29 Sep 2005

Seminar for Singapore to invest in Burma - Myanmar

Constructive Engagement?

The policy of 'constructive engagement' is a smoke screen for taking money from a morally repugnant regime. It is against the wishes of the democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and sends the wrong signal...

Myanmar's military rulers [who] are still holding more than 1,100 political prisoners despite last July's release of 249 such detainees, a U.N. human rights investigator reported on Wednesday.

Monks, lawyers, teachers, journalists, farmers, politicians, student leaders, writers and poets are among those the reclusive Southeast Asian nation is detaining on political grounds, special rapporteur Paulo Sergio Pinheiro of Brazil said in a report to the 191-nation U.N. General Assembly.
Myanmar has 1,100 political prisoners -UN expert


"If we don't take their money someone else will."

Prominent pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, has had various restrictions placed on her activities since the late 1980s. In 1990 her party won a landslide victory in Burma's first multi-party elections for 30 years, but has never been allowed to govern.

Military-run enterprises control key industries, and corruption and severe mismanagement are the hallmarks of a black-market-riven economy.

The armed forces - and former rebels co-opted by the government - have been accused of large-scale trafficking in heroin, of which Burma is a major exporter. Prostitution and Aids are major problems.


The above is quoted from the BBC.


Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of the assassinated independence leader Aung San, spent 6 years under house arrest [actually she is again under house arrest]. In 1990, her party, the National League for Democracy, won 82 percent of the parliamentary seats. The generals, shocked by an election result they never expected, threw 200 of the newly-elected MPs into prison. Suu Kyi's party has never been allowed to take elected office.


She warns that, far from liberalizing life in Burma, foreign investment and tourism can further entrench the military regime.



http://www.bullfrogfilms.com/catalog/inb.html

Seminar to invest in Burma

Mizzima News (www.mizzima.com)
September 28, 2005

A seminar aim to promote investment in Burma held today in Singapore.

The speaker Mr. Serge Pun, Chairman of the SPA Group, operating with banking, real estate, manufacturing to services and running with over 3500 employees in Burma has scheduled to speech on the seminar entitled “ Business & Investment Opportunities Seminar- Myanmar” at Bungis junction Office Tower.

The changing of Burma’s economy and business environment situations, the Singaporean businessmen will have new chances and hope for the business field in the oil and gas, trading and services sectors, stated in the invitation letter.

Singapore is one of the top foreign investor in Burma. In 2004, Burma and Singapore reached with bilateral trade amounting to S$1.2 billion.

While US and the West impose sanction on Burma, foreign investment rise up more than 34 percent in 2004, said a report from Ministry of National Planning and Development in its annual report.

But, some critics say facts and figures released by the authority are unreliable.


Related Articles:

Singapore's Blood Money
Horrific account of Burma's suppression



28 Sep 2005

SEAPA urges Singapore to stop probe of filmmaker, repeal Films Act

SEAPA urges Singapore to stop probe of filmmaker, repeal Films Act
26 September 2005
Source: Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA
)

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance is seriously concerned over deepening police investigations into the work and causes of Singaporean filmmaker Martyn See, and urges free expression advocates worldwide to condemn this latest harassment of a citizen for the “crime” of having spoken his mind. At the same time, SEAPA said the case of Martyn See highlights the harshness of Singaporean state practices and laws in stifling free expression.



27 Sep 2005

Hey teacher leave them kids alone

The Pink Floyd song comes to mind... Another brick in the wall (part 2)


Singapore schools punish cheeky student bloggers
Tue Sep 27, 2005 4:16 AM BST


SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore schools have begun a clampdown on students who insult teachers in online journals by punishing them with suspensions, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.

In August, five junior college students who posted derogatory remarks about their teachers and vice-principal on their blogs, or online journals, were suspended for three days, the Straits Times reported.

Seven secondary schools and two junior colleges have also got tough on penalised students for making offensive remarks about teachers on blogs: one secondary school student who called a teacher a "prude" and a "frustrated old spinster" on her blog was ordered to remove the remarks.

Blogging, writing in online journals, has become huge popular among the young in tech-savvy Singapore, where over 65 percent of the city-state's 4.2 million people are wired to the Internet.

But with libellous blogs emerging as a hot legal issue, one has to be careful with what is written.

In May, a Singapore student shut down his blog after a government agency threatened to sue for what it said were untrue and serious accusations.

In September, three ethnic Chinese bloggers were charged in court under Singapore's sedition laws for making racial slurs against the Malay community on their weblogs.

Lawyers say students could be sued for defamation, even if a teacher was not named.

"As long as someone is able to identify the teacher, and it is an untrue statement that affects his reputation or livelihood, then the student is liable," lawyer Doris Chia of Harry Elias and Partners was quoted as saying in the Straits Times.

An injunction can be taken to get the student to remove the blog and issue an apology, she said.




Amnesty International Appeal on behalf of Martyn See

The following is an appeal on behalf of Singaporean film maker Martyn See, who is now under police investigation following the making of his short documentary on opposition leader Dr Chee Soon Juan. The film in question can be downloaded via this link. Singapore Rebel.
The appeal is also on the website of AI's Asia-Pacific Regional Office: http://asiapacific.amnesty.org/apro/aproweb.nsf
/pages/appeal_singaporeMartynSee



AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL CANADA
26 September, 2005

SINGAPORE: Stifling freedom of expression: Film maker Martyn See threatened with prosecution

Singaporean film maker Martyn See is under police investigation for making a short documentary film about an opposition politician in the city state. He has been threatened with prosecution under the Films Act, after a making of a 26-minute documentary on Dr Chee Soon Juan, the leader of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), and could face up to two years in jail or a fine of up to S$100,000 (Canadian dollar approximately equivalent).

In March 2005 government movie censors ordered the withdrawal of his documentary, entitled Singapore Rebel, from the country’s annual international film festival on the grounds that that it breached the Films Act. Subsequently, as police conducted a criminal investigation, Martyn See was called for questioning and compelled to surrender his video camera, existing tapes of the documentary and other related material.

The Films Act, just one of a wide range of restrictive laws that curtail freedom of expression in Singapore, prohibits "party political films". The Act broadly defines such films as those containing "…either partisan or biased references to or comments on any political matter".

The subject of the film, Dr Chee Soon Juan, is prominent among the limited number of Singaporeans who remain vocal and active in opposition politics despite the serious obstacles and personal pressures that such a role can entail.

Chee Soon Juan has been imprisoned for holding peaceful public meetings, and following civil defamation suits lodged by leaders of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) now faces possible bankruptcy. As a bankrupt he would be barred from standing in parliamentary elections.

Martyn See denies making the film in support of any particular political belief or party, commenting that he sought to "find out Chee Soon Juan's motivation, as to why he does what he does." Although banned in Singapore, the film has been screened at human rights festivals in the United States and New Zealand and may soon be shown in Canada.

Background

Freedom of expression, association and assembly is strictly controlled in Singapore, a city-state of just over four million people. A broad array of restrictive legislation, including the Films Act, the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, the Societies Act, the Undesirable Publications Act and the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act, imposes tight curbs on free speech and civil society activities.

In respect to curbs on allegedly "political" or other "unacceptable" films, a 15-minute documentary made by three college lecturers about veteran former opposition leader J B Jeyaretnam was banned in 2001 after it was found to have violated the Films Act. In 2003, a film by Roystan Tan, 15, telling the story of delinquent teenage gangsters, was ordered cut by government censors after police deemed it a threat to national security, though it was reportedly well received at the Vienna Film Festival.

In a recent protest action against the Films Act and other censorship in Singapore, internet activist Yap Keng Ho lodged a police complaint in August in relation to the production and screening by a state-owned television company of allegedly "political" films profiling PAP leaders. Yap Keng Ho stated he wanted to expose a pro-ruling party bias in the Act and its application. Police are investigating the complaint.

Amid hopes of a possible relaxation of political and social controls, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (son of former longstanding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew) in his 2004 inaugural speech called for greater participation by Singaporeans in a more "open" and "inclusive" society.

However, continuing tight restrictions, including the use of the Films Act, continue to inhibit political life. In particular, financially ruinous civil defamation suits lodged by PAP leaders against prominent opposition figures deter and intimidate government critics. Following a series of such defamation suits, former opposition leader J B Jeyaretnam was declared bankrupt in 2001, expelled from parliament and barred from contesting elections.

Amnesty International considers these defamation suits were politically motivated and have had a wider 'chilling' effect on the right to freedom of expression in Singapore. The US State Department Human Rights Report has also criticised Singapore for using defamation suits to intimidate opposition politicians, and the press organisation Reporteurs Sans Frontières ranks Singapore 147th out of 167 countries on press freedom.



PLEASE TAKE ACTION


1. Encourage the screening of Martyn See's film, Singapore Rebel.


2. Write a courteous letter:


- Express concern about harassment of Martyn See, the threat of his prosecution under the Films Act, and restrictions on freedom of expression, including artistic freedom;

- Call for an end to the misuse of restrictive laws, including the Films Act, which can serve to punish perceived government opponents and to deter Singaporeans from expressing dissenting political opinions and participating in public life;

- State that freedom of expression is a fundamental right protected by international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.



To:

Dr LEE Boon Yang Salutation: Dear Minister

Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts

140 Hill Street, #02-02 MICA Building

Singapore 179369

E-mail: lee_boon_yang@mica.gov.sg or mica@mica.gov.sg

Fax: +65 6837 9837



His Excellency Vanu Gopala Menon Salutation: Your Excellency

Permanent Representative of the Republic of Singapore to the UN and High Commission to Canada

231 E. 51st Street

New York, NY 10022

USA

Fax: +1 212 826 2964


24 Sep 2005

Do Housemaids Need a Day Off?

This is an easy question to answer. YES. They deserve it the same as every other worker in Singapore. Worrying about what an adult does on his or her day off has nothing to do with the employer. Maids do not require special treatment nor protection from preditors outside the home as most abuse takes place within the home.

RIGHTS-SINGAPORE:
Do Housemaids Need a Day Off?
Stanislaus Jude Chan


SINGAPORE, Sep 24 (IPS) - Gruesome as it was, the discovery of the severed head and limbs of a Filipino housemaid, abandoned in a travel bag on fashionable Orchard Road, has rekindled an old debate on whether foreign domestic workers in this affluent city-state should get a weekly day off or not.

The immediate concern in businesslike Singapore, following the Sep. 9 discovery, was that the rather overworked 'Maid in Singapore' headlines were beginning to overshadow the 'Uniquely Singapore' campaign slogan, carefully crafted for the tourism department.

There were few tears shed for Jane Parangan La Puebla and none for Guen Garlejo Aguilar, arrested for the murder of her compatriot and 'best friend'. They were just more trouble than the usual run of 'havoc maids'.

But the scene was different in the Philippines where demonstrations were mounted in front of the Singapore embassy demanding that Aguilar gets a fair trial and justice. Parallels were drawn with the controversial hanging of Flor Contemplacion for the murder of fellow domestic worker Delia Maga, a decade ago.

Contemplacion's execution strained relations between Singapore and the Philippines and caused many Filipinos to vent their frustration at governments in both countries that were, seemingly, not doing enough to prevent the abuse and stress that are the lot of Filipino overseas workers.

This time, Manila appealed for calm, urging local media to cease sensational reporting on the La Puebla murder. ''I appeal for sobriety from everyone and not to come to rash conclusions on the basis of media reports or stories being circulated,'' Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Belen Anota was quoted by newspapers as saying.

Officials fear the sensational reports could stir up public sentiment and set off an unwarranted reaction against Singapore--though there was relief that this was a case of one Filipino maid allegedly killing another, rather than extreme violence between Singaporean employers and foreign domestic help.

Singapore courts frequently hear cases of housemaid abuse--or those concerning retaliatory murder, the usual plea of defence lawyers on behalf of their clients being that they were driven to homicide after suffering extreme abuse.

Last month, Singapore's image as a destination for foreign job-seekers took yet another beating when homemaker, Sazarina Madzin was arrested for the abuse of her Indonesian maid, Wiwik Setyowati, last year.

The 28-year-old Madzin was charged on 80 counts of abuse, including bludgeoning her hapless victim, Setyowati, with an assortment of household items, including shoes, a tomato sauce bottle and a plastic chopping board.

Apart from fines, Madzin now faces seven years in prison for threatening to kill her employee.

On the other hand, two Indonesian maids who robbed and killed their employer Esther Ang were found guilty of manslaughter last month but escaped the death sentence.

The judge determined that Juminem, 20, ''was suffering from a psychiatric disorder of a depressive nature'' and awarded her a life sentence, while he sent 17-year-old Siti Aminah to ten years in prison after noting that she was only 15 at the time of the crime and that she was ''intellectually and psychologically immature''.

The three cases in the space of a month have dented Singapore's reputation as a safe and lawful city, besides leading to concern over the treatment of migrant workers here.

There are currently some 150,000 foreign maids working in Singapore. Most of them are from the Philippines and Indonesia, with the rest from Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand.

But more than 27 years after foreign domestic helpers first started working in Singapore, debate on issues like whether maids should get a day off and also how much they should be paid, continues.

Filipino maids, who can converse in English, usually receive around 215 US dollars a month while Sri Lankans rate less at 150 dollars. Indonesians get paid around 120 dollars, slightly more than the 117-dollar levy that employers must pay the government per worker.

The wages seem exploitative in a country with one of the most affluent societies in Asia and having a per capita monthly income exceeding 2,000 dollars. And for round-the-clock work.

''Even machines need rest,'' says Filipino domestic worker Ellen Elancanal, who has been here for eight years. ''We work so many hours. We must have a day a week, whichever way we want to spend it''. She gets to spend her Sundays with a church choir, or helping fellow workers in trouble.

''Not giving people time off can make people disgruntled and stressed,'' said Helen Tan, spokeswoman for the Association of Employment Agencies, Singapore.

But many employers are wary of 'social problems' and choose to keep their maids at home.

Employers in Singapore risk forfeiting a 3,000 dollar-security bond if the maid goes missing--or if they fail to repatriate her at the end of the contract or in the event of pregnancy.

''They (domestic helpers) know that if they do that (get pregnant), they stand to lose everything. It's not in their interest to jeopardise the money they send home to their families,'' said Braema Mathi, president of Transient Workers Count Too, an agency defending the human rights of workers here.

''If employers are worried about pregnancy, then workers should have sex education. We can't control human behaviour to that extent and say that we are protecting her by not giving her a day off''.

On the ground though, many employers are sceptical about days off. ''They have boyfriends and all that!'' says Mary Lee, 58, a Singaporean homemaker who has employed several domestic workers over the last two decades.

''Some even go to Geylang (Singapore's red-light district) and earn extra cash, you know? We can't control the maids, so it's best that when we employ the maid, we tell the agent we don't want to give days off,'' Lee said.

Fear of 'social problems' causes employers to deny maids a day off and the stress of working without a break results in pent-up frustrations that create rather than solve a delicate problems which can be tackled on with responsibility and understanding.

''The bold maids are often those who have worked here for some time. Their employers trust them and some abuse their privileges,'' said Alice Cheah, owner of the Singapore agency, 'Caregivers Centre', stressing that 'havoc maids' are in the minority.

''Maids should be given days off. It'd be unhealthy psychologically if the maids are cooped up in the house every day. If the maids treasure their jobs, they will behave well,'' Cheah said.


23 Sep 2005

Power To The Teachers

A posting of an article for my own records. I worked in a number of 'private schools', or 'business schools' in Singapore and know this story from the inside out. Lets put it diplomatically and state that there is a certain tension or conflict of interest within such organisations, which is best summed up with an image of a "business-school" dichotomy. I am attracted to this article because it refers to one of the few groups of people within said organisations that appear to be motivated towards education. The original article is available here.

Singapore: “A magnet for Asian education” but also of fraud
The education boom in this city state cloaks inefficiency and deception



Singapore (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In Singapore, the sharp rise in the number of private schools in recent years has prompted the government to strive to make the country “a magnet for education for all Asia”. The schools do offer a considerable range of possibilities from teaching of English to children’s pre-schooling to electrical engineering and tourism. Education makes up 1.9% of Singapore’s Gross Domestic Product.

Many students come from abroad, especially from China. They pay between 5,000 and 20,000 Singapore dollars (between 2,500 and 10,000 US dollars) to be able to read for a diploma or a degree.

However, there are businessmen at work in the sector who do not guarantee quality standards. The authorities have heard many complaints from students who protested against the poor effectiveness of courses or the inefficiency of the school campus. There have even been problems regarding the reimbursement of school taxes. The government, to put a stop to these goings-on, decided last year to introduce a plan to protect students.

Schools are now obliged to deposit enrolment taxes of students in a specific current account which allows the withdrawal of money only after the student would have completed his course. Otherwise, the school may draw up an insurance policy in the student’s name. Only 140 out of 209 schools were able to implement this plan.

The plan, which has a long-term view of protecting students as well as the reputation of the education system is having short-term negative repercussions.

Recently, the “Ait academy” and the “Unicampus” [SAME PLACE]had to shut down. Hundreds of students – including a Chinese student who has enrolled and paid 5,565 Singapore dollars to the school the day before it announced its closure – found themselves without a place to go to school.

Students who had enrolled in the Ait last year were covered by the protection plan and they were able to transfer to other schools without forking out any more money.

Other schools face financial problems. Last year, the formation school “Informatics” which offered to take 250 Ait students, was involved in a money scandal.

Many teachers believe the Ait school is only the tip of the iceberg and that many schools could close if they did not put their accounts in order quickly.

Absolutely — within the limits of the law

With the World Bank and IMF intending to hold meetings in Singapore the concern is that the protestors who normally accompany such meetings will not be allowed to attend. Mr Lim below states that the demonstrators will not be kept out, so long as they remain...

"Absolutely — within the limits of the law," he told reporters when asked if Singapore would tolerate public protests at the meetings next September.


After the recent quiet peaceful protest of less than the maximum 5 individuals at the CPF headquarters was surrounded by 40 police officers, some in riot gear, Mr Lim appears to be speaking without foundation.

Will only 4 protestors be allowed to demonstrate? Will they have to remain silent? Will they have to be non-Singaporeans? The concern is that foreigners will be allowed to protest, while Singaporeans will be denied the same right.

Mr Raymond Lim, Second Minister for Finance and Foreign Affairs, promised that the demonstrators who traditionally dog the meetings of the international financial organisations would not be kept out. "Absolutely — within the limits of the law," he told reporters when asked if Singapore would tolerate public protests at the meetings next September.


The idea that any country will allow demonstrations from non-citizens and yet break-up peaceful protests by their own citizens could send a very strong message to the people of Singapore. Singapore will host the World Bank nad IMF meetings next September and the eyes of the world will be watching as it stumbles to maintain its image of being an open and tolerant society. The constraints on the right to protest maintained and enforced by the government will need to be re-evaluated.


Sources said it is hoped that prominent Asian heads of government, including leaders from China, India and Japan, will join their finance ministers at the meetings in Singapore to add weight to the regional sales pitch. — AFP WASHINGTON — Neat, tidy and fabulously wealthy Singapore will loosen up for law-abiding protesters when it hosts next year's annual meetings of the World Bank and IMF, a minister said yesterday.


Full Article is available here


.

Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents


Reporters Without Borders have launched a truely useful little book for all of you out there worried about receiving a knock on your door in the middle of the night. For me it contains something very important; an ethics code to be adhered to.

This handbook can be downloaded here and contains chapters entitled:



Bloggers, the new heralds of free expression
What’s a blog ?
The language of blogging
Choosing the best tool
How to set up and run a blog
What ethics should bloggers have ?
Getting your blog picked up by search-engines
What really makes a blog shine ?
Personal accounts:
- Germany
- Bahrain
- USA
- Hong Kong
- Iran
- Nepal
How to blog anonymously
Technical ways to get round censorship
Ensuring your e-mail is truly private
Internet-censor world championship


Blogs get people excited. Or else they disturb and worry them. Some people distrust them. Others see them as the vanguard of a new information revolution. Because they allow and encourage ordinary people to speak up, they’re tremendous tools of freedom of expression.

Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure. Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest.

Reporters Without Borders has produced this handbook to help them, with handy tips and technical advice on how to to remain anonymous and to get round censorship, by choosing the most suitable method for each situation. It also explains how to set up and make the most of a blog, to publicise it (getting it picked up efficiently by search-engines) and to establish its credibility through observing basic ethical and journalistic principles.





'Singapore Rebel' witchhunt?

A further update from Martyn See of Singapore Rebel.

Some things you and I should know about this rather troubling turn of events.

- Other than Jacob George, another friend, a leading Singaporean filmmaker at that, was called up and was interviewed by ASP Chan Peng Kuang on Monday. I had known who she was but I had wanted to respect her privacy. A young journalist at TODAY apparently went ahead and got the scoop. Watch for the report later today.

- I have not been told exactly why 'Singapore Rebel' was deemed a party political film. Was the film intended for a political end? Did it contain biased references to political issues? Was it an advertisement made for a political organisation? Neither MDA or the police has told me the exact reason for its classification.

- 'Singapore Rebel' contains not a single mention of 'SDP' or 'Singapore Democratic Party.' The only political party mentioned is the PAP. In my view, it had potrayed Chee Soon Juan as an activist isolated by his own deliberate acts of civil disobedience. But of course this is a totally subjective view, and others who have seen it will harbour diametrically opposite interpretations, and hence it brings into question what constitutes a 'biased reference' in the first place, and also who gets to decide what is 'party political film.' Was the labelling of 'Singapore Rebel' as a PPF a decision made by a commitee or by one individual at the Media Development Authority? And how did he (or they) arrive at his (or their) decision?

- The report below does not contain any statement from the police. Surely the Straits Times must verify with Home Affairs that Jacob George was indeed called up, and the other obvious question is why the need to tap my mobile phone, if indeed it's been tapped.

- On a separate note, I am currently researching for my next short film - on an ex-detainee. And I will probably spend a lot of time hanging out with him, like I did with Chee Soon Juan. But the film will ultimately be my vision, not his or anybody else's. Hopefully, all of you will get to see it, legally of course.

Martyn See


__________________________________________________

Film probe : Activist called for interview

BY ZAKIR HUSSAIN
STRAITS TIMES, 22 Sept 2005


The police have called political activist Jacob George, 36, for an interview in connection with the ongoing invetigations into filmmaker Martyn See's documentary, Singapore Rebel.

Mr George said on his Internet blog that he received the phone call on his cellphone on Monday afternoon.

An assistant superintendent of police explained to him that he was talking to friends and acquaintances of Mr See.

No date has been fixed for the interview, he added, but said it would likely be next week.

Mr See's 26-minute documentary chronicles several of the political activities of opposition Singapore Democratic Party secretary-general Chee Soon Juan.

Making a party political film is an offence under the Films Act, which bans the making or distribution of such films, including advertisement by political parties or other political organisations, or films "directed towards any political end in Singapore".

If found guilty, a filmmaker can be jailed for up to two years or fined up to $100,000.

But Mr See, 36, has not been charged with any offence.

Mr George said in his blog that the police officer who called him mentioned that he got his number through their investigations, and Mr George had been in contact with Mr See through SMS.

He told The Straits Times yesterday he had a "very short, pleasant conversation" with the officer, during which he said he had nothing to do with Singapore Rebel.

The film was withdrawn from the Singapore International Film Festival in March after the Board of Film Censors found it objectionable. The board then made a report to the police.

The Media Development Authority said the board had made the report as making a party political film is an offence.

Last month, after a three hour-long interview with the police, Mr See was asked to surrender his tapes and video camera.

On Tuesday, Mr See wrote in his blog: "Not only am I unable to speak freely on my own phone, the police is now closing in on individuals who are totally unconnected with the making of Singapore Rebel."


21 Sep 2005

Singapore warns on internet racial hate

What is political dissent? Does stating something along the lines of "Down with the PAP and their sycophants" constitute political dissent? How about, "I feel that the government of Singapore which is controlled by the PAP as a result of dubious 'electorial' and media practices should be removed from office in a non-violent manner in the near future and intend to help further the demise of the PAP and its sycophants", does that fall under the Sedition Act? Maybe Mr Wang can enlighten us?

By John Burton Published: September 19 2005 03:00 | Last updated: September 19 2005 03:00

Singapore yesterday warned that it would increase penalties for those who use the internet to inflame racial hatred, sparking concerns of a broader crackdown on websites that contain political dissent.

Lee Hsien Loong, the prime minister, told the pro-government Straits Times that anyone who threatened the city-state's racial and religious harmony could be prosecuted under the country's sedition law.

Singapore last week applied the 57-year-old act for the first time against individuals when it arrested three Singaporeans accused of making racial slurs on internet message boards.
John Burton,Singapore


A call from the police

The police has intesified investigations against me by calling up blogger Jacob George whose number is listed on my mobile. The walls are closing in. Not only am I not able to speak freely on my own phone, the police is now closing in on individuals who are totally unconnected with the making of 'Singapore Rebel.'

Depressed,
Martyn See
http://singaporerebel.blogspot.com/


News alert from omekanahuria.blogspot.com/

A call from the police

About 12.15pm yesterday, I received a call from an ASP Chan of the Singapore Police Force. He requested an interview with me with regards to the ongoing investigations into the documentary, Singapore Rebel, by Martyn See.

I asked the ASP why he wanted to talk to me. He replied that he's talking to some of Martyn's friends and acquaintances as part of the investigations. He mentioned that I've been in contact with Martyn via SMS.

When the ASP called, I asked him how he got my mobile number. He just replied "through our investigations". I asked him a few times but he gave the same reply. Not many people have my mobile number. Those who do would've told me if they had been approached for my number. Nobody did.

We will probably meet next week.

Like I've written so many times before, it's not as if the documentary was a training video for the JI terrorist group!!

This unneccessary investigation is being taken to ridiculous levels.


20 Sep 2005

Singapore defends controls on public speech

To look at the title above and then reading the article below you might get the impression that Lee Hsien Loong is Singapore.

LHL is rightly concerned that we don't want to trivialize these discussions, what he means by 'glamourise' is beyond me though, does he mean commercialise or is he referring to Xiaxue's site?

To the list I would like to add the previso that he and his fellow 'elected' [I use the term loosely] representatives also refrain from 'criminalising' the online discussions on social and political issues. The process of criminalising politics is so deep rooted that many refuse to discuss politics beyond the boundaries of humour or parody. The recent hauling before court of three alleged racists under the heavy handed enforcement of the Sedition Act further reinforces the idea that discussing serious issues and voicing alternative viewpoints could have one labelled as subversive and criminalised in Singapore.

Surely such an intelligent individual would be aware of the major hurdle undermining social and political discussion in Singapore. Aware of it and yet contented.

2005-09-20 / Associated Press /

Singapore's prime minister has acknowledged tensions over the country's tight controls on public speech and political activity, but defended the regulations as necessary to maintain order, a newspaper said yesterday.

"I think we have two contradictory requirements," Lee Hsien Loong said in an interview with The Straits Times. "On the one hand, people want to explore social issues and political issues and talk about subjects which people are concerned about. But at the same time, you don't want your politics to become trivialized or glamorized."

"I think there's some tension," he said.

Singapore, a stable and thriving Asian economic hub, is known for its extremely safe streets and clean government. But strict laws discourage dissent, making public debate muted in comparison with poorer but more freewheeling countries in the region.

Conscious of the city-state's staid image, leaders have relaxed some controls. Lee said there was a trend toward more openness - but only within government-mandated boundaries.

"There are ways you can work within the law and get your message across," the newspaper quoted him as saying. "If you want to express yourself, there are no lack of avenues for doing so either on the Internet, in the media. Or you can make a (theatrical) play, and many people do."

However, three Singaporeans were charged last week with sedition for allegedly posting racist remarks on the Internet. One, a 17-year-old, allegedly made inflammatory comments on his personal Web site about the country's Muslim ethnic Malay minority. Singapore is 80 percent ethnic Chinese.

In a separate case, Singaporean director Martyn See is under investigation for making a documentary called "Singapore Rebel" about an opposition leader. Police have said See may have broken the law by knowingly showing or distributing a "party political film."

In 2000, the government approved a "Speakers' Corner," a small area in a downtown park where people can speak in public - but only if they register with police first, use no amplification equipment and avoid race, religion and inciting hostility toward the government.

There is little interest in the site.

Lee defended a police investigation of an incident in which some people displayed eight cardboard signs depicting white elephants - a symbol of waste and poor planning - during a Cabinet minister's visit last month to a train station that has yet to open after long delays.

Police had "received a complaint, I think a 999 call," Lee said, referring to an emergency phone number. "If they didn't investigate, they might well be accused of being partial or being less than zealous in their duty. So they have to deal with it. You need public order."



17 Sep 2005

HK website apologises to S'pore leaders over Temasek article

Sept 16, 2005


HONG KONG - Hong Kong-based FinanceAsia.com has apologised to Singapore's leaders past and present for an article about Temasek, the Singapore government's investment arm.

The apology, posted on the website on Thursday, said that parts of an Aug 19 report 'may have been understood to have meant' that Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, his father Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, and other family members 'corruptly and improperly caused Temasek to be owned and managed for the benefit of their family'.

The article may also have been understood to mean that another former prime minister, Mr Goh Chok Tong, allowed Temasek to be used corruptly and improperly, FinanceAsia.com said.

'We admit and acknowledge that these allegations are completely false and without foundation,' said the website, which apologised to the men 'for the distress and embarrassment caused to them by these false allegations.'

FinanceAsia.com issued a separate apology to Temasek and its board.

The website said it has agreed to pay unspecified damages 'and to indemnify them for all costs and expenses incurred by them in connection with this matter'.
-- AP

http://financeasia.com/articles/5707DF80-9027-7E17-4B5FD41887DE5866.cfm

Apology
By The Editors 15 September 2005

Apology to Messrs. Lee Hsien Loong, Goh Chok Tong and Lee Kuan Yew.

1. In the 19 August 2005 edition of FinanceAsia.com's website ( www.financeasia.com), we published an article (the "Article") entitled "RBS, Merrill and KS Li buy into BOC".

2. We recognise that parts of the Article may have been understood to have meant that:-

* in respect of Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Loong and Minister Mentor Mr Lee Kuan Yew, that they together with others (including members of their family) have corruptly and improperly caused Temasek to be owned and managed for the benefit of their family;
* in respect of Senior Minister Mr Goh Chok Tong, that he (when he was Prime Minister of Singapore and thereafter) has corruptly and improperly allowed Temasek to be owned and managed for the benefit of the family of the Prime Minister and Minister Mentor; and
* in respect of all three of them, that they are dishonest and unworthy of the high office they have each held and continue to hold in that they behaved as above despite taking the public stand in support of clean, corrupt free Government in Singapore.

3.
We admit and acknowledge that these allegations are completely false and without foundation.

4. We unreservedly apologise to Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Senior Minister Mr Goh Chok Tong and Minister Mentor Mr Lee Kuan Yew for the distress and embarrassment caused to them by these false allegations. We hereby undertake not to make further allegations to the same or similar effect.

5. We have agreed to pay Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Senior Minister Mr Goh Chok Tong and Minister Mentor Mr Lee Kuan Yew damages by way of compensation, and to indemnify them for all costs and expenses incurred by them in connection with this matter.

http://financeasia.com/articles/570AD10A-9027-7E17-4B7579B5A5D036D2.cfm

Apology
By The Editors 15 September 2005
Apology to Temasek Holding (Private) Ltd and members of the Board of Directors of Temasek.

1. On 19 August 2005, we published an article ("the Article") entitled "RBS, Merrill and KS Li buy into BOC" on our website at www.financeasia.com where we described Temasek Holding (Private) Ltd ("Temasek") as "the Lee family trust".

2. We recognise that the Article meant or was understood to mean that:

(a) the directors of Temasek manage the assets of Temasek, or connive at such management, for the benefit of the Lee family, including Ms Ho Ching, and not in accordance with the laws and duties which govern them and Temasek, and they have therefore acted illegally and in breach of trust; and

(b) Temasek has acted illegally.

3.
We admit and acknowledge that these allegations and the allegation that Temasek is "the Lee family trust" are false and completely without foundation. We unreservedly apologise to Temasek and members of the Board of Directors of Temasek, namely Mr S Dhanabalan, Ms Ho Ching, Mr Kwa Chong Seng, Mr Lim Siong Guan, Mr Sim Kee Boon, Mr Fock Siew Wah, Mr Koh Boon Hwee, Mr Kua Hong Pak, Mr Goh Yew Lin and Mr Simon Israel for the distress and embarrassment caused to them by these allegations.

4. We undertake not to make further allegations to the same or similar effect.

5. We have agreed to pay Temasek and the members of the Board of Directors of Temasek damages by way of compensation, and to indemnify them for all the costs and expenses incurred by them in connection with this matter.

3 People = Epidemic

And then there were three.

Fellow bloggers whatever you do 'don't mention rac.., sorry, dengue fever'.

There is racism in Singapore I should know I was often on the positive end of it.

The shock in the media is rather contrived but the way to approach the problem is to introduce 'Discrimination Legislation'. Somehow this might knock Singapore off the number one business friendly position, and could also hamper the image of 'bureaucracy free Singapore'. Sometimes bureaucracy is your friend.

Reading the articles below would give you the impression that Singaporean bloggers write about nothing else other than how much they hate their neighbour. This is just the window needed for a tightening of internet controls and vigilantees patrolling the WWW reporting all who disobey.

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/
singaporelocalnews/view/168673/1/.html


Third person charged with sedition for racist remarks on blog site
By Sharon Tong, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE : A third person has been charged under the Sedition Act with promoting feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races of Singapore.

Gan Huai Shi, 17, faces seven charges of posting racist remarks on his blog site.

On September 12, two bloggers were charged with sedition for posting racist comments online.

Their case will be heard in court again on September 21.

The three are the first bloggers to be charged in Singapore.

Lawyers said the last time the Sedition Act was invoked was at least 10 years ago.

First time offenders can be fined up to $5,000 or jailed up to three years or both.

Subsequent offenders can be jailed up to five years and have their seditious publications forfeited and destroyed. - CNA/de


http://www.todayonline.com/articles/72956.asp
Just 17, hate blogger charged

JUST four days after two men were charged with making racist remarks online, another blogger has joined their ranks.

This one is only 17, but his remarks appeared to be at least as virulent as those made by the two men charged on Monday.

Gan Huai Shi appeared in court on Friday, faced with seven charges under the Sedition Act for remarks he made between April 4 and July 16 this year.

The target of his ire were Malays and Muslims.

In some astonishing rants, he compared them to "rodents".

He claimed he wanted to blow up Muslim holy sites and wrote that "the Malays must be eliminated before it is too late".

He made insulting remarks about the community, most of which are not fit for publication. In his first entry Gan claimed that he was "extremely racist".

Like Benjamin Koh Song Huat, 27, and Nicholas Lim Yew, 25, Gan faces charges under the Sedition Act where conviction under the first charge could result in up to three years' jail and subsequent offences up to five years.

There have been concerns in many quarters that the Internet, which started as a platform for free speech, has, in some cases, evolved into a space for racist rants.

Observers have pointed out that recent actions taken by the authorities could rein in such outpourings. — Loh Chee Kong



STRAITS TIMES

Sept 17, 2005
Third person accused of racist comments on Net
By Chong Chee Kin

YET another blogger was hauled to court yesterday for posting allegedly racist remarks online - the third person charged under the Sedition Act this week.

Seventeen-year-old private school student Gan Huai Shi is accused of promoting ill will and hostility among different races through comments on his blog.

In two unrelated cases on Monday, Nicholas Lim Yew, 25, and Benjamin Koh Song Huat, 27, were charged with similar offences.

Gan faces seven charges under the Sedition Act for offences he was said to have committed between April 4 and July 16.

He allegedly made four inflammatory comments about Malays and Muslims on the Internet within days of starting his blog.

In one entry on April 4, he allegedly made it clear that he was 'extremely racist'.

The next day, in two entries within four hours, he was said to have posted anti-Malay remarks. On April 6, he was allegedly at it again.

From May to July 16, he is accused of making racist comments once a month on his blog, spouting his hatred for the Malay community.

In one posting, he also allegedly wrote of his violent tendencies in an entry he described as having 'explicit and candid content'. He allegedly wrote how much he wanted to 'assassinate some important person with a sniper rifle'.

Gan, represented by lawyer Edmond Pereira, was released on bail of $15,000 and is due back in court next Tuesday. He could end up in jail for up to three years on each of the charges.



16 Sep 2005

Cyberspace may be next front in fight against racism

My personal opinion on the idea of advocacy groups taking their opinions online, is that it is un-necessary and misguided. The thought of a bunch of 'advocacy hacks' butting in on conversations reminding you to be nice is a step over the mark. Just exactly what does, 'taking their message on line' entail - Watching, snooping, recording and reporting?

Two, count them, 1, 2 individuals have been charged, charged not convicted, and suddenly the door is open and advocacy groups are proclaiming that they will ride into the wild, wild, wild, internet and clean this town up. Simply because two people have been charged. I would have thought that the first port of call for the advocacy group would be to demand that the government introduce some anti-discrimination legislation. That way the 'Sedition Act' could be left where it belongs, North Korea.

SINGAPORE: Cyberspace may be next front in fight against racism
Tolerance advocates say Internet forums and chatrooms are effective ways to promote peace between groups


The Straits Times
Thursday, September 15, 2005

By Chua Hian Hou and Serene Luo

Two advocacy groups are considering taking their message of racial tolerance online, as debate continues over Monday's charging of two Internet users with making seditious and inflammatory remarks about Muslims.

The Inter-Racial Confidence Circles (IRCCs) are usually based within specific constituencies. They organise forums and visits to places of worship and hand out brochures and CDs to educate people living in their estates about different cultures.

But the arrests of Nicholas Lim, 25, and Benjamin Koh, 27, could have provided them with the motivation to move their work into cyberspace.

Mr Abdul Mutalif Hashim, chairman of Choa Chu Kang's IRCC, said the Internet might be a better way for their message to reach young people. At the moment, he admitted, the groups are mostly made up of the 'older generation'.

Pasir Ris East's IRCC chairman Ameerali Abdeali agreed that Internet forums and chatrooms could provide a useful vehicle to promote racial tolerance.

'Many people can be shy to speak up in person at live forums, but in these places you don't have to be worried about being embarrassed,' he said. 'It's definitely something to consider.'

The general mood among Internet users towards online hate-mongering, however, is already one of condemnation - and many were not surprised that the authorities have started charging suspected offenders.

Popular online writer Lee Kin Mun, aka Mr Brown, pointed out: 'Anyone who grows up in Singapore knows that making racist remarks is unacceptable, whether you write it on a piece of paper or online.

But he added: 'Internet users have yet to realise they will be held accountable for their actions online - that lesson hasn't sunk in yet.'

Now that two people have been charged, Mr Lee said he hopes Internet users will finally realise that online forums and Internet diaries, or blogs, are public in nature.

But the moderator of Doggie-Site, the pet lovers' forum where one of the two men allegedly began posting racist remarks, was not convinced Singapore's Internet users will heed this lesson.

'This will make Internet users more circumspect for maybe a while - then the same thing will happen again when people forget.'

Mr Benjamin Lee, better known as Mr Miyagi in his online journal, pointed out that online hate-mongering is not very common here.

'There are a few stupid comments here and there, but these are usually quickly drowned out by the majority of Internet users who won't tolerate such remarks,' he said.

In the light of this case, some users said they would prefer the Government to allow the online community to try policing itself, by deleting offensive content and banning offenders.

And self-policing clearly works for some blogs.

About two months ago, a racist blog called Holocaust II, which advocated racial genocide, was removed by its Singaporean creator after it was deluged by thousands of angry comments.

Others have been alarmed by the authorities' ability to track down individuals who post offensive comments.

At the Sammyboy forum, one user who went by the moniker 'air39' was so worried about being traced he decided to quit the forum altogether.

Mr Benjamin Lee said: 'People will be searching their blogs for potentially sensitive comments and removing them.'

The charging of Lim and Koh has also sparked a debate about freedom of expression, with several users bemoaning Singapore's tough laws. But, in fact, several countries already have strict controls in place to combat online hate-mongering, including France, Germany and Malaysia.

Mr Arun Mahizhnan, deputy director of the Institute of Policy Studies, said: 'There might be a dampening effect on expression online, but if that effect is on those people spreading religious and racial hatred, it's a good thing.'


Date Posted: 9/15/2005


14 Sep 2005

Internet controls not just about blocking sites

The article lovingly copied and pasted for my own archive below is from Asia Media: Media News Daily and features yours truely. The original is posted here. I have recently commented on the issue and feel that the recent 'Bloggers Charged With Sedition', highlights what I believe to be the biggest and most powerful method of control that the Singaporean government uses to control the internet. Anyone care to guess?

Internet controls not just about blocking sites, says report
U.S. researchers say the government achieves cyber control using threats of defamation lawsuits more often than Internet filters


By Christine Chiao
AsiaMedia Staff Writer

Monday, September 12, 2005

Researchers from Harvard, Cambridge, and the University of Toronto say Internet censorship in Singapore goes beyond high-tech filtering software. Censorship of the web, they say, is instead achieved by strict libel and defamation laws.

An Aug. 17 OpenNet Initiative (ONI) report, "Internet Filtering in Singapore in 2004-2005," examines the methods by which the Singaporean government establishes cyber control over its netizens. According to the report, the state telecommunications department, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), uses a rigid, complex legal system to maintain the government's standard of decency. In 2003, the Singapore Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts released a broad definition of indecency as anything that poses a threat to national security, moral values, any religious or ethnic group.

Derek Bambauer, part of the ONI research team and a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society of Harvard Law School, notes via e-mail, "While the number of sites required to be blocked by Singapore is much lower than in other states ONI has examined, it is clear that the combination of legal and technical controls can still restrict certain types of content significantly."

In a separate study, ONI noted the efficacy of China's Internet filtering system, widely considered one of the most comprehensive and technologically advanced in the world. In contrast with the Chinese government, Singapore officials implement little technical filtering to block undesirable sites. They rely instead on looming threats of defamation lawsuits or imprisonment. The results reveal the complexity of Internet regulation, highlighting the interconnection between legal and technological practices.

"ONI finds that most states employ a mixture of legal and technical regulation to control online content. Legal methods are often used to encourage or frighten citizens into censoring their expression preemptively. These two methods overlap and reinforce each other," explains Bambauer.

A May 7 Straits Times article notes one case involving Singaporean blogger Jiahao Chen. Chen, a former government researcher and graduate student in the United States, was contacted by A*STAR about a Mar. 3 posting on his Caustic Soda blog. A*STAR said his comments constituted defamation against the agency's chief Philip Yeo. Facing legal consequences, Chen, known online as AcidFlask, issued a public apology, shut down his blog and promised to avoid making similar statements in the future.

When Singapore does regulate the web by blocking sites it deems offensive, it depends on Internet service providers (ISPs). The Singapore Broadcasting Act requires ISPs, content providers, as well as political and religious organizations with websites to register and obtain a license from the government to operate online. The nation also uses hardware and software created by American companies such as Secure Computing, Websense and Cisco to regulate site access, says Bambauer.

By using proxy servers outside Singapore and accessing the web from within the country itself, the researchers found that of 1,632 sites tested, eight sites were blocked. The report suggests that these blocked sites are meant as warnings for the 1.8 million Singaporeans who have access to the Internet. The sites that are blocked include content about illegal drugs, pornography and religious fanaticism.

"Filtering software is flexible; it can block access to pornographic and human rights sites with equal ease. This raises important, difficult questions about what responsibility information technology companies have regarding the use of these products," says Bambauer.

“The ONI report is missing stories and insight from those involved with the Internet and civil liberties. The report was a restatement of other reports and findings such as RSF [Reporters Withour Borders], AI [Amnesty International] and the Think Centre in Singapore,” says Steven McDermott , author of Singabloodypore, a blog that highlights sociopolitical issues in the nation. “I am sure their report adhered to certain requirements and constrictions to meet their particular needs, [but] knowledge of a subject requires multiple perspectives.”

Bambauer says, though, that ONI research is different from other reports precisely because it uses "quantitative testing and analysis." "Most other work on Internet filtering or censorship is anecdotal or qualitative; while such approaches can lend some insight, a quantitative methodology is essential to draw defensible conclusions," says Bambauer.

The ONI report's legal analysis is also significant, he says. "It is critically important to understand that Singapore’s laws regarding defamation place a relatively heavy burden on defendants, which leads to caution regarding on-line expression (particularly political expression). This background legal context helps non-Singaporeans understand the larger environment within which filtering operates."

France-based press freedom advocate Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranks Singapore as among the worst press freedom offenders in their 2004 report; out of 169 countries, Singapore is ranked at 147th in terms of press freedom.


Date Posted: 9/12/2005


12 Sep 2005

Two bloggers charged under Sedition Act over racist remarks

So it appears that the surveillance of the internet in Singapore is working well then...
By Pearl Forss, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE : For the first time in Singapore, two bloggers have been charged under the Sedition Act with making racist remarks.

Twenty-five-year-old Nicholas Lim Yew faces two charges and 27-year-old Benjamin Koh Song Huat faces three.

A subordinate court was told that both their blogs had racist content, which sparked off a heated discussion online.

The charges read that Lim had, on 16 and 17 June 2005, posted racist remarks on the general discussion forum of www.doggiesite.com.

Koh was alleged to have done the same on 12, 15 and 17 June on another website, www.upsaid.com.

In doing so, they are alleged to have committed an act which had a seditious tendency.

This is defined as promoting feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races of the population of Singapore.

Both men are out on bail of S$10,000 each.

The case is expected be heard again on September 21.

A person is deemed to have committed an offence under the Sedition Act if he performs any act which has a seditious tendency, or conspires with any person to do so.

It is also an offence to utter any seditious words or to print, publish, sell, distribute, reproduce or import any seditious publication.

First time offenders can be fined up to S$5,000, or jailed up to three years, or both.

For subsequent offences, they can be jailed up to five years and have their seditious publications forfeited and destroyed. - CNA /ct


Related Link:
Tomorrow.sg and Racist Blog
Relevant Portion of Sedition Act from Singsingapore

I am not a Freedom of Speech absolutist but I am aware that sometimes governments use certain tactics in an attempt to justify legitimate political issues and debates not reaching the population of certain countries and so I have provided links to two very important sites:

"We believe that the benefits of Freenet, for example for dissidents in countries such as China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, far outweigh the dangers of paedophilia or terrorist information being distributed over the system."

Ian Clarke, Freenet


The Free Network Project
Anonymizor

I have also looked up Sedition on wiki and got quite a shock...

Sedition refers to a legal designation of non-overt conduct that is deemed by a legal authority as being acts of treason, and hence deserving of legal punishment. The term is deprecated in most countries, though equivalent language may still be in use in totalitarian and fascist jurisdictions.

Critical speech, political organization, and mere association between individuals may be considered as "sedition." And though such behaviours may be common in a free society, in societies where sedition laws exist the acts and behaviours which qualify are highly subjective, and typically left to the whims of state agents. Legal definitons of sedition often include subversion of a constitution, or incitement to rebellion or insurrection toward the lawful authority. Sedition may include any commotion, though not aimed at direct and open violence against the laws.

Because "sedition" is typically considered the subvert act, the overt acts that may be prosecutable under "sedition" laws vary from one legal code to another. Where those legal codes have a traceable history, there is also a record of the change of definition for what constituted sedition at certain points in history. This overview has served to develop a sociological definition of sedition as well, within study of persecution.

The legal difference between sedition and treason consists primarily in the subjective ultimate object of the violation to the public peace. Sedition does not consist of "levying war" against a government nor of "adhering to [its] enemies, giving them aid and comfort" (Article Three, U.S. Constitution). Nor does it consist, in most representative democracies, of peaceful, non-violent protest against a government, nor of attempting to change the government by democratic means (such as direct democracy or constitutional convention).


Punjabi women held hostage in Singapore

The worry is that this is commonplace in Singapore. Surely someone can tell if the daughter has been convicted of a criminal offence or not? If not then the agent has no right to hold Veerpal Kaur.

Punjabi women held hostage in Singapore
Sunday 11th September, 2005
Saffajang Singh - Panthic Weekly Staff


Moga, Punjab (KP) - As already hundreds of cases of Punjabi youths having been tricked by unscrupulous travel agents have come to light in the past few years, yet another such case has come to be known. This time, it involves a Punjabi girl named Veerpal Kaur, who has been deceived while seeking to settle in a foreign country.


Mohinder Singh, father of Veerpal Kaur, alleged that a Moga based women's travel agent, who had promised getting his daughter settled in Singapore, is holding his daughter hostage. He also fears that his daughter will end up being trapped into the filthy ‘flesh trade’. Mohinder Singh had paid Rs. 51,000 to this travel agent who was arranging Veerpal's immigration to Singapore.


The unfortunate parents of Veerpal Kaur managed to gather Rs. 51,000 in the hopes that their daughter might be able to improve the family’s monetary conditions by working in abroad but now how it turned out tragically when they received a letter from Veerpal in which she details her tragic stories in Singapore. According to the letters, the travel agent who also obtained employement for her, took a $700 (Singapore) cut from her wages and then accused her of stealing $18,000 from a house. He also said that the travel agent now wants to recover the stolen amount before she be allowed to return to India.


The letters also mentioned that Veerpal was ill-treated and her modesty was sexually assaulted at the house where she was employed. When Veerpal Kaur’s parents took up this matter with the travel agent in Moga, they were told that Veerpal has to work in Singapore until she can pay back the stolen money or her parents would need to pay the Rs. 3 lakh equivalentof the stolen money.


Most unfortunate for Veerpal’s parents it that, despite numerous complaints, no action has been taken so far. A factor in this pattern of inaction be for the fact that Veerpal is of Dalit background. If India truly considers itself to be a democratic country, then it should be responsibility of the countries officials to care for ALL citizens of the country, regardless of their family background or caste.


Saffajang Singh can be reached at saffajang.singh@panthic.org


7 Sep 2005

Activist files complaint against national broadcaster

First saw this on Singapore Rebel. For those of you who have noticed a drop in my production rate I apologise. I am currently in Singapore having passed through immigration freely. As I am only here for a few days I have decided to spend time with good friends and great conversation instead of blogging about the great conversations.

Normal Service will be resumed in October 2005. Postings until then will be less frequent.


Agence France Presse
September 2, 2005
SINGAPORE

A SINGAPOREAN activist has filed a police complaint against national broadcaster MediaCorp for allegedly violating the island's Films Act banning political advertising using film or video.
The complaint, filed by Yap Keng Ho, accuses MediaCorp of screening two programs about ruling People's Action Party leaders and is meant as a protest against Singapore's stringent censorship, Yap said.

Yap told AFP Friday, Sept 2, he wanted to expose a pro-ruling party bias in the legislation banning political films with his complaint, which comes as police investigate independent Singaporean film maker Martyn See for making a documentary about an opposition leader.

The Films Act bans political advertising using films or videos, as well as movies directed towards any political end such as promoting parties.

"I feel that it is a very unfair and biased legislation," Yap, a 44-year-old information technology consultant, told AFP. "I want to show the world whether law enforcement (in Singapore) is going to be fair or not."

Yap's complaint alleges that MediaCorp had violated the Films Act by screening two programs in 2002 and this year featuring Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew and his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, respectively.

A spokesman for the Singapore police confirmed they received the complaint "and are currently making the necessary checks with the Media Development Authority (MDA)."

A spokesman for MediaCorp said they were unaware of Yap's complaint.

On Monday, filmmaker See surrendered to police his camera and remaining tapes of the documentary "Singapore Rebel" about Chee Soon Juan, secretary-general of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party.

Chee, the most vocal opposition politician in Singapore, is facing bankruptcy after the High Court ordered him to pay S$500,000 (US$300,000) for defaming PAP leaders.

Affluent Singapore has often been criticised by human rights groups for maintaining strict political controls despite its rapid modernisation since becoming a republic 40 years ago last month. Singapore has been ruled by the PAP since independence.