12 Dec 2005

It Was International Human Rights Day...

Last Saturday, 10 December 2005 was International Human Rights Day. How many Singaporeans were aware of it?

Perhaps the state should issue a decree to never ever recognise this day. Perhaps the state flag should have been flown at half mast to commemorate the day. The state hanged Nguyen Tuong Van of Melbourne on 2 December 2005. To say the words "human rights" in this state is in itself, sheer mockery. The state hanged him cold without the warmth of a final hug from his mother. Nguyen Tuong Van was executed like the others before him.

To quote Australian PM Howard, "Don't use them, don't touch them, don't carry them, don't traffic in them, and don't imagine for a moment -- for a moment --that you can risk carrying drugs anywhere in Asia without suffering the most severe consequences." This is possibly the most invaluable learning attribute of Nguyen's demise.

With Tabcorp Holdings Ltd., Australia's largest gaming group, having withdrawn from the casino race, one cannot help but to wonder if the move signals strained ties between the two nations.

Further more, 5 days post the execution, the Human Rights Watch on 7 December 2005 presented a 124 page report "Maid to Order: Ending Abuses against Migrant Domestic Workers in Singapore". The title of the report is self-explanatory. Maids suffered physical and sexual violence, food deprivation, confinement and long working hours. Singapore, with a population of 4.351 million employs approximately 150,000 women, primarily from Indonesia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka, as domestic workers.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of the Human Rights Watch said "In a country well-known for strictly enforcing laws to promote order and efficiency, the failure to provide adequate and equal protection to an entire class of workers is an anomaly. By implementing comprehensive reforms, Singapore could become a standard-setter in the region for migrant domestic workers."

Singapore failed human rights when She hanged Nguyen. Singapore failed human rights when abuses are inflicted upon Migrant Domestic Workers in Singapore. To print Singapore's score card on Human Rights, it is more practical to load only red inked cartridges into the printer.

From these two incidents, what has Singapore learnt? Has She gained or has She lost?

It is convenient for Singaporeans to lament the obliteration of Human Rights in Singapore. After all, the state does not advocate it. While fingers are pointed at the government for their archaic unforgiving policies, people when accusing others, may have overlooked the fact that they themselves have to be practitioners of human rights in order to pursue it.

The drug addicts and traffickers needed no encouragement from the government to pursue drugs. Employers who were not train to abuse domestic workers went ahead anyway. Is this how we want human rights to be practiced?

The people need to be educated. A greater awareness has to be propagated. Responsibility and human rights, it is a package deal. Else the laws are merely a constitution for nobody and unfeelingly enforced on everyone when guilty. To deserve Human Rights, Singaporeans need to understand that human rights are not just rights that are freely given. Human rights have to be worked towards.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful commited citizens can change the world - indeed it is the only thing that ever does" - Margaret Meade


pleinelune said...

Though I can continue to rally for it, I've long since given up hope for the government to change their ways. I just focus on educating the people now.

pleinelune said...

and of course, helping them.

Anonymous said...

admire your philanthropy but i'm not that selfless...concentrating my efforts on migration now :p

pleinelune said...

Oh I'm not THAT philantrophic. I'm getting out of this country ASAP. But as as long as I am here, I might as well do some good.