21 Sep 2006

Activists do not have a voice

Another reply to TODAY letter from Ministry of Home Affairs.


I refer to the article, Activists did have a voice, by Mr Ong-Chew Peck Wan, Director of Corporate Communications, Ministry of Home Affairs letter published on 21 September.

Time and again, I have written to this paper, expressing my views that outdoor demonstrations have been practised peacefully in many countries, and do not necessarily lead to riots or violence. I have also stated that the freedom to assembly is a guaranteed Universal Declaration of Human Rights of which Singapore is a signatory of. Therefore, a complete ban by the government is neither valid nor unacceptable.

As for the march that SDP has organised, the low attendance cannot be attributed to low support or 'antics'. The police has issued statements to the public, warning them from joining the march. They have also cordoned the public from the activists during the standoff, while at the same time, employing containment and harassement tactics on the activists or the public (such as taking pictures and videos of anyone who comes up to them); thereby effectively preventing the public from communicating with the activists.

Prior to the march, the police has also harrassed activists while they were distributing leaflets for the march. They have confiscated the leaflets though there are no laws on that. The local papers, which has been impartial, has also often, refused to portray a fair picture of the Opposition. The police has also detained and questioned three activists; and confiscated their leaflets and computers while they were planning on distributing leaflets on the anti-globalisation materials during the IMF/World Bank meeting.

With censorship and climate of fear hanging in the air, the average Singaporean is hence hardly educated on the issues or are too afraid to be involved.

Activists do not have a voice in Singapore.

The banning of international CSO activists, preventing activists for distributing leaflets, drawing up ridiculuous boundaries for indoor protests, and preventing the SDP Empower Singaporeans rally and march shows how much the authorities are afraid of dissent.


Activists did have a voice
Thursday • September 21, 2006
Letter from
Ong-Chew Peck Wan
Corporate Communications
Ministry of Home Affairs

In an editorial on Sept 13, the Wall Street Journal Asia (WSJA) criticised the Singapore Government's handling of the protests during the International Monetary Fund-World Bank meetings here. The Government's response to the WSJA was published in its Sept 20 issue.

Your editorials "Singapore protests" (Sept 13) and "Singapore backtracks" (Sept 18) criticised Singapore's restrictions on outdoor demonstrations during the International Monetary Fund-World Bank Meetings, and mocked Singapore for allowing in 22 antiglobalisation activists after the "reprimand" from World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz.

Singapore is all in favour of peaceful dialogue and argument. Other than disallowing outdoor demonstrations, our arrangements for engaging civil society organisations (CSOs) during the IMF-World Bank meetings in Singapore are no different than for previous meetings elsewhere.

We have provided a well-equipped CSO center within the meeting venue itself, and accredited CSO members have access to practically the whole meeting venue.

We do not allow outdoor demonstrations by anyone, citizens or foreigners. Singapore is a multi-ethnic society. We know from bitter experience how easily street demonstrations and protests can degenerate into riots and violence.

But we have provided an indoor area near the meeting venue, which affords high visibility to delegates and the media, for accredited CSOs to demonstrate.

CSOs can also apply to use any other suitable indoor locations for demonstrations and activities. These arrangements support all CSOs who genuinely seek constructive engagement through debate and discussion.

After Singapore expressed concerns over 27 activists out of the 526 whom the IMF and World Bank had accredited, the IMF and World Bank raised the matter with Singapore.

In order to be as helpful as possible, Singapore reviewed the names whom the IMF and World Bank were prepared to vouch for, and lifted the bans on 22 of them.

We did this before the public statement by Mr Wolfowitz.

Singapore's laws on public demonstration are for Singaporeans to decide. In the general election this year, voters gave the People's Action Party a clear mandate.

Chee Soon Juan's Singapore Democratic Party were soundly defeated, collecting only 23 per cent of the votes in the two constituencies they contested, the lowest garnered by any of the opposition parties. That is why Mr Chee's antics to stage a protest march during the meetings have been ignored by Singaporeans.

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.


Anonymous said...

charles, you are an activist with SDP. so this article is skewed

Matilah_Singapura said...

Always love to see a civil servant defend the hand that feeds him.

If the cops are used for the oppression of peaceful citizens, what can anyone expect from the civil service?

Good job Charles.

ycbi said...

Anonymous said...
charles, you are an activist with SDP. so this article is skewed

The only thing that is skewed is your own opinion and that of

Ong-Chew Peck Wan
Corporate Communications
Ministry of Home Affairs

As always the PAP and its minsiters tells more and more lies ,in fact they lie so often I fear they can't lay staight in bed .

What is reprehensable is that they continue to use the police which is paid for by the public to stop citizens of Singapore from what is there public right and that is to engage in peacefull protest and marches.
Yes the pen is so much mightyer than eny action especialy if the Government contol the PEN !

Anonymous said...

It is really strange that after 41 years of lies,lies, and more lies, people still believe in the PAP.

Anonymous said...

Fear and ignorance. The problem of most singaporeans. I would also say confused. Menawhile the propaganda machine is saying that this IMF meeting was a success.
For hotels and prostitutes for sure!
As a delegate told me, we come here to do business, network, and go home. Nobody comes for shopping.
You could tell by walking around the malls and not only Suntec, completely deserted by the population and the delegates.
Besides if you look at the statistics you will see that more than half of the people who came were here for only 2 maximum 3 days.
Except journalists (on low budget allowances....) and some other low ranking junior staff of the IMF/world bank. But for the rest of the big wigs , they all came in and went out like a sumatra squall.
The whole saga with the banning of the activists has damaged Singapore reputation HUGE time. Most of the delegates and visitors and people around all said the same thing. Singapore is OK, nice people, smiling!? all the time (of course they are!) but boring, sterile and authoritarian. Most thought the city was lacking charm.
This story which was carried by all newspapers for days and days has also shown the weak side of the ruling party when it comes to dealing with opposite views and discent. Let us not forget that it was the WB and the IMF who asked Singapore to control the protests and to move the area from the main hall to the side.
Yet who took all the blame? Who was blamed? Not the WB or the IMF. They played their cards superbly. Have these irritating CSO and NGO's side lined and blame Singapore for it.
Job done.
It's called politics.
And Singapore not having experience when dealing with such issues, has fallen into the trap. Why? Because the PAP has no experience in dealing with an opposition and different views. They don't know how to challenge. They just knwo how to give orders and dismiss you if you don't agree.

Anonymous said...

Is Ong-Chew Peck Wan a career civil servant or a political appointee? If he is a career civil servant than it is inappropriate for him to comment (i) as to whether the voters gave the PAP a clear mandate,(ii) on the vote received by the SDP, and, (iii) that CSJ employed "antics."

Why does the Ministry of Home Affairs, a ministry that has a very direct role in the daily lives of the citizens, have a "corporate commnications" director? How about a citizens communications director instead? Can they be any more sterile and remote?

Anonymous said...

Is shhe living in Singapore???? Maybe she's from Planet Liberated.

To make such hasty conclusions that antics are ignored is tantamount to challenging the 'liar liar' episode of her masters. She is most probably an English writing deviant out to fix the opposition of the oppostion.

Where are the police ready to wrap arms around her?