30 Nov 2006

World Movement for Democracy condemns imprisonment of democrats in Singapore

World Movement for Democracy (WMD)
30 Nov 06

The World Movement for Democracy condemns the jail sentence of WMD participant in Singapore, Dr. Chee Soon Juan, Chairman of the Alliance of Reform and Democracy in Asia (ARDA) and Secretary-General of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and his colleagues.

On November 23, 2006, the Subordinate Court of Singapore sentenced Dr. Chee to a five-week imprisonment for the "crime" of speaking in public without a valid permit. Two of his colleagues from SDP, Mr. Gandhi Ambalam and Mr. Yap Keng Ho, were sentenced to shorter terms for speaking to passing citizens as they were selling the party newspaper on the street on April 22, 2006.

The World Movement is also concerned about Dr. Chee's health condition. According to ARDA, Dr. Chee's health has considerably deteriorated. Although Dr. Chee is not on a hunger strike, the prison authorities interpret his failure to eat as such, and will punish him by depriving him of family visits and "yard-time."

Dr. Chee will also have to attend a trial on December 21 for attempting to leave Singapore without a permit (to attend the World Movement's Fourth Assembly in Istanbul), as well as another pre-trial on January 4 for a suit brought against his family. These actions and charges give the appearance of orchestrated efforts to restrain Dr. Chee and his SDP colleagues in their efforts to advance democracy in Singapore.

Friends from the Singapore Democratic Party have also made numerous requests to the prison authorities to see Mr. Yap Keng Ho, who is now reportedly on a hunger strike, but the prison authorities have yet to let anyone see him. His condition is unknown. Mr. Gandhi Ambalam has a heart ailment, and his family has not received news on how he is doing since their first visit to him.

To view a video message from Dr. Chee Soon Juan, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnLqpYupQfg
For statements by WMD participating organizations, go to:
Alliance for Reform and Democracy in Asia (ARDA):

World Forum for Democratization in Asia (WFDA):

For information about Dr. Chee's health condition, go to: http://www.singaporedemocrat.org/articleOct25trial33.html

For a previous statement from the WMD Steering Committee (October 17, 2006), go to: http://www.wmd.org/democracyalerts/oct1706.html

29 Nov 2006

Dr Chee Soon Juan's health deteriorates in prison

For immediate release
Urgent: Dr Chee Soon Juan's health deteriorates in prison
28 Nov 06

Dr Chee Soon Juan was visited by his sister Ms Chee Siok Chin this afternoon at the Queenstown Remand Prison. They met to discuss their lawsuit brought on by Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his son, Mr Lee Hsien Loong.

During the brief half an hour meeting, Dr Chee revealed that he had not eaten since the morning of Monday 27 November. This was because every time he ate what was served to him, he would feel nauseous and dizzy and then throw up. Normal sounds such as the jangling of the guard's keys and even the sound of his cell mate urinating are amplified causing him massive headaches. He has not been able to sleep and has been taking valium to help him rest. Dr Chee has also lost a considerable amount of weight.

A close friend of ex-remisier Mr Boon Suan Ban who was committed to Institute of Mental Health (IMH) last year, had revealed that the latter was given medication for schizophrenia even though he did not suffer from that ailment. Mr Boon had taken legal action against the close friend of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and former Chief Justice, Mr Yong Pung How. It was only when he proceeded with the case that he was then committed to the IMH.

There were speculations that the late Mr Lim Chin Siong, the leader of the now-defunct political party, Barisan Socialis who was imprisoned by the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) in 1963, was given drugs during his confinement. The once spirited Mr Lim came close to taking his own life whilst in prison.

In an open letter to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's former president, the late Mr Devan Nair who had a fall out with the former, said that he came under "heavy sedation from 125 mgs of valium daily" for 10 days, administered by the medical staff, enough medication to "dope an elephant".

The above cases give real cause for concern and suspicion for the enormous discomfort that Dr Chee is presently experiencing.

Dr Chee Soon Juan, Mr Gandhi Ambalam and Mr Yap Keng Ho were sentenced to prison for making a speech in public without a permit. The three men have not seen each other since they were taken into prison.

Friends from the Singapore Democratic Party have made numerous requests to the prison authorities to see Mr Yap Keng Ho. We understand that Mr Yap is on a hunger strike and we have made urgent requests to see him to ascertain his condition. The prison authorities have been cold and callous about this and have been dragging their feet on the matter.

Mr Gandhi Ambalam has a heart ailment and his family has not received news on how he is doing since the first visit to him.

Dr Chee also revealed that the Attorney General's Chambers are proceeding with the other seven charges on him and Mr Yap for the same offence that both men are now serving sentence for. Their pre-trial conference comes up on 4 January 2007.

Dr Chee and Ms Chee are to attend another pre-trial conference on the assessment of damages in the suit brought on by the Lees in the mid January 2007.

These are in addition to another trial of Dr Chee for attempting to leave Singapore without a permit. Dr Chee has to attend court on 21 December 2006, almost immediately after he is released from serving the current jail term. It seems likely that he has to serve another sentence soon after his release from the current one.

These three men are prisoners of conscience. Their incarceration is politically motivated by the ruling party, if not the Singapore Government. They have not committed any crime. They are victims of a dictatorial regime that is desperate to cling on to power.

Family and friends are extremely concerned that the authorities are trying to psychologically destabilize the men and play mind games on them to discourage them from furthering their act of civil disobedience against repressive laws in Singapore.

Although Dr Chee is not on a hunger strike, the prison authorities interpret his abstinence from taking the food they give him as such act, and will punish him by depriving him of family visits and "yard-time". The family will request to the prison authorities to allow him food brought from home.

The actions taken against Dr Chee, Mr Gandhi and Mr Yap by the Singapore Government are deplorable.

We call on our fellow Singaporeans to express their support by writing to the authorities to show their concern for the three.

To our friends in the international community, we ask that you write to the Singapore Government to visit Dr Chee, Mr Gandhi and Mr Yap to ensure that their physical and psychological conditions do not worsen during their imprisonment.

For further information and update, please see:


27 Nov 2006

Dismantling the Bloggers vs. Journalists Debate

Blogging and mainstream journalism - can they complement each other? It's an interesting situation which technology has thrown up.

"There are therefore, multiple forms of journalisms for Singapore that are untapped, and a “one size fits all” approach may not address the needs of the Post-65ers."

By Mykel Sim

Friday, 24 November, 2006

“[If] you read something in the Straits Times or on CNA, you must know that it’s real, it’s quite different from reading this say on Talkingcock.com.”

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, (National Day Rally Speech, 20 August 2006).

“Where blogging falls down is in its very origin from amateurs. As I
have said elsewhere, because bloggers are non-professionals, they are
likely to stumble into the pitfalls of writing. That is, bloggers are
likely to get into trouble because of the lack of training.”

Ang Peng Hwa, Dean of the School of Communication and Information,
Nanyang Technological University, (The Straits Times, 22 August 2006).

Since the completion of my undergraduate thesis on local contentious blogs in April 2006, many events have swept through the media-scape of Singapore and were not captured in my academic exercise. For instance, in the General Elections of 2006, where the field reporting of election rallies using videos and pictures, including the iconic shot of the massive turnout at a Worker’s Party rally (by Alex Au of Yawning Bread), as well as individual citizens providing their own analysis of the polling results, truly marked the beginning of the blog’s ascendancy into citizen journalism.

These events in the blogosphere stirred up the excitement of many media studies enthusiasts (including myself) as the threshold of the liberalization of political communication in Singapore and have sparked debates about the medium’s future role in society. Interestingly, the government has also been quick in reminding us of the negativities involved in engaging in unbridled free speech on blogs in the post-election period; Char’s brush in with the police regarding his Jesus cartoons in June 2006, and the recent “mrbrown affair” at the local paper Today, which clarified the government’s distinction between journalists and bloggers, are just two incidents that complicate Singapore’s growing history on the use of the Internet as an arbiter in local state-society relations.

Internet’s role in local politics in a state of perpetual flux

It comes as no surprise then that the government’s unclear position regarding the Internet’s role in local politics has left the democratic role of the blog in a state of perpetual flux. Who can use the blog, for what purposes, and with what restrictions or support, are all questions individual citizens, companies, political parties and civil societies in Singapore are trying to answer at the moment.

Indeed, there are often no clear answers to these broad questions and the various groups in society have divergent and often conflicting interests in a technology, and will struggle to control its implementation in accordance with their attendant interests. For the government of Singapore, they have not placed clear legal guidelines that could potentially help citizens navigate this difficult e-terrain, but have instead put into place a discourse on “responsible blogging” which is in tandem with its current communitarian project of “Asian Values”. Underlying the views espoused by Prime Minister Lee and Associate Professor Ang above is thus a general conception of bloggers as a category that is starkly different and perhaps inferior from our mainstream journalists, as well as a need to manage blog content and educate bloggers to write sensitively and responsibly to protect national interests.

The themes underlying their position are issues concerning the professionalism, respectability and responsibility of the supposedly polar opposites of mainstream and alternative media. Predictably, bloggers stand at the losing end of this battle they do not wish to be part of, with the government’s communitarian discourse and the professional ethos of “objectivity” winning the debate for mainstream journalism in Singapore as the more trustworthy reporter of news.

Even within the local blogosphere itself, politically inclined blogs that are insufficiently “professionalized” have become stigmatized as unworthy flag bearers of the citizen journalism, as an informal and satirical style is perceivably lacking in the rigorousness and intellectual depth needed to examine complex social and political issues.

Blogs as alternative media?

But to accept the state’s discourse would be essentially denying the possibility of conceiving local blogs as a form of alternative media that can exist amicably alongside mainstream press, without the antagonism exaggerated by a “bloggers versus journalists” dichotomy. Can we not problematize the relationship between the two then? Jay Rosen, the chair of Journalism Studies at New York University, would probably agree with me on this. In a media conference held in 2005 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Rosen declared that the “bloggers versus journalists” debate has outlived its usefulness and should be dismantled. His argument is simple:

“The question now isn't whether blogs can be journalism. They can be, sometimes. It isn't whether bloggers ‘are’ journalists. They apparently are, sometimes. We have to ask different questions now because events have moved the story forward. […] That's why we're conferencing: to find the deeper pattern, of which blogging and journalism are a part.”

Rethink the role of the media

Rather, we should start by asking how both forms of journalism can be appropriated under one diverse media system in Singapore, with mainstream journalism serving a distinct sector of society, and alternative media like blogs catering to other sectors of society. It is time to rethink the role of the media in contemporary democracies. As James Curran, Professor of Communications at Goldsmiths College would suggest, Singapore can start by understanding the strengths of different journalisms in the local media system so that each of them can be employed to serve niche segments of society they are identified as suitable for:

“Perhaps the first step […] is to break free from the assumption that the media are a single institution with a common democratic purpose. Instead, different media should be viewed as having different functions within the democratic system, calling for different kinds of structure and styles of journalism.”

Where mainstream media is still relevant in, such as hard news reporting, bloggers should be less prominent there. But in exercising the media’s ombudsman role as a check on the centers of power in society and as a platform for subaltern groups, citizen journalism and social commentary, bloggers have shown that their non-institutional and particularistic character can help them comment on issues ranging from faulty Dell laptop batteries to opposition party rallies, more effectively than journalists; views which the mainstream media have problems publishing because of various institutional pressures particular to their social and political context, as well as the impetus to maintain a moderate viewpoint to capture a large readership.

This is precisely why I personally find it ironic that the premise of “professionalism” has taken up such a large space within local debates on blogs, without taking into account how the deprofessionalized, decapitalized and deinstitutionalized character of blogs account for much of the its popularity in the first place.

It is afterall the blog’s promise to allow for instant web publishing without the requisite professional values of news objectivity, substantial startup capital, and an institutional presence (all of which are endemic to the professional news media), which provides many of these politically inclined blogs we see today the space needed to pursue their journalistic ends. To deny bloggers this advantage inherent within the medium would be to effectively dilute any potential benefits the blog may offer towards the creation of a more democratic media system in Singapore.

There are therefore, multiple forms of journalisms for Singapore that are untapped, and a “one size fits all” approach as with our current system, may not adequately address the needs of the bulk of the Post-65 generation who embody rather different conceptions of democracy from the nation’s founding fathers.

Further Reading/References:

Yee, Yeong Chong (2005) Virtually Democratic: Weblog Journalism and the Public Sphere in Singapore. Academic Exercise. Singapore: Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore.

Curran, James (2000). “Rethinking Media and Democracy”, in Mass Media and Society, (eds.) J. Curran & M. Gurevich. London: Arnold Publishers, 120-154.
Jay Rosen article, “Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over”

Netizens add to credibility gap

Insight: Down South

IN the real world, the economy is humming strongly, more jobs are being created than at anytime in the last 10 years, the stock market is near record high and so are high-end properties.

The Singapore dollar has strengthened to around S$1.55 to the US dollar on speculation that economic growth would quicken, thus encouraging investors to put more funds in the city-state.

The sanguine mood is reflected on the streets. With the school holidays on, the crowds are out in force. At night, it is virtually impossible to get a cab in the city centre without prior booking.

Restaurants and shopping malls are full, and people are spending ahead of a hike in Goods and Services Tax from 5% to 7% next April.

Year-end festivals are a month away but a fairyland of lights already covers the kilometres stretching from Orchard Road and Bras Basah Road to Marina Bay.

While the mood is upbeat, the Internet world, however, is painting a very different picture. Here, the talk is of continued weakness, rising unemployment and people committing suicide.

Forums are still full of tales of retrenched managers driving taxis, and 70-year-old “uncles” cleaning tables when they should be enjoying their sunset years. They also feature pictures of homeless families sleeping in housing estate lobbies.

To the cynics, the government has lost its economic way, unable to steer Singapore to a better future. “They’re so desperate they need casinos to get out of the rut”, is a frequent comment.

Ironically, this is happening as the city is flourishing with growth expected to reach 7.5% to 8% this year and new jobs created – 132,000 in the first nine months – being at a 10-year high.

So who is right? Are we in a time of boom or doldrums? Why is there such a large disparity between the real world and the blogosphere?

To market analysts, the question is not whether there is a boom. It is: Can the boom be maintained?

A Citigroup analysis recently asked if it is sustainable or heading for a bust like that in the 1990s when the economy fell into a recession. By keeping labour plentiful and wages low, it said Singapore should continue to perform strongly.

Other reports predicted a 6% annual growth for the next 10 years. There is a caveat, though: the wage gap between rich and poor will continue to widen.

The Internet community, which considers itself an alternative information source, carried few, if any, of the good news.

Even the most serious bloggers are indulging in predictions of doom-and-gloom with young people talking of migrating or seeking jobs elsewhere.

It is a problem for Singaporeans who believe that the mainstream media are too controlled to give them a balanced, objective coverage and who turn to the Internet to seek it.

“If they think the newspapers are too pro-government, reporting only the good and avoiding the bad news, the Internet isn’t any help either,” commented a surfer.

“That’s because it is providing the exact opposite; that the government can do no right, magnifying the negative and ignoring the good news (like the current economic boom).”

So why is there a credibility gap? There are several reasons.

Firstly, the growing influence of a liberal-minded Internet, which often paints the sufferings of a minority as a city-wide phenomenon.

Secondly, Singaporeans, by nature, find it easier to believe the bad news more easily than good news.

Thirdly, the society has become more divided. Unlike their parents who tended to believe whatever the government told them, today’s youths are more cynical.

The Internet is still in transformation, not as mature as civil societies. The easy availability and anonymity are giving people a cover to say anything they want without being held responsible.

In 20 years of growth, the web hasn’t really built a better-informed Singapore as was once hoped.

Those who argue for an anti-government Internet as a means to counter a pro-government media are themselves contributing to its lack of credibility.

This poses a problem for the government if the Net continues to spread negativism as it tries to rally its citizens and dispels pessimism.

How serious is it? A recent government survey on the influence of the Internet on the young surprised me.

Published by the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA), the survey showed half of all teens between 15 and 19 are on the Internet, blogging or podcasting.

It meant about 120,000 of these teens take part in web activities. Among those aged 20 to 24, some 46% are participants, and the figure dropped to 18% for those between 39 and 49.

Not all youths take part in political, let alone anti-government, discussions. The majority, I suspect, are just passive readers indulging in teenage chat-rooms or simply posting diaries of their personal activities.

But the extent of their participation surprised me, though. I had thought it amounted to no more than 10%.

Which brings me to a serious point: if the youths are so active and the Net is anti-government (a government backbencher said she was shocked to find they made up 80% of postings) it is a worrying trend.

A rising number of youngsters have stopped reading the traditional media, or what the government says, and have cocooned themselves into a sub-culture group that just talks to each other.

By ignoring this group, or, worse, treating them as enemies instead of engaging them, the government may be in danger of losing these young citizens by default.

Until a clear policy surfaces, it doesn’t augur well for Singapore.

Seah Chiang Nee is a veteran journalist and editor of the information website littlespeck.com

25 Nov 2006

Dr Chee Soon Juan's video message

25 Nov 06

Dr Chee Soon Juan, currently serving a 5 weeks jail term for speaking in public without a permit, recorded the following video message before his imprisonment on 23 November 2006.

Jailed In Singapore for This...

Yap Keng Ho 10 days prison in place of $2,000

Gandhi Ambalam 3 weeks in prison in place of $3,000

Chee Soon Juan 5 weeks in prison in place of $5,000

24 Nov 2006

Exclusive images of FRANCE 24

Exclusive images of FRANCE 24
Uploaded by stephany24

Some of the more eagle eyed of you may have noticed the adding of a new image in the upper right hand corner. It refers to the launch of a new online news broadcasting organisation that hopes to be more inclusive than the terrestrial media publishers that tend to focus solely on the medium of television to get the news out. The video showcases their initiative.

A FRENCH EYE ON WORLD NEWS Gleamed from a pdf file from FRANCE 24.
FRANCE 24 is the first French international news channel to broadcast on a 24/7 basis. In December 2006, it offers a French perspective on world events.

FRANCE 24 is characterized by respect for diversity and attention to political and cultural differences and identities. It offers an in-depth analysis of current events, aiming to uncover what lies beneath the surface and reveal what the public is not used to seeing, knowing or understanding. It also gives special attention to culture and lifestyle.

FRANCE 24 is deploying a decisive and bold multilingual strategy. Its programs are broadcast on two channels, one in French, one in English, with Arabic scheduled for 2007. Spanish will follow. Free and unencrypted, the network broadcasts via the various platforms of the digital universe : satellite, cable, ADSL, Internet... It places Internet at the heart of its strategy with a trilingual site as of its launch.

FRANCE 24 is targeting an audience of opinion leaders. Initially, it is broadcast in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the cities of New York and Washington D.C.Its coverage will ultimately extend worldwide.

FRANCE 24 brings a fresh new look at international developments, with a view to ensuring greater pluralism in a multi-faceted world where information plays a decisive role. To this end, it has been endowed with the necessary resources - both financial and human -to guarantee its editorial independence and enable it to offer new and original reporting.

Diary of the night vigil

John Tan
23 Nov 06

The verdict was a foregone conclusion. Milling outside the court room, some people shook their heads in disbelief at the harshness of the sentences for such a "small crime". Others expressed relief that the maximum sentence was not invoked. The curial question, however, is why anyone should be prosecuted at all for speaking in public in a democratic society.

Dr. Chee Soon Juan is being imprisoned for five weeks for speaking publicly at Yishun during the last Singapore general election. His colleague, Mr. Gandhi Ambalam, is being jailed for three weeks and his supporter, Mr. Yap Keng Ho for 10 days.

At 7pm, outside the Queenstown Remand Prison, a dozen of supporters gathered to keep vigil for the three men. It was our expression of solidarity with those who have been persecuted for exercising their rights to free speech. As darkness fell, the entrance to the cold, foreboding fortress was illuminated with the flickers of candles. Dr. Chee’s wife and three lovely children arrived and joined the group. Carrying a candle each, signifying the light we need in these dark hours of our nation, we accompanied the three prisoners of conscience till midnight.

A new supporter, Mr. Leong, was visibly touched by the gathering. He expressed admiration for our show of solidarity with our prisoner friends and was glad he came to share the moment with us.

The vigil-keepers found solace in each other. The mood was sombre, yet hopeful. We even joked about belting out a few familiar tunes in the hopes that our three friends will hear us. After all, it is hope that sustains us and keeps us going along the road towards genuine democracy for Singapore.

We intend to keep the light burning for the next seven days as a symbol of our hope for a free and democratic society. If you have similar hope and aspiration for your nation, we invite you to join us outside the Queenstown Remand Prison daily between 7 and 12pm.

Keep vigil with the 3 prisoners of conscience

WFDA statement on CSJ's imprisonment in Singapore

World Forum for Democracy in Asia
23 Nov 06

The World Forum for Democratization in Asia (WFDA) strongly condemns the jail sentence passed on one of our Steering Committee members, Dr. Chee Soon Juan, Chairman of the Alliance of Reform and Democracy in Asia (ARDA). The Subordinate Court of Singapore today sentenced him to five weeks in prison for the "crime"of speaking in public without a valid permit; his term began today. Two of his colleagues from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), Mr. Gandhi Ambalam and Mr. Yap Keng Ho, were also sentenced to shorter terms. The "offense"for which they were convicted was an instance of speaking to passing citizens as they were selling the party newspaper on the street on 22 April of this year.

This is yet another step in the ongoing judicial persecution of Dr. Chee and the members of the SDP. Dr. Chee has already been bankrupted and deprived of his civil rights, including the right to travel, as a result of a libel suit by Singapore's strongman Lee Kuan Yew and then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong. Similarly, a critical article in the party's newspaper in the run-up to the general elections in May 2006 has resulted in a further libel suit against the whole party leadership, including ARDA's Secretary General and one of its staff members, who are likely to be rendered bankrupt at a separate hearing tomorrow (24 November). Dr. Chee also faces a further trial in December on charges of attempting to leave the country to attend the World Movement for Democracy Fourth Assembly earlier this year.

These actions have not taken place in a vacuum. In recent weeks, amendments to the Penal Code have been drafted to further restrict and criminalize many forms of speech, including internet content, drawing complaints from several international media organizations. In September, the Far Eastern Economic Review was banned, and accredited civil society representatives from many countries were refused entry for the IMF/World Bank meetings.

We call on the judiciary of Singapore to live up to its proper mission to uphold the rule of law by protecting the basic human rights of all Singaporean citizens, including the right to free speech and participation in public affairs. In particular, it should immediately cease this politically motivated persecution of Dr. Chee, overturn his prison sentence, and restore all his civil rights, including the right to stand for office and the unfettered right to international travel.

We further call on the international community, especially democracies in Asia and beyond, to place issues of human rights firmly on the agenda in their relations with Singapore. The government of Singapore must be made to understand that such repressive tactics are not compatible with Singapore's image as an advanced society. This process should begin at the upcoming 12th ASEAN Summit -- with its theme "One Caring and Sharing Community"– and the 2nd East Asian Summit, as well as in all relevant meetings with ASEAN dialogue partners.

Keep vigil with the prisoners of conscience

From the Singapore Democrats website

Supporters will keep vigil with the three democracy advocates, Mr Gandhi Ambalam, Dr Chee Soon Juan and Mr Yap Keng Ho, who have been jailed for speaking without a permit.

We will be present outside the Queenstown Remand Prison overnight from 23 Nov (Thursday) to 30 Nov (Thursday) from 7 pm to 12 am midnight.

Please come and join us if you want to show your support for the 3 prisoners of conscience, and the cause of freedom of speech and democracy in Singapore.

Bring along your family and friends.

UncleYap - Hunger Strike

I aclaim my right to hunger-strike even in prison under Article 12 and Article15 of Republic of Singapore Constitution, that my fasting in political faith equals to my religion, to be treated equal with fasting by Muslim or Hindu faiths.

23 Nov 2006

Blogger - UncleYap Begins Hunger-Strike

UncleYap Already Began Hunger-Strike
Commence at midnight right now, I begin my hunger-strike against corrupted Lee Kuan Yew famiLEE LEEgime. This strike will last until I announce otherwise. My plans had been anounced on my blog months ago, basically unchanged.

The strike is not just against politically motivated 17 charges against 3 of us for speeches, it is a general protest against a big series of corrupted oppressions and cheatings in General Election 2006.

* Nation Vote Buying via Progress Package distributing total of S$2.6 billion to voters just 5 days before polling day.
* Series of stinking defamation suits against Singapore Democratic Party & The New Democrats publication.
* Police Harrassments against Singapore Democratic Party election campaign and The New Democrats' sale.
* Corrupt Practises Investigation Bureau refused to probe nationwide Vote Buying, upon my report.
* Arresting of Workers' Party's candidate Mr. James Gormes.
* Election Department refusing to accept cash deposit, in collusion to fabricate excuese to dismiss Election Judge's hearing of Vote Buying & Election Corruption.
* 17 charges against Singapore Democratic Party election campaign accusing us of Speech Without License.
* Pressing Stinking Bankruptcy Suits against Singapore Democratic Party, & Chee Siok Chin.
* Cowardly bankrupting Dr Chee Soon Juan jsut before election aiming to prevent his campaigning during election.
* Cowardly baned Internet Blogs and Podcasting During Election.
* Cowardly trying to prevent police evidence video of election campaign from being accessed by public.

All the aboves are just to for covering up corrupted crimes and scandals of Lee Kuan Yew famiLEE LEEgime, which had been exposed by Singapore Democratic Party; The New Democrats; the 3 walk-about and meet-the-people preambulators of Singapore Democratic Party including myself; and recorded within the police video recording which is now an evidence in court. Crimes and scandals such as:

* Nation Vote Buying via Progress Package distributing total of S$2.6 billion to voters just 5 days before polling day.
* National Kidney Foundation Scandals
* Investing tax payer's money in Myanmar in close connection with drug criminal syndicate of Lo Shing Han family
* Collusion with Thailand's corrupted Thaksin family
* Profiteering via world's highest ministerial salaries
* Maintaining a famiLEE feudal LEEgime which father's political power is succeeded by son in violation of Republic Constitution

My strike is to bring awareness and make political statement, and remind Singaporeans to fight against corrupt famiLEE LEEgime, to punish corrupted criminal particularly from the famiLEE. To remove shameful corrupt practises. To retain national pride and integrity for our children and future citizens. I will call off my hunger-strike at moment deem fit by myself.

Most of my hunger-strike is expected to take place within Queens Town Remand Prison.

Activists may gather and stage civil actions outside prison during our imprisonment such as candle lighting. Supporters are encorage to attend the court sentencing on 23.Nov.2006 at court 18 of Subordinate Court.

As SDP's web had been hacked today, Internet activist are asked to mirror and download then re-post the site, and remind internet community to observe alternate blogs such as:


Singapore jails opposition leader Chee Soon Juan over public speaking

From SDP site
Koh Gui Qing
23 Nov 06

A Singapore court jailed an opposition leader for five weeks on Thursday over his failure to pay a fine for speaking in public without a permit.

Chee Soon Juan, one of Singapore's most vocal opposition politicians and leader of the tiny Singapore Democratic Party, committed the speaking offence on April 22, two weeks before the country's general election.

The court initially fined him S$5,000 and because he refused to pay, he and two of his supporters were jailed.

"Every hour, every day, every month that I spend in jail only strengthens my resolve to fight," the 44-year-old Chee told the court before the verdict was read.

Chee hugged his wife and three young children before police led him away.

A vocal campaigner for human rights and free speech, Chee was jailed for eight days in March for questioning the independence of Singapore's judiciary. He was jailed for five weeks in 2002, and 12 days and one week in 1999 for speaking in public without permit.

Chee grabbed world headlines in September, when he and a small group of supporters spent four days in a public park as Singapore police blocked them from holding a protest march during the IMF-World Bank annual meeting in Singapore.

SDP supporters Yap Keng Ho and Gandhi Ambalam were fined S$2,000 and S$3,000 respectively. As they also refused to pay, they will be jailed for 10 days and three weeks respectively.

Singapore has been criticised by human rights groups such as Amnesty International for its tight controls on political expression, and the use of defamation lawsuits by Singapore's leaders to silence and bankrupt opposition politicians.

The city-state has been ruled by the People's Action Party (PAP) since independence in 1965. Its Public Entertainments and Meetings Act (PEMA) prohibits public speaking unless speakers have been licenced by the government.

"The PEMA has been used by the PAP to prosecute and deter legitimate political activity," Chee told the court.

Chee -- declared bankrupt in February after failing to make libel payments of S$500,000 ($322,000) to former Prime Ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong -- said he had "absolutely no remorse" for his actions, and vowed to continue fighting for democracy in the city-state.

The SDP did not win any parliament seats in the May election, but won 23 percent of the votes in the wards that it contested.

Chee and his sister, Chee Siok Chin -- also a senior member of the SDP -- are also facing a defamation lawsuit launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father Lee Kuan Yew over an article in the SDP's newsletter.

Chee Siok Chin told Reuters that a group of SDP supporters will hold vigils outside the Queenstown Remand Prison to protest against the imprisonment.

An acerbic critic of the Singapore government, Chee has had several run-ins with the PAP. In 1993, months after he ran in a by-election for the SDP, Chee was sacked from his job as a lecturer at the National University of Singapore, which accused him of improperly using S$226 (US$137) for postage.

When Chee said the evidence was fabricated, he was sued for defamation by his former department head -- a PAP member of parliament -- and ordered to pay $200,000 plus court costs.

Dr Chee Soon Juan's statement:Trial a mockery of justice

For more information and update, please go to:


And how is this reported in the PAP controlled state media Channel News Asia. Note the headline and then read the article. The accused all 'decided' of their own volition to go to jail.

Chee Soon Juan fined $5,000 for speaking in public without a licence
By Noor Mohd Aziz, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 23 November 2006 2142 hrs

Singapore Democratic Party's Secretary-General Chee Soon Juan was on Thursday ordered to pay a fine of $5,000, or face five weeks in jail, for speaking in public without a licence on April 22.

Two other party members were also fined.

Gandhi Ambalam had to pay $3,000 or 3 weeks in jail while Yap Keng Ho was sentenced to a $2,000 fine or 10 days in prison.

According to family members, all three refused to pay their fines and decided to serve their jail terms.

Seven other charges against Dr Chee and Yap for speaking in public without a licence, will come up for mention at a later date.

Under the Constitution, anyone fined $2,000 or jailed for one year, or both, is barred from standing for elections for five years. - CNA/ch

22 Nov 2006

Mixing welfare and elitism in Singapore

By Alex Au

SINGAPORE - Is Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong moving to soften the island state's time-tested capitalist credentials with state welfare policies for the poor?

Growing economic inequality has put Lee to the political test, one that is challenging his economic lieutenants to devise ways to redistribute national wealth consistent with Singapore's strong laissez-faire capitalist tradition. The formula they've arrived at, however, seems likely to widen rather than bridge the divide.

In mid-November, Lee announced government plans to raise the goods and service tax (GST) from 5% to 7%. The tax hike is designed to generate about S$1.5 billion (US$960 million) annually, funds that will be earmarked to develop a more generous social safety net. "It's essential for us to tilt the balance [of spending] in favor of lower-income Singaporeans because globalization is going to strain our social compact," Lee said upon announcing the policy.

It was an unusually candid admission for the leader of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), the political machine that Lee's father, former premier and current Mentor Minister Lee Kuan Yew, founded and that has ruled Singapore uninterrupted since the country's founding in 1959. Strict adherence to neo-liberal economic prescriptions and policy promotion of an export-oriented economy contributed to Singapore's emergence as one of Asia's richest countries in the 1980s and 1990s.

Now, it appears those same policies are disproportionately lifting the top tier of society while leaving a growing number of lower-wage earners in the economic lurch. That trend arguably began with the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis when, government statistics show, the wages of lower-skilled workers fell by about one-third.

Despite economic recovery, the income gap has continued to widen as Singapore's past advantage in manufacturing industries has been eroded by China and other lower-cost countries in the region. Over the past five years, about 20% of Singapore's households have suffered from declining incomes. And that's arguably starting to take a toll on the PAP's popularity.

Political reaction

Prime Minister Lee's pronouncements and policies are clearly a reaction to those shifting perceptions. Details of the various proposed new welfare schemes - known provisionally as "offset packages" - will be announced in February along with the state budget. Indications are that existing modest schemes to subsidize elderly health care, housing and education will be topped up and many new welfare schemes introduced.

Lee has said that the so-called "workfare bonus" - an unprecedented cash payout to low-wage earners introduced as a one-off measure just weeks before last May's general election - would be employed to redistribute government budget surpluses back to taxpayers.

The PAP in the run-up to the polls doled out S$150 million of bonuses to about 330,000 low-wage earners, representing about 9% of Singapore's population of citizens and permanent residents. That payout anticipated but didn't blunt opposition parties' class-oriented attacks against the PAP-dominated government, claiming it systematically neglected the island state's many low-wage earners.

The PAP won those polls handily, capturing 82 of 84 parliamentary seats - though the weak opposition has since the 1980s claimed that the election system is structured and regulated in ways that inhibit small parties from fielding candidates, including the requirement that parties must assemble an ethnically balanced six-member committee to contest some electoral constituencies.

Yet the prickly income-inequality issue was quickly resurrected one month after the elections when a blogger writing under the pseudonym Mr Brown pointedly asked why official data that showed that 20% of national households were suffering from declining incomes were released after rather than before the general polls.

For his pains, Mr Brown's regular column in the government-owned Today newspaper was brusquely terminated - fueling outrage in Internet chat rooms about the government's heavy-handedness and apparent lack of transparency. Meanwhile, the PAP-led government proposed this month to tighten laws that govern the Internet as part of an overhaul of the national penal code.

The proposed amendments would hold Internet users liable for statements the government deemed to "cause public mischief" or "wound racial feelings". If passed, the legislation would appear to institutionalize the ban on posting inflammatory political content the government enforced temporarily in the run-up to this year's polls and would give it broad new powers to curtail freedom of expression.

It's unclear whether public debates over the Internet about the GST rise would be considered "mischievous" under the proposed new rules. Some commentators have already dared to note that raising the consumption tax is by definition regressive and will hit poor households harder than rich ones as they are forced to spend a greater proportion of their income on tax-inflated necessities.

The Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce, a grouping of about 4,000 mostly small businesses, likewise took the chance to express its "great concern and disappointment" about the tax hike. That's because the policy has the dual purpose of also covering the expected shortfall in tax revenues that will occur when the government cuts corporate-tax rates from their current level of 20%. It has not yet been announced when the new lower tax rate will take effect, but Singapore is under growing competitive pressure to reduce its tax rates to remain attractive to foreign investors.

To justify his government's corporate-tax cut, Lee recently said in parliament that developing Baltic nations such as Latvia and Lithuania levy a flat 15% tax on corporations. More to the competitive point, Hong Kong's top personal income-tax rate is currently 16%, a full 4 percentage points lower than Singapore's rate.

"Such a reduction would only benefit profitable companies and not the significant majority of small and medium-sized enterprises which have to contend with high business overheads and a dwindling bottom line," the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.

The unspoken subtext is that raising the GST while cutting corporate taxes will in effect shift the tax burden from big companies to ordinary citizens, particularly lower-income Singaporeans, some commentators say.

While the details of the promised new welfare schemes are still pending, the PAP-led government is headed into an uncharted and difficult interventionist direction.

On the surface, Lee's government appears to have shaken its historical aversion to welfare schemes and taken on board providing long-term state assistance to a large cross section of the population. Singapore currently does not impose minimum wages, nor are there state-backed pension plans as in many Western countries. In nanny-state fashion, each Singaporean is currently compelled by law to set aside a certain proportion of his or her income for retirement purposes.

The government insists it will fashion the new assistance schemes in a way that avoids institutionalizing the economic lethargy and dependence inherent in Western welfare systems. Lee recently told parliament: "I would like to caution members that we should proceed with care ... it is a real slippery slope. And many, many social-welfare schemes which have ended up in serious trouble have started off with good intentions."

Notwithstanding those words, the scale of the proposed changes suggests a fundamental philosophical shift for the PAP. That's largely because the growing chorus of complaints about the widening income gap has grown politically too loud to ignore.

Entrenched elitism

The issue is also significantly tied to growing public perceptions about elitism among PAP members of parliament (MPs) and their family members - a perceived social arrogance and economic selfishness that increasingly sticks in the craw of many Singaporeans, particularly among low-wage earners.

Sin Boon Ann, a PAP MP, recently highlighted the danger of class conflict in a speech to parliament. "The perception exists that Singapore is a society bifurcated between the elites and the commoners, the scholars and the normal streams, the gifted and the ordinary, the [public housing] dwellers and the private property owner, the rich and the poor," the parliamentarian said. It is necessary to "break down the institution of snobbery within our society", he said.

He spoke amid a surge in cyber-criticism aimed at PAP MP Wee Siew Kim. In a now-famous exchange in Singapore's vibrant blogosphere, Derek Wee (no relation to the parliamentarian) wrote in his blog on October 12 about his economic insecurities as he approached middle age. He opined that Singapore's liberal immigration policies were putting his job at risk, and he urged the government to be more understanding of ordinary citizens' plight.

An 18-year-old girl in her own blog replied and disparaged Derek Wee's concerns, saying, "If you're not good enough, life will kick you in the balls ... There's no point in lambasting the government for making our society one that is, I quote, 'far too survival-of-fittest'.

"If uncertainty of success offends you so much, you will certainly be poor and miserable," the young blogger added. She went on to refer to Derek Wee as "one of many wretched, under-motivated, over-assuming leeches in our country", and rounded off her attack by telling him to "get out of my elite uncaring face".

It was quickly discovered that the girl, Wee Shu Min, was the daughter of a less-known PAP MP, demonstrating to many Internet users that Singapore's highly touted meritocracy was being undermined by an intolerant elitism at the top. Her name, "Wee Shu Min", rocketed to the top of keyword searches in Singapore as measured by Technorati.com.

Her father, Wee Siew Kim, later unapologetically waded into the controversy. "I think if you cut through the insensitivity of the language, her basic point is reasonable," he told the government-controlled Straits Times newspaper, adding: "Some people cannot take the brutal truth and that sort of language, so she ought to learn from it."

It is against this ferment that Lee's government is now emphasizing the need for long-term social support for the poor, and at the same time moving to curtail political debate over the Internet. Yet Lee's tax reforms and welfare promises are unlikely to bridge quickly the divide between his government and its low-income constituents. It's an issue that promises to dominate Singapore's popular discourse and give Lee political headaches for years to come.

Alex Au is an independent social and political commentator and freelance writer based in Singapore. He often speaks at public forums on politics, culture and gay issues.

Myanmar: Life under sanctions

Published on Al Jazzera,
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
By Veronica Pedrosa in Yangon, Myanmar


On the bustling streets of Yangon, there is little on the surface to differentiate it from other South-east Asian cities.

The buses are overloaded, hawkers at street stalls yell out to attract buyers. In the music shops you can buy Myanmar rap, while hip hop-style graffiti is daubed on pedestrian crossings.

But this is urban life under a military government and things are not what they seem.

Residents go about their daily business in spite of US sanctions aimed at forcing the hand of the military government, and in spite of the extraordinary control that government exercises in every facet of their lives.

In the main streets it seems as if there is brisk trade at the stalls, but take a walk down the back streets, you can see how sanctions have forced people to be resourceful.

Repair shops are a common sight in a country where goods need to last longer.

The government says the economy is growing at 12 per cent a year - faster than China - but there is little evidence to bear that out.

In a country used to isolation, sanctions have only hardened the military's position against the US...

To

21 Nov 2006

Singapore Human Rights Lawyer M Ravi Assaulted in HongKong

First spotted on SammyBoy Forum and further follow up reports are available on Uncle Yap. Apparently M. Ravi is now safely back in Singapore. Hopefully the Singaporean or Hong Kong police can identify the attackers as soon as possible and press charges.
Time now is 1855Hr. Saturday 18.Nov.2006
I just received call from HongKong ChakLapKok Airport that Singaporean Human Rights Lawyer M Ravi had been assulted by 3 Chinese Singaporeans at the airport. The assiliants are recognizable as about 40 years age, name of one person is known.

M Ravi is injured with bruises, and he had been given threats to have Lee Kuan Yew government finishing him of when he returned to Singapore.

According to Ravi, his attackers are racist against Indians, and that also being the basis of the attack.

Another Chinese Singaporean traveling with Ravi had not been assulted. The assult just happened 15 mins ago.

Police at HongKong airport had been reported to, and I will report to Singaporean Police and Changi Airport. Updates will follow.

M Ravi was acting in my defence against charges under Public Entertainment & Meeting Act, on the 3rd day of my trial he got suspended from bar by The Court of Appeal. My trial began on 25.Oct.06.

Hong Kong's migrant workforce exposes wealth gap

HONG KONG, China (Reuters) -- Take a stroll through Hong Kong's downtown Victoria Park on any given Sunday and one can witness a unique social ritual as the city's one million domestic helpers revel in their weekly day off.

Sitting around in garrulous groups; Indonesian and Filipino maids can be seen chatting loudly, picnicking on home-cooked dishes, singing and dancing -- often to the accompaniment of musical instruments.

It's a boisterous, jubilant scene, beyond the dreams of maids around Asia including those in Singapore, who get just one rest day off a month -- if they're lucky.

But life for Hong Kong's migrant workforce is anything but easy. Working hours can be extremely long, and many lack any privacy in the city's cramped flats. Sometimes space is so scarce, maids have to sleep on makeshift beds on kitchen floors.

There also exists in places like Bethune House -- a shelter for migrant helpers -- a seamier world of maids suffering financial exploitation, underpayment, physical abuse and worse.

Tanuj Rai, a gentle, soft-spoken 24-year-old Nepali woman who's been living in Bethune House for the past nine months was abused and blackmailed by her employer.

"I was raped many times. I had no friends," she said.

Tanuj and others in the shelter, have been seeking redress for crimes committed against them, but the slow legal proceedings have left them jobless, poor and in a kind of legal limbo.

"The women are discouraged to lodge complaints because that would mean several months of no wages, so many just go back," said Edwina Antonio-Santoyo, who runs the shelter.

"Only these women are courageous enough to file complaints against their employers," she added.

By Asian standards, maids in Hong Kong are relatively well paid and are protected by labor laws.

But a notable number face widespread financial exploitation by employers and employment agencies, who flout minimum-wage laws with sophisticated under-the-table deals.

Social Workers say many maids work in situations of near "debt-bondage", forced to pay crippling placement fees of up to eight times their monthly salaries. But the Hong Kong government has shirked responsibility for the problem, saying the maids first incurred these debts in their home countries.

"The problem with the Indonesian workers is that they're very innocent, they never have knowledge of law in Hong Kong so they accept what the agency will offer," said Eni Lestari of the Asian Migrant Workers Co-ordinating body.

Wealth and abuse
The migration of workers from poor countries to more affluent ones is illustrative of Asia's gaping wealth gap, with affluent Singapore, like Hong Kong, able to employ maids en masse.

But Singapore, which has around 150,000 helpers, has gained a notoriety for headline-grabbing abuses against its migrant workforce, exacerbated in part, by government inaction.

Dewi Ratih for instance, a 24-year-old Indonesian from Central Java, was beaten repeatedly with a bamboo pole by her employer, who also burned her arms with a clothes iron.

"I was there for only a few weeks... If I had stayed there longer, I might have died," said Dewi, displaying unhealed welts on her arms.

Groups like Human Rights Watch say abuses against maids like Dewi are widespread in Singapore, a situation at odds with the city state's reputation as a wealthy, racially diverse and progressive society.

"They do have the power to enforce many laws and become a model for other countries, but they've remained one of the worst case scenarios," said Nisha Varia, a researcher with Human Rights Watch and author of a detailed report on the issue.

While Singapore's laws offer better protections than do neighboring countries like Malaysia, maids still face long working hours, pitiful wages and conditions amounting to "forced labor," as well as sexual and verbal harassment, she said.

So far, Singapore's government has been reluctant to grant maids full legal rights. Earlier this year, it made headlines by rejecting calls to give maids a statutory day off every month, arguing this would "inconvenience households."

"I think it's a surprise that the Singapore government isn't taking the necessary steps to change the situation... The changes they've made have been so superficial and none have addressed the root causes of the problem," said Varia.

Gradual empowerment
Back in Hong Kong, there is perhaps an important lesson to be learned -- that progress, while difficult, is possible.

When the first Filipino maids arrived in the late 1970s, they had scant rights. It was only through sustained activism that they become more empowered, winning landmark protections like a minimum wage.

Nowadays, Church groups and increasingly sophisticated support networks are confident enough to fight the government in court and organize mass street protests.

"Nothing was given to us. We had to fight for everything," said Antonio-Santoyo of Bethune house, "It's the painstaking organizing work of the Filipinos who started forming organizations in the mid-'80s."

Copyright 2006 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

20 Nov 2006

Canadian professors write CSJ protest letter

Sourced at Singapore Democratic Party site.

19 Nov 06
October 20, 2006

The Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay
Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0A6

Dear Minister MacKay,

Re: Dr. Chee Soon Juan

We are writing on behalf of more than 55,000 academic staff at over 100 universities and colleges across Canada to express our concern about the continued persecution of Singapore scholar and democratic opposition leader Dr. Chee Soon Juan.

Singapore's government claims to be encouraging a more participatory, inclusive society, but in practice continues to use an array of laws to restrict freedom of expression. The result is a pervasive climate of fear in the country, and Dr. Chee is one of the few people in Singapore still willing to press for fundamental rights.

Dr. Chee is an academic and activist who has tirelessly promoted freedom of expression, transparency and democracy within Singapore and throughout the Asia Pacific region.

He is recognized internationally as a human rights defender and has received the Defender of Democracy Award by the respected organization Parliamentarians for Global Action. He is the author of several books, journal articles, editorials and essays, and has traveled around the world to speak out for democracy.

While in Canada in 2003, Dr. Chee met with government and several academics to discuss his struggle. Dr. Chee has been held in contempt for attempting to raise the same concerns about the independence of the Singapore judiciary that have been repeatedly raised by international observers including Amnesty International, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, the International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights First (formerly Lawyers Committee for Human Rights) and the United States Department of State. Government officials have publicly branded Dr. Chee a "liar", "cheat" and "fraud" in apparent attempts to discredit and silence him.

He has been imprisoned several times, and repeatedly prosecuted, all for non-violently exercising his fundamental human right of free expression. An accomplished neuro-psychologist, Dr. Chee has lost his university post, and his academic career has been destroyed.

He was bankrupted earlier this year, unable to pay 500,000 Singapore dollars (500,000 Canadian dollars) in damages to Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew for allegedly defaming them during the 2001 election campaign. His bankruptcy means he is now barred from contesting elections and holding a parliamentary seat.

We were encouraged to learn that Canada demonstrated its concern by sending a representative of the Canadian High Commission in Singapore to attend Dr. Chee's trial in March this year.

The Singapore government, however, continues to try to silence Dr. Chee. Earlier this month, he was charged with trying to leave the country without asking permission, and if convicted, could be fined thousands of dollars and jailed for up to two years.

We believe that in the face of continued persecution of Dr. Chee by the Singapore government, Canada and the international community need to do more.

We urge you to take further steps and, where possible, work with other governments to impress upon the government of Singapore that its public statements about working towards a more inclusive participatory society must hold true.

It is vital that the Singapore government desist its abuse of civil or criminal proceedings against Dr. Chee and other dissenting voices in Singapore, and lift its restrictions on peaceful exercise of free expression and other fundamental rights in Singapore.


Greg Allain James L. Turk
President Executive Director
Canadian Association of University Teachers

cc. His Excellency Vanu Gopala Menon, Permanent Representative of Singapore to
the United Nations and High Commissioner to Canada

The Singapore Sink

Apparently, it does not matter if Singapore sinks.

Today's Straits Times, Science section, 18 November 2006, an article entitled 'S'pore will practically disappear' is a shocking title.

I am not sure if it was meant to be sensational but it certainly caught my attention. Based on an interview with Sir David Attenborough, he was quoted as saying, "Singapore will practically disappear".

This disappearance, according to the article, would be caused by global warming. The aforementioned phenomenon is caused by rising temperatures due to burning of fossil fuels which leads to an increase of carbon emmisions in the atmosphere. One of the disastrous consequences of global warming is the rise of the sea level which will sink Singapore, as we contain low- lying coastal areas.

Page 44 of the Straits Times contains two articles with global environmental themes, "Global Warming 'also affects small nations' " and "24 hours of freak weather Down Under".

The former contains keypoints of a speech delivered by Dr Yaacob, Singapore's Environment and Water Resources Minister at the UN Climate Change Conference in Nairobi. In his speech, Dr Yaacob talked about how the Singapore government supports the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol (earlier this April). He also revealed the process on how we switch from carbon- intensive oil fired power plants to clean new low- carbon intensive, natural- gas- fired systems and erecting environmentally sustainable buildings.

Sure the Singapore government is appearing to be doing its best when it comes to reducing global warming within our frontiers. Whether they could have done more is another topic for discussion.

The very apparent problem is that we are not sending out stronger signals to our trading counterparts that global warming is a serious and important issue.

When George Bush was in town on Thursday, the Singapore government did not talk about global warming with him.

America and Australia, of whom we have close business relations, are two remaining developed countries that have yet to sign the Kyoto protocol. We also have close business relationships with China and India which are heavy and growing contributors to global warming.

We can argue that the Singapore government has been diplomatically wise to avoid discussing global warming issues with these trading partners. The perverted logic is this, "We are a small nation and hence, we should not ruffle the feathers of these influential countries."

Yet, this is not a justified assumption given the direct consequence is the sinking of Singapore.

We must put it on the talks as an agenda item with other governments as global warming affects the world. More importantly, it can and will destroy us, perhaps much faster, as we are much smaller physically and hence, probably the first to sink, if a major natural catastrophe occurs.

If Singapore does not exist, how can we even talk about trade or economic well- being?

According to the other article, "24 hours of freak weather Down Under", Australia is seeing insane weather conditions. Sydney experienced its coldest November day since 1905 with temperatures dropping to as low as 8 degrees centigrade. Parts of Victoria and Tasmania are also seeing snow. Yet, it is supposed to be summer now. The irony was that firefighters were struggling against blazes in the Blue Mountains when the temperature was hovering around zero. These are just a few examples of how crazy the weather has become in Australia, whom I need to remind you, is not that far from us.

However, Dr Yaacob, in his speech reiterates that "any climate change regime must take into account the principle of common but differentiated responsiblities" and that "developing countries had a right to energy for development".

If countries with major trading powers are allowed to get away with it, and risk the survival of Singapore literally, our government must have the temerity to stick their necks out and raise global warming as a discussion topic with these countries with whom we have close trade relations with.

18 Nov 2006

Protest At Bush NUS Visit

A blog post by Gabriel Seah, a student at the National University of Singapore where President Bush spoke on Thursday. The post contains 2 video clips, one of the protester brandishing a black umbrella at the police.

Bush at NUS

Bush's extremely long motorcade, and the heckling. At first I thought NUS Campus Security brought up the rear, but it turns out they were police cars. No wonder the former shares the latter's colours. Actually you can't hear the heckling. I'm quite sure I took a video of it ("Boo!", "Go home!", "We don't want you here!"), but maybe something went wrong (d'oh!) or it just can't be heard due to technical problems. You can see the umbrella being waved at the motorcade though. Also this video would've been longer, but Gayle called me while I was shooting it. Grr.

Umbrella girl shows her umbrella to the police cameras, to applause from the onlookers.

to view all text plus pictures of the protest click here.

Today To Toe The Line

Spotted this on Singapore Elections and the source is allegedly Sammyboy's Forum. Read the following, but the 'truth' of it is open to debate...

Hello all. This fell onto my lap.

Days after the shocking staff reshuffle in Today, the "resignation" of Mano Sabnani was used as a warning to others in Today to toe the line. On Nov 12, P N Balji and some senior editors were told by Mediacorp Deputy CEO Shaun Seow that Today should tone down its alternative streak at least for the moment until the coast is clear.

During the half hour meeting in the morning, Shaun reiterated that Mediacorp had top-down and bottom-up pressure to remove Mano, who was a lousy people manager. The final straw was Mano's handling of the Mr Brown affair and his anxious decision to terminate Lee Kin Mun's popular weekly column. Mano had over-reacted and misread the government's anger after his experience in the Val Chua incident. As a result of Mano's action, the public became incensed with what they saw was the strong interfering hand of the government in removing their favourite columinist from Today.

The topic then changed to editorial hooks. While no names were mentioned, Shaun said that the angles by certain Today editors during the 2006 General Election were touchy and it should not become a habit. Shaun tried to reason with his increasingly uncomfortable audience that his hands were tied and everybody better play ball or they might suffer an even worse fate than Mano. Mano had at least an ex-gratia payment upon his departure.

Shaun reminded them that the political masters have them sighted and keeping their heads down was sensible.

After the meeting, everyone trooped out with dark looks and a worried Balji, Today's returned founding editor, was frustrated that he had to deal with more morale problems, although Today was already turning profitable.

By afternoon, whispers soon began circulating about their spineless leadership who dare not stand up and insist on editorial independence. Derrick Paulo is one reporter who feels that he might be the next sacrificial lamb. Balji is just the seat warmer for Walter Fernandez, the new number two in Today. Walter is eager to please but is trying not to attract too much attention to himself in Today's management mess. He is bidding his time and letting Balji take the heat.

So, don't expect Today to be like what it was.

The NMP Farce

It is beneficial to have plurality of voices in debates. Yet, the current NMP system is not viable for two very basic reasons. It is unconstitutional and anti- democratic.

Unconstitutional as our statutes does not provide for certain people, which may be considered as outspoken members or elites, to have a voice in parliamentary debates.

Anti- democratic for the NMP is chosen by the government and not elected. Though NMPs do not have any voting rights in parliament, their outspoken position means they can alter or effect the course of parliamentary debates. Moreover, the procedure for choosing these NMPs are neither transparent nor accountable.

They are chosen by the government for their prominent positions in their sectors, and sometimes thought by the government to be representative voices of these sectors. However, even within these smaller communities, it does not always follow that the voices may be unified and that the selected individual is representative of those voices.

The current list of Singaporeans being bandied around for the NMP posts may be outspoken and respected individuals in their fields but it cannot be thus guaranteed that they should have a voice in the parliament.

There is also the problem of which sectors or groups should have a privileged voice in parliamentary debates. Why are gay representatives not included? Foreign workers? Single parents? Where is the litmus test on who should be chosen?

It has also often been argued that the NMP system is PAP's way of co-opting opposing voices, or to be seen as accepting of pluralistic views.

There is no doubt that we cannot continue to endorse the NMP system. It makes a mockery of what democracy is.

PAP - chosen individuals asked to become NMPs should flatly decline the offer and publicly denounce the selection process. By rejecting the NMP nomination and openly stating their reasons for not doing so, they are destroying the perpetuating myth that Singapore is a functioning democracy.


The above short commentary is in response to a news article on TODAY, published on Friday November 17, entitled, "Wanted: Less conventional NMPs; SINGAPORE: As the month-long race to put up names for Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) for the 11th Parliament kicks in, names are already being bandied about."

16 Nov 2006

Singapore and Thailand face showdown over Temasek

Bangkok contends Shin deal broke law
By Wayne Arnold
International Herald Tribune

They have been careful to appear cordial, but in the polite language of Asian diplomacy, a stubborn standoff has emerged between Thailand and Singapore over how to handle Singapore's purchase of the deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's telecommunications assets, and a legal confrontation between them is looming.

The troubles between the two Southeast Asian neighbors began in January, when Singapore's investment arm, Temasek Holdings, purchased a controlling stake in Thailand's dominant phone company, Shin, for $1.9 billion. That stoked public protests in Thailand over foreign ownership of a national champion and the Thaksin family's tax- free windfall - adding to charges of alleged corruption that culminated in the September coup.

With Thaksin in exile, both governments have stressed that their relations are on track. Yet the two are now at loggerheads over Shin.

The new, military-appointed Thai government, determined to document the corruption used to justify the coup, is preparing a criminal case against Temasek and its Thai partners over the purchase. It also has signaled that it would like Temasek to voluntarily reduce its stake in order to avoid having to force an important foreign investor to divest.

Such a face-saving solution is anathema to Singapore, however, which denies breaking any laws.

"The two find themselves in a difficult situation," said Karen Ang, an analyst who follows Shin for Citigroup in Bangkok.

The stakes are high. Shin's falling share price since January has already added up to paper losses at Temasek of almost $680 million. That could rise if a court ruling against Temasek puts it in the position of a forced seller.

Analysts say Temasek failed to grasp just how political taking control of Shin would be. While cutting its losses now might take the diplomatic sting out of an awkward situation, it presents another problem.

"Selling at a loss would be admitting that, yes, we indulged in a transaction that wasn't very transparent and was legally wrong," said Vikas Kawatra, head of institutional sales at Kim Eng Securities in Bangkok.

The new Thai government, for its part, cannot very well drop an inquiry that has become the centerpiece of investigations into alleged corruption during Thaksin's rule.

"They're very, very worried about him making a comeback," said Bob Broadfoot, Managing Director at the Political & Economic Risk Consultancy in Hong Kong. "There's no way in the world they can take Shin out of this political equation."

But in challenging the legality of the Shin deal, Thailand's reputation among foreign investors - a major source of capital for development - may suffer.

Building up Shin made Thaksin a billionaire. He transferred ownership to his eldest son and daughter when he became prime minister in 2001. But he was fending off allegations that he used his office to benefit the company when Temasek stepped in. After the purchase, Temasek and its partners were obliged to make a general offer and ended up with a 96 percent stake, as well as control of Thailand's largest cellular operator, a TV station and a satellite company.

What incensed Thai protesters was that the Singapore government had not only gained control of critical national assets but that it had seemingly helped Thaksin's family cash out tax-free.

Temasek has denied that it knew the deal would be tax-free.

Temasek's chief executive, Ho Ching, has been largely silent, but her husband, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, rose to Temasek's defense in early October, saying the Shin deal did not violate Thai laws.

Singapore's influential founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who is the current prime minister's father and holds a senior position in his cabinet, added his voice.

"It can withstand any investigation," he said of the deal. "Nobody doubts that, nobody within the system doubts that."

After meeting with Lee, the prime minister, in China in late October, Thailand's new prime minister, Surayud Chulanont, said the issue would not upset diplomatic relations. But he also said the government would not intervene in efforts to prosecute Temasek and its partners.

Analysts note that Surayud skipped Singapore during his first tour of Southeast Asia as prime minister, a snub shared only by tiny Brunei and the diplomatic outcast Myanmar.

Singapore bought control of Shin through a complicated holding structure, which lawyers and analysts say has been used for years to avoid falling afoul of Thai limits on foreign ownership. Among the most prominent examples are the German logistics company DHL and the French supermarket operator Carrefour.

Pick at the Shin deal, they warn, and a host of other foreign investments could unravel.

The Thai government has promised eventually to amend the foreign investment law to clear up any confusion over holding companies. In the meantime, regional media have reported talks between the Thai government and Temasek, with the Thai government offering a "road map" for a settlement that calls for Temasek to reduce its combined stake in Shin below the 49 percent legal limit for foreign ownership of a telecommunications company.

Temasek has said only that it plans to sell about 11 percent of Shin to comply with Thai stock market rules. Those stipulate that a listed company must have at least 15 percent of its shares "free floating." Companies that end up not conforming to the limit, through a merger or general offer, are given a year to rectify the situation.

The criminal allegations against Temasek and its partners are separate, and center on accusations that one or more of the minority shareholders in the Shin deal was an illegal "nominee," or proxy, for Temasek, enabling it to skirt the foreign ownership limit.

It is unclear, however, when any criminal case over Shin would go to trial. The Thai Ministry of Commerce handed the case to prosecutors in early October, and Thai critics accuse prosecutors of foot-dragging to buy time for an amicable settlement.

Temasek's efforts to blunt public criticism have not appeared very effective. Last month it said it would set up an office in Bangkok headed by a former Singapore air force chief and a private secretary to Thailand's crown prince, Tongnoi Tongyai, who resigned the day before from the board of a rival cellphone operator.

A week later, Temasek withdrew Tongnoi's appointment and the crown prince issued a rare statement criticizing Tongnoi for abusing his position, denouncing him as cunning and immoral.

"It really shows a lack of understanding of the full political dynamics," Broadfoot said of Temasek's decision to hire Tongnoi.

But analysts say time is on Temasek's side; with few potential buyers willing to step into the political hornet's nest, Shin's share price has been rising on hopes that Temasek will eventually sell. With no court date in sight, analysts say Temasek may be able to hold out for the situation to improve.

"If I were Temasek," said Kawatra at Kim Eng, "I wouldn't do anything either."

Lee family's role in the Shin Corp deal
Published Wednesday, October 18, 2006 by Singapore Election

Thanong Khanthong
The Nation
17 Oct 06

Lee Kuan Yew, the patriarch of Singapore, is believed to have played an important role in convincing his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and daughter-in-law, Madame Ho Ching, that Thaksin was a sure bet because of his strong grip on power, according to a well-informed financial source.

Thaksin was a recipient of Lee senior's leadership award. And he was seen as the kind of person Singaporeans could do a deal with.

When Ho Ching, who is chief executive of Temasek, decided to buy into Shin Corp last year, she did not insist on Temasek's financial adviser, in this case Goldman Sachs, conducting a due diligence investigation into the Thai company, then owned by the Shinawatra family.

Due diligence is normal procedure for a prudent investor, often going beyond a company's solvency and assets and probing civil and criminal litigation matters, conflicts of interest, insider trading and press and public records that identify problems with a target company.

Temasek was assured that, with Thaksin in power, all legal obligations and any problems arising from buying into Shin would be taken care of. The takeover was struck on a personal basis.

to continue reading...

15 Nov 2006

Say NO! to GST Hike

SINGAPORE: The Goods and Services Tax will be increased to 7 percent, up from 5 percent presently.

This was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Parliament on Monday but when exactly will be decided later.

Speaking in Malay, Mandarin and English, Mr Lee explained that the hike is necessary to finance the enhanced social safety nets, needed to help the lower income group, and he emphasised that the offset package will more than counter the rise in GST.

While Singapore's current model to tackle the widening income gap is sound, Mr Lee said the government will take on 2 approaches to deal with the new environment - to strengthen the safety nets and tilt the balance in favour of the lower-income groups who do not benefit from the fruits of economic growth.

To do this, government spending will have to go up. The government now spends some 15 percent of its GDP - one of the lowest in the world.

"This is inevitable over the next 5 to 10 years - infrastructure investments will cost money - R&D is to cost $5b over the next 5 years; as medical technology improves, people age and more will go to hospital to get more treatment so spending is bound to go up. As we tilt the playing field across the board, the lower income will be getting another boost not just once in awhile. Therefore its better to start building resources now so that when we spend more," said Mr Lee.

To finance this, indirect taxes or the Goods & Services Tax will have to go up.

To sign the Petition

FEER fails in attempt to move defamation case out of Singapore

By S Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 15 November 2006 1902 hrs

SINGAPORE: The Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) has failed in its attempt to argue that the Singapore Courts do not have the jurisdiction to hear defamation suits filed against it by Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

Both leaders are suing the magazine for defamation over an article published in its July/August 2006 issue.

The hearing was held before an assistant registrar of the High Court and in Chambers.

FEER also argued that the papers, which were tendered in court by the lawyers for the Prime Minister and Minister Mentor, were not in order.

This claim was also dismissed by the High Court.

It is understood that the lawyers for the magazine are appealing against the assistant registrar's rulings.

Meanwhile, FEER has been ordered to pay costs of S$24,000 for Wednesday's hearing.

Both the Prime Minister and Minister Mentor are being defended by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh. - CNA/so


From IFEXInternational freedon of Expression eXchange

Singapore, a city-state where high levels of economic development contrast with some of the world's strictest controls on free expression and assembly, plans to tighten laws governing the Internet and public gatherings. The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) have expressed concern about the proposed amendments, which are part of a penal code review.

As increasing numbers of Singaporeans turn to the Internet for alternative viewpoints not found in state-controlled media, the government has proposed expanding certain sections of the penal code to cover offences committed via electronic media. Under the suggested amendments, bloggers and other Internet users could face prison sentences or fines for defamation, making "statements that cause public mischief" and "wounding" of racial or religious feelings. Documents, including film and sound recordings, sent over the Internet could also be subject to criminal prosecution, reports the "Financial Times".

The amendments, which include a provision making it an offence for anyone outside the country to abet an offence committed within the country, would allow the authorities to prosecute Internet users living abroad. RSF believes the government is "sending a message to the many Singaporeans living abroad, especially students, reminding them of the need to censor themselves when writing about their country."

The proposed penal code amendments come on the heels of several recent cases involving bloggers, notes RSF. For example, in April 2005, Jiahao Chen, who was studying in the United States, was forced to close down his website after being accused of defamation for criticising a government-administered system of university grants.

More recently, on 6 November 2006, a judge ordered Yap Keng Ho, a member of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party, to remove from his blog a video of himself speaking in public during general elections earlier this year. The blogger, and two other defendants, have been charged with speaking in public without a permit.

Also of concern to SEAPA and RSF is a proposed amendment to strengthen limits on "unlawful assembly." Outdoor gatherings of more than four people already require a police permit. The amendments would give the government more power to act against public gatherings as it would no longer have to prove in court an intention to cause a disturbance.

Singapore's limits on free speech and assembly attracted international attention during the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in September. The authorities banned outdoor protests and barred some accredited representatives of non-governmental organisations from entering the country.

The proposals will come before parliament at the beginning of 2007. RSF recently ranked Singapore 146th out of 167 countries in its 2006 Worldwide Press Freedom Index.

Visit these links:
- Freedom House 2006 "Freedom of the Press" report
- Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs, Proposed Penal Code Amendments
- Yap Keng Ho's blog
- "Financial Times"