31 Mar 2005

Singapore reaffirms ban on benefit concert

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"The minister has carefully considered the appeal for the licence application for Affect05 and has decided to uphold the MDA's position that such performances that promote alternative lifestyles are against the public interest," MDA said.

The couple says their music is about "empowering people to live fulfilled lives, sharing a message of self-acceptance, compassion, love and respect for all people, despite our differences."

"It is the fact that we are gay that is the reason we have been banned by the government from playing at the benefit," said Jason and deMarco in a prepared statement.

Some Singapore officials have been publicly critical of gay men in recent months.

Last November a senior health official blamed a recent surge in HIV infections on the "promiscuous and unsafe lifestyle" of gay men. Since then officials have cracked down on popular gay parties that draw thousands of men from other Asian countries.

Singapore law calls for heavy penalties for consensual gay sex, but enforcement of the law has not been strict.

"We are very concerned about the intolerance against gay people that is expressed and enforced by the government of Singapore, and we are asking people to speak out," Jason said.

Burma Under Pressure to Reform as Singapore PM Makes Official Visit

Gary Rodan, director of the Asia Research Center at Murdoch University in Western Australia, says the visit is an opportunity for Singapore, Burma's largest foreign investor, to press for reform.
"There is an opportunity here for Lee Hsein Loong to very quickly make a mark in foreign policy," he said. "It depends very much on how much he sees this as an opportunity to enhance Singapore's role within the region and its role within ASEAN."
Malaysia and Singapore appear concerned that ASEAN's international standing will be hurt if Burma takes the chairmanship. Burma already faces tough economic sanctions and criticism from both the United States and the European Union over its human rights record.
Mr. Rodan says Singapore and Malaysia would be concerned if Burma's taking up the chair undermined their relationships with the United States and Europe - major trading partners.

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Singapore rejects bid for casino protest march

Click the title to go to the original...
Thu Mar 31, 2005 03:33 AM ET

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore police have rejected a political activist's bid to demonstrate against a proposed casino, saying it would have disrupted civil order.
J.B Jeyaretnam, a feisty 80-year-old former opposition leader, had applied to march at city hall on April 17, a day before the government is to announce whether it will go ahead with a controversial plan to build Singapore's first casino.

"The government is worried about big numbers turning up for the protest," Jeyaretnam told a news conference on Thursday. "Even if it was just 10,000 to 20,000 people, it would be embarrassing for the government."

Jeyaretnam, a lawyer and the first opposition politician to break the ruling People's Action Party's parliamentary monopoly when he won a seat in 1981, was forced out of politics in Singapore when he was declared bankrupt.

In November, he lost a legal battle to discharge a bankruptcy ruling barring him from standing in the next general election due by 2007 following three libel suits, including one brought by former prime minister Goh Chok Tong.

The government's proposal for a resort-style casino has divided public opinion but is widely expected to be approved. Religious groups and social workers warn that it would fuel crime and social ills in one of Asia's safest cities.

Jeyaretnam said his failure to obtain a permit to march shows that, despite the government's vows to open up and loosen social controls, political freedom remains elusive.

"They have been calling on Singaporeans to come on, stand up and talk, but here is the opportunity presented to them and they turned it down flat," said Jeyaretnam. "What I want to drive home is that there has been no change at all."

Police routinely deny applications for street demonstrations in Singapore. Opposition politicians are only allowed to make public speeches in designated places during election campaigning or at an outdoor "Speakers' Corner" in a city park fashioned after London's Hyde Park -- right next to a police station.

Public protests are rare in Singapore. Public gatherings of more than four people require a police permit. A person convicted of unlawful assembly can be fined up to S$1,000 ($605).

The U.S. State Department, in its February annual report, sharply criticised Singapore for using libel suits to intimidate the opposition, saying the threat inhibits opposition politics and has led to a culture of self-censorship in the media.

The government says a high degree of control over public debate and the media is needed to maintain law and order.

30 Mar 2005

Singapore's PM arrives in Myanmar

YANGON, March 30 (AFP) - Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong arrived in Myanmar on Wednesday, amid rumblings over whether the military-ruled nation should be allowed to become chairman of ASEAN as scheduled next year.
Lee, who became leader of his city-state in August, is on a three-day visit to Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia as part of a new leader's traditional visits to fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
He was set to meet Prime Minister Lieutenant General Soe Win and later Wednesday have talks with the junta leader Senior General Than Shwe, before having dinner with Soe Win.
The meeting with Soe Win was to take place at a military guest house run by the State Peace and Development Council, as the junta is known.
Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo, who is travelling with Lee, said this month ASEAN leaders were worried that its international reputation would be tarnished unless Myanmar implements democratic reforms.
Unless Yangon demonstrates some changes, ASEAN leaders would have to convey "hard messages," Yeo said.
Politicians in Malaysia and the Philippines are putting pressure on the reclusive country, which has been ruled by the military since 1962, to implement democratic reforms.
The politicians are trying to stop Myanmar assuming ASEAN's alphabetically rotating chairmanship in late 2006 after Malaysia.
Filipino lawmakers are trying to get the issue discussed at an April 3 meeting in the Philippines involving 1,500 legislators from Asia, Europe and America.
But Malaysia's government this week distanced itself from moves by lawmakers to introduce a motion in parliament urging that ASEAN deny Yangon the chairmanship until it releases detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.
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25 Mar 2005

'Dr Balaji, Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts

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8) In 1997, two Singaporeans received donor platelets and red blood cells from SGH. These were later discovered to have been HIV-contaminated. What did the government do? Instead of trying to explain how such a serious procedural fault could have happened, they went on a witchhunt. They traced the donated blood products to a man whose name and face was published in the papers. And there it was, the public execution to deflect consciousness from the failings of the public health system.

9) Balaji, we don't need you to be sad.

10) We need you to do something about the epidemic. And the solution is not in passing legislation that will continue to stigmatise PWH's (people with HIV), PWA's (people with Aids) and gay men. We need you to start spreading the message, alarmist or otherwise, to straight people too, because your recent comments can easily lull them into a sense of complacency. We need you to provide a better environment for those stricken with the disease to lead productive and dignified lives. We need you to try to provide better treatment to PWH's, and for the record your much vilified northern neighbour, Malaysia, has introduced free treatment of generic frontline drugs to PWH's. We need you, ultimately, to tell PWH's that they are not lesser human beings because high risk behaviour is often linked to issues of self-worth. We need you to start thinking of how terrified a sexually active 18-year-old boy is to take a HIV test because if he's branded positive in his community it's the end of the world for him and he can't afford that, not when he's never really been in love before. We need you to start thinking of that man who goes around fucking without a condom because in the society he lives in, having HIV is a shameful thing and who sees infecting other people as revenge against that society. We need you to start thinking long and hard about the prostitute who doesn't insist anymore on her clients using protection because in the country she lives in, a Minister has given her an expiry term of 'four to five years'.

Climate control in the Singapore Press

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by Eric Ellis

The Australian, June 21, 2001

Part of the challenge, Chua says, of being a journalist and possibly even being a Singaporean is testing boundaries that are "not clearly defined" by the Government, "perhaps on purpose".

"It's part of our culture, part of our maturing as a nation."

That means little campaigning journalism and no established culture of investigative reporting. An underground press is virtually non-existent, in large part because of the Government's restrictive press laws.

The system functions like a big corporation, designed to maximise profit. The Government maintains an upbeat information department, frequently holding press briefings lauding economic achievements but rarely or publicly discusses substantive matters of policy and politics.

"Government press control might shock one's liberal western mindset, but this is now a well-entrenched part of national culture," says Roland Rich, a former Australian ambassador to Laos and co-author of the book Losing Control, which analyses press freedom across Asia. "You get the government you deserve and in Singapore you also get the press you deserve."

To read the entire article click the title or click here.

Real Reform is ALWAYS better than Revolution

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The tightly controlled media in Kyrgyzstan had - until Thursday - refrained from mentioning the weeks of protest that have shaken the south of the country.

As the demonstrations reached the capital, Bishkek, and protesters dramatically stormed the main seat of government, state-run TV showed nature programmes and a report about a circus.

At the same time, the private Pyramid TV channel chose to air Euronews instead of its scheduled local news. It then continued its programming with Russian soap operas.
But this all changed when a group of opposition supporters entered the state television headquarters.

Well I suppose comparing Singapore with Kyrgyzstan is rather erroneous. I mean Kyrgyzstan's media was controlled by the rulers, and Kyrgyzstan's leaders were accused of nepotism and corruption. Poverty may have pushed the Kyrgyzstan population over the edge. So the PAP are safe.

23 Mar 2005

Blogs defending free expression to be honoured

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Reporters Without Borders invites Internet users to submit outstanding examples of blogs* defending free expression from which a shortlist will be compiled for an online vote to choose the best.

We want to draw attention to the importance of weblogs in countries where the traditional press is under the control of the authorities. Throughout the world, Internet users are adopting this new tool to combat censorship and circulate independent news and information.

Selection criteria :
The blog must be kept by an Internet user or a small group of Internet users. It must not belong to a governmental or non-governmental organisation.

It must have existed for more than six months and must be updated regularly.

It must use a specialised publishing tool such as typepad, blogger.com, blogspirit or an equivalent. Sites that do not use a standard online publishing tool but function in an identical manner to a weblog will be considered on a case by case basis.

The blogs of professional journalists will be accepted.

All blogs will be considered, whatever their language.

Nomination submissions should be sent by e-mail to internet@rsf.org .

They should include the web address or addresses of the blog and a short description of its activity. The blogger does not have to be identified.

Singabloodypore has been shortlisted. That is enough to massage my ego. I hope that the importance of Radio Free Nepal will result in the 6 months existence criteria being overlooked. Otherwise a very worrying situation in Nepal will not receive the much needed publicity.

Singapore bans AIDS concert, citing gay artists

Wed Mar 23, 2005 03:03 AM ET

By Fayen Wong
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore has rejected an application for a concert by a local AIDS support group, citing concern over its gay performers following a spike in HIV cases.

Los Angeles-based Christian gay pop musicians Jason and deMarco were the planned feature performers for the April 3 Action for AIDS event organised by Christian group Safehaven.

"Based on the duo's website and reports of their performances in the United States, it is assessed that their performance will promote a gay lifestyle which would be against the public interest," said the Media Authority of Singapore in a statement.

The ban follows comments this month by a Singapore government minister who said a gay and lesbian festival in August last year may have led to a surge in the number of local AIDS cases, a remark that outraged gay activists.

Although Singapore has one of Asia's lowest levels of HIV infection, the number of new infections hit a record high of 311 cases in 2004, up 28 percent from 2003. A third of the newly diagnosed cases were gay men.

Gay activists say many the remaining two-thirds appeared to be heterosexual men who caught the illness from prostitutes in nearby Southeast Asian regions such as Indonesia's Batam island just an hour's boat ride from Singapore.

Safehaven said the concert had aimed to raise funds for AIDS programmes and increase awareness about HIV among gay people.

"We invited Jason and deMarco because they are a monogamous couple for the past 5 years and we wanted to send forth the message to the gay community that a monogamous relationship and responsible attitude towards sex should be the approach to take," said Peter Goh, a coordinator from Safehaven.

"We did not intend, and still do not intend, for this to be a gay concert," he said.

Singapore's gay community has only recently enjoyed greater freedoms and after former premier Goh Chok Tong announced in 2003 that homosexuals were now employed in the civil service, a low-key policy shift aimed in part at fostering a creative class.

He said homosexuals could hold key positions without fear of discrimination -- a move once unthinkable in a country where oral sex even between men and women is still technically illegal and punishable by up to two years in jail under current laws.

"It is unfortunate that the authorities rejected the license. These people had good intentions, they wanted to do something for its community and help us as well to give funds to our prevention efforts," said Brenton Wong, a spokesman for Action for Aids.

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

Singapore film-maker pulls political movie

Staff and agencies
Tuesday March 22, 2005

A film-maker has withdrawn his documentary about Singapore's leading opposition figure from the city-state's annual film festival, after the government warned him its political content could land him in jail.

Martyn See's short film focuses on Chee Soon Juan, a frequent government critic who was ordered to pay S$500,000 (£160,875) to Singapore's first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, and former leader Goh Chok Tong for defamation during the 2001 elections.

See decided to pull his movie from the Singapore international film festival after the country's censorship board warned him he could be jailed for up to two years or fined if his 26-minute film was screened.

Singapore's the Straits Times reports that the board had also advised festival organisers to remove See's documentary because it was a "party political film." Under Singaporean law, local films that "contain wholly or partly either partisan or biased references to or comments on any political matter" are banned, the paper added.

Despite its strictly controlled media, Singapore has been seeking to promote itself as a centre of Asian arts, with the international film festival one of its cultural highlights. Still, Singapore regularly bans movies, on the grounds that it needs to maintain ethnic and religious harmony in the south-east Asian country of four million.
From the Guardian Newspaper

Well there goes the promotion of Singapore as a centre of Asian arts. And all despite the recent call for a Singaporean Michael Moore by youth and media conference .

"In attendance was Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam some speakers referred "to how wacky political websites and show business figures such as film-maker Michael Moore led the way in encouraging turnout among young voters during last year's US presidential elections."

Singapore Rebel

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CSJ film "objectionable under Films Act"
From: "Singapore International Film Festival"
To: singapore_rebel@yahoo.com
Subject: Singapore Rebel
Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2005 18:41:12 +0800

Dear Martyn,

As requested, this is what happened.

On Friday March 11, Philip (Cheah) was asked to meet the censors at 4.30pm. At the MICA office, he was told that SINGAPORE REBEL was objectionable under the Films Act pertaining to political party videos. He was "advised" to inform you to withdraw your film whereby the matter would be dropped, failing which, the full extent of the law would apply.

Yours sincerely,
Lesley Ho
Singapore International Film Festival
45A Keong Saik Road
Singapore 089149
Tel: +65 6738 7567
Fax: +65 6738 7578
Email: filmfest@pacific.net.sg
Website: www.filmfest.org.sg

Also found on The Optical.

Report: Film about Singapore opposition leader pulled after director warned he could be jailed

A documentary filmmaker withdrew his movie about Singapore's leading opposition figure from the city-state's annual film festival after the government warned the director that he could be jailed over its political content, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

Martyn See's short film focuses on Chee Soon Juan, a frequent government critic who was ordered to pay 500,000 Singapore dollars to modern Singapore's founder, Lee Kuan Yew, and former leader Goh Chok Tong for defaming them during the 2001 elections.

However, See decided to pull his movie from the Singapore International Film Festival after the Board of Film Censors said he could be jailed for up to two years or fined S$100,000 (US$61,300; €46,400) if his 26-minute film was screened, the Straits Times reported.

The board had also advised festival organizers to remove See's documentary because it was a "party political film." Under Singaporean law, local films that "contain wholly or partly either partisan or biased references to or comments on any political matter" are banned, the paper added.

See and festival organizers could not be immediately reached for comment.

Strictly controlled Singapore has been seeking to promote itself as an Asian arts center, with the film festival as one of the city-state's cultural highlights.

Still, Singapore regularly bans movies, saying it needs to maintain ethnic and religious harmony in the Southeast Asian country of 4 million. Last year, censors blocked three films from the festival for scenes it deemed were too sexually explicit or were advocating violence.

22 Mar 2005

Three models: Three lessons UNlearnt

The entire article can be accessed here and when that is removed it can be accessed here.

An elite dedicated to serving one and all
Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National University of Singapore Society Lecture on.

FROM the experiences of these three countries - Britain, China and the US - I draw three conclusions.

First, every society will have an elite. Even if it aims to become a classless society where all men are equal, some men will turn out to be more equal than others. The issue is: What kind of elite will it be? If they only care about their own narrow interests, then the society will suffer, and in the longer run so will the elite. But if they have a sense of mission and social responsibility, and use their talents and power to promote the interests of the country as a whole, then the society will prosper.

Second, there is a tendency for the elite in any society to entrench themselves over time, and to become more closed and exclusive. The children of successful people tend to do well, and the social networks and guanxi which make for a cohesive group at the top also make it harder for outsiders to join. The elite gradually develop their own social norms, behaviour or codes, which mark themselves off as being different and serve to exclude outsiders. If the society finds ways to maintain social mobility and keep open avenues to the top, then its elite can adapt to the changing needs of the country, and remain in close touch with the wider society they belong to. If not, the society will stratify; tensions will develop; and eventually the social order will break down.

Third, the education system is crucial in shaping the type of elite a society has. If it offers open access to all, and provides a good education across the board, as well as peaks of excellence for the most talented students regardless of background, then people from many different backgrounds can rise to the top. But if it is unequal, giving privileged access to a few but closing doors to many others who are equally deserving, it can become a mechanism for entrenching a privileged group.

Number One "all men are equal, some men will turn out to be more equal than others." Maybe you might want to include women, and heaven forbid 'gay' men, in that quote from George Orwell. And is it possible to teach altruism? Reminds me of a belief of Comte, to have the ruling elite composed of an altruistic sociological priesthood, or Plato's philosopher king. This argument also runs headlong into the problem that there exists some sort of 'common purpose'. Assuming there is, how can this elite tap into this 'common purpose'? Is it a sign that the Department of Sociology at the NUS is about to receive a massive investment in funding. Funding to sponsor research into what Singaporeans desire, what their attitudes are. Will individuals be encouraged to speak openly and freely?

Number Two "there is a tendency for the elite in any society to entrench themselves over time, and to become more closed and exclusive. The children of successful people tend to do well,". LHL would know all about that. And just out of interest, does anyone know what the current levels of upward mobility and downward mobility are in Singapore? Maybe someone from the Department of Sociology at the NUS could enlighten us. LHL refers to upward mobility but is it possible that downward social mobility might actually occur. Surely that would be a better indicator of the level of 'meritocracy' in Singapore. So are there avenues that enable those at the top to fall to the bottom? Or is being born at the top an automatic iron rice bowl? Ah yes, social order will collapse if society becomes stratified. Or does he mean polarised? So how will the nightmare of the collapse of social order be avoided....

Number Three "the education system". There are other institutions in society, other than the state, family and education. How about allowing free trade unions, a judiciary, executive and legislature, that are separated from each other. How about an independent mass media? Imagine a newspaper controlled by 'journalists' being able to "speak truth to those in power", conduct investigative journalism into the dealings of Members of Parliament, Managing Directors, minister Mentors, claims of nepotism. What about a welfare state based on the Swedish model. Imagine a trade union, encouraging non-university graduates to speak their mind, and actually being listened to.

The entire speech stinks of "Educational Elitism". Is it as close to the days of 'eugenics' as it seems to me? I would really like to know what Singaporeans think?

Here is what Sheena;s Little Fragment of Time thinks.

21 Mar 2005

The picture that emerges

The following is from Yawning Bread. It's a detailed discussion that should be brought to the attention of all after recent allegations in the national media...

The picture that emerges from a list of convictions under Sections 377 and 377A of the Penal Code (See the appendix List of Section 377 and 377A cases) is quite interesting, and I am going to discuss three thoughts that came to mind, when I perused at it.
As most readers would know, Section 377 of our Penal Code criminalises "carnal intercourse against the order of nature", which generally means buggery or sodomy (a term that also includes fellatio).

Section 377A on the other hand, criminalises "gross indecency" between males, that is, any kind of sexual relationship short of sodomy.

Although the Section 377A cases are in the bottom half of the table (in the appendix), we'll start with them first; they are easier to dispose of.

The Section 377A cases

Through a 15-year period, 1988 - 2003, there were only 8 convictions under this law, involving 7 incidents (2 convictions were for the same incident). So this law is not often used. Moreover, it has not been used against consensual sex for 10 years, since 1993.

Of the 7 incidents, only 2 involved consensual sex: Tan and Lau, who had sex with each other, in 1988, and Abdul Malik in 1993. For some reason that is not clear, Abdul Malik's partner was not charged.

After Abdul Malik's case in 1993, there were no more cases of consensual sex.

Ng Huat's case (1995) involved the accused touching the genitals of his adult patient against the patient's will.

The cases of Kelvin Lim (1998), Philip Lim (2003) and Armstrong (2003) involved underaged victims.

Kong's incident in 1995 might have been consensual, but it was aggravated by an attempt to extort. His partner was the complainant for the extortion and was not charged under Section 377A. It is arguable then whether the gross indecency charge should have been left out, leaving only the extortion charge for Kong to face.

The list thus supports the view that consensual sex between males has not been brought under Section 377A since Abdul Malik's in 1993.

However, other laws have historically been used against gay males, notably Section 354 for Outrage of Modesty. This was the preferred law used in entrapment cases; however, entrapment ceased by the end of 1993. Its cessation is discussed more fully in the article How entrapment ended.

To read on go to Yawning Bread...

19 Mar 2005

A Singaporean living in the United States

I have received the following request...

Hello there,

I am a Singaporean living in the United States. If possible, I would like the attached letter that I wrote to the SDP to be published in your blog. Thanks.

Gopalan Nair

A Singaporean in California

15 March 2005

Dear Dr. Chee,

I read with dismay, the rising jobless rate, the rising suicide rate and the general gloom that prevails in Singapore today.

The problems are due to one man, one man alone – LKY. Since 1959, he has felt that he knows best, and no one else had a head on his/her shoulder. He will decide, and everyone else will conform. Any contrary opinion must be silenced. The people must submit or else. This arrogance has over the years, made an entire population silent and submissive. We have an entire Singapore population unable to think independently. An entire population silenced. The only speakers are those who will parrot the government line.

This style may have worked in the late 50s and the 60s where Singapore could attract foreign investment by purveying their assets, namely a docile English speaking work force that will work for peanuts, without complaint. But this marketing technique has been copied by our neighbors who have the advantage of lower wages. So the niche in the cheap labor market is gone. But the problem was that during the good times wages went up, salaries went up, property prices went up. Now with the niche gone, property prices are declining, foreign investors are leaving, banks are foreclosing and the ripple effect of the downturn is causing Singapore to fall on an unstoppable tailspin.

And this is mainly because LKY thought he knew best. Instead of 4 ½ million people thinking and finding their own niche, now they can do nothing because their thinking caps are off. They do not know what to do.

And what have we in Singapore? A very large government sector with thousands of pen-pushers doing clerical work. Now when times are hard, they are laid off. What else can they do? They can learn to cook mee goreng, but how many mee goreng sellers can there be? Singapore does not have a large reservoir of artisans and technicians and tradesmen who can work in the industries that the foreign capital in Singapore needs, even if Singapore can attract more foreign capital. If Hewlett Packard intends to have a plant in Singapore, they can only employ assembly line workers. And the cost of assembly line workers in Singapore is no longer competitive. You get much cheaper costs in Jakarta Indonesia.

And with the lack of work, people turn to suicide. Suicide is something that can be prevented. If you had a caring society which can give some support for people in dire straits. But LKY says that people should stand on their own feet, they should be robust. Giving any assistance would turn Singaporeans into a lazy people. That is etched in stone. But Mr. Lee does not realize that not everyone can be as robust as he wishes them to be. Giving some assistance sometimes is necessary. It is necessary because it will give people a sense of belonging, the knowledge that Singapore cares. And in return the people would be loyal and appreciative. At least you will stop this tragic syndrome of suicides.

I live in California, near San Francisco. Here, people fall into dire straits too. Families suddenly find themselves penniless. But they don’t drive to the Golden Gate Bridge and throw themselves into the San Francisco Bay. Why? Because the State has a system in place where people can turn for help, until they can stand on their own feet again. They invariably recover. They appreciate the government for this. They become useful citizens again, having learnt their lesson. But of course, in California, there is no LKY. Thank God.

If only LKY will listen, but he will not. I have sent him various emails telling him that Singapore is now a metropolis. Singapore has to find it’s own direction. And for that the 4 ½ million people should be able to think and reason without fear or favor. That way Singapore will somehow find it’s own direction. Suing Dr. Chee and JBJ for thousands of dollars and bankrupting them, sends a wrong signal to the entire population. A society of fear is not going to produce anything. And topping it all, with the Internet, any discerning person in any part of the world, is already aware that Singapore is, to quote a phrase “Disneyland with the death penalty”. This too prevents many international companies from stationing in Singapore, because of the bad name it has earned.

I urge all readers who read this letter to write to Mr. Lee, and point out to him that he is barking up the wrong tree. Write to your local MP, write to your Minister, write to your local Residents Committee, write to everyone, and keep telling them, ad nauseum that their policies are driving Singapore down on the fatal tailspin.

You can see the desperation that Singapore now faces. Macau, the former Portuguese Colony which is now part of China, earns its income entirely on gambling and prostitution. There is nothing else there. Is this what the PAP wants to do with Singapore with the casino push? Tell the PAP that there are other ways to succeed and that gambling is not the way out. All LKY has to do is to come down from his high horse and realize that Dr. Chee, JBJ and the 4 ½ million Singaporeans also have heads on their shoulders. And collectively, with their thinking caps on, Singapore may yet be saved.


18 Mar 2005

What the hell is 'civil society'?

By the mid-1960s political parties seemed to have exhausted their capacity to represent the aspirations of their constituencies, becoming hierarchical, bureaucratic and involved in a mediacratic chase for power.
The failure of political parties, and the crisis of representation it creates, does not result in the disappearance of the activity we call politics. Instead, political practices look for other channels. The agents that were supposed to have the capacity to aggregate interests defaulted. New, political mobilisations began to cluster around immediate, single, often localised issues.
It is for these reasons that the attempt of the Greek politician George Papandreou to transform the nature of his Pasok party comes as a much-needed, welcome intervention into the entire debate on the crisis of representative democracy. In his interview with Anthony Barnett on openDemocracy, Papandreou makes it clear that, for two reasons, the way “politics has been done” until now has to be rethought and reconceptualised.
First, the nature of political life has changed irrevocably in the wake of social and economic transformations wrought by globalisation. Traditional class and social cleavages have given way to new identities which can veer between the local and the global at the same time. Any party that seeks to reinvent itself – if it wishes to chart democratic agendas which can meaningfully address these felt but contradictory experiences – must tap these new aspirations, needs, and their accompanying fears.
Second, in order to counteract both public apathy and the closed machine-like structure of the party, citizens need to be invited into new ways of “doing politics”. For example, through open processes of deliberation and participation that serve to include rather than exclude the ordinary human being from the rather specialised processes of decision-making.
More important, the power of the leader has to be replaced by the power of deep and participatory democracy . “What we would like to do as a party”, suggests Papandreou,
“is to develop a culture of debate, dialogue, and critical understanding of issues, where people can set priorities and are not simply told by the experts or their leaders what is right and wrong for them”
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17 Mar 2005

Death row Aussie helps Singapore police

An Australian man jailed in Singapore for drug trafficking may escape execution by helping police nab the bosses of an international drug syndicate.

Melbourne sales executive Nguyen Tuong Van, 24, could also have the Pope on his side, with Cardinal George Pell asking John Paul II to lend his support to Nguyen's appeal for his life.

The Australian government has also become involved, with Prime Minister John Howard speaking to the Singaporean government about Nguyen, who was arrested in transit through Singapore's Changi airport in December 2002.

Last year, Nguyen was sentenced to death after the Singapore High Court found him guilty of smuggling almost 400 grams of heroin. Last month he lost an appeal against the sentence.

But since his arrest, Nguyen has been helping the Australian Federal Police with its investigation into an Australian-based international drug syndicate, according to his lawyer, Lex Lasry, QC.

 Posted by Hello

16 Mar 2005

Can Singapore Become Creative?

Dynamic Cities and Creative Clusters
Weiping Wu

Working Paper No.: 3509
Pub. Date: February 2, 2005

Wu focuses on how urban policies and the clustering of creative industries has influenced urban outcomes. The set of creative industries include those with output protectable under some form of intellectual property law. More specifically, this subsector encompasses software, multimedia, video games, industrial design, fashion, publishing, and research and development. The cities that form the basis for the empirical investigations are those where policy-induced transitions have been most evident, including Boston; San Francisco; San Diego; Seattle; Austin; Washington, D.C.; Dublin (Ireland); Hong Kong (China); and Bangalore (India).

The key research questions are:

What types of cities are creative?

What locational factors are essential?

What are the common urban policy initiatives used by creative cities?

The author explores the importance of the external environment for innovation and places it in the larger context of national innovation systems. Based on a study of development in Boston and San Diego, he isolates the factors and policies that have contributed to the local clustering of particular creative industries. In both cities, universities have played a major role in catalyzing the local economy by generating cutting-edge research findings, proactively collaborating with industries, and supplying the needed human capital. In addition, these two cities benefited from the existence of anchor firms and active industry associations that promoted fruitful university-industry links.

Many cities in East Asia are aspiring to become the creative hubs of the region. But their investments tend to be heavily biased toward infrastructure provision. Although this is necessary, the heavy emphasis on hardware can lead to underinvestment in developing the talents and skills needed for the emergence of creative industries in these cities.
This papera product of the Development Research Group was prepared for the East Asia Prospect Study

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No Freedom of Assembly for Singaporeans?

From SgReview

Part 1

A Poetic Rant on the International Monetary Fund and World Bank board of governors' annual meeting in 2006

Charles Tan

Dear Singaporeans,

Do you know that Singapore will be hosting the International Monetary Fund and World Bank board of governors' annual meeting in 2006?

Do you know that 300 foreign accredited non-governmental organizations will be allowed to hold peaceful protests and demonstrations?

Do you know that Singaporeans and local NGOs will not be allowed to protest?

Is this double standard?

Is this an act of political and social repression?

Is this a joke?

If The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 20, states that " Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association", why do you think we should be deprived of this very basic right?

If the Constitution of Singapore, part IV, Fundamental Liberties, Section 14 Freedom of speech, assembly and association states that (a) every citizen of Singapore has the right to freedom of speech and expression; (b) all citizens of Singapore have the right to assemble peaceably and without arms; and (c) all citizens of Singapore have the right to form associations" but subjected to vaguely defined clauses at the whims and fancies of our authoritarian government, what do you think about this constitution?

If this is a basic human right that even the United Nations and almost the whole world agrees, with the exception of other dictatorships and authoritarian regimes, it does not matter if you want to use it. However, we should never be deprived of that freedom. Henceforth, can you see the irony of our laws and how our government and some Singaporeans try to argue their way out of the possible evil consequences of peaceful assembly, when its merely their own delusions at work?

Singaporeans, are you angry because you see the injustice and
maladministration, like I do?

Singaporeans, can you see your own servility and passivity in the

Singaporeans, when will you learn and become your own true master?

15 Mar 2005

Democracy pays off in the long run...

The following is copied and pasted from NewEconomist's blog. A blog written by someone who describes himself as a London-based economist and policy wonk who lives in London and is an economist by training. He has worked over the years for several governments, an investment bank and a think tank. He currently heads up a team of researchers.

And its a little nice to see others reading my blog and referring to it. The NewEconomist reads as an extremely well written and well researched blog. I have the feeling that I am about to become an avid reader.

Some commentators have also argued that wealth leads to democracy, rather than the other way around. They suggest this justifies a 'realpolitik' tolerance for autocratic regimes on the grounds that they are best able to grow the economy to the point where it is "ready" for democracy.

This patronising view is particularly popular in Asia, where presumably the population are not yet "ready" for genuine parliamentary democracy or freedom of speech (on which, see the remarkable Singabloodypore blog).

New research challenges those arguments. A paper by Dani Rodrik and Romain Wacziarg to the 2005 American Economic Associationlooked at this question using an analysis of within-country variation in growth. The paper, Do Democratic Transitions Produce Bad Economic Outcomes(PDF), concluded that:

The hypothesis that democratization is followed by bad economic performance, particularly inpoor, fractionalized countries, is not supported by our analysis of the within-country variation.

Claims that democratization leads to disappointing economic results are often used to justify calls to delay political reforms in poor, ethnically divided countries until they become “mature enough” for democracy.

...The problem with this view is that it presupposes that autocracies deliver better performance than democracies. We have shown this hypothesis to be false.
Rodrik and Wacziarg make an important point that economists often seem to forget - namely, that freedom and democracy have value in their own right, irrespective of whether they boost economic output or not:

Democratization surely yields benefits - in terms of individual freedom and empowerment - that are valued independently of their consequences for material wealth.

But there are economic benefits too:

To read on continue by clicking the image...
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14 Mar 2005

Is the 'Singapore' label disreputable?

I first came across this article at Sammyboy.com, but I believe it was originally posted on Yawning Bread.

Although Singtel's failed bid for Hongkong Telecom was touted as a purely commercial move, the political angle may be the lasting lesson from it.
Earlier this year, Singtel, Singapore's main telephone company, made an offer to Cable & Wireless plc of the UK, to buy their 54% stake in Hongkong Telecom ("HKT"). The combined Singapore and Hongkong telecom company would have been the largest corporation in Asia outside Japan. But after three months of due diligence, and some complacency that the deal was for all practical purposes done, Singtel found itself up against a competing last-minute offer from Pacific Century CyberWorks ("PCCW") for the same stake. In the end, Cable & Wireless plc opted to sell to PCCW instead.

Much has been written about the episode, covering many aspects, though without inside information, it is difficult to know what the key factors were in swinging Cable and Wireless' decision. Commentators have compared the merits of the two offers; others have noted the extensive connections of Richard Li, the owner of PCCW, even when PCCW was merely a start-up with no real business off the ground. There has been speculation about China's influence – perhaps they didn't want a strategic sector to fall into foreign hands.

But I think the surprise, at least to Singtel and the Singapore government, was the vociferous opposition expressed by the Hongkong media and the public to letting HKT slip into Singaporean hands. When PCCW finally clinched the deal, there was jubilation at the victory of Hongkong interests over Singapore.

One might believe that it's just the expected rivalry between two commercial capitals, but I think it's more than that. To understand the depth of feeling, one must step out of the illusions that coddle Singapore. One must understand how ambivalent are Hongkongers' views about our "way of life". Many Hongkongers see Singapore as shackled and dispirited. This is the impression I get each time I ask ordinary people whom I meet in the SAR what they think of Singapore.

No ordinary foreign company

During the brouhaha, the key question was posed in the Hongkong press, but Singaporeans might have missed the implications of that question. Why were Hongkongers so exercised by a foreign company, Singtel, buying a controlling stake in HKT, when all this while, Cable & Wireless, a UK company, had been the controlling shareholder? The easy answer was that Hongkong had been a British colony, so a UK shareholder was not "foreign". The trouble with easy answers is that they often disguise the truth.

My reading is that the main concern was that Singtel was no ordinary foreign company. It is majority-owned by the Singapore government. Its Chief Executive is none other than Lee Hsien Yang, the son of Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew. After absorbing HKT, the proposed combined company would still have the Singapore government owning more than 40% of the shares, enough to give it control.

Throughout the weeks, the Singapore government protested that this was a purely commercial bid by Singtel. Our local media duly echoed this line. Maybe it was, but the issue was that Hongkong didn't trust it to be so. In business, trust is half the deal.

The Hongkong establishment didn't want to risk letting the Singapore government into their lives. They came together to back PCCW.

What's wrong with the "Singapore" label?

Why has the Singapore government such a bad reputation? Surely the economic success of this city state is proof enough that they are good managers? On the whole – and you may still quibble about what exactly they could have done better – yes. But the Singapore government also has a dreadful reputation for being intolerant, hypersensitive, arrogant and petty-minded. And these have been demonstrated time and again on social and political fronts for the last 40 years. Newspapers and magazines have been shut down or circumscribed for being anti-government. Workers cannot form unions outside the ambit of the PAP-controlled National Trades Union Congress. Outspoken people have been detained for decades without trial. Books banned. Films banned [1]. Journalists deported. Opposition politicians sued for amounts way beyond conscience. Now all these are coming home to roost, for that's what I see as the lasting impact of this failed bid by Singtel: it has shown that we cannot separate economics from politics.

For a long time, we have fooled ourselves that we could. We compartmentalised our society and ensured that the "heartlander" enjoyed a steadily rising standard of living. At the same time, we have undercut his civil liberties, and pavloved him to look to the government as the fount of all good ideas. We have taught him to believe that free speech, radical social ideas, or parliamentary opposition were things we didn't really need. The economy would still do well without them. In fact, it would do better without these "distractions".

The local media – which the Minister of Information and the Arts has just reiterated must forever remain in local (read government-controlled) hands – helped to sell the message. Naysayers never got much space in them. In the "societal consensus" that the media conjured, we thought we had discovered a perfect model for running a society: keep the lid on politics so that economics may bloom.

In the new economy

In the new globalised economy, the preconditions of the Singapore model will no longer be available. We cannot keep Singapore as our own little cabbage patch, either politically or economically. Global businesses must be allowed in if we want to thrive. Thus, extensive reforms are in progress to open up many sectors – banking, insurance, telecommunications, for example. But it also means that local companies must go abroad too, to stay abreast of competition. Yet most big companies are government-controlled, and as this case has shown, the political reputation of the Singapore government is baggage they cannot shed.

The other precondition will also be unavailable in the new globalised economy – control of the media. How can we control the media in Hongkong, or Australia, or wherever we may want to venture, such that they will not say unflatterring things of our government's style? How to get people to separate economics from politics as Singaporeans have been taught to do?
Hence, one is led to this horrible thought: that all the years and effort spent building large Singapore companies, with the Singapore government as core shareholders, may be a waste. If these companies are held back by their government connections (with our government's reputation abroad), they may have a hard time serving as launching pads for the next stage of our economy – building the "external wing". Being unwelcome abroad is to lose goodwill among your customers even before you start doing business!

So, what to do?

It won't take a genius to say, either these companies must shed their government connections, or the government must shed its reputation. Both are easier said than done.

What will be needed to privatise these government-linked companies? Massive amounts of capital, far more than Singaporean investors have. To truly privatise them may mean, effectively, to sell them to world-wide bidders. Can our government stomach this?

What will be needed to shed Singapore's reputation? A major turn-around of our political style. An unprecedented loosening up of our political environment. And even then, it may take another generation to convince the world that things have really changed. People have long memories.

Tough choices, they are. But at least we have a wake-up call -- a glimpse of the real economic cost of the last 40 years of Singapore politics.

© Yawning Bread

Capturing Our Rights From the PAP

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The Constitution is the peoples' charter.

The first Constitution of Singapore was drawn up in 1958 in consultation with all the political parties representing the people of Singapore.

It was later replaced by a new Constitution when Singapore became part of Malaysia in 1963 but retained all the fundamental rights of the citizens in the 1958 Constitution.

When Singapore broke away from Malaysia, the 1963 Constitution (known as the Malaysian Constitution) was modified and adapted to take note of Singapore as an independent state and came to be known as the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore. It retained all the fundamental rights of the citizen.

The Constitution is the guarantee of the peoples' rights, freedoms and liberties but under the PAP government it has become the PAP charter.

After the PAP took control over Singapore in 1965, the PAP has amended the Constitution several times to attain its object to give the Executive more and more power designed to keep the PAP in power.

As a corollary to giving the Executive supreme power the PAP cut down the power of the Judiciary which in a democracy has a very important role to check the power of the Executive.

In its brief span of about forty (40) years, the Constitution of Singapore has been amended many many more times than the American Constitution stretching over 200 years.

If the people are to have the power in the land and not just a few (in Singapore it is really one family), the Constitution has to be captured back from the PAP and made the Peoples' Charter guaranteeing them all their rights and liberties and providing proper checks on the Executive with swift remedies for any violation of the Constitution.

I therefore welcome the campaign by Uncle Yap (Keng Ho) to acquaint our citizens with what changes are necessary to capture OUR Constitution back from the PAP.

For the complete Proposed Amendment To Republic Of Singapore Constitution

Blogs mentioned in Parliament

My favourite quote on this issue from Wannabe Lawyer...
But then again, we already knew that they know, isn't it? So is it not more a case of them letting us know that they know that we know that they know?
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The discussion is continued at Singapore Angle. And at Channel News Asia.

Recent Email Discussion

Dear Steven
I am intrigued by the subjects you constantly tackle in your blog: basically, politics, and disputing selected government policies. It makes for very good reading, and frankly, resonates with a kind of dissent I wished I had the courage to imitate.

I'm very curious, and was hoping you could indulge me as a fellow blogger: has your writing ever gotten you any undesirable attention or harrassment from our government? It would be nice to hear from someone who doesn't seem the least bit worried about putting his real name and identity behind his voice.

Hi @@

and thanks for the encouragement. I began the blog while living in Singapore and while there used the name John Hicky. I was a little concerned about how my employer would react as opposed to the reactions of a government agency. Therefore I very rarely wrote about my work and still don't actually refer to the actual name, and still have no plans to do so. The name has however appeared when students of mine have referred to it on the tagboard.

I moved to the UK in September 2004 and I still hadn't revealed my true identity. After living in the UK for a few weeks I kinda re-assimilated to the UK environment. I then realised that I was no longer in Singapore and a kinda, "whatever" attitude fell on me.

I express my opinion sometimes, mostly link to or post articles from other sources. I think I should be able to personally stand next to my opinions and claim them as my own, defend them, alter them... But stand up and take the criticism.

In Singapore this was a rather frightening thought, less frightening in the UK, I am no longer concerned that my opinions will somehow jeopardise my employability or career. People go to university and get degrees and postgraduate degrees, but sometimes they get opinions and ideas. I think that when educated people are supposed to sit passively and follow orders unquestioningly, it defeats the point of going to university in the first place.

As for unwanted attention from the Sg government, I find that the government doesn't need to get involved, because there are many Singaporeans willing to do it for them. The PAP wannabes. The blog was hacked once, I think. I say I think because I am not geeky enough to work out if it was. It happened while I was in Singapore and for some reason the address was somehow redirected to a "We Love Jesus" site.

The central issue is am I afraid of receiving a knock on my door from the ISA. Well I am currently not residing in Singapore, although I do have plans of returning to Sg sometime this year. That might be fun. I have never been arrested in my life. And the thought that I might be, refused entry to Singapore, sued, or arrested for having an opinion... Well that would be a sad day.

So if you don't mind me asking, what stops you from revealing all?

Take care and keep your head down..


Political Bloggers in Singapore

I was recently asked a few questions regarding political blogs in Singapore. Thought I should share my answers.

How do you feel about young political bloggers in Singapore?

My own personal feeling, (not based on Empirical evidence), is that there is a very small increase in the number of political blogs. But it is an increase. Political bloggers of all ages do seem to avoid the difficult questions. They are more than happy to write and comment about the 'casino debate' , but very rarely do issues such as the death penalty, sex trafficking, or Dr Chee appear in their writings. The articles tend to be largely reactionary to issues raised in the main stream media in Singapore.

Do you think their views affect a lot of people?

If you look at a few of the more popular blogs like Mr Brown and look at the number of visitors it receives per week, it is a very small percentage of the Singaporean population. Singapore has a high rate of internet users, something like 50% of the population, but blogs are not a big draw at the moment. So in terms of influencing other's opinions it's a very limited circle of influence. It can only increase, but the rate of that increase is difficult to predict.

Do you think it is a good thing more young people are voicing their political views?

I think any open society requires, and benefits from an open exchange of opinions. The young political bloggers are able to express their opinions in a non-confrontational manner. There has yet to be any physical gathering or campaign leading to politically active individuals taking to the street in demonstrations. It's akin to armchair whinging and complaining, safe and requiring a small amount
of commitment.

How do you think young political bloggers impact Singapore's society?

Depends on what you mean by society. If you mean the ideas or culture of Singaporean society then it looks like the beginning of a vocal minority. But if society means having an affect on institutions or organisations then the impact is very limited. I feel that the mass media in Singapore is still the biggest influence on Singaporean society. This is not unique to Singapore.

Do you foresee changes to the political scene in Singapore in the future?

Well as I do not have a crystal ball, my answer would be one of not being able to predict. Garry Rodan argues that government policies are attempting to bring the internet, and possibly blogs under the umbrella of control that has been applied to the mass media. The internet may actually result in a further reinforcement of control by the Peoples Action Party. It may not be that this new technology will result in greater freedom, but a further erosion of that freedom.

Does the increasing number of young political blog change your opinion of young Singaporeans?

Singaporeans are interested in political matters, always have been. The mass media in Singapore argues that Singaporeans are more interested in the 5c's but surely access to the 5c's is a political question. Talking about the price of HDB flats, a casino, COE's, MRT prices are political issues. If you don't "do"[talk about] politics then what do you do?

Having taught Singaporeans and discussed issues such as the birth rate in tutorials and lectures I have always been of the opinion that the majority of young Singaporeans are interested in these matters. Some feel that there is no point in voicing your opinion, that it won't change anything, others feel that it might undermine their career or academic aspirations. But to argue that this means they are not interested, seems to be ignoring a sense of fear. Many feel that expressing their opinion may be detrimental to their future, it is not the same as not having an opinion.

The question I have is, "Is the fear of expressing your opinion based on a 'real' threat or merely a 'perceived' threat?" A passion for politics, will result in some taking a chance and expressing their opinions, how those in power react will determine whether the threat is 'perceived' or 'real'.

Singapore Civil Society and British Power

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Singapore Civil Society and British Power is a must read for those studying civil society in the city-state as it provides an important historical background to the topic. The book reviews 'associational activity' from 1819 to 1963 and considers its impact on British public policy in Singapore. Essentially the book shows that the freedom to organize and express independently can lead to the flourishing of a thriving civil society. Remove that freedom, and civil society languishes.

11 Mar 2005

Singapore government Aids comment outrages gay activists

SINGAPORE - Gay activists responded with outrage and disbelief on Thursday to statements by a Singapore official who said a gay and lesbian festival -- dubbed Asia's largest gay event -- may have caused a big spike in Aids cases.

The "Nation.04" party -- a festival of international DJs, podium dancers, pumping music and muscular boys stripping off their tops on packed dance floors -- had increased in size every year since it was launched in 2000.

Last August's party could have allowed "gays from high prevalence societies to fraternise with local gay men, seeding the infection in the local community," junior health minister Balaji Sadasivan told parliament on Wednesday.

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10 Mar 2005

The Non-Violence Way to Change in Singapore

Q : The Singapore government always cites security as an excuse to clamp down on activities which threaten them, so what kind of NV tactics can be used to counter this?

A : Non Violent tactics usually look to persuade either the opponent elite that you have a problem with their policies or practices and it also seeks to persuade those who support the opponent elite. So the goal for Non-Violent activists in Singapore would be to dramatize injustice where it is happening. Yes, you must dramatize the injustice because there is a certain amount of passive acceptance in Singapore today of a certain level of injustice. So the goal of the NV movement in Singapore to bring about a creative tension in society by dramatizing that injustice and which leads to a lack of support for the policies of the current ruling elite. And they will respond to that in two ways : either be more repressive or change. These are the only two options they have. And all elites will at one point opt for change if the movement goes on long enough because the repressive policies will become counter productive or too socially costly. When you dramatize a situation, you bring about a challenge to their legitimacy, challenge the way things are and they are left with only two choices : either react repressively or change.
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Gay party blamed for HIV surge

Fridae.com's chief executive Stuart Koe responded to Sadasivan's remarks with an indictment of the government.
"The government has failed to address the issue of MSMs (men having sex with men) in any of their public health campaigns," Koe told AFP. "Because gay sex is illegal, many of the public health agencies in Singapore aren't even available to work with MSM groups."
Another of Fridae.com's large-scale events, a holiday circuit party called SnowBall, was denied a permit last December because officials said the event contradicted the "moral values" of the majority of Singapore's citizens.
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Cogito (Part 2)

Approximately two months ago I posted an article that resulted in a very large number of comments. It resulted in a large amount of personal attacks and flaming. A large number felt that I was somehow insulting them personally or that I thought that all Singaporeans or in particular that students couldn't think for themselves. This was not my assertion. After reading the following I feel compelled to return to the cogito article and ask. Are you allowed to think? Are you encouraged or discouraged to think for yourself? Or are you a cultural dupe?

Forum: the Sammyboy.com's Alfresco Coffee Shop ™ Forum
Subject: A S'porean stance??? -HAVE NO OPINIONS!!
To: (ALL)
DateTime: 09/03/2005 11:14:59

Anyone read the forum pages today Ms K Bavani press Secretary to the Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts saying that local newspapers must carry S'ppore perspective and that the stance to adopt both in its explicit editorial lines and in the implicit point of view of its reporting - a local newspapers stance should be a Singaporean one.(How insular can you get Ms Bhavani ? how can we ever be global at this rate????)She thinks otherwise readers may be misled into thinking that foreign views (because we employ foreign reporters as well) reflects the Singaporean stance or position.( Again belittling and insulting the intelligence of readers! Then why even bother employing foreign journalist?) She ended her letter by saying that these foreign journalists and writers for the ST should not " go beyond straightforward reporting to expressing opinions on regional issues, unles they make it clear that these are views of foreign nationals...." Isn't this just so interesting coming from the ministry of "communications"? Again very instructive- what you can do... what you cannot do- report but don't have an opinion..If you have an opinion and if it is not in line with "singaporean stance" say explicit my opinion and I am foreign ..By and large always adopt Singapore stance singapore/ opinion?. One could ask" is there a general Singaporean stance or view point???" Perhaps she meant the government's stance and view points! ......
Did we talk about more openness and being global in outlook? sure that's a S'pore stance?

Edited 09/03/2005 13:13 ET ET by lambaste2


9 March 2005

GIVE BROAD AND BALANCED RANGE OF VIEWS--------------------------------------
Newspaper readers can then appreciate how different countries see the same issues

Comprehensive and objective coverage of regional issues has been one of the strengths of Singapore newspapers.

For Singapore to thrive as a cosmopolitan city state, our people must have a keen understanding of trends and developments in the region and the world, and their implications for Singapore.

Our media reports, accompanied by analytical and op-ed pieces, help them to do this.

It is important for Singapore newspapers to distinguish clearly commentaries on regional affairs that reflect non-Singaporean views both from Singaporean commentaries and from factual reports of events.

Otherwise, readers may be misled into thinking that these foreign views reflect the newspaper's Singaporean position.

This is especially as all the major Singapore newspapers employ journalists and writers from other countries, who will naturally from time to time comment on events from a foreign perspective.

Furthermore, when covering regional affairs, a Singapore newspaper should present a broad and balanced range of views, enabling readers to appreciate how different countries see the same issues.

The newspaper itself should remain detached from conflicts and disputes involving other countries but not Singapore. It should neither advance the position of another country, nor take on a foreign government as if it were itself engaged in such a dispute. Nor should it become a participant in the domestic political debate of another country.

Both in its explicit editorial line and in the implicit point of view of its reporting, its stance should be a Singaporean one.

One recent example is the editorial and two commentaries published in the Lianhe Zaobao on Feb 22, on the joint US-Japan statement identifying easing tensions in the Taiwan Strait as a common strategic objective.

The unsigned editorial was entitled "A new flashpoint in Sino-Japan relations". The two articles, "China faces US-Japan-Taiwan alliance" and "A political battle by proxy", were authored respectively by a journalist and a scholar from China.

All three were written from a PRC perspective, and took Japan and the
US to task for conspiring to constrain China.

Similarly, several years ago The Straits Times carried articles championing the cause of one South Asian country against another, written by a South Asian journalist.

The Government had to remind The Straits Times not to get embroiled in the complex disputes of the South Asian subcontinent.

We appreciate the contributions of foreign journalists and writers. They add to our talent pool of journalists and provide insights into the thinking of their compatriots.

However, when they go beyond straightforward reporting to expressing opinions on regional issues, the newspaper should make it clear that these are the views of foreign nationals and take extra care to maintain overall balance in its reporting and commentary.

Press Secretary to the
Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts

8 Mar 2005

Part II of Chee Soon Juan's Letter & Questions to Lee

Running down Singapore

Mr Lee then accuses Dr Chee of running down Singapore because of comments the latter made about the political system in Singapore in speeches and talks he gave while overseas. Criticizing the undemocratic system that has been put in place to keep the PAP in power, has nothing to do with criticizing Singapore. In fact, Dr Chee argues that it is the PAP that has been working against the interests of Singaporeans. To
demonstrate this, Dr Chee wants Mr Lee to answer the questions below:

[On equating Singapore with the PAP]

1. Does the Plaintiff agree that the PAP is a political party that is not equal to Singapore and that criticizing the government formed by the PAP is not equivalent to criticizing Singapore?

2. [On Singapore’s dealings with Burma]

3. Did the Singapore Government, either directly or through one of the GLCs, ship, sell and/or re-export arms and ammunition to the Burmese government?

4. Did the Chartered Industries of Singapore ship, sell or re-export any of its products to the Burmese government?

5. If the answer is ‘yes’ to interrogatory 4, what are these products?

6. The US State Department has said that over half of Singapore’s investments in Burma "have been tied to the family of narco-trafficker Lo Hsing Han." Does the Plaintiff dispute this statement?

7. If the answer is ‘no’ to interrogatory 6, are Singapore’s investments still tied in with Lo Hsing Han’s family or any other drug trafficker in Burma?

8. If the answer is ‘yes’ to interrogatory 6, has the Singapore Government written to the US to protest this statement?

9. Was any investment money from the Singapore Government and/or GLCs invested (through the Myanmar Fund) with Asia World, a company set up by Lo Hsing Han?

10. Was the Plaintiff aware that the son of Lo Hsing Han, Steven Law, had been freely moving in and out of Singapore despite being strongly suspected of being involved in drug production and trafficking?

11. Was the Plaintiff aware that the Singapore ambassador to Burma had attended the wedding of Steven Law?

12. [On the secrecy and non-accountability of the GIC]

13. As Chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC), will the Plaintiff direct that the GIC’s accounts (including all its investments and performance of its investments) be open for public scrutiny?

14. Will the Plaintiff reveal how directors of the GIC are appointed and what criteria are used for the appointment of directors?

15. Who develops the GIC’s investment policies and strategies, and how are investment decisions made?

16. With reference to the amendment to the Constitution in 2004 to allow the transfer of reserves to statutory boards and GLCs, does the Plaintiff agree that the change will make the management of the reserves even more opaque?

17. Will the Plaintiff ensure that every transfer of reserves to statutory boards and GLCs be made public in terms of how much is transferred and to which organization?

18. Will the Plaintiff reveal who will make the decision to make the decisions to allow the transfer of the reserves?

19. [On the Suzhou Industrial Park project]

20. Will the Plaintiff urge the Singapore Government to reveal the accounts for the failed Suzhou Industrial Park project to allow Singaporeans to determine the losses that were incurred?

21. [On the non-publication of trade statistics with Indonesia]

22. Did the Singapore Government, during which the Plaintiff was the prime minister, agree with the Indonesian government in 1974 (then under Suharto) to not publish statistics regarding the two countries?

23. If the answer is ‘yes’ to interrogatory 22, why was such an agreement made?

24. [On the cost of building HDB flats]

25. Will the Singapore government direct that the accounts and books of the Housing Development Board (HDB) be open for public study so that a breakdown of the actual costs that go into the building of an HDB flat can be compared to the price at which they are sold?

26. Will the Plaintiff reveal the panel of law firms the HDB has been engaging in its conveyancing section since the HDB’s inception?

27. Will the Plaintiff reveal the number of HDB conveyancing cases handled by each of the law firms named in the answer to interrogatory 26?

28. [On the Chief Justice’s self-appraisal]

29. Did the Plaintiff know before he appointed Mr Yong Pung How as Chief Justice that Mr Yong had written the following statement: "Far from being distinguished in the law, I can only describe myself now as a working member of the business community, who had merely the good fortune to have a background in legal training, and some practical experience in this honourable profession before descending into the depths of the business world…My acquaintance with the law ceased as long ago as 1970, and before then had been confined almost entirely to Malaysia…I had never
actually practised in Singapore…My final departure then from the profession in 1970 must be sufficient to allow judicial notice to be taken that I had neither the ability nor the inclination to persevere in the law."?

30. If the answer is ‘yes’ to interrogatory 29, why did the Plaintiff appoint Mr Yong as the Chief Justice when Mr Yong himself categorically said that he was neither able nor willing to practice law, much less function as the Chief Justice.

31. [On the torture of ISA detainees]

32. Does the Plaintiff agree that detainees under the ISA in Singapore have been physically and mentally tortured?

33. If the answer is ‘no’ to interrogatory 32, will the Plaintiff call for a public inquiry to determine the veracity of the Government’s claims that ISA prisoners were/are not subject to torture?

34. [On lawsuit against Mr Tang Liang Hong]

35. How did the Plaintiff obtain the police report that Tang Liang Hong had made about the PAP leaders during the general elections in 1996/1997?

36. Did the Plaintiff call for a press conference to disseminate Tang’s police report to reporters?

37. Did the Plaintiff use the information in the confidential police report that Tang lodged to sue the complainant, Tang Liang Hong?

38. If the answer is ‘yes’ to interrogatory 37, did the Plaintiff sue Tang Liang Hong in his personal capacity?

39. [On the intimidation of journalists]

40. Did the Plaintiff meet with Mr Ernest Wong, CEO of Media Corp, Mr Mano Sabnani, Editor of Today, Mr Rahul Pathak, Deputy Editor of Today, and/or Val Chua, journalist with Today in or around 5 November 2003 following the newspaper’s publication of the article "SM Lee and the eye opening trauma in London"?

41. If the answer is ‘yes’ to interrogatory 40, why did the Plaintiff call for the meeting and what did the Plaintiff tell those present?

42. [On the incomes and assets of PAP ministers]

43. Does the Plaintiff think that it is right for PAP Ministers not to declare their incomes and assets to the public?

Time for Anti - Discrimination Laws

Have a look at the following articles and basically the same argument is refered to. It's got something to do with women needing to struggle even harder in order to receive equal pay. An alternative and viable solution would be to introduce anti sexual discrimination laws. It would atleast ensure that employers realise that paying someone less because of their gender is unjust and unfair. To refer to sex discrimination as a 'tough environment' clings to a notion that the environment is rigid and unchanging. Change the environment, send out a clear unambiguous message to employers. Stop sexual discrimination. The Woman's Charter needs to be more than a toothless tiger. Abuse does not always come in physical, verbal or emotional forms it can also take on a financial form.

Singapore women get lower salaries than male: survey

www.chinaview.cn 2005-03-08 03:50:51

SINGAPORE, March 7 (Xinhuanet) -- A survey showed that Singapore women do not enjoy equal pay for equal work as compared with their male counterparts, according to Channel NewsAsia report on Monday night.

The report quoted an economic advisor of the polling company as saying that a female executive has to work much harder than her male counterpart in the same position because of the tough environment.

The survey, in which Singapore ranked the seventh, also showed that Singapore women are catching up with men in terms of education and career advancement.

Conducted by MasterCard International, a leading global payments solutions company, the survey aimed to examine the socio-economic level of women to men in the Asia Pacific region by comparing data collected from 13 countries.

S'pore women say they are not paid enough compared to male counterparts: survey
By Rita Zahara, Channel NewsAsia
SINGAPORE : Singapore is seventh in a survey which compares the socio-economic level of women to men in Asia Pacific region.

Although the survey shows that Singapore women are closing the gap with their male counterparts in terms of tertiary education, the women are lagging behind when it comes to salaries.

The survey by MasterCard compares the data from 13 countries in the Asia Pacific region.

A score above 100 means gender inequality in favour of women; a score of 40 for - above average income, shows that Singapore women surveyed say they are underpaid.

One woman said, "It's not fair, we're doing the same standard with the guys but salary wise it's not fair."

Meanwhile a man said, "Women are not paid as well. I think it's the same as everywhere in the world at this moment; it's still like that because women are not taken as seriously as men."

Dr Yuwa Hedrick-Wong, Economic Advisor, MasterCard International, said, "The women executive would tend to believe she is actually better, superior compared to a male counterpart because the environment is so tough, she really has work so much harder and excel and out-perform her male counterparts in the same position."

Most of the women Channel NewsAsia spoke to agreed Singapore women are progressing well in terms of education and career advancement; but in some cases, they had to put their careers on hold in favour of marriage and having children.

On the other hand, Thailand topped the study with the highest overall index of 92, partly due to the large number of tertiary educated women there. - CNA

My favourite example to illustrate that the press in Singapore loves to target the victim for blame is from Today...

"And they have mainly their lack of self-confidence — or too-high expectations — to blame."

7 Mar 2005

Conference on Tackling the Demand for Child Tourism and Sex Trafficking in East and Southeast Asia

 Posted by Hello

The sexual exploitation of children through prostitution is an insidious form of commercialized violence against the world's most vulnerable citizens. A childhood spent in prostitution can have serious, lifelong, even life-threatening consequences for the physical, psychological, spiritual, and social development of children.
Throughout the region, law enforcement, prosecutors, and social-service providers face many obstacles in responding to this challenging problem. Some jurisdictions have, however devloped innovative programs and initiatives, based on multidisciplinary and multijurisdictional models, to address the sexual exploitation of youth living.

Previous articles related to current post...
Trafficking in Persons Report


From Singaland looking at how indoctrination is created and how it can be undermined. Singaland is an intelligent blog, well written and well argued.

In a theocracy, people become afraid to think. Because, to question and to think means to subvert one's belief system. It is better to have all of the answers than some of the questions, say these people.

There is the fear of being drawn into polemics as well as into the complexities of things that make authoritarianism the best alternative. It is this feeling that makes those in power produce more and more "truth-polices".

We must begin to become scientists and philosophers that will inquire into the practice and the future of theocratic states. We must engineer a 'renaissance' in the practice of statehood.

 Posted by Hello

Lifting the veil

The Straits Jacket

Comments: Mellanie Hewlitt
Singapore Review
6 March 2005

The Straits Times will have you believe that life is a bed of roses for the average Singaporean. And Singapore's propaganda machine is working overtime this year to spin the good news on the good life as it is a election year.

But we lift the veil and reveal some of the harsh realities which are conveniently overlooked by Singapore's million dollar ministers.

The figures reveal that the average Singaporean is a far from happy creature and is afflictaed by a host of social-economic ailments ranging from;

a) Escalating Costs of Living
b) Insufficient Savings For Retirement
c) Unemployment Concerns
d) Shrinking Real Income
f) Marital Blues and declining Birth Rates
g) Mounting Work Pressure, long work hours
h) Mounting academic pressure
i) An Unforgiving academic and work culture which places a premium on
qualifications over actual performance
j) Competition from Foreign Talent
k) Bureucratic Government Policies

The list goes on. Small wonder that suicides rates are on the rise.

But according to previous "figures" released by the Singapore Government last year (2003), Singapore workers were better paid then their US, UK and Australian counterparts.

Life is also supposed to be rosy here in Singapore and Singaporeans should be grateful for the safe and comfortable environment provided by the local government.

But if Life in this "Wonderland with the Death Penalty" is so good;

1) Why is disposable income (and CPF rates) falling ?
2) Why are more and more people leaving?
3) Why are the birth rates falling?
4) Why are suicide rates on the rise?
5) Why are unemployment rates on the rise?
6) Why are daily living costs escalating?
7) Why is there the emergence of the "educated poor" as a new social class?


The silence is deafening.

Peering beyond the smoke and mirrors which are part and parcel official government press releases to the public, the harsh reality confronted by the average Singaporean is that shrinking incomes, escalating living costs and 12-15 hour work days have taken their inevitable toll on personal happiness and emotional well-being. All is not well in Singapore and this is an ugly truth that the Singapore Government is not anxious to accept or confront.

Some where along the lines, the "Directors" of Singapore Inc have implemented grand plans to sell Singapore Inc to the world, but have conveniently forgotten to include in their sensitivities the fact that employees are flesh and blood and cannot work 24 hours a day. Even duracell batteries need time to recharge,and human beings are no different in this respect.

To make matters worse, the "Top Brass" of Singapore Inc continue to receive hefty salaries even when the company itself announced a dismal 0.8% annual growth rate. This begets the looming question whether a director who takes home approx SGD100,000/- per month (or SGD1.2 million a year) can ever understand and relate to the plight of an employee who takes home SGD3,000/- a month on average.

We put back in what the Straits Times takes out. Read on and see the truth for yourselves.

You can view it in the context of the entire discussion by going to:

"Joblessness" or "Unemployment" it's Getting Worse

Singapore Braces for Increase in Joblessness.

Or as the rest of us say, "Unemployment". Will a continued rise in unemployment inevitably lead to an undermining of legitimisation of the PAP? "Yes we are tough, we need to be tough in order to secure employment for Singaporeans".

Or does it simply highlight the fact that the State is no longer in the driving seat and simply at the mercy of multi-national corporations like every other State?

 Posted by Hello