30 Mar 2007

Singapore Meeting: Ngee Ann City Shopping Centre, Saturday 31 March

Singapore Government Promotes Obscentity

From Yawning Bread of course.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shed figurative tears last week, saying that he and his ministers are underpaid: the floor rate for a minister should be S$2.2 million, but currently they're only getting S$1.2 million. Adjustments will be made soon, he said.

Singaporeans hurled abuse at the whole idea.

Lee justified his notion of appropriate salaries with reference to the benchmarking model established in 1994. But however they are calculated, to the public, the key issue is that the outcome is one of obscene levels of remuneration. There must be something wrong with the model. No use referencing it when it produces such results.

What is wrong with the model? Let me try to pick it apart.

But first, I had to force myself -- it made me sick to my stomach -- to read the 4 broadsheet pages of the Straits Times, 23 March 2007, devoted to apologia for the salary increase.

Having (in)digested that, this critique will comes in 4 parts, discussing various points that came to my mind.

The conflation of civil service and ministerial salaries
The MR4 benchmark
The SR9 benchmark
Increase in benchmarks since 2000

The conflation of civil service and ministerial service

It strikes me as unproven why Singapore has to have a salary scale where political officers are lumped together with career civil service officers. In most other countries, they are on quite separate scales, enacted separately.

to continue reading Yawning Breads detailed breakdown of the recent pay increase click here.

You can also go to numerous other blog sites, forums, chatrooms and continue to discuss the pros and cons of the recent pay raise.

Or you could get up out of you defeatest comfort zone and actually do something.

Go down to Orchard Road at Ngee Ann City Shopping Centre this Saturday, 31 March, starting from 12 noon to about 3 pm

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29 Mar 2007

AUSTRALIA: Controversial visit by Singapore's founding father

Last Updated 29/03/2007 2:44:38 PM

Singapore's founding leader, Lee Kuan Yew, says Australia has outgrown the dark future he once predicted, that Australians would be the "poor white trash of Asia". Mr Lee was speaking in Canberra after receiving an honorary law doctorate from the Australian National University.

Listen | Audio Help

Presenter/Interviewer: Graeme Dobell
Speakers: Singapore's founding leader, Lee Kuan Yew

DOBELL: Lee Kuan Yew is 83, but he still knows how to throw a political punch, at protesters or questioning journalists.

LEE: I'm quite accustomed to a hostile group of questions, it's not going to change me and I'm not going to change you. We are going to prosper, you are going to prosper. But if I allow you to run my country it will spiral downwards and will hit rockbottom.

DOBELL: The protests from university staff and students were about Singapore's human rights record and whether Lee Kuan Yew should be honoured. Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, has acknowledged some concerns about Singapore's record, but emphasised Mr Lee's role as what he calls a great regional leader. The citation for the honorary doctor of laws describes Mr Lee as the father of modern Singapore, a statesman of unique standing in the Asia Pacific and an honest friend of Australia.

After the receiving the award, Mr Lee gave was asked about the protesters, outside the hall, who described him as a dictator. He replies that Singapore meets every governance standard as set by the World Economic Forum in its global competitiveness report.

LEE: Run through every single item, rule of law, transparency, integrity of the system, efficiency of the civil service, confidence of the courts both domestically and internationally.

JOURNO: Would you have allowed a similar protest when you were prime minister to occur in your country?

LEE: Well you know I have protests of about 100 to 100-thousand people, communist-led, and in the 1950s and 60s if I didn't have the kind of robust energy to counter them in a huge heckling exchange I wouldn't be here today.

DOBELL: The university citation describes Singapore's founding leader as a long standing and candid friend of Australia, who hasn't hesitated to tell Australia when it's in error. Most famously, nearly 40 years ago, Lee Kuan Yew warned Australians that they could become the poor white trash of Asia. Today, he says, Australia is different.

LEE: No you have changed, I mean the Australia I came to in 1965 was a very different Australia, you were a white Australia, there was the Asian exclusion act, and in 1960s the US changed their rules and in 1967 or 68 you changed yours, and Canadians followed suit and we lost a lot of talent. And today we've not only lost Malaysians and others who used to come to Singapore, in your last census there were 50-thousand Singapore born persons now in Australia, and more will come over time because they find when they can't make the top jobs and it's easier living here.

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Let's not get mad, let's get busy

From the Singapore Democrats site
29 Mar 07

Dear fellow Singaporeans,

The Internet has been seething with anger over the latest round of salary increase for our ministers. I don’t need to go into the figures for you already know them.

Not only have the ministers lavished on themselves quite obscene salaries but they have also, through their remarks, shown complete and utter contempt for the feelings of Singaporeans. Which prime minister would say that he and his colleagues should not be expected to make 'unnecessary financial sacrifices' when even a minister is paid more than the president of the United States?

What's more, this comes on the heel of a GST hike amidst data showing that lower-income earners continue to see their wages shrink. And then the Prime Minister tells us that it does this in order to help the poor.

Enough of blogging. Enough of posting your frustrations online. Enough of complains. We’ve been doing that ever since the scheme of pegging ministerial pay to the most lucrative professional salaries started in the mid-1990s.

We need to stop talking and start exercising our rights – no, our solemn duty – to speak up for our nation. We need to let the PAP know that it cannot treat us like doormats.

I know many of you are still fearful. But you must act in spite of your fears. When you do, you'll discover the power of your courage you never thought you had. When enough of us overcome that fear, the PAP will listen.

Let not our fear freeze us into inaction. And let it not be remarked that, like Nero, we fiddled while Rome burned.

What can you do? For starters, go down to Orchard Road at Ngee Ann City Shopping Centre this Saturday, 31 March, starting from 12 noon to about 3 pm where my colleagues and I will be selling the book The Power of Courage. Come by to say hello and leave us your contact. If you have children, bring them along. My kids will be there.

We will need your assistance in the planning of a series of activities leading up to May Day in a month’s time. Here’s your opportunity to do something constructive and to really stand up for Singapore.

Remember my fellow Singaporeans, we are citizens, not slaves! Citizens have rights and we need to exercise those rights. I leave you with this thought: Aeroplanes are safer on the ground, but that was not what aeroplanes are made for.

See you on Saturday!

Chee Soon Juan

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Talkr: Instant Voice Conferencing

Refers to singabloodypore.rsfblog.org site

Thought I should say a few words about the latest widgets added to the left side bar. The top image will take you to an rss feed that enables you to listen to Singabloodypore on your ipod or simply listen online to the posts via itunes or yahoo podcast facilities. You may also have noticed that each post on this page now contains a 'Listen to this article' tag. By clicking on it a new window should open and an mp3 file will launch. The voice is not my own. So you can now listen to the posts and continue to surf this site or others. Give it a go by clicking on 'Listen to this article' just under the top of this post.

The intelligent among you may also have noticed the large widget containing a large green arrow. Click on this to start the Instant Voice Conferencing facility. If it is working properly you should here a voice informing you that you are listening to blah blah. The widget is a new development from Talkr and LiveOnTheNet. This widget is in the very early days of development and so there may still be a few bugs but I suggest, if you are a blogger that you get your own widget soon. They intend to make money and share it with those who host it on their sites.

If you are not currently seeing the large green arrow in the left hand corner you need to upgrade your Java,
, I 'll say it again 'update your Java'... this is a painless process that you can find at:


To talk you will need a headphone set with microphone.

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28 Mar 2007

Singaporean rights activist criticises ANU over Honour

Wednesday, 28 March 2007. 18:33 (AEDT)

Pictures from New Mandala
A leading Singaporean civil rights activist says the Australian National University's decision to honour former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew is baffling.

Dr Chee Soon Juan is the secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party.

He has been imprisoned several times for speaking in public without a license and alleges mistreatment while in custody, including food poisoning.

Dr Chee has criticised Mr Lee's civil rights record many times and is surprised by today's awards ceremony.

"It's just very baffling, given the track record of Singapore," he said.

Dr Chee says the legal honour for Mr Lee is inappropriate, given the erosion of civil rights under his government.
"Lee has used laws very cleverly to make sure that democratic activities, political activities are kept to a bare minimum," he said.

He says the award for the visitor is sending the wrong message.

"I think it's a big slap, I think Australia is sending this signal that, look come here, we want your dollars, we really don't care how society functions for you," he said.

Mr Lee has defended himself, saying that Singapore topped reports by the World Economic Forum.

"Rule of law, transparency, integrity of the system, efficiency of the civil service, confidence of the courts both domestically and internationally, it's at the top," he said.
But Dr Chee disagrees.

"There is no rule of law in Singapore," he said.

"The Government of Singapore use laws to run the country the way that it sees fit."

Mr Lee is currently the Singaporean Minister Mentor to his son's Government.

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27 Mar 2007

Son of TIA: Pentagon Surveillance System Is Reborn in Singapore

From Wired but first spotted on Bruce Schneier's blog.
Sharon Weinberger 03.22.07 | 12:00 PM

Nearly four years after Congress pulled the plug on what critics assailed as an Orwellian scheme to spy on private citizens, Singapore is set to launch an even more ambitious incarnation of the Pentagon's controversial Total Information Awareness program -- an effort to collect and mine data across all government agencies in the hopes of pinpointing threats to national security.

The Singapore prototype of the system -- dubbed Risk Assessment and Horizon Scanning, or RAHS -- was rolled out early this week at a conference in the Southeast Asia city-state. Retired U.S. Adm. John Poindexter, the architect of the original Pentagon program, traveled to Singapore to deliver a speech at the unveiling, while backers have already begun quietly touting the system to U.S. intelligence officials.

In 2003, plans for Total Information Awareness, or TIA, sparked outrage among privacy advocates. TIA was one of several programs run out of the Information Awareness Office at Darpa, the Pentagon's advanced research projects agency. Fueling public indignation was news that Poindexter, President Reagan's national security adviser and a key figure in the '80s Iran-Contra scandal, was in charge of the office.

Facing an avalanche of bad publicity, Poindexter resigned in August 2003. Congress pulled funding for the program, and TIA and related programs were either terminated or moved to other agencies. The Information Awareness Office was closed.

But Poindexter's vision never lost currency among advocates of data mining, particularly in Singapore, a country that mixes elements of democratic governance with authoritarian rule.

Related Links:
Beware of Total Information Awareness
John Poindexter, head of the Pentagon's Office of Information Awareness, is developing a vast surveillance database to track terror suspects. The Total Information Awareness (TIA) system will, according to Poindexter, "break down the stovepipes" that separate commercial and government databases, allowing OIA access to citizens' credit card purchases, travel itineraries, telephone calling records, email, medical histories and financial information. It would give government the power to generate a comprehensive data profile on any U.S. citizen.

A Spy Machine of DARPA's Dreams
It's a memory aid! A robotic assistant! An epidemic detector! An all-seeing, ultra-intrusive spying program!

The Pentagon is about to embark on a stunningly ambitious research project designed to gather every conceivable bit of information about a person's life, index all the information and make it searchable.

What national security experts and civil libertarians want to know is, why would the Defense Department want to do such a thing?

The embryonic LifeLog program would dump everything an individual does into a giant database: every e-mail sent or received, every picture taken, every Web page surfed, every phone call made, every TV show watched, every magazine read.

Total Information Awareness Lives On Inside the National Security Agency
"Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend -- all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as 'a virtual, centralized grand database.'

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Singapore's Lee to face student protest

The Age
March 27, 2007 - 7:29PM

Former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew will face protests when he is awarded an honorary doctorate at Canberra's Australian National University on Wednesday.

Mr Lee's award has angered some ANU academics who accuse him of running an authoritarian regime.

He will be awarded the Honorary Doctorate of Laws at a ceremony on Wednesday morning.

ANU's branch of Young Labor Left is organising a protest against the award, saying it will draw members of all ANU colleges and a large number of staff, students and organisations on campus.

The rally is due to begin at University House at 10.30am (AEST).

A motion condemning the decision will be debated at the ANU Student's Association's ordinary general meeting on Thursday afternoon.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer on Monday acknowledged there had been international concern about human rights issues in Singapore but praised Mr Lee as a "great regional leader".

"The fact is in the overall sense, Singapore has been a spectacular success," Mr Downer said.

Mr Lee will receive the doctorate from ANU Chancellor Allan Hawke at 11am (AEST).

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FEER and Singapore

Access at the Washington Post is restricted but thankfully someone at SammyBoy's forum has posted it.
March 26, 2007; Page A14
Our sister publication, the Far Eastern Economic Review, has been defending itself against a lawsuit in Singapore after it published an article last year on opposition leader Chee Soon Juan. So we hope you'll forgive us if we take some pride that the Review has now been honored by its peers for its journalism.

Review Editor Hugo Restall received first place in the magazine category of the annual Human Rights Press Awards [pdf], organized by the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club and Amnesty International. Among the attributes the judges look for is "courage on the part of the journalists or publisher." The monthly Review is published by Review Publishing Company Ltd., a subsidiary of Dow Jones & Co., which also publishes this newspaper.

In Singapore, reporting on the political opposition carries risks, as virtually every Western publication that circulates in the city state has been the subject of a lawsuit or been threatened with one. The Review and Mr. Restall are being sued by Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding Prime Minister who is now Minister Mentor, and his son, current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who claim the article on Mr. Chee defamed them. The Review is also banned in Singapore, where it is a criminal offense to subscribe to the magazine or to import or reproduce it for distribution. The Review is defending itself against the defamation claims.

The Review's award is a rebuke to Singapore's attempt to silence anyone who reports on the political opposition and is especially welcome support for a vigorous and free press in Asia.

And here is a CNN news report on the issue of the lawsuit.

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26 Mar 2007

The Queer Sensibilities of Singapore's Wordscape

From Xenoboy in Singapore

The media is in overdrive. Spinning and spinning. Telling us the reasons why we have to pay 55% more to the Ministers and the top civil servants, of that stream known as the Administrative Service. No one expects an objection from the media. But not even a "concern" has been raised this time.

Instead, its a monopolistic narrative that calls upon the hallowed traditions of the Singapore Wordscape. The sense of crisis, of siege that will soon befall the Government if they are not paid more. That there will be a vacuum in Government. That the talent will leave or will not come. And without the talent, the Government suffers. And if the Government suffers, Singapore suffers. And if Singapore suffers, the Singaporeans suffer most of all.

This sense of impending doom, of competitiveness, that forces the Government to review salaries, forces them to accept the ignonimity of accepting 55% more money. It almost makes this salary review become noble. A form of noble-ness that is almost surreal. It is a review that becomes a ceremonial sacrifice by these talents to accept this necessary money. It is for the sake of Singapore that they make this sacrifice. Ultimately. It is for the good of Singapore. They take this 55% not because they need it, $290 is enough after all, but because the survival of Singapore needs them to accept this. So the narrative rolls across the Singapore Wordscape.

And the citizens look on, listening to and watching as this narrative embraces the Singapore Wordscape. Formulating their indignations, their counter-narratives, mostly in silence. Forming words, mostly in silence. Only in new media does dissonance surface. That this narrative, flattening the Singapore Wordscape with its moral loud-hailing, is perhaps only one side of the picture, one side of the fence, one level above in the hierarchy of political meanings in Singapore. But it is new media after all, where lies and truths are enmeshed in an adulterous embrace.

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ANU College of Law Registers Protest Against LKY's Doctorate of Laws

AUSTRALIA: Academic outrage over honour for Lee Kuan Yew


A plan to award former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew with an honorary degree has outraged academics at one of Australia's top universities. Mr Lee will be given an Honorary Doctorate of Laws by Canberra's Australian National University next week.

Presenter/Interviewer: Linda LoPresti

Speakers: Dr Michael McKinley, senior lecturer in international relations at the Australian National University

Listen[approx.3mins 55 secs]

Spotted the following letters from Michael Coper posted on the New Mandala site

Professor Coper (Dean of the law faculty at the ANU) has responded to recent inquiries regarding the decision to bestow LKY with the Doctorate of Laws by denying any Law faculty involvement with the decision. …

Dear Students

I am copying to you an email I have just sent to my colleagues here.

In a nutshell, the purpose of the email is to make it clear that the recent decision of the ANU to award an honorary doctorate of laws (Hon LLD) to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, former Prime Minister of Singapore, was a decision of the ANU Council, not a decision of the ANU College of Law. In fact, the College was neither consulted about, nor had any part in, the decision. Had the College been consulted, it is clear from the protests lodged with the Vice Chancellor that many colleagues would have opposed the decision.

I re-emphasise the point made in the attached about how much ANU values its relationship with the National University of Singapore, with Singapore itself and with its people. Nothing in the current controversy detracts from that.


Michael Coper

(the attached message)

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Reframing the ‘global’, the ‘digital’ and the ‘local’


by Chua Siew Keng

Introduction (8:2) Reframing the ‘global’, the ‘digital’ and the ‘local’ — communication theories and Asian perspectives Chua Siew Keng.

In the last decade of the last century/millennium there has been an explosion of the ‘global’ and the ‘digital’ communications within the geopolity of the Asian region. From a universalised discourse, ‘globalisation’ has become increasingly contested in relation to both economic and communications development. Linked to the ‘digital’, the term ‘global’, from the perspectives of communication scholars in the Asia and the Australasian region, is in need of being reframed, if not redefined. This reframed globalisation may articulate a politics of communication that critiques and reshapes the old theme of cultural imperialism but it does not render the latter entirely obsolete. The ‘international development’ era of communications has morphed into the ‘global’ era with continuities and change. Whereas the international era had projected communications from the top down within the modernisation project of progress and development, in the reframed global era there needs to be ‘careful consideration of the democratic potential of the new communications media ... along with limits placed by global markets’. There can be ‘globalisation from below’ (see Sosale’s article), contextualising the global within the history of the local. ‘Asia’ as a region, too, has been subjected to contestable boundaries. As a designation for a geopolitical terrain, it has expanded during the past two decades to include the countries of Australasia, comprising Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific nations, from the perspectives of the scholars within the region.

Indeed one Indonesian scholar-journalist has made out a strong case for considering Australia as the ‘white tribe of Asia’ (Hardjono 1993). New Zealand scholars have increasingly aligned their perspectives more with Asia than with the ‘West’. This turn against the West in communication theories within the region has been active in contesting globalisation as applied to Asian and non-western media studies. From another angle, the technologising capability of the ‘new’ digital communications has also contributed to the rhetoric of globalisation to link it with ‘modernisation’ and ‘development’. Scholars in the Asian region have also begun to demystify the new digital communications technologies and have called into question what may be regarded as new. In Japan, the most economically developed nation in Asia and the most technologically advanced country in relation to communications development, the rhetoric of the digital can be critiqued. Jungbong Choi discusses the limits of such a rhetoric about new communications, such as digital television, in the Japanese situation. His article ‘Embedding digital television in an IT economy: The case of Japan’ explores the tension between public service broadcasting and the commercial consumption of the digital potential of the medium. He locates the economic discourse of the new communications within its social and cultural contexts. Choi attempts to ‘situate Japan’s launch of digital TV within the larger campaign to reshape economic structures and sociocultural domains in correspondence with the fast-changing configurations of information capitalism’. Goode and Little explore the tension between the political economy of digital television and cultural issues through the investigation of the term ‘local’ as it applies to content production.

They argue that the issue of local content ‘may be more under threat’ as a result of digital television. They question the accepted contours of local culture as ‘national’ culture in relation to global imports, and suggest that in effect what may emerge is a ‘localisation’ which is hybrid in nature, comprising an amalgam of imported features and everyday local realities.

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Singapore: Government sets rules of engagement in face of new media

By Hasnita A Majid, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 22 March 2007 1957 hrs

Government sets rules of engagement in face of new media

SINGAPORE: The government will continue to set political agendas and rules of engagement in the face of the new media, and will not be dictated by online petitions or polls.

And while it will try to balance the diverse interests of the society when it comes to issues of sex, nudity and violence online, it said it would not hesitate to prosecute those who post seditious or racially offensive content in cyberspace.

Singapore has a diverse community with different races, languages and religions living in harmony.

But it is also here where the fault lines lie.

Speaking at a Foreign Correspondents Association lunch on the government's approach to the new media, Second Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, said with the internet, these fault lines are even more exposed to foreign influence in the form of religious extremism and terrorism.

However, there is no need to suppress the new media.

He said: "We are not going in with our eyes closed. Generally, we adopt a 'light touch approach'. Although there is much offensive and untrue material in cyberspace, there is no need, nor is it practical, to pursue each and every transgression.

"All we need is the government to selectively target those who pose a clear risk to the real world. Consequently, we have seen no need to suppress new media unless specific laws are broken by posting seditious or racially offensive content which has come to our attention and gained traction in our society.

"Race and religion are sensitive and volatile issues that tug at the visceral feelings of people. We have a few such cases in the previous year and we have not hesitated to prosecute them in court."

Similarly, when it comes to alternative lifestyle, sex, nudity, violence or coarse language in cyberspace, the government will practise what is called 'ceremonial censorship' – drawing a line in cyberspace but taking into account the evolution of society.

Dr Balakrishnan feels the most potent impact the new media will have on politics is that politicians will find it hard to lie in future as there will always be citizens who will publish the truth in blogs or online.

He said: "Fortunately for us in Singapore, we run a clean system, and therefore we have nothing to hide. That is the reason why we can have our cake and eat it too, and that is why we do not fear the new media."

The government, he said, would seize the economic opportunities that the new media revolution presents by investing in infrastructure, promoting new e-services and overcoming the digital divide.

It will also use the new media to reach out to the public.

"So what really keeps me awake at night is the excitement of being able to live through a revolution. Just like you, I stay at the side and watch it all happen in our lifetime," added Dr Balakrishnan.

Despite the abundance of information in cyberspace, he said there is still a need for journalists in the mainstream media like television, print and radio, to provide the public with accurate, responsible and credible sources of information.

- CNA/so

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23 Mar 2007

Singapore: Pay raise for gov't ministers, civil servants to close gap with private sector

Makes you wonder how every other country on the planet manages.

SINGAPORE: Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the million-dollar paychecks of ministers and top civil servants must be raised to close a 55 percent gap with private-sector income levels.
Lee said the current S$1.2 million (US$790,000; €590,000) salary a minister currently draws is outdated, remaining unchanged since 2000, and is 55 percent of a 2.2 million Singapore dollars (US$1.4 million; €1.1 million) a year benchmark.medium_OurGlobalHome.jpg

The salary benchmark for ministers and top civil servants is pegged at two-thirds of the median income of the top eight earners in each of six private sector professions including bankers, lawyers and engineers, he said.

"We have to close this gap," the prime minister said at an annual Administrative Service dinner Thursday evening.medium_malay_family3.jpg

The high salaries for ministers have caused grumbling in the wealthy, tightly controlled city-state, but the ruling People's Action Party has said ministers' and civil servants' pay must be high enough to attract the best talent and prevent corruption.

Parliament approved the benchmarks in 1994, according to the Straits Times newspaper.

"We do not expect (public servants) to make unreasonable financial sacrifices to be in the public sector, but they must feel a sense of idealism, of duty and responsibility, and of a larger purpose," Lee said.

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Snap Action! Protest ANU’s Honorary Doctorate for Lee Kuan Yew

An article calling for a protest from Young Labor Left Act called as a result the decision to confer a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, on Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore. Spread the word bloggers.

Where: The Great Hall, University House

When: 10:30am, Wednesday March 28

The ANU’s decision to confer a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, on Lee Kwan [sic] Yew has outraged academics and human rights campaigners. Rightly so! It shouldn’t just be academics that are outraged though.
Lee Kwan Yew, former Prime Minister of Singapore governed with an iron fist for 31 years. His regime, democratic in name only, was autocratic and repressive. In his current role as Minister Mentor Mr Lee still wields considerable influence over the authoritarian and paternalistic government. Where some tyrants use violence to keep their populations in check, Lee Kwan Yew used the law. In his hands it became a weapon wielded with accuracy and efficiency to crush dissent and tighten the ruling People’s Action Party’s grip on power.

That the ANU would honour this arrogant autocrat with a Doctorate of Law of all things is absolutely atrocious. That news of this would break just a day after Vice Chancellor Ian Chubb was encouraging As Chee Soon Yuan wrote in his letter, it is a decision that “boggles the mind and rankles the soul.” Join us at University House this Wednesday at 10:30am as we stand up for democracy and human rights in Singapore.

Chee Soon Yuan, Secretary General of the Opposition Singapore Democratic Party, himself a target of Mr Lee’s repressive regime has written to Vice Chancellor Ian Chubb to express his “deep concern” and “utmost dissapointment,” asking “what values are you imparting to the minds of those who walk through the gates of ANU? What image are you conferring on the ANU?” He also asks for your support. Register your own protest by emailing Ian Chubb at Vice-Chancellor@anu.edu.au and join us in a Snap Action Protest this Wednesday.

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22 Mar 2007

Anger at ANU honour for Lee

medium_cnaberratimes.JPGEmma Macdonald

Australian National University academics are outraged at a decision by university management to bestow an honorary Doctorate of Laws on former prime minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew in Canberra next Wednesday.
Mr Lee and his wife are due in Australia on Monday as part of a tour of the region where they will meet with Australian political and business leaders.

But the decision to honour Mr Lee has incensed university staff, students and human rights advocates who accuse him of running an authoritarian regime in Singapore over the past four decades in which he has quashed any political opposition.

ANU chancellor Allan Hawke alerted staff to Mr Lee's visit when he invited them to the ceremony due to take place in the Great Hall of University House at 11am next Wednesday via an internal email.

He said "the ceremony is a special occasion to honour Mr Lee's achievements and further the university's relationship with Singapore".A number of academics contacted by The Canberra Times expressed their shock at the move, which they say was taken without any wider consultation and would embarrass the university.

Director of the ANU's Centre for International Governance and Justice Hilary Charlesworth said her concern had been so strong that she and senior staff had written to vice-chancellor Ian Chubb in protest, while several other academics chose to air their anger at university management on their personal blogs.

"Any human rights lawyer would be really concerned by this. Frankly, I am baffled, I do not understand why they have done it," Professor Charlesworth said.

Another senior academic, who asked not to be named, said, "Since when does an institution which prides itself on openness and speaking truth to power give honorary degrees to those who have overseen authoritarian regimes which restrict democratic expression and academic freedom and implement the death penalty?"

Dr Hawke said the academics were entitled to their views and he would always be happy to hear their opinions.

While he was aware of Mr Lee's controversial reputation, he believed "the good outweighs the bad" in terms of Mr Lee's contribution to Asia, support of Australia in the region and strong involvement in APEC.

Australia's relationship with Singapore was severely strained throughout last year when the Singaporean Government now headed by Mr Lee's son Lee Hsien Loong carried out the execution in December of 25-year-old Melbourne man Van Tuong Nguyen after finding him guilty of drug trafficking.

This was despite the personal appeals of both Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

Mr Lee still maintains a strong political presence as "Minister Mentor" at age 83.

High-profile QC Stuart Littlemore said the ANU's decision was "seriously inappropriate".

"You have to wonder what their motives are and whether they are to strengthen revenue prospects for the ANU which could only be described as a terrible sellout."

Mr Littlemore is a staunch critic of Singapore's legal system, having attended a number of defamation trials as an observer for the International Commission of Jurists.

He has also recently been banned from entering the country to represent Secretary-General of the Singapore Democratic Party, Chee Soon Juan, against defamation claims made by Mr Lee.

Mr Littlemore has written to Professor Chubb this week, saying "I can't understand why the ANU should wish to ingratiate itself with the anti-democratic Lee regime ... The university's decision brings shame upon it."

Mr Chee has also condemned the decision in a letter to Professor Chubb, saying "do you not think that the award of this honorary degree to Lee Kuan Yew mocks the memory of Nguyen and the others who were hanged by the Singapore Government?"

"The irony, nay, hypocrisy of conferring this award, and of the Doctor of Laws to boot, boggles the mind and rankles the soul."

Professor Chubb defended the decision yesterday, saying it merely reflected the close ties the ANU had with Singapore and the National University of Singapore in particular. "We have staff exchanges, split degrees, secondments, student exchanges, and significant interaction at a number of levels. The ANU and NUS are both represented in the Association of Pacific Rim Universities and in the International Alliance of Research Universities." Mr Lee's visit coincides with a presidents' meeting of the alliance in Canberra next week. Professor Chubb said the ANU catered for about 200 undergraduate and postgraduate Singaporean students each year.

In 1994, the University of Melbourne bestowed an honorary Doctorate of Laws upon Mr Lee. The university was also forced to defend the decision at the time.

Source: The Canberra Times

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21 Mar 2007

Burmese PM in Singapore General Hospital

medium_soewin2.jpgAnyone like to organise a peaceful protest and show the leader of the Orwellian state, with teashops that their continued detention under house arrest of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is not acceptable? Why not get a few posters of Aung San Suu Kyi?

Soe Win was made prime minister in 2004 from the BBC
Burma's Prime Minister Soe Win is being treated at a hospital in Singapore, an official from the Burmese embassy in the city-state said.

The official would not give details of Soe Win's illness, saying only that it was a "serious health matter".

The Irrawaddy, a publication run by Burmese journalists in exile, reported last week that the prime minister may be suffering from leukaemia.

Some might argue that the protest would simply amount to the harassment of a 'patient'. This patient is however no ordinary patient. The people of Burma and I might add the world would never have such an opportunity to voice their concerns. A protest would simply reinforce condemnation of the fact that after the national elections were won by a landslide in 1990, the military refused to hand over power to Aung San Suu Kyi and it is unacceptable. This is the man who is "the suspected mastermind of a deadly attack on opposition forces four years ago." which left up to 80 people dead, according to dissidents (AFP).

Since then, the pro-democracy leader has spent most of her time in some form of detention, despite a barrage of criticism from home and abroad - and even international sanctions. BBC

So where is Soe Win? [Just realised that a previous anonymous statement also refers to Singapore General Hospital]

Soe Win is the second of Burma’s ruling junta to seek medical care in Singapore this year. In January, junta leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe, 73, was treated at the same hospital after arriving in the city-state on December 31. Than Shwe is believed to be suffering from diabetes, hypertension and other ailments. BBC

And with the power of the internet at my finger tips I was able to work out that Burma’s Prime Minister Gen Soe Win is being treated in Singapore General Hospital for Leukemia.

January 08, 2007
Burmese military leader Snr-Gen Than Shwe was discharged from Singapore General Hospital on Monday, according to sources in the city state. He was reportedly admitted in late December with an intestinal ailment. Some news reports said that he was suffering from intestinal cancer. Sources within Singapore’s Burmese community said that he is expected to return to Burma in the next two days.

Protest anyone?
Post the date, time and place in the comment section. Go on I dare you.
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IBA to hold public session on Singapore during conference

Letter posted on the SDP site indicates that Dr Chee's request has not fallen on deaf ears. When the conference does take place it would be wonderful if someone managed to video it and get it placed on the net.

16 March 2007

Dear Dr Chee Soon Juan,

Thank you for your letter of March 14, 2007. Thank you too for your support of the IBA's upcoming conference in Singapore.

On a personal note, I hope that you and I will have an opportunity to meet during my time in Singapore. Although it is a very hectic time for me, I'm sure we could find time to meet.

As to your specific questions:

There will be a panel discussion at the Rule of Law Day specifically focused on Singapore. As I have indicated in the past, the IBA conference is designed to provide a forum for debate and discussion on a wide variety of legal topics affecting Singapore, the region, and the international community.

The Rule of Law Day is open to the public, including lawyers, non-lawyers, and the media. We expect a particularly engaging audience on this day.

The Rule of Law Day will also have a series of breakout sessions, where concrete proposals undoubtedly will be discussed and, subsequently, presented to all attendees.

The IBA's Human Rights Institute is currently reviewing your earlier request for intervention regarding re-opening of the "Order 14" case. The notion of a "fact-finding mission" is obviously the IBA conference itself.

Finally, thank you for agreeing to add the IBA's letter to your website. Unfortunately, we do not maintain the same flexibility within the IBA. As I hope you will appreciate, if we "opened" our website for "position letters", we would be overwhelmed with submissions. Because you had initially placed your letter on the web, we had hoped to have ours included.

Thank you again for your letter.


Mark Ellis
Executive Director
International Bar Association

Note: So keep a date with the IBA. The conference will be held from 14-19 Oct 07 at the Suntec City. This website will announce the date and time of the public session when the information becomes available.

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URGENT ACTION - Block Singpore's Lee Kuan Yew Honorary Doctor of Laws

Note: The SDP asks all of our friends to register your protest against the conferment of an honorary Doctor of Laws on Lee Kuan Yew by the Australian National University (ANU; see letter below). Please write to Vice-Chancellor Ian Chubb at Vice-Chancellor@anu.edu.au

Letter to ANU

20 March 2007

Professor Ian Chubb AO
Vice-Chancellor and President
Australia National University
Canberra, ACT 0200

Dear Sir,

I read, with deep concern, in the Straits Times (18 Mar 07) that the Australian National University (ANU) is conferring the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa on Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's Minister Mentor, on 28 Mar 07.

If this is indeed true (strangely, I could not find any announcement of this event on the ANU's website http://www.anu.edu.au/), then I must register my utmost disappointment with your institution.

You may remember that one of your fellow citizens, the late Nguyen Van Tuong, was hanged by the Singapore Government for peddling drugs. In all probability, Nguyen's contraband emanated from the poppy fields of Burma, Asia's foremost producer and trafficker of narcotics.

This is where it gets interesting. The Singapore Government invests in commercial projects with Burma's drug lords, notably a man by the name of Lo Hsing Han. It was the Australian Special Broadcasting Services that first broke the story. The US State Department confirmed that "over half of [the investments from] Singapore have been tied to the family of narco-trafficker Lo Hsing Han'' since 1998. Andrew Selth, an analyst with – of all institutions – the ANU, reported "notorious [Burmese drug] traffickers like Lo Hsing Han are thought to control a number of companies in Singapore that are investing heavily in Burma." He also wrote that, in September 1988, two months after the US State Department said that Burma's junta killed more than 1,000 students during a popular rebellion, "the first country to come to the regime's rescue was in fact Singapore".

I believe that the abominable irony is not lost on you.

Coming back to Nguyen's death, Lee's administration rejected all pleas for clemency by the Australian, Singaporean, and international communities. Nguyen, then 25 years old, was hanged in November 2005.

Contrast this with the case of Julia Bohl, a 22-year-old German lady who was also convicted of drug trafficking. Because of quick and quiet diplomatic pressure brought to bear on the Singapore authorities, the amount of drugs she was carrying was miraculously reduced to below the legal limit that would have mandated a death sentence. Instead of being hanged, she served a three-year prison sentence and was released in 2005.

Tragic as Nguyen's execution was, he at least got to hold his mother the day before he was killed. This was a result of intense pressure from all concerned, especially his lawyers and the Australian media. His former death-row mate, Shanmugam, a Singaporean, who went to the gallows before him never had the same privilege. Shanmugam's mother begged to touch his son one last time on the eve of his execution. It was denied.

It is hard to imagine that things could be any worse. But it was for Amara Tochi, a Nigerian, who was hanged for trafficking diamorphine together with Nelson Malachy, another African national. It is reported that Malachy had testified that his co-accused had no knowledge that the packet Tochi was handed contained illicit drugs. Even the trial judge admitted that: "There was no direct evidence that [Tochi] knew the capsules contained diamorphine. There was nothing to suggest that [Tochi's supplier] had told him they contained diamorphine, or that he had found that out of his own." But for some legal reason that escapes many, Tochi was found guilty and hanged. As he pleaded for his life and asked his counsel not to "allow these people to kill me" he was led to his death without ever seeing his loved ones ever since his arrest two years earlier in 2004. He was only 21 years old.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston, stated that in Tochi's case "the Government of Singapore has failed to ensure respect for the relevant legal safeguards." More generally, Alston said that Singapore law making the death penalty mandatory for drug trafficking was inconsistent with international human rights standards.

Vice-Chancellor Chubb, do you not think that the award of this honorary degree to Lee Kuan Yew mocks the memory of Nguyen and the others who were hanged by the Singapore Government? More important, what message are you sending to those drug peddlers awaiting their executions in Singapore?

The irony, nay, hypocrisy of conferring this award, and of the Doctor of Laws to boot, boggles the mind and rankles the soul.

And speaking of laws, the Singapore Government continues to introduce, amend, and apply laws to cripple freedoms of speech, association and assembly of my fellow citizens. Just a couple of weeks ago, your conferee said in an interview: "The Americans try to prescribe democracy by saying governments should allow free association, demonstrations and a free press. Here you want to hold a demonstration, you must have a permit first." His minister for home affairs, however, says that "the government does not authorise protests and demonstrations of any nature." In 2005, a group of four Singaporean democracy advocates staged a silent protest, calling for transparency and accountability from the Government. They were met by the riot squad and ordered to disperse. My fellow activists and I continue to be harassed, prosecuted and jailed for speaking in public.

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20 Mar 2007

Myanmar PM in Singapore hospital

Just move the entire military junta over to Singapore and then they could run Burma and keep Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest while they shift the cash over to Singaporean banks.

medium_SoeWin.2.jpgSINGAPORE (AFP) - Myanmar's prime minister Soe Win, the suspected mastermind of a deadly attack on opposition forces four years ago, is in a Singapore hospital with an unspecified medical problem, an embassy official told AFP Tuesday.

Soe Win arrived "quite some time ago" and is in the Singapore General Hospital, said the official who asked not to be identified, and who declined to provide details of his condition.

"He is here in a private capacity and it is true that he is here for medical reasons," the official said. "He doesn't want any publicity whatsoever with regard to his health problem."

Officials rarely speak on the record in military-ruled Myanmar, for fear of repercussions by the junta, which runs the isolated Southeast Asian nation with an iron fist.

Soe Win, a lieutenant general, is thought to be aged about 58, and replaced the disgraced Khin Nyunt as prime minister in October 2004.

He had risen swiftly in the leadership after allegedly plotting an attack on the motorcade of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in May 2003.

After the attack she was imprisoned and then placed under house arrest, where she remains.

The clash between supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) and a pro-junta group left up to 80 people dead, according to dissidents. The government said four people were killed and 50 injured.

Soe Win, a tall and stern man, is considered to be among the leadership hardliners.

The embassy official in Singapore would not detail when Soe Win had arrived in the city-state, except to say it was prior to March. On February 6, Myanmar state media said Soe Win had issued a warning to the nation's judges against corruption.

In January, Myanmar's aging junta leader Senior General Than Shwe returned home after medical tests at Singapore General Hospital. The checks showed him to be "very much OK," the embassy official said at the time.

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Singapore - Semidemocracy or Semi-dictatorship?

Decided to place a little extract from a book I am currently studying on the nature of certain non-democratic regimes. Singapore seems to come out rather favourably in this interpretation of the situation up until the year 2000. I am sure that there are some of you out there who will disagree. Although not a fully paid up member of the democracy club Singapore does seem to be slowly shifting in the direction of democracy. What changes though would need to be made and can the 'survivalism' argument ever been countered successfully?

The Singapore regime, like the Malaysian, has emphasised that it has developed a form of democracy that suits its country’s circumstances, and has argued that it is important to retain this ‘dominant-party system’ (Rodan, 1993a: 78). However, among Western analysts Singapore is usually seen as less than democratic, and the issue is whether this ambiguous regime should be categorised as a semidemocracy or as effectively a one-party state (Case, 1996; Rodan, 1993a: 78, 86, 103). The People’s Action Party (PAP) regime in Singapore developed in quite different fashion from its Malaysian counterpart, UMNO. The PAP came to power in 1959, in a British decolonising election, by mobilising mass support from the Chinese ethnic majority, but it was a socialist rather than a communal or ethnic party and sought support from the Malay and Indian ethnic minorities as well as from the Chinese majority. Moreover, in 1961 the party’s communist-sympathising (and massmobilising) faction broke away from the PAP and formed the Barisan Sosialis (BS) party. The BS was ‘seriously crippled’, though, in 1963 when more than a hundred leading leftists fell victim to anti-communist preventive detention measures (Chan, 1976: 198), and later in the year a now rebuilt PAP handed the BS a heavy electoral defeat. Within a decade the BS had declined into obscurity, leaving the PAP with an unchallenged electoral dominance. Although in the 1970s– 80s elections there were always five or more opposition parties contesting elections with the PAP, it won every parliamentary seat in the 1970s and thereafter retained all but a few seats, despite its share of the vote falling to 61– 63 per cent.

In fact the development of the PAP regime shows some resemblances with that of African one-party states (see Chapter 4). Like them, the PAP exploited the unique organisational and electoral opportunity presented by decolonising elections. As Singapore’s first mass party the PAP was the first party to establish a link with the bulk of ethnic-majority Chinese voters, and therefore once the challenge from the breakaway BS had been defeated the party had an impregnable electoral advantage over ‘fledgling’ competing parties (Chan, 1976: 229, 218).

Another similarity with the African pattern was the use of cooption and coercion to consolidate the party’s monopoly, but the PAP’s commitment to a formally multiparty system meant that the cooption/ coercion was aimed at parties’ potential leaders and activists rather than the parties themselves. Influential or potential local leaders were appointed to the Citizens Consultative Committees – where they were at least ‘quarantined’ from the opposition parties – while fears of retribution deterred careerconscious individuals from becoming election candidates, or even visible supporters, of opposition parties (Chan, 1976: 144, 219; Milne and Mauzy, 1990: 93). A further similarity with the African one-party states was the manner in which the ‘founding’ head of government elected during the decolonising transition went on to establish a powerful personal position within the post-independence regime. Although he shared power with a small team of other senior ministers/ party-leaders, Singapore’s founding Prime Minister (and founding PAP Secretary-General) Lee Kuan Yew dominated party and state until his retirement in 1990, and thereafter retained a ‘crucial’ personal role as privileged Senior Minister and wielder of ‘considerable influence through less formal means’ (Milne and Mauzy, 1990: 103– 4; Tillman, 1989: 54– 7; Cotton, 1993: 9, 14, 11).

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19 Mar 2007

Singapore and neighbors just can't get along

Or how not to win friends and influence people the Singapore way...

By Wayne Arnold and Thomas Fuller

Thursday, March 15, 2007

SINGAPORE: Some countries have strategic oil reserves; others stockpile rice or wheat. The island nation of Singapore has emergency reserves of imported sand.

The sand is there to secure Singapore's insatiable demand for concrete, a reminder of Singapore's vulnerability as a nation without a hinterland to supply it with vital resources.

Singapore's government is now being forced to tap its sand hoard after its usual supplier, Indonesia, abruptly banned exports in February, citing the impact of a recent Singapore construction boom on its beaches and island environments.

The ban touched off the latest in a string of disputes between Singapore and its neighbors over water, land reclamation, satellite concessions, corporate takeovers and the flight patterns of the Singaporean Air Force — just to name a few.

A Malaysian politician has blamed Singapore for worsening floods in his constituency. A top Indonesian politician has appealed for the recall of Singapore's ambassador. The general in Thailand who led the coup there last September has accused Singapore of tapping his phones.

Tiffs between Singapore and its neighbors are nothing new, and analysts say the latest dust-ups are unlikely to seriously harm relations.

But the analysts say that the recent quarrels highlight the fissures that continue to thwart the region's ability to compete collectively against the economies of India and China.

If Singapore and its neighbors cannot agree to share such basic resources as sand and water, they say, the dream of a single market by 2015 — the stated goal of the 10-member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — may be illusory.

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Indonesian maid survives three-storey fall from Singapore flat

I am amazed that this is still going on. Year after year people are still sending maids out on to window ledges to clean their windows.

Mar 17, 2007, 14:22 GMT

Singapore - An Indonesian maid was in stable condition on Saturday after a three-storey fall from her employer's Singapore flat when she slipped while cleaning windows, police said.

Nia Wulandari, in her early 20s, fell from the window ledge on Friday.

Two maids plunged to their deaths in October and November last year. There have been more than 100 workplace maid deaths in the city-state over the last seven years.

Nia, who was found by a neighbour lying motionless, was taken to the National University Hospital. Her arms and legs were in casts.

The maid told The Straits Times that she frequently climbed onto the ledge to do the cleaning.

More must be done to educate both maids and employers that it is not worth risking someone's life for the sake of clean windows, said Jolovan Wham, executive director of a charity that shelters abused maids.

Laws were beefed up last October against employers who put their maid's lives in danger.

An employer who knowingly allows a maid to endanger herself, or forces a maid into a dangerous situation, can be jailed up to three months and fined.

The employer is also to be permanently barred from hiring foreign maids.

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Deutsche Presse-Agentur

17 Mar 2007

Singapore firms, Myanmar sign oil deal

Is Singapore now a front for any country or company that is willing to do deals with this repugnant regime that continues to imprison the democratically elected leader Ang San Sui Kyi?

YANGON, Myanmar

Two Singaporean-registered companies with a link to Russia have signed a deal for offshore oil and gas exploration and production sharing in Myanmar, state media reported Saturday.

Silver Wave Energy Pte. Ltd. and Silver Wave Sputnik Petroleum Pte. Ltd. signed the deal with state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, or MOGE, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

It gave no details of the deal, saying only that it was signed by the energy minister from the Russian Republic of Kalmykia, Boris Chedyrov; the chairman of Silver Wave Energy, U Min Min Aung; and the managing director of MOGE, Myint Kyi.

Since Myanmar liberalized its investment code in late 1988, the military-ruled nation has attracted its largest foreign investments in the energy sector. It has signed oil and gas exploration contracts with France's Total SA, Unocal Corp. of the United States, Malaysia's Petronas, Thailand's PTT Exploration & Production PCL, Daewoo of South Korea and companies from Russia, India and Australia.

New contracts continue to be signed despite the condemnation of the military regime by Western nations for its poor record on human rights and its failure to hand over power to a democratically elected government.

The United States and the European Union have imposed economic sanctions on Myanmar in recent years as a result.

Myanmar's current junta took power in 1988 after crushing the pro-democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi. In 1990, it refused to hand over power when Suu Kyi's party won a landslide election victory.

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15 Mar 2007

Vietnam Releases Christian Activist But Human Rights Lawyer Remains Detained

Tuesday, 13 March 2007
By BosNewsLife News Center

In North Vietnam's Quang Ninh province, where Christian was detained, workers sift coal for small bits they can sell. Via atlasmagazine.com

HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife)-- A Christian pro-democracy activist was released by Vietnamese authorities Tuesday, March 13, after spending over 12 hours in police custody, but the whereabouts of a human rights lawyer remained unknown, dissidents told BosNewsLife.

The anti-Communist 'People's Democratic Party' (PDD) said its member Tran Van Hoa, who the party described as "an active Christian" was released late Tuesday, March 13, hours after police detained him and raided his home in Quang Ninh province.

"On March 13, around 9:30 AM police came into Tran Van Hoa’s house" and they "seized Hoa’s computer, many personal documents and books given to Hoa by detained lawyer [and fellow human rights activist] Nguyen Van Dai," the ODD said. "Authorities took Tran Van Hoa away from home," before releasing him in the evening, the party added.

However a fellow human rights activist, Lawyer Le Quoc Quan’s, remained behind bars after "around 20 police" came to his house on Monday, March 12, in Nghe An province, the PDD said. "His whereabouts are unknown at this moment. Lawyer Quan just came back from Washington DC in the US where he participated in various seminars organized by National Endowment for Democracy," the party explained.


The group suggested that the lawyer was detained for his involvement in human rights issues. "Lawyer Le Quoc Quan has posted several written articles on the net promoting human rights and democracy."

It was also unclear how long Christian Hoa would remain free as he " has been constantly harassed, intimidated and victimized from through so called "public interrogation" by Quang Ninh authorities," the PDD claimed.

"Previously Hoa was arrested 13 days without charges prior to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. In addition of involving in democratic activities, Hoa is an active Christian who has gotten into troubles with local government by his religious practices."


Last Friday, March 9, high ranking Quang Ninh police officers allegedly sent Hoa threats, warning him he may risk imprisonment if he continues his PDP membership. Human Rights Watch has said that Vietnam is involved in the "worst crackdown" on dissidents, including Christians, "in 20 years."

The Vietnamese government has denied wrongdoing saying it only prosecutes those violating the law of the land. Human rights observers say however that while allowing some economic reforms the Communist Party sees the growing independent movements and churches as a threat to its powerbase. (With BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos and reports from Vietnam).

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Reporters Without Borders and French bloggers demonstrate at Egypt's stand for release of blogger "Kareem Amer"

Well-known bloggers living in France and Reporters Without Borders activists demonstrated in front of Egypt's stand at the world tourism trade fair in Paris today in protest against the four-year prison sentence imposed last month on the young Egyptian blogger Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman, who signs his blogs as "Kareem Amer."

The protestors attached "censored" computer mice to the stand, brandished photos of the detained blogger and unfurled banners that said "Egypt = Internet enemy."

"We want to express our solidarity with Kareem and to show that French bloggers feel concerned by free speech violations, even when they take place abroad," the bloggers said. "We also want to encourage the French blogosphere, which is one of the most dynamic in the world, to actively support this young man. We could all be in his place if we lived in Egypt."

The bloggers taking part in the demonstration were :
Gilles Klein (www.pointblog.org), Natacha Quester-Séméon (www.memoire-vive.org), Pierre Etienne Pommier (ipol.fr), Carlo Revelli (www.agoravox.fr), Hélène Legastelois (http://monblogdefille.mabulle.com), Christophe Grébert (www.monputeaux.com), Pierre Catalan (http://pierrecatalan.hautetfort.com), Cai Chongguo (http://caichongguo.blog.lemonde.fr), Laureen Martin (http://leblogmedias.rsfblog.org/) and Mry (http://mry.blogs.com).

Suleiman ("Kareem Amer") was convicted on 22 February of "inciting hatred of Islam" and insulting President Hosni Mubarak. Reporters Without Borders regards his four-year prison sentence as a threatening message to the entire Egyptian blogosphere, which has emerged in recent years as an effective bulwark against the government authoritarian tendencies. For more information on this case: http://www.rsf.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=273

Reporters Without Borders activists also demonstrated today in front of the Cuban and Tunisian stands at the tourism trade fair, placed black stripes on Cuba's stand to symbolize prison bars and festooning Tunisia's stand with police barrier tape.

"We chose these countries because they are all enemies of press freedom and leading tourist destinations," Reporters Without Borders said. "We did this to draw the plight of the local journalists to the attention of the millions of holiday-makers who travel each year to Cuba, Egypt and Tunisia. Tourists need to know what is going on behind the scenes. Behind the beaches and palm trees, journalists and bloggers are imprisoned, news media are harassed and families are intimidated."

In the most recent Reporters Without Borders annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index, Egypt was ranked 133rd out of 167 countries, Tunisia was 148th and Cuba was 165th. These countries are considered as "enemies of the Internet" by the organization. A cyberdissident, Mohammed Abbou, has been jailed since march 2007 in Tunisia.

Other countries represented at the Paris tourism fair by their tourism office or their national airline are also frequent violators of journalists' rights and press freedom. They are Algeria, China, Libya, Maldives, Russia, Syria and Vietnam.

Read our weekly "blog review" and create your blog with Reporters without borders : www.rsfblog.org

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SDP proposes session on Singapore to IBA

From the SDP 14 March 2007

Mark Ellis
Executive Director
International Bar Association

Dear Mr Ellis,

Thank you for your reply. (see below)

It seems that the IBA cannot be persuaded to change its mind about holding its annual conference in Singapore. As much as I disagree with the decision I recognise that it is your prerogative to choose where you want to stage your conferences.

I am encouraged that you "intend to provide the opportunity, in Singapore rather than remotely, for robust discussions among our large and influential membership and all other delegates and media, on the rule of law as well as on many other aspects of international and cross-border legal practice."

However, it is unclear whether a session will be specifically put aside to discuss the situation in Singapore. To avoid any misunderstanding, may I propose that:

One, given the seriousness of the abuse of human rights in Singapore, the program on the Rule of Law Day include a session solely dedicated to discussing the situation in the city-state. I note that in your 2006 Annual Conference in Chicago, you had a session entitled Guantanamo Bay – where rights end? where you specifically addressed "interrogation techniques; detention conditions; restrictions on access to lawyers and families; and the exclusion of the detainees from regular judicial and legal processes" of Guantanamo prisoners detained by the US Government. The session also considered "the impact of US Court rulings and the imperatives of national security." Could a similar session be done on Singapore at the conference in October?

Two, victims of the Singapore Government's persecution be invited to speak so that your participants can hear first-hand the goings-on that have been occurring in Singapore.

Three, this particular session be open to the Singaporean public as discussions of this nature hardly ever takes place here. This will be a precious public education service for Singaporeans.

Four, more than just a discussion on the problems of the rule of law in Singapore may I also suggest that be some time put aside to consider concrete proposals to improve the rule of law situation here.

I hope you will address these four proposals in your next letter.

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Official: Yahoo didn't violate Hong Kong privacy laws in case of jailed Chinese journalist

The Associated Press
Wednesday, March 14, 2007

HONG KONG: Hong Kong investigators said Wednesday there was not enough evidence to show Yahoo! Hong Kong Limited provided private information that helped convict a Chinese reporter accused of leaking state secrets.

The case raised questions about whether Internet companies should cooperate with governments that deny freedom of speech and frequently crack down on journalists.

Yahoo! Hong Kong was accused of helping Chinese authorities by Hong Kong lawmaker Albert Ho, who filed a complaint last year with the city's privacy commissioner. Ho alleged the Internet company provided information that helped convict journalist Shi Tao, sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2005 on mainland China.

But the privacy commissioner's office on Wednesday said there was insufficient evidence to prove that Yahoo! Hong Kong — formerly known as Yahoo! Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. — gave "personal data" to Chinese authorities.

The commissioner also said in a statement it was Yahoo's branch in mainland China — owned by Yahoo! Hong Kong — that supplied information about Shi, so the act fell outside of Hong Kong's jurisdiction.

"This is a case where data was collected in mainland China about a mainland Chinese resident," said Roderick Woo, the privacy commissioner.

Yahoo Inc., based in Sunnyvale, California, has said before that it was required under Chinese law to provide information requested by mainland authorities. The Hong Kong privacy commissioner's report said the Internet company provided Internet protocol log-in information and "certain e-mail content," which wasn't described.

The company said in a brief statement Wednesday, "Yahoo! Hong Kong maintains a high quality online environment for our users and takes user privacy very seriously."

Shi, a former writer for the financial publication Contemporary Business News, was jailed under state secrecy laws for allegedly providing state secrets to foreigners. His conviction stemmed from an e-mail he sent containing his notes on a government circular that spelled out restrictions on the media.

Hong Kong lawmaker Ho said in March 2006 he submitted a complaint against Yahoo! Hong Kong to the privacy commissioner after obtaining a document that he said linked the company to Shi's case.

Ho said the document was a copy of the criminal verdict for Shi from a court in the central Chinese province of Hunan. It said Yahoo Holdings (Hong Kong) Ltd. provided materials that confirmed the user's information, Ho said.

On Wednesday, Ho criticized the privacy commissioner's report, saying Yahoo! Hong Kong is still responsible because it controls the company's China office.

"I have reason to believe the decision (to give information on Shi) was made in Hong Kong," Ho said.

He said Yahoo! shouldn't have surrendered the information to Chinese authorities unquestioningly.

"As an international company, Yahoo should know there are international standards it should follow, including those involving human rights and privacy. There's no reason for it not to investigate whether (the information Shi released) was a state secret," Ho said.

Human Rights Watch said earlier Yahoo also supplied information to Chinese authorities that led to the arrests of another journalist and two other Chinese dissidents besides Shi.

posted by Charles

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14 Mar 2007

Singapore supports Iran on nuclear issue

Iran defiant with atomic banknote
Iran has put its determination to complete the nuclear fuel cycle on paper, with a bank note depicting an atomic symbol.
The 50,000 rial note shows electrons in orbit around an atom on a map of Iran.
The Islamic republic is fiercely proud of its nuclear programme, which has provoked alarm in the West.

The US accuses Iran of running a secret nuclear weapons programme. Iran denies this, saying its sole aim is the peaceful production of nuclear energy.

The UN Security Council has imposed sanctions on Iran for defying its call to stop uranium enrichment.

But Iran insists it has the right to run a nuclear programme.

Singapore seems to be aligning itself closely to Iran and Iran seems to be claiming that this means that they support their nuclear ambitions.

medium_goiniran.jpgWed, 14 Mar 2007 12:41:35
A top minister from Singapore has echoed comments by a former Iranian President that the international community must take more reasonable measures in dealing with Iran's nuclear issue.

Singapore's Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said in his meeting Tuesday with the Chairman of Iran's Expediency Council, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, that Iran is entitled to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, IRIB reported.

Tong said "Miscalculations and a lack of appropriate knowledge" over Iran's nuclear program could lead to what he termed were 'dire consequences'.

Singapore is member of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Rafsanjani said for his part that Iran has consistently offered confidence building measures over its peaceful nuclear program.

Iran's former president expressed his hope that the parties in Iran's nuclear file with the UN will take more effective steps in settling the ongoing dispute and in winning the 'confidence' of all sides involved.

Iran has repeatedly said that its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian purposes intended for generating electricity for the country's ever-growing energy needs.


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Singapore Trails Hong Kong in Diversifying Economy

By Yoolim Lee

March 14 (Bloomberg)
-- Singapore, once so staid it banned bungee jumping, has cut taxes, opened its doors to casinos and hired fund managers to oversee billions of dollars of state funds to help attract international investment.

While the city-state has made progress toward becoming a more vibrant financial hub, it's still falling behind perennial rival Hong Kong.

Assets held by Hong Kong fund managers tripled to $579 billion from 2000 to 2005, while Singapore's assets more than doubled to $472 billion, according to regulators in the two cities. Hong Kong's stock-market value has swelled to more than five times Singapore's.

The Singapore government's grip on the economy, which extends from the city's largest companies to its newspapers, stifles the entrepreneurialism that fuels Hong Kong's success, says investor Anil Thadani. While Singapore has loosened the reins, it's not moving fast enough to match Hong Kong, he says.

``Singapore has been unnecessarily restrictive,'' says Thadani, chairman of Singapore-based Symphony Capital Partners (Asia) Pte, which invests in Asian health-care companies and luxury resorts. ``People who are told from birth what to do and say aren't likely to be self-starting entrepreneurs. We need a generation to change the mindset.''

With its government-driven economy, Singapore can't rival Hong Kong in breeding private companies, says Andy Xie, a Hong Kong-based economist. Li Ka-shing, Asia's richest man, built an empire spanning from telecommunications and property to retail after arriving in Hong Kong in 1940 as a refugee from China.

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13 Mar 2007

Singapore Churchies Seek More Anti-Gay Prohibitions

From Queerty.com

Singapore's slated to review its discriminatory penal law, Section 377A, which requests a two-year prison sentence for any gay person who "procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person." While gay activists and liberal politicians have been working to overturn this anachronistic little amendment, the National Council of Churches of Singapore has been putting a little pressure on the government, Fridae reports.

The group's website states: The NCCS commends the Government on taking a clear, unequivocal and bold stand of neither encouraging nor endorsing a homosexual lifestyle and opposing the presentation of the same as part of a mainstream way of life.” They go on to recommend the government extend the prohibition to women of the lesbianic variety:

Given that section 377A PC criminalises homosexuality whether done private or publicly, we are of the view that a similar prohibition ought to be enacted in respect of lesbianism, considering that lesbianism (like homosexuality) is also abhorrent and deviant, whether consensual or not.
Well, at least don't discriminate in their discrimination, right?

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Changi prisoner claim 'outrageous'

Can the Singapore Prisons Department be contacted? How can we verify the truth of this news story? What is the implication if it is true?

From The Australian
Changi prisoner claim 'outrageous'
Steve Creedy Aviation writer
13 March

ANGRY Qantas officials have attacked as "outrageous" claims by an engineering union in a Senate committee that prisoners were used to work on Qantas aircraft in Singapore.

Qantas executive general manager engineering David Cox categorically denied the claim, saying no prisoners had access to Qantas aircraft undergoing maintenance in Singapore or any other facility.

“This is part of an industrially motivated campaign by the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association aimed at protecting uncompetitive work practices in Australia,” Mr Cox said.

The stinging response came after ALAEA federal secretary told a Senate Economics Committee hearing into legislation covering the proposed Qantas takeover that day release prisoners from Sinagpore's Changi Prison are used to clean Qantas aircraft.

“The prisoners are used to wash down the wheel well bays before inspections, they're used to go upstairs into the flight deck of the aircraft and to clean the area out so it's ready for inspection by the local engineers,” Mr Purvinas said.

Mr Cox said other statements made by the union in its submission to the inquiry into aspect of the Qantas Sale Act, and at today’s hearing in Canberra were also incorrect.

Unions are worried the airline will use loopholes in the Qantas Sale Act to transfer work to its low-cost international Jetstar subsidiary and send it offshore.

They are supporting a push by Family First senator Steve Fielding for changes to the Qantas Sale Act to close the loopholes and make Jetstar International operate under the same conditions as Qantas.

Several are also calling on parliament to enshrine in law the airline's employment obligations, national defence responsibilities and safety standards.

But Qantas has assured the committee that concerns it would sell off Jetstar to an overseas buyer are unfounded and run counter to the group's strategy.

The airline argued that ownership provisions of the Air Navigation Act requiring that Australian international carriers be at least 51 per cent Australian owned meant a sale to foreign owners could not occur.

“There is no loophole that needs to be closed by the Bill,” it said.

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Edinburgh Malaysia Makan Mania 2007

On Saturday the 10th of March 2007 the Edinburgh Malaysian Student Society ran Malaysia Makan Mania. The event ran the whole of that Saturday from 2 to 5 pm and had an array of local Malaysian foods and cultural dances. There was also a kopitiam stall, cultural booths for you to try out Malay anyaman, Indian henna and Chinese calligraphy. It was held in Moray House, Holyrood Road and believe me it was a packed house.

The food was simply outstanding and special praise has to go to the chicken satay stall owner who added real atmosphere to the occasion, selling his produce in time honoured fashion. Another favourite of mine was the murtabak. In all the food was outstanding and portions were large enough to fill even the biggest stomach. So big in fact I had to bring and fill a few packets to eat later on Saturday night.

The dancing was also very entertaining and a large number of the dancers looked like they have been dancing for a number of years and might be considering dropping their studies to go full time. The large crowd really enjoyed the event and my only suggestion is that may be next time they get a larger venue as there were so many people there it felt rather warm and humid - adding again to the atmosphere.

All I can say is that I can't wait to go to the next event and I will remember to bring even more packets and buy more tickets.

Thanks guys and great day out.

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12 Mar 2007

Singapore - Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2006

From the US Department of State

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 6, 2007

Singapore is a parliamentary republic in which the People's Action Party (PAP), in power since 1959, overwhelmingly dominates politics. The population was approximately 4.35 million, with foreign workers accounting for nearly one fifth of the total. Opposition parties exist, and parliamentary elections take place at regular, constitutionally mandated intervals (most recently in May). The PAP holds 82 of 84 elected parliamentary seats and all ministerial positions. The civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.

The government has broad powers to limit citizens' rights and to handicap political opposition, which it used. Caning is an allowable punishment for numerous offenses. The following human rights problems were reported: preventive detention, executive influence over the judiciary, infringement of citizens' privacy rights, restriction of speech and press freedom and the practice of self-censorship by journalists, restriction of freedom of assembly and freedom of association, some restriction of freedom of religion, and some trafficking in persons.


Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:

a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life

There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits such practices, and the government generally respected these prohibitions. On February 9, an inmate held in a courthouse cell claimed a policeman punched him twice when the inmate was found smoking and in possession of cigarettes and a lighter. The inmate was sent for a medical examination and filed charges against the policeman. The subordinate courts found the accused policeman guilty on March 29 and on April 4 sentenced him to four months in jail.

The penal code mandates caning, in addition to imprisonment, as punishment for approximately 30 offenses involving violence, such as rape and robbery, and for nonviolent offenses such as vandalism, drug trafficking, and violation of immigration laws. Caning is discretionary for convictions on other charges involving the use of force, such as kidnapping or voluntarily causing grievous hurt. All women, men over age 50 or under age 16, and anyone determined medically unfit are exempt from punishment by caning. During the year 5,984 convicted persons were sentenced to caning. Approximately 95 percent of caning sentences were carried out.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison conditions, while Spartan, generally met international standards.

The government did not allow human rights monitors to visit prisons; however, diplomatic representatives were given consular access to citizens of their countries.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.

Role of the Police and Security Apparatus

The police are responsible for routine security within the country and for border protection, including action against illegal immigrants. The Internal Security Act (ISA) authorizes the Internal Security Department in the Ministry of Home Affairs to counter perceived threats to the nation's security such as espionage, international terrorism, threats to racial and religious harmony, and subversion. The police force was well trained and highly disciplined. Corruption was not a problem, and the police effectively maintained internal law and order. The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, an independent agency under the Prime Minister's Office, investigates all allegations of corruption including police corruption. Allegations of criminal offenses by police officers are investigated either by a police division other than the unit to which the accused are assigned or, in cases involving complaints of serious misconduct, by the Internal Investigation Division at police headquarters.

Arrest and Detention

The law provides that, in most instances, arrests are to be carried out after issuance of an authorized warrant; however, some laws, such as the ISA, provide for arrests without warrants. Those arrested under warrants must be charged before a magistrate within 48 hours. The majority of those arrested were charged expeditiously and brought to trial. A functioning bail system exists, but no commercial bail bond services were available. Those who face criminal charges are allowed counsel; however, there was no access to counsel during an initial arrest and investigation before charges were filed. The Law Society administered a legal aid plan for those who could not afford to hire an attorney. In death penalty cases, the Supreme Court appoints two attorneys for defendants who are unable to afford their own counsel.

Some laws--the ISA, the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (CLA), the Misuse of Drugs Act (the drug act), and the Undesirable Publications Act (UPA)--have provisions for arrest and detention without a warrant or judicial review. The ISA has been employed primarily against suspected security threats. In the past, these threats were Communist related; however, in recent years, the ISA has been employed against suspected terrorists. The CLA has been employed primarily against suspected organized crime and drug trafficking.

The ISA and the CLA permit preventive detention without trial for the protection of public security, safety, or the maintenance of public order. The ISA gives broad discretion to the minister for home affairs, at the direction of the president, to order detention without filing charges if it is determined that a person poses a threat to national security. The initial detention may be for up to two years and may be renewed without limitation for additional periods of up to two years at a time. Detainees have a right to be informed of the grounds for their detention and are entitled to counsel. However, they have no right to challenge the substantive basis for their detention through the courts. The ISA specifically excludes recourse to the normal judicial system for review of a detention order made under its authority. Instead, detainees may make representations to an advisory board, headed by a Supreme Court justice, which reviews each detainee's case periodically and must make a recommendation to the president within three months of the initial detention. The president may concur with the advisory board's recommendation that a detainee be released prior to the expiration of the detention order, but he is not obligated to do so.

At year's end, 34 detainees were being held under the ISA as suspected terrorists. Of these detainees, 31 were suspected of belonging to the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), and three were suspected of membership in the Philippines based Moro Islamic Liberation Front. In January Indonesian authorities arrested Mas Selamat Kastari, alleged leader of the Singapore branch of JI, and deported him to Singapore where he was detained under the ISA.

At year's end, 26 others were on restriction orders (ROs); this number included both released detainees and suspected terrorists who were never arrested. A person subject to an RO must seek official approval for a change of address or occupation, for overseas travel, or for participation in any public organization or activity.

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