whether they are language chauvinists, whether they are religious extremists. If you don't do that, the country would be in ruins." The longest serving prisoner under the ISA is Chia Thye Poh. He was detained from 1966 to 1998, a total of 32 years. Currently, there are 37 suspected terror JI members in detention.

2. Singaporeans live in political fear. In 2001, the government-controlled daily Straits Times reported that 93% of Singaporeans are afraid to speak up for fear of repercussions. Singapore's Internal Security Department, our very own version of the KGB, conducts extensive survelliance on its own citizens, a fact confirmed by the US State Department,

http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2003/27788.ht ...
3. Singapore bans all forms of public protests and demonstrations. Opposition leaders Chee Soon Juan and Gandhi Ambalam were arrested on May 1st 2002 for attempting to stage a rally. In 2003, six people who showed up outside the US Embassy in to protest the Iraq War were arrested.

http://www.singaporedemocrat.org/news_display.php? ...
4. The Singapore media is controlled by the ruling PAP Government. Accoding to Reporters Without Borders, Singapore ranks 144th in press freedom rankings, just 22 places above bottom-placed North Korea.

http://policestate.blogspot.com/2004/07/govt-owner ...
5. Singapore does not have an independent elections commission. The elections department comes directly under the control of the Prime Minister's Office. According to electionworld.org, Singapore is a pseudo-democracy where despite "a democratic constitution the opposition doesn't have a fair chance at elections."


6. Singapore has the highest rate of executions in the world.
Singapore also has one of the world's highest prision population.

http://web.amnesty.org/report2004/sgp-summary-eng< ...
7. Singapore government routinely file defamation suits against its critics.

http://www.hrdc.net/sahrdc/hrfeatures/HRF55.htm ...

8. Singapore law requires that all groups and associations to register with the government. Singapore has only one independent political NGO, Think Centre, and it was openly branded as an "opponent" by the ex-PM Goh Chok Tong. There are no human rights group in Singapore.

9. The Singapore government invests the country's financial reserves through its investment companies Temasek Holdings Ltd and Government Investment Corporation (GIC) whose accounts and portfolios are state secrets. Lee Kuan Yew is chairman of GIC and daughter-in-law Ho Ching is CEO of Temasek. Ho is wife to current premier and son of Lee Kuan Yew, Lee Hsien Loong, who also sits on GIC as deputy chair. His younger brother, Lee Hsien Yang is CEO of Singapore's telco giant, Singtel.

"It is highly risky for Singapore to place virtually its entire reserves under the management of a single entity, particularly one marked by low transparency," said Manu Bhaskaran, a partner in Centennial Group Inc.

http://www.singapore-window.org/sw03/030808a2.htm< ... http://www.singapore-window.org/sw03/031205re.htm< ... http://www.sfdonline.org/Link%20Pages/Link%20Folde ...
9. Singapore has no laws to protect the privacy of the individual. In 1999, the Singapore Police admitted to secretly scanning the home computers of 200,000 residents. A law was passed just before elections to restrict political campaigning on short messages service in cellphones.

http://policestate.blogspot.com/2004/07/singapore- ...
10. Most low to middle-income Singaporeans cannot afford to retire. "The average Singaporean worker would have a staggering 75% of his assets locked in housing upon retirement, compared with only 20% in the U.S. By the age of 62, the average Singapore worker would be classically cash-poor and asset-rich. His CPF savings would generate a paltry income worth a quarter of his pre-retirement pay, barely enough to cover subsistence."
- Straits Times, Feb 5 2003

11. Low-income Singapore workers receive Third World wages as government ministers are the world's highest paid. "Between 1999 and 2000, the richest 10 percent of the population saw their incomes rise by another 8.8 percent, and the poorest 10 percent registered a 54 percent drop, from $133 a month to $61." (ST Feb 11 2001) Meanwhile, according to a 2000 report by AWSJ, Singapore's Prime Minister is paid 4 times more than the US President. The Singapore goverrment does not disclose ministerial salaries to the Singapore public.
1. Singapore Prime Minister's Basic Salary US$1,100,000
2. United States of America President: US$200,000

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sg_Review/message/12 ...
12. Household debt in Singapore had surged to 174 per cent of personal disposable income in 2000 - higher than in the developed economies such as the US, UK and Japan. Source : The New Paper Feb 4 2003

13. Thousands of poor Singaporeans cannot afford to pay utility bills."Thousands can't pay utility bills, many face power cut. 16,000 households were in arrears of three months or more in February."
- Straits Times, Apr 12 2003

14. In 1999, reuters agency reported that 1921 families in Singapore could not afford to send their children to school.
http://www.singapore-window.org/sw02/020303af.htm< .

15. Low-income foreign workers in Singapore, particularly domestic maids, have little rights. Thousands of poor Asian women flock to Singapore to work as domestic helpers, but some end up as victims of extreme physical abuse and even murder.
http://www.singapore-window.org/sw02/020724ag.htm< ...
16. Singapore has at least one suicide a day. "Around 300 to 400 suicides are committed in Singapore each year, which works out to one a day...Financial problems accounted for a third of Singapore male suicides and 12 per cent of female suicides between 2000 and 2002." - Straits times, Apr 4 2004

17. More children are receiving psychiatric help. "Last year, about 14,000 children were seen by psychiatrists at the Institute of Mental Health, of which 2,233 were new cases ... these figures have stayed relatively consistent over the last five years." - Straits Times, Apr 10, 2002

"One in three children between nine to twelve years say that life is not worth living because of the fear of academic failure." (AFP, Mar 2 2001)

18. Structural unemployment continues to plague older Singapore workers in their 40s and 50s. "Singapore Jobless Still High Despite Econ Rebound.Among the resident labor force, the non-adjusted unemployment rate was 5.9%, up from 4.3% in March. An estimated 103,000 residents were unemployed in June 2004." - Dow Jones, Jul 30 2004

"There is going to be a lot of structural unemployment, and it is going to grow." - Senior Minister of State Matthias Yao, AP, Jul 7 2004

19. The Singapore government has cordial relationships with dictators.
SINGAPORE'Ss links with the Burmese junta are vital in propping up the military regime and channelling drug profits into legitimate business.http://www.singapore-window.org/burma.htm
< ...

Kim Jong-Il has a bank account in Singapore.
http://www.singaporedemocrat.org/news_display.php? ...
Robert Mugabe goes shopping in Singapore.
http://policestate.blogspot.com/2004/07/murderous- ...
20. Singaporeans expressed desire to leave the country. Spaek to any Singaporean in their 20s or 30s and many will express wish to live out the rest of their lives overseas. Many, like this author here, have yet accumulated enough savings to move abroad for good.

"One in four among 510 polled want to live out their old age overseas." - Straits Times, Aug 11 2003

"More packing their bags to leave. The number of Singaporeans who migrated to the US almost tripled between 1998 and 2001." - Straits Times, Feb 27 2003

21. Political opposition in Singapore are virtually non-existant. In the last General Elections, only 23 of the 84 seats were contested by the opposition. Many Singaporeans live in public housing run by the PAP government and work in companies related to the government. They fear being associated with political opposition.

Singapore's most famous opposition leader, JB Jeyeratnam, has been bankrupted by defamation suits. Despite being an "icon to the dissidents" of Singapore, he now peddles his books on the streets just to raise money to pay off his bankruptcy. Another opposition leader, Chee Soon Juan, is now facing bankruptcy after being sued by Lee Kuan Yew. Like JBJ, he also peddles books outside malls. He is now countersuing Lee, perhaps the first person to do so in Singapore courts.
A Singapore dissident, even one as iconic as JBJ, ekes out an isloated existence.

"If I have to shoot 200,000 students to save China from another 100 years of disorder, so be it."
- Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, 2004

Anonymous said...

1) Do you have evidence that the government is hacking the Singapore Review. You're making a big accusation without any evidence. Please also see (18)
2) Your predilection for picking articles that reflect issues which may be controversial to you but not controversial at all to Singaporeans. And your tendency to make them sound as if we've gone wrong without any good argument if any at all
a) John Howard appeals for life of Australian (news article without argument; never mind that a lot of Singaporeans are for the death penalty; as for the comment that you made that I should not hold you accountable for your distasteful title, you say "where is the virgil held at Changi" or something like that. With that you simply avoid answering the charge that you have been offensive and perhaps you don't really understand what the rule of law is about. You do have laws in the UK don't you? How many posts do you have on that without any argument or substantiation?
b) Your love for posting things stuff from the Singapore Review. GLC, Singapore spending
i. Hey is any of these new?
ii. Some of them are clearly prejudiced ("scam after scam?")
c) the Taiwan visit
3) Almost all your posts, original or copied are anti-government or anti-singaporean in nature. Please try to list those which aren't because I'm having a hard time finding them.
4) If you care to, do you mind telling me is there ANY controversial issue in Singapore in which you AGREE with the government.
5) There is no attempt to discuss assertions you make of nepotism, despotism and "repression". Is it fair to assume that you collect only anti-Singaporean articles without any "critical thinking" which is so important to you. Please show me any real *discussion* you try to engage in.
6) If it is your argument that you do not have to discuss anything and that the linked articles reflect your true views then I am forced to conclude that you disagree with almost everything remotely controversial in Singapore that the government is doing. That is quite a feat even among the most anti-PAP Singaporeans.
7) you seem to have a problem with Singaporean students - eg. the post on the student who asked you to do the thinking for her and also the post about the student complaining about lecturers' attire. I have not seen such things happening and I have studied here for a long time. I would have dismissed this as funny, an exception and not reflective of Singaporeans (after all I'm sure shit happens in the UK too right? Right?) rather than instructive.
8) I will reiterate my belief that your suggestion that you re-thought your career choice is fake and seems to be nothing but an attempt to sensationalise and make us look bad. I find it difficult to believe that you, as a "thinking" "adult", would be so easily discouraged to that point. Furthermore, you have nothing but an anecdote to show that a grand total of one student does not want to think. I'm sure out of sheer statistical accident there would be something similar in your place of birth - maybe not related to critical thinking but rather some other crap that you just don't bother to say. Tell me, how many students tell the lecturers to think for them. How come I haven't met such students? Yet you seem to make it seem that they are all over the place.
9) You use words like "repressive regime" but did you care to justify them? One of your reply was "Why has Singapore got newspapers and media not controlled by the government, since I left? Are you not at ease with the idea of living in a 'Repressive Regime'?" And you think this "or my preferred title, BIG BROTHER IS REAL. If you don't feel paranoid, that you are being watched, then you are living in 'lah-lah-land'." Is very funny? And the article that follows which you claim our civil liberties are being needlessly reduced in light of terrorism is misconstrued. I think anyone who had served the army, (oh have you?) know that additional measures had been taken after 9/11
10) Any justification of any controversial issue is immediately dismissed as PAP propaganda. Eg. See the http://singabloodypore.blogspot.com/2004/12/mentor-lee-defends-media-curbs.html#comments
11) Your answer to a comment asking why there are so few comments is that people fear of "guilt by association". Have you bothered to check out other pages recently?
12) Two articles from The Star which is from Malaysia. Hardly the bastion of democracy itself.
13) While I would buy into your suggestion that elections favour the incumbent your November 2004 copied-and-paste article, perhaps you would have liked to justify your claims.
14) Your hit and run approach. Your preface to the "fascism" article. So are you saying that Singapore is a fascist state or not. Very clever of you to use this approach: "Oh I'm not saying this but…", "while I am not claiming that … but.." So what are you claiming? What are you saying?
15) Your Pranay Gupte article does not seem to have the follow-up that cast doubt on his claims and character. Shouldn't you have provided a more balanced view?
16) Care to explain the point of posting the 8 nov 2004 article from AFP? Is this one of the "Singapore does wrong no matter what"?
17) Your comment that "Among Singapore's intellectual elite it is VERY unfashionable (to criticise the PAP). Which is a problem in terms of academic autonomy." Is clearly untrue. This is certainly not the case among young Singaporeans but you may not be aware of it because you have such a low opinion of them anyway. Anyway, it is also not true that no one in academic circles criticises the PAP. I'm surprised that even students I've talked to are more aware of the existence of quite a number of clearly anti-PAP academics.
18) Are you claiming that prozac is being added into New Water to make me happy during the National Day rally for the PAP. Yes or no? Or is it a joke? This sure adds to one of the "I'm not saying anything but…" list.
Finally, please stop using the darn movie as an excuse for using "bloody" in association with us. My primary school teacher actually used the word "you bloody fool" almost everyday. Does that give me a right to call all educators bloody fools? If yes, then I shall start with one particular person today. Also, I shall, in the style of our great saviour, assert that the primary two teacher made me re-think whether I should continue with my education.

I have spent two days on this already and I'm quite tired but I cannot resist your call for the specifics so here's some of them. It is not possible for me to cover everything though. Thank you for your time

Anonymous said...

that was from me, bw.

I am interested in your reply steven but i no longer wish to visit your site for reasons already clear.
If you can, please email me your reply at bwbwbwbw@gmail.com. your fans are also entitled to flame me or send me hate mail.


soci said...

so you've read the blog, well done, now read the articles and follow the links. I have no intention of emailing you. In case you haven't noticed, there are others here who discuss and critise articles. I line them up, they knock'em down.

It was a pleasure reading your views that differ from my own. Thank you for sharing them with US. After all its about an interaction between many.

Oh and by the way, I notice you have not mentioned your name or identification. At least have the 'balls' to stand up for what you say and argue. Or are you afraid of someone or something?

Anonymous said...

There are some who go as far to say that S'pore is "darn great!". They are usually one of three groups of people...

1) Holiday-makers and transit travellers who visit S'pore for a week or less.
2) High-income earning expatriates living the lap of luxury.
3) Members of the business or political elite.

Firstly, let me disabuse you of the idea that I fall into any of the above three categories. I've resided in Singapore now for 12 years, with perhaps no more than 5 visits to the UK in that entire time. I'm not a corporate expatriate living high off the hog (I hate those types too!); instead I run my own modest business. I cannot under any stretch of the imagination be described as a member of the business or political elite.

Secondly, if you re-read my posts you'll see that I'm on record as saying that I agree with Steve's (and your own) views as regards the degree of social & political control in Singapore.

What I don't agree with is a non-Singaporean going out of his way to blast Singapore society in such a deliberate and structured way as having an entire blog devoted to the topic. If a Singaporean wants to critique his own nation, that's fine. I wouldn't want a Singaporean to say "the UK system's crap" and I wouldn't want to go around doing that about Singapore. There's plenty wrong about UK politics and society, but that's my prerogative as a British national to critique, not anyone else's.

I'll let you into a secret about human nature. The only reason Steve has an axe to grind about the Singapore system is because he's unhappy in himself. He came here on a 3 year exchange programme and probably wished he could have stayed longer!! After all, we may have social repression, but we've also got - amongst other things - great year-round cheerful sunny weather, beaches, access to tropical paradises all around us, happening nightlife and great looking & feminine women (have you ever seen Scottish girls?) Steve probably wished he could have stayed longer! Instead, he's stuck back in dreary Edinburgh, where it's probably rainy & cold, with the rest of the miserable Scots.

When you're an unhappy person in yourself, you find fault with everything at home and abroad. When you're contented and integrated about your life, you don't have time to grind axes about other peoples' countries or systems, pure and simple.

Now Anon has listed down many shortcomings about Spore society. Great! I agree with many of the issues you raise. I can't do anything about it because a) I'm not a Sporean & b) if I didn't they'd kick me out sooner than you can say "This is my country, this is my flag..." And what's more, I don't care anyway.

Now if YOU feel so strongly that these things are wrong, my question to you is "what are YOU going to do about it aside from moaning in Steve's Blog?"


Anonymous said...

It takes really long to hear a reply from you Steven. I know you are a busy man and everything. Even after my initial round of posts you seem to be hesitant in making a direct reply. Your reply on the other site isn't even a direct reply to any of my questions and seem to be a deflection to other issues. So I don't know what you mean by "interaction".

I think *I* have done a better job answering questions on my comments and my post than you have.

So far you still don't have a reply to any of my points.

As for your last point, I thank you for shooting yourself in the foot. Your own record is in the news and for everyone to see so stop trying to whitewash history.

I knew you wouldn't have the courtesy to email me your response. You could have posted it here and emailed me your reply but no you chose not to simply because you wanted to have the last say.

I have no time for people like you. I've spent considerable time trying to engage you in a discussion and you refused. Goodbye Steven.


Anonymous said...

Oh. I have said this but this is worth repeating. You asked me to challenge you on the issues. I did just that as well as justify my criticism of your site. I even answered the comments of other readers.

So after asking me to give you a more detailed account of my points you simply thank me with nothing concrete to say? So I've been right all along!

Steven, Steven. Doesn't look good you know?
I should have known that you have no substance.
You know when students hand up empty sheets the their lecturers, their lecturers will usually ask them to at least "try".


Anonymous said...

bw, I thought you said u wouldnt come back? how did u manage to post then?

and i must congratulate you for your good attempt at switching tact when Steve refused to reply your email which u specially created just for the occassion.

of course, now that u've read this (yes you are reading this), you won't reply to 'prove your point' that you have said your last goodbyes. Remember to clear your history cache as well.


Anonymous said...

The fact that bw came back is irrelevant. Look at the content of his arguments.

True Flight said...

Much amused by the line of arguments in this thread.

Personally, I think it's quite irrelevant whether Steven was born & bred in the UK, or in Singapore, or in Africa. The focus should be on the points raised and the issues discussed, not on the identity of the person who raised or is discussing them.

If you really must know, there is a constant & large pool of Singaporeans raising plenty of anti-PAP arguments ... right there on the Young PAP Forum itself! Many of the arguments raised there are the same as those which Steven raises here. Which is not surprising. They're talking about the same country, after all/

And if you think that Steven sounds rabid, heh, you obviously haven't visited the Singaporeans at the YPAP Forum.

So what? The identity of the person raising the iisues and the points is not important. The issues and the points - THAT's what's relevant.

soci said...

BW, a man, a fellow human being is probably going to be killed by your government. And you want me to go through almost every post I have made for the last month, to provide you with empirical evidence that will meet your own personal epistemology. Are you OK? Did I make you upset, or make you cry?

Are you angry with your life and the situation you have found yourself in and like a child you lash out and externalise.

Did the truth hurt?

soci said...

BW, my site has made an argument, and you can read those arguments in each post, with evidence or at least supporting statements from others.

If you feel that the claims made and supported here are false, then please show your empirical evidence or supporting satements from others to help falsify my claims.

This is a site that I write and the articles interest me, I put an article on line because I like it.

YOu seem to have a lot to say, if you start your own site I would be more than happy to visit and comment. Start a blog, (very easy) and start writing articles that are nice about Singapore. You could call it a nice name to. Like Singabunnyrabbitspore....

Anonymous said...

Steve, stop harping on the fact that one man has chosen to smuggle drugs, thus infringing laws which everyone knows Singapore has.

We can blame a number of people for his plight:

His brother's creditors
His brother for racking up so much debt that his twin has to endanger his life and also cause a lot of harm to others to pay it off.

Every single bank the family approached which denied them loans.

The drug lord.

How can you blame the country which states its laws very clearly from the onstart, and which is gives the convicts a fair trial before actually putting them to death? No one who has drugs accidentally slipped into his bag will be sentenced to death.

When you fail students who don't study, do you blame the student or yourself?

Anonymous said...

And stop saying we call Singapore a fairy land. Every kid KNOWS that if you do something like vandalising a fleet of expensive cars you get caned.

There's nothing sinister about putting drug traffickers to death. Tragic, yes. A real pity, yes. But cruel, I don't think so. I find it scary how you can look only at the surface of things and put his picture there to influence our discretion. And not consider the effect of his 300+ grams of heroin on its consumers. Perhaps drugs IS good for us, as you have unconventionally pointed out, but I don't have to be brainwashed by our government's anti drug ads, I can just look at US shows on Yasmine Bleeth, Kurt Cobain, Robert Downey Jr, Matthew Perry to see for myself what drugs does to people. Perhaps you have some way of telling addicts to take disciplined doses of these drugs, then please introduce this technique to regulators all over the world.

If one smuggle drugs, one may be put to death. What's so sneaky about that rule? It's not as if it's a hidden clause which you only find out about after you get stopped by the anti narcotics bureau. So stop saying that we're pretending to be good and clean.

There's no such thing as an utopia, and Singapore is not. We believe in cause and effect. It IS true that no one has yet gunned down an entire classroom of students, and I can go jogging outside right now (At 11pm) and feel completely safe. All this isn't by coincidence. It's a result of hard work and a lot of criticism by people who want to enjoy safe Singapore but diss the system that keeps it that way.

Anonymous said...

“BW, a man, a fellow human being is probably going to be killed by your government. And you want me to go through almost every post I have made for the last month, to provide you with empirical evidence that will meet your own personal epistemology. Are you OK? Did I make you upset, or make you cry? Are you angry with your life and the situation you have found yourself in and like a child you lash out and externalise. Did the truth hurt?”

Steve, my objection is not that you’re raising issues. This has been repeated countless of times if you really did read what was being said. As for sieving through all your posts, that is because you *asked* me for something concrete and I delivered so why are you complaining now? As for making me cry yada yada, I shall ignore your lack of good upbringing and try to reply to you in a more civil manner. This is even though your first thought of Singapore is the word “bloody.”

Your argument that there is someone about to executed is moot. Using this logic, there is nothing that can ever be discussed. Every time someone points out to you that your site is offensive, you say someone is about to be executed. If anyone says that the layout of your site is not aesthetic, you again point to the death sentence. If someone asked you out for lunch, you say “but the death sentence…” That is the point I’m driving across. Moreover, the death row is not as controversial as you think among Singaporeans. As for your objections to the death row itself, I think it is a worthy topic of discussion although I beg to differ.

“BW, my site has made an argument, and you can read those arguments in each post, with evidence or at least supporting statements from others.If you feel that the claims made and supported here are false, then please show your empirical evidence or supporting satements from others to help falsify my claims. This is a site that I write and the articles interest me, I put an article on line because I like it.”

Does your site have several arguments or one particular thesis? I’m asking because I do believe you have one argument. And that argument is that Singapore is a dreadful place to live. I don’t think your approach is constructive and does us any good. I am a Singaporean who hopes that Singapore will progress as a nation. I believe in discussion but unfortunately I don’t think you discuss very much but do use a lot of words loosely that are derogatory and without justification. I believe that many Singaporean sites do a better job engaging in issues than yours. As for exactly why I think so I encourage you to take a look at all my replies. You’re an educated person capable of reason. Why are you so afraid of checking them out?

“YOu seem to have a lot to say, if you start your own site I would be more than happy to visit and comment. Start a blog, (very easy) and start writing articles that are nice about Singapore. You could call it a nice name to. Like Singabunnyrabbitspore....”

I notice your argument is similar to one by the MM whom you seem to detest.

To CW> The reason I’m back has been already answered in my comment. You may have missed it.


Anonymous said...

As for your right to post whatever you want, I have already repeatedly agreed that it is your right. It is also my right to say that your site is terrible, that you do not harbour good will towards us and that you are prejudiced (through your selection of material and lack of justification and discussion when you loosely use derogatory words at us.) I have pointed out that I do not have the same to say of other sites that do provide genuine discussion and analysis, so maybe your exception is instructive.

Since you have not answered any of my criticisms, I’m afraid they still stand.

Anonymous said...

Lastly, if you don’t want me to say anything concrete then don’t ask me to. You asked me for my objections and when I listed them, you (for the second or third time) try to deflect the issue to the death sentence. So are you or are you not interested in listening them out. If you’re not then please don’t say that you are. It’s dishonest.


True Flight said...

I think Anonymous is getting a little sidetracked.

This Australian drug trafficker - he illustrates the point, but he is not the point.

The real point is not whether the Australian man deserves our sympathy because of his personal problems.

It is not whether Singapore has all along made its anti-drug laws well-known to the public.

It is not whether capital punishment for drug trafficking helps to prevent illegal drug consumption in Singapore.

The real point is whether Singapore should have capital punishment at all -

whether it is for drug traffickers, murderers, kidnappers, robbers using firearms etc.

It is hardly a new issue. Many countries have wrestled with it. Often the objections are on religious grounds. The other objection is that a miscarriage of justice - of a person being wrongfully convicted - leads to irreparable damage, and the risk is too large to take. Then there are the (secular) moral reasons. Finally, there is the utilitarian perspective. If you analyse the capital punishment using the traditional criminal jurisprudential approach, you'll see that capital punishment typically achieves very little, apart from what the textbooks term "retribution".

Anonymous said...

"The real point is whether Singapore should have capital punishment at all - "

GK, this is the main issue that you bring up. I think what I have raised is relevant, and these are not moot points as you mention. Rational people weigh the costs and benefits of taking an action. The stronger the deterrent,the higher the costs of taking the action. If u suggest abolishing capital punishment, then u shd suggest abolishing all other forms of punishment. Life time imprisonment is also terrible, and drives a person crazy. Why put a penalty on insider trading? Why put Martha Stewart in jail when the embarassment is enough punishment?

The world works because of incentives and disincentives. Smuggling drugs is one of those crimes which is immoral as well as illegal, so I think drug smugglers should be punished in a way commensurate with they harm they cause. Statistics can be misleading. I'm sorry but I find it difficult to believe that capital punishment hasn't served its purpose as a deterrent.

Any rational person in Singapore will not smuggle heroin in Singapore because he/she is able to weigh the cause and benefits of doing so. The stakes would have to be really high for you to make this decision, and it is all a matter of choice. This law works not by killing off all who smuggle, it works by being in place. The deterrent effect is what reduces the number of smugglers.

I'm sad that the man has to die, and if I could go back in time to stop him, I would. But I think of all the people involved in this issue, Singapore is hardly to blame. We want drugs to be kept out of our country. Isn't that a right as well?

True Flight said...

I wonder why you sound so defensive. You can hardly claim to represent Singapore. Even if you could, I don't think that there is anything for Singapore to feel defensive about.

After all, John Howard isn't even launching into any hysterics or accusations. He isn't screaming that Singapore has abused human rights, or that we are barbaric, or whatever.

Howard is quietly exploring the backdoor diplomacy route. That's fully valid. Under the Constitution, the President of Singapore can also grant clemency. That's fully within his power.

The wider issue, as I have said, is simply whether Singapore should have capital punishment or not. As I have pointed out, there are many tenable arguments against the death penalty. Most or all of these arguments do not focus on the nature of the individual criminal's crime (somewhat different from what you're doing).

Let's take the religious arguments, for example. Suppose I am a staunch Christian and I interpret the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" to mean that capital punishment is wrong. Or suppose I am a staunch, vegetarian Buddhist and I believe that all sentient life is sacred, and it would be wrong to eat a chicken, much less hang a man.

Now if I subscribe to such beliefs, then I do not enter into arguments such as:

"This man should live, because he smuggled only a little heroin,"

"That man should die, because he smuggled so much more heroin,"

"This man should die, because he cold-bloodedly murdered six people and raped their corpses after that"

Etc. I would simply say, this man has done very bad things - HOWEVER, capital punishment is wrong, so we should not kill him.

Thus if you consider the Timothy McVeigh case in the US, you'll see that no one is saying that he really wasn't such a bad fellow. Everyone agrees that TM is utterly bad, utterly evil - but the Americans who oppose capital punishment will still tell you that TM should not be killed; simply because (in their view) capital punishment is just unacceptable.

Now, you are saying, "Oh drugs are evil, we need to stop drugs, let's hang the traffickers" etc, and of course this is your point of view and you're entitled to it -

but I thought I would say what I've said above, if only to show you that your opinion simply does not engage the opinions of most of those who oppose capital punishment.

In other words, they may well agree with you that drugs are evil, and that the country needs to stop drugs, and they may feel that much more strongly than yourself -

but this does not detract from their view (1) that capital punishment is wrong, and (2) that no one, whether a drug trafficker, or a murderer, or a child rapist, should be executed.

I am, by the way, neither a Christian nor a Buddhist.

True Flight said...

I also get a bit bemused by points like these:

"So Steve, chill out man. Don't get yourself all in a twist about Singapore's 'lack of democracy' and 'authoritarian regime'. THE UNITED STATES CAN, UNDER THE PATRIOT ACTS 1 & 2, BANG PEOPLE AWAY WITHOUT TRIAL NOW FOR AS LONG AS THEY LIKE!!! AND THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT BRINGING FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY TO THE REST OF THE WORLD?!"

I'm sorry, but when I read criticisms about Singapore, my reaction is not, "Hummmph, so what? The US also has this problem, the UK also has that problem."

Just because the US and the UK are highly defective countries in their own ways, doesn't mean that Singaporeans should therefore blindly accept the flaws in their own country.

In fact, who cares about the US and the UK? Singapore has abundant defects of its own, to worry about.

True Flight said...

Anonymous, you've said:

"Rational people weigh the costs and benefits of taking an action. The stronger the deterrent,the higher the costs of taking the action. If u suggest abolishing capital punishment, then u shd suggest abolishing all other forms of punishment."

But why should that be the case? The arguments raised against capital punishment are mostly not applicable to other forms of punishment.

For example, reverting to the Christian argument, the Bible says, "Thou Shalt Not Kill."

It does not say, "Thou Shalt Not Impose Imprisonment, Award a Fine, Revoke a Licence, Cane Prisoners, Set Up Rehabilitation Centres or Utilise Chemical Castration."

Finally, if human beings were so rational, and everything could simply be reduced to a cost-benefit analysis -

then surely practically all crimes could be easily eliminated? Simply introduce the death sentence for robbery; theft; computer hacking; drink driving; AWOL; use of pirated software; molest; littering; vandalism; rape ....?

No, of course not. Intuitively, we know immediately that this does not work. But maybe you'd like to try the exercise of articulating why. I suspect you may discover a few surprising things.

Anonymous said...

GK, I now get what you mean by whether people should kill at all. I understand that, to a certain extent,being a vegetarian.

But I feel that the difference lies in that human beings have a choice. I do not condone waging war on any country because most of the humans killed had no choice. However, if a human being makes a choice knowing full-well the consequences of his actions, then it can't be said that a judge's rule killed him. He killed himself.

But then again, how does a government develop systems to protect its people from being supplied drugs?? I believe the death penalty functions well as a deterrent. One can kill by action, as well as by inaction. If we were to abolish our death penalty for trafficking drugs,we may be politically correct. But what about those people whose lives were ruined because of those drugs?

You are thinking about the life of one man, whereas my concern is the lives of those who take drugs. The penalty for the former is death, and drug takers also face the same fate. If you can think of a way to cut the supply of drugs and at the same time avoid killing, that would be great. I'm certainly not advocating killing for the sake of killing. But I think that abolishing the death penalty without providing any better deterrents to smuggling is hypocritical and only paying human rights lip service.

You also doubted my arguments about cost-benefit analysis. The costs and benefits need not be in terms of money. There are several models to describe human behaviour: Economic model (in terms of money), Resource Evaluating Maximising Model (in terms of anything-- money, honor, power, love etc) , Maslow's theory. All involve cost-benefit analysis.

But are you saying that
- There is no such thing as a deterrent to crime
- Punishment by death is not a strong deterrent
- If one were thinking about smuggling drugs into s'pore, the presence of the death penalty doesn't play a part at all in his decisions
- It is morally correct to abolish the death penalty when this may lead to more people dying by taking drugs
- A person, when deciding to commit a crime, does not think through the consequences/ sacrifices and potential benefits, and does not makes a decision based on his analysis? Bear in mind, these costs and benefits can be based on anything, be it money, love, power, family etc.

These theories are established in sociology, I've only taken basic courses on sociology, Steve should be able to back me up on the fact that rational people do cost-benefit analyses when making decisions. But as usual he remainds mum on points which he cannot rebut.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, I first started of with the comment "do you know what drugs does to people?" and redrown asked for a cost-benefit analysis. If you want to play the religion card, then I'd refer to the morality of allowing drug takers to die while drug smugglers don't, because we'd rather kill 1000 by inaction than 1 person by action.

I brought up “defects” in the UK and US system because Steve is talking about Singapore as if only Singapore is being uniquely cruel and unsympathetic to a poor Vietnamese boy who has no choice but to take drugs. The article is appealing to the emotional side of people to portray Singapore as unreasonable, rather than focusing on the debate of whether killing is ever be justified. Such a debate should also focus on how we reconcile the prevalence of drug abuse with the abolishment of strong deterrents like the death penalty. Any argument which stops at "we should not sentence him to death because it is wrong to kill" is incomplete.

The articles mention the boy’s circumstances a lot of times, which I think are irrelevant. What Steve is advocating follows the “Social victim” model, which is attributes all of a person’s actions to his surroundings, as if the individual does not evaluate his alternatives, and choose the action which maximizes his benefit. Singapore’s system follows the REMModel. On the other hand, we’ve also begun initiatives to encourage employers to give ex convicts a chance. We also had the yellow-ribbon campaign. And there are plenty of rehab centers for drug addicts. These are things which deserve a mention when you talk about Singapore’s “tough, unsympathetic, inhumane” approach to drugs.

Since this website is meant to be some sort of beacon into Singapore, surely Steve should provide balanced articles rather than articles based on highly emotional grounds.

Anonymous said...

law abused by s'pore legal aid
am 31, I filed seperation deed since 4yrs ago . This man is an ex-colleague of mine, those day he
expelled from family when he's heavily indebted to one illegal loan shark. Since then I introduced him
to my family and offered him shelter

for some time my family discovered this friend of mine has addicted in drinking habit. Most of his time
he associated with friend who's also owing same kind of habit. He used to called them brother, that
is all I knew about him

we held simple wedding ceremony(拜天公) & 3 table in a restaurant during my 20yrs old birthday, due to his financial problem.
he never turned up to our wedding ceremony, instead he was entertaining his friend outside a coffee shop drinking. he called me
up the next day and told me he was drunk

he many time abused me over the bill. Some time he pushed me on ground, some time he lifted me up and throw me on ground
or sprained my arm when twist and turn many time. I really scared with what he did. On an occasion he abused me at pasir ris
this bad experience had causes many nightmare to me coz there were many pedestrian police also me ended in the hospital

the most regret is I walked in to legal aid bureau for help. Till now my cases has yet settle. I was told by a friend of mine
that I suppose to get annulment instead of 4year separation deed because my case is that my spouse is too much addicted
in drinking and no time attending to me in bed. That causes us now no baby

emily said...

Your blog is great! It's hard to find blogs with good content and people talking about drug rehab these days! I have a secret drug rehab blog if you want to come check it out

Anonymous said...