31 May 2007

Singapore Activists Face Police Harrassment & Intimidation

Message of defiance from Singapore activists



Resolute in the face of police intimidation
30 May 07

Several activists have been called up for questioning by the police for standing up for their rights of freedom of speech and peaceful assembly last year.

Fifteen local democracy advocates attended police investigations in the past several weeks to answer questions on their participation in two events: the World Bank-IMF meeting in September and on International Human Rights Day in December.

Despite the harassment, however, these human rights defenders remain defiant. In a signed statement as well as video-taped messages, the advocates reiterated their commitment to establishing their political and civil rights of Singaporeans.

The police have made outrageous allegations that the advocates have committed offences such as "counseling disobedience to the law", "holding an assembly and procession without a permit", and even "incitement to violence".

In Sep 06, seven activists took part in a protest at Hong Lim Park during the World Bank-IMF meeting, calling for freedom of speech in Singapore. They were stopped by the police which turned the event into a 72-hour standoff.

On 10 Dec 06, several advocates conducted a Freedom Walk down Orchard Road to mark International Human Rights Day.

This is the first time that a group of Singaporeans have courageously stood up for their rights and they remain resolute in the face of police intimidation. They responded with dignity by going to the police stations to face the investigators.

They even called on fellow Singaporeans to step forward and join them in their fight against the despotic PAP Government (see video). They also made appeals to the international community to pay attention to the continued repression in Singapore.

The group's action will shine the spotlight on the PAP which is running out of ideas on how to improve Singapore and resorting to desperate measures to silence a population which is becoming more assertive.

The latest police action signals a regime increasingly at odds with the people it rules and it is a clear indication of a Government that is insecure and lacking in confidence.

One of the activists, Mr Jeffrey George, who is a staunch advocate of democratic values and practices, said: "Singaporeans must not be cowed by this bullying. We must show that our right to democracy and freedom is inalienable, it cannot be taken away from us."

Mr John Tan, another democracy advocate, added: "I challenge the Government to live up to the pledge our children recite in school everyday, that is, to build a democratic society, based on justice and equality."

Mr Tan questioned how could Singaporeans feel proud when citizens "are hauled up for being patriotic?"

"How can we feel at home when we do not have basic human rights such as the freedom of speech and expression?" he asked. "The freedom of speech and the freedom to assemble are fundamental to the very definition of democracy. They are the elements that either make us a free people or a nation of slaves."

Express your support for these courageous citizens who have found their voice and are standing up to the PAP. Write them a message of solidarity and encouragement (speakup@singaporedemocrat.org).


It is our duty to speak up, 30 May 07

We, the undersigned, are being questioned by the police for taking part in political activities on 16 September 2006 and 10 December 2006.

We are Singaporeans exercising our sacred rights and speaking up for the rights of our fellow citizens.

We object to being harassed by the Singapore Government and reiterated our stand that as citizens its is our duty and responsibility to speak up and hold our Government accountable. These rights are enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We oppose the repressive measures of the ruling Peoples’ Action Party which continues to use laws to prosecute citizens for exercising our freedoms of speech and assembly.

We call on democracy defenders to denounce the anti-democratic stance of the Singapore Government and to support the cause of democracy in Singapore.

Signed,

Gandhi Ambalam
Chee Siok Chin (Ms)
Chee Soon Juan
Chong Kaixiong
Jeffrey George
Johnny Hoe
Isrizal
Kirat Kaur (Ms)
Monica Kumar (Ms)
Priveen Suraj
Gerald Sng
John Tan
Charles Tan
Tan Cheng Poh
Teoh Tian Jing
Yap Keng Ho
Francis Yong

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30 May 2007

Singapore - Legal Letter from Grand Seasons International

It appears that Tomorrow.sg has received a Legal Letter from Grand Seasons International Lawyers(referring to this entry?).

October 23, 2006
timeshare scam
Gecko said:

I have removed the original content at the request of Gecko.


Link

Submitted by gecko on October 23//10:46am and published by cowboycaleb, shianux :: add new comment | 3833 reads | trackback



Threats of legal action should never be used to quash legitimate and valid criticism on the internet and as well as that they simply draw attention to an issue that would have drifted off into the ether to have been forgotten about. The first point of contact should not be to threaten legal action.

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The letter states....

Our Ref: JSG/1311/07
Date: 23 May 2007

Editor
Tomorrow.sg
Registrar: Vooju Pte Ltd
Registrant: James Seng
[Address]

Dear Sir

GRAND SEASONS INTERNATIONAL - TIMESHARE SCAM COMPANY

We act for M/s Grand Seasons International Pte Ltd.

Our clients instruct that a blog has been published in your Bulletin of Singapore Bloggers at the following url address: http://tomorrow.sg/archives/2006/10/23/grand_seasons_international_ti.html with the heading in bold "Grand Season International-TimeShare Scam Company".

We are instructed that the above words are defamatory of our clients and our client's reputation and goodwill has been disparaged and seriously damage. It is common knowledge that the Internet has millions of users who have free and open access to the words complained of.

In the premises our clients instruct that unless the above offending words are removed from the above url address and from the bulletin board within the next 5 days from the date hereof our clients shall have no alternative but to proceed as they deem fit in the matter.

Our clients also seek your co-operation to disclose the name and address of "GECKO" who has posted comment on 23/10/06 regarding our clients in the captioned matter as our clients intend to pursue their legal rights against the writer.

Yours faithfully,

Jagjit Singh Gill

cc clients


And the offending article which will of course now receive far more attention than it ever would have is available below...

read more...

Voices of Freedom

The following article is posted here for my own records as it does refer to an issue that has from time-to-time been mentioned in passing in the Singapore Blogosphere - namely that it tends to be dominated by the usual suspects, middle-class, educated, males and there does seem to be a lot of 'journalists', lawyers, postgraduate students, undergraduate students, and IT experts dominating the sg blogosphere. So where is the marginalised Singaporean?

Blogs and podcasts enable a powerful and authentic voice for marginalised communities sidelined by mainstream media

Nathalie McDermott
Wednesday May 30, 2007
The Guardian


Prisoners cannot podcast because they do not have access to the internet, but if they could the material would be fascinating. It would be authentic, raw and compelling without being sensational. Instead of the stock answers we hear from prisoners in television soundbites, you might hear "Jamie" own up to the fact that he has never told his kids he is inside because he is so ashamed, and that they think he is at work. Or about how "Bruno" only gets a buzz from crime and feels "the butterflies when I'm on a bit of work", and has never held down any other job. You'd hear prisoners talking to each other, intimately and frankly, from a shared position of trust and common knowledge.

I worked in a prison for three years, training offenders to run a talk radio station, and the thing that struck me most was how much better the content was than anything I have ever heard - or produced when I was a journalist - on mainstream media about prison issues.

People would come to visit the station, listen to the programmes and chat to the prisoners. Without fail, whatever their views on the criminal justice system, they would invariably leave with an entirely different perception of serving offenders and how we as a society deal with crime.

Thrilling tool

This is the power of simple conversation. Citizen journalism - real people speaking to real people through podcasts and blogs - means that we can have those conversations online, and this is what makes it such a thrilling tool for positive social change.

There is a lot of debate in the media about the term "citizen journalism". Many conventional journalists prefer "user-generated content" or "social media" to set it apart from what they have been trained for years to do, which is fair enough I suppose, since the two are distinct. Citizen journalism is content - text, photos, audio and video - that is generated by the public and sometimes, but rarely, makes its way into a mainstream newspaper or broadcast bulletin. It is mostly found in blogs or on networking sites such as MySpace. The main difference between the two mediums is that citizen journalism cuts out the middle man, and the story is told from a position of first-hand knowledge and partiality.

The reason that this can be more engaging is that someone at the centre of an issue can get more out of their interviewees because of the trust that comes from shared experience, background or culture. So while there will always be a need for trained journalists to sift through and select information for cogent analysis, when it comes to really getting to the bottom of an issue, it makes sense to go to the source and hear the people who are directly involved - unedited and without time constraints or word limits.

So how can positive social change be achieved through an abundance of disorganised chat on the internet? I run an organisation that trains marginalised groups and voluntary and public sector organisations to podcast, allowing them inexpensively to produce audio or video from their perspective. They can do and say what they like, as long as it is legal. Campaigners and charity workers do not have to wait for the media to take an interest in their issue - they can produce material themselves that will be of interest to their target audience, as opposed to mainstream media, which must appeal to a much wider audience.

However, most of my time has shifted towards working with marginalised groups because there is something that worries me about the digital revolution. When I surf through blogs, podcasts and content sharing sites such as YouTube and MySpace (examples of internet technology known as web 2.0), it is the same familiar demographic that is generating the content. For example, Al Gore's citizen journalism channel, Current TV, launched recently in the UK and Ireland. My concern is that, powerful as some of the content is on Current TV and sites like it, the people producing it are, on the whole, privileged, confident and articulate members of society who already have a voice and are more accurately represented in newspapers and broadcast media to begin with.

to read more...

29 May 2007

Singapore - Straits Times Decreasing Traffic

Found On Singapore Election
When The Straits Times started charging for access all those years ago it was the wrong move. Why pay to access the reporting of a mass media outlet that is ranked either 147th or 154th in the world depending on your ranking source. The paper is losing revenue as are so many other newspapers around the world. The 20 - 30 generation are going online to get news that matters to them. Not news filtered by a process of 'self-censorship' or by a regime that demands control over all that is written.

Simply no longer charging visitors to view your advertisements and state-controlled press releases is not going to turn the fortunes of the ST around over night. Trying to isolate yourself from the global market of media and cultural production by charging your readers and hoping that they show loyalty to you was mis-guided. But until the Straits Times journalists are able to compete on the global playing-field without the dead-weight of self-censorship and state control - all the technology in the world will not alter the image of the Straits Times as a state owned and controlled propaganda outlet.

FROM Tuesday, visitors to The Straits Times' (ST) website will not have to pay to read the latest breaking news from Singapore and the world.

They can also post their views - in real time - on the reports they read.

One other major change: The site will drop its 12-year-old name, The Straits Times Interactive, or STI, and go with the cleaner 'straitstimes.com'.

Since becoming a subscription site in 2005, it has been offering only a small buffet of material for free:

1. ST's online forum letters;
2. Multimedia features, such as video news reports and podcasts;
3. A restricted selection of 20 reports from the print edition.

All other content, including breaking news and material picked up from the print edition of the newspaper itself, has been available only to subscribers in the past two years.

Explaining the move to open up more free-access content, ST editor Han Fook Kwang said: 'There's a great deal more we can do in the website to leverage on the award-winning talent in The Straits Times newsroom of writers, photographers, artists and designers. I think we've a good product and we want to make it available to more people in cyberspace, and to use the technology available on the web to make it an even better product.'
Here is the real reason ....

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28 May 2007

Singapore - Capitalism without democracy is exploitation

Capitalism without democracy is exploitation – excerpts from A Nation Cheated
28 May 07
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THE only difference between communism and capitalism, it has been said, is that the communists have admitted that they were wrong.

Such an observation, undoubtedly made with tongue firmly in cheek, is nevertheless a serious indictment of the economic system that has enveloped this planet.

The widening disparity between the world's rich and poor continues to ask questions about the way humanity conducts itself. Poverty brutalises and dehumanises the victims it claims. It is an evil that tears at the very heart of civilisation.

Giving succour to us is the knowledge that people are not defenceless when it comes to combating poverty. The weapon of choice is, of course, democracy. For without it, capitalism becomes nothing more than exploitation in disguise.

And yet, in Singapore the situation is such that while the ruling Peoples’ Action Party (PAP) remains alive to the capitalist world, it ensures that democracy is kept dead and buried. Such an arrangement renders the working poor voiceless and powerless, opening them up to abuse and exploitation.

A Nation Cheated addresses the fallacy that Singapore has a well-run, free-market economy system put in place by the PAP that continues to benefit the island’s inhabitants.

In fact, this report clearly demonstrates that there is nothing free or market-oriented about Singapore’s economy. Worse, developmental trends over the last 10 years show how Singaporeans have been economically displaced and socially dislocated as a result of PAP policies.

It documents the subjugation of the labour movement by the Singapore Government during the nation's formative years which has continued into the present. The official argument is that strong trade unions are inimical to foreign investment.

After nearly half-a-century of uninterrupted authoritarian rule, however, the results are abysmal. Singapore's economy seems unable to graduate into something more than a service station for multinational companies. The resultant effect has been the emergence of a significant layer of underclass.

The report also demonstrates that this system is actively maintained by an autocratic government whose political philosophy and practice is predicated on Lee Kuan Yew's idea that state resources should be concentrated on the top 5 percent of the pop-ulation "who are more than ordinarily endowed physically and mentally."

Most importantly, this essay presents a clear alternative to the course taken by the PAP who has bludgeoned into the minds of the populace that there isn't, and can never be, one.

It was first published in 2002 under the title First World...For Whom? Much has happened since and this updated version will bring readers up to speed about Singapore's political-economy, poverty, and labour.

Many have bought the e-copy of A Nation Cheated written by Dr Chee Soon Juan. If you haven't done so, order a copy today and support the democracy campaign in Singapore!

Option1: You can place your order through Paypal, either through your own Paypal account or directly with your credit card if you don't have a Paypal account. Click on the 'Buy Now' button below.

Option 2: If you don't want to use either of the above options, please write to speakup@singaporedemocrat.org.

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Singapore - Avoidance of Double Taxation

for Myanmar Citizens living and working in Singapore

To remove unfair and unjust double taxation practice that Myanmar citizens living and working in Singapore are facing despite the fact that there is a Comprehensive Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement (DTA) signed between Singapore and Myanmar.


Contact
Naing Moe Aung
Mobile: (+65) 9871 0563
Fax: (+65) 6491 5522
Email: naing {at} projectdecision.com


Please download the template, print it out and start collecting the signatures from those around you and return it to the address below by 01 July 2007.
Naing Moe Aung
Block 74, Bedok North Road
#08-108
Singapore 460074

Ka Daung Nyin Thar wants the Myanmarese workers in Singapore to be united and participate in the campaign which would compel Singapore PM to discuss with Myanmar government to respect the agreement.

First spotted on Global Voices Online
Further details are available here.

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24 May 2007

REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE - Amnesty International Annual Report 2007

Amnesty International Report 2007 Overview Video



medium_heading-title.2.gif
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
Annual Report 2007


REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE

Head of state: S R Nathan
Head of government: Lee Hsien Loong
Death penalty: retentionist
International Criminal Court: not ratified


Freedom of expression and assembly came under increasingly close controls. Men arrested in previous years were held without charge or trial under the Internal Security Act amid fears that they were at risk of ill-treatment. Death sentences were imposed and at least five people were executed. Criminal offenders were sentenced to caning.

Background
The People's Action Party (PAP), which has dominated political life and wider society for nearly half a century, was re-elected for a five-year term in May. The party's stated commitment to building a more open society did not materialize.

Restrictions on free expression and assembly
Civil defamation suits and criminal charges were used or threatened against government critics, human rights activists, Falun Gong practitioners and foreign news media. Tighter restrictions on several major foreign publications were announced in August, enabling the authorities to take punitive measures more easily.

• Dr Chee Soon Juan, leader of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party, was declared bankrupt in February when he was unable to pay damages of 500,000 Singapore dollars (approximately US$306,000) to two PAP leaders when a 2001 defamation suit ended. As a bankrupt, he was barred from seeking election. He was imprisoned for eight days in March for contempt of court after saying publicly that the judiciary lacked independence. In November he was sentenced to a prison term of five weeks for speaking in public without a permit. On his release he faced further criminal charges for speaking in public without a permit and attempting to leave the country without permission. In August the publisher and the editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review were sued for defamation in connection with a favourable article about him.

• J B Jeyaretnam, former leader of the opposition Workers' Party, unsuccessfully appealed against the bankruptcy imposed on him in 2001 after a series of politically motivated defamation suits. He remained unable to stand for re-election.

• Writer Lee Kin Mun was suspended by the state-owned newspaper Today following publication of a critical article on Singapore's living costs.

• Two Falun Gong practitioners were convicted of holding an illegal protest outside the Chinese Embassy and sentenced in November to prison terms of 15 days and 10 days respectively. Nine practitioners were charged with illegally assembling to distribute leaflets. Jaya Gibson, a British journalist and Falun Gong practitioner, was denied entry to Singapore.

• The government restricted both domestic and foreign activism relating to a meeting in Singapore of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in September, provoking worldwide criticism, including from both institutions.

Detention without charge or trial
At least 34 men remained in detention without charge or trial under the Internal Security Act. The authorities claimed the men were involved in militant Islamist groups and posed a security threat to Singapore. Seven detainees were reportedly released after co-operating with the authorities and responding well to "rehabilitation". In February, Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng was reported as saying that the treatment of such detainees was not a "tea party" but denied they had been tortured.

Conscientious objectors
At least eight conscientious objectors were imprisoned, and 12 others continued to serve their sentences during 2006. All were members of the banned Jehovah's Witnesses religious group. There were no moves towards offering an alternative to military service.

Death penalty and corporal punishment
At least five people were executed, two in June following conviction for drug trafficking, the others in November after being convicted of murder. Death sentences were handed down to at least five people.

The presence of foreign prisoners on death row raised the international profile of Singapore's high rate of executions. The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions expressed concern about executions in Singapore and called for an end to death sentences for drug-related offences, arguing that the mandatory death sentence is a violation of international legal standards. In January the Singapore Law Society said it intended to carry out "an open-minded review of the legal issues" related to the death penalty.

People continued to be sentenced to caning throughout the year, including a 16-year-old boy convicted of theft and judged unsuitable for reformative training.

Asia Video
Watch Amnesty International's Secretary General talk about the positives and negatives in Asia over the past year and give her message to the region.

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Yet Another Hanging - Singapore to hang ‘One Eyed Dragon’ for nightclub murder

The Death Penalty in action again. Can't imagine this case resulting in mass protest against it.

End the Death Penalty Now!

Web posted at: 5/23/2007 8:30:19
Source ::: AFP


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Tan Chor Jin, nicknamed “One Eyed Dragon”, arriving at the magistrate’s court in Singapore for his trial last February. He was sentenced to death, yesterday, for killing a nightclub owner in a rare gangland-style shooting in Singapore. (AFP)

SINGAPORE • A man nicknamed “One Eyed Dragon” was sentenced yesterday to hang for killing a nightclub owner in a rare Singapore shooting which the judge likened to an assassination.

Tan Chor Jin, 39, appeared calm and smiled occasionally while the verdict was read.

He was convicted for the murder in February last year of Lim Hock Soon in a case that shocked Singapore, one of Asia’s safest cities.

High Court Judge Tay Yong Kwang said the killing had “the hallmarks of an assured and accomplished assassin.”

Court documents showed Tan, who earned his nickname for being blind in one eye, entered Lim’s flat on February 15 last year.

He tied up Lim’s wife, 13-year-old daughter and domestic helper, looted the family’s valuables and then fired a series of shots into the victim’s face and body.

He fled to Malaysia but was arrested and extradited 10 days later.

Tan represented himself without a lawyer at the trial. After the sentence was handed down, Tan’s only response was to ask the judge for permission to smoke in prison while awaiting his fate.

“They don’t understand what are human rights in the prison, nor allow us to smoke,” Tan said.

read more...

University of New South Wales (Asia) in Singapore shuts down

There is an issue circulating in the forums that the initial report from Channel News Asia has been altered and the time of release manipulated in the second report of the pull out of UNSW. Copied below is allegedly the first report and highlights the fact that a "quarter of a billion dollars" has already been spent - spent by whom?

The Economic Development Board?

But according to current reports [By Derrick A Paulo, TODAY | Posted: 24 May 2007 1005 hrs]"EDB assistant managing director Aw Kah Peng called the UNSW’s decision a “setback” and said: “In the end, decisions have to be made on what we both feel are our long-term interests.” She did not want to reveal how much EDB had invested so far in the project. "

When you google the story we get two links - one from Pearl Forss and one from Ashraf Safdar, but both link to articles written by Pearl Forss.

Students shocked by UNSW Singapore campus closure
Channel News Asia, Singapore - 18 hours ago
By Pearl Forss, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 23 May 2007 2311 hrs.SINGAPORE: The decision to shut down the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Singapore ...

University of New South Wales (Asia) in Singapore shuts down
Channel News Asia, Singapore - 23 May 2007
By Ashraf Safdar, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 23 May 2007 1715 hrs. But less than six months since classes started, the University of New South Wales (Asia) ...

However there are earlier versions.

medium_changicampus.jpg UNSW (Asia) Changi campus

So the story copied here is allegedly the first reaction that CNA had on the issue. Whether or not Ashraf Safdar reported the figure of 'a quarter of a billion' in error is one possible reason for the story being pulled or possibly they are trying to suppress the fact that 'a quarter of a billion' was spent by the EDB.


SINGAPORE: It was supposed to be Singapore's first comprehensive foreign university.

But less than six months since classes started, the University of New South Wales (Asia) in Singapore has decided to shut its doors.

According to preliminary reports, this is because of low student enrolment.

The university had projected to get 800 students by August but it is not clear how many there are to date.

The closure comes despite the fact that an estimated quarter of a billion dollars had been spent on the school's new campus in Changi.

To ease the transition, students who are currently enrolled at UNSW Asia will be offered a place in an equivalent programme at UNSW Sydney. - CNA/ir


Related Links:
The university said this was a 'reputational issue' for Singapore and A*Star.
Singapore learns hard lesson
University plays down fears about Singapore offshoot
UK university drops Singapore plan on freedom fears
Warwick lecturers vote against Singapore campus

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23 May 2007

Singapore - You won't believe what happened in court yesterday

Or maybe you will...

From the Singapore Democratic Party

22 May 07

In the lawsuit that Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his prime minister son, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, took against the SDP and its leaders, the Lees had applied for summary judgement, or Order 14 in legal parlance, for the case to be awarded to them without it going to trial.

The lawsuit was over an article the SDP had published in The New Democrat, the SDP's flagship publication, describing how the NKF scandal was bred in a system built by the PAP where transparency and accountability were alien features.

During the Order 14 hearing in September last year defence counsel, Mr M Ravi, had taken ill and could not come to court.

The Lees' lawyer, Mr Davinder Singh, then accused Mr Ravi and the defendants of being "devious" and that the lawyer's absence was "nothing more than another attempt to delay the Order 14 applications."

A medical certificate later proved that Mr Ravi was unfit to attend court.

During the hearing, Dr Chee Soon Juan had asked Judge Ang for a one- or two-week adjournment for Mr Ravi to recover or, if the the Judge refused, for time to look for another lawyer.

On both counts, Ms Ang refused, siding with Mr Singh. She ordered the summary judgment hearing to proceed with the defendants being unrepresented.

And so Judge Ang and Mr Singh sat cloistered in her chambers where she heard only the plaintiffs' arguments and proceeded to award the case to the Lees.

Subsequently the Court's Minute Sheet recorded what transpired between Ms Ang and Mr Singh. At one point, the Judge remarked that Dr Chee was "hedging his bets" to which Mr Singh responding, "Absolutely!"

On reading this, Dr Chee took out a Summons application to ask the Court for an extension of time to appeal Judge Ang's decision as her actions and remarks were highly prejudicial to the defence's case.

Things then got rather interesting. The Courts set the hearing for Dr Chee's application for yesterday, 21 May 07. When Dr Chee arrived Mr Davinder Singh was already present.

And who was the judge? BINGO! Ms Belinda Ang!

"It is utterly amazing that you are presiding over this application which is about you," Dr Chee pointed out the obvious.

As it turned out Judge Ang referred the matter to the Court of Appeal.

The burning question is why was another judge not assigned to hear the application? Isn't it amazing that out of 12 High Court Judges, Ms Ang was assigned to preside over a matter in which she was the very subject of the controversy?

Hasn't the Singapore Courts heard of the saying that "Justice must not only be done, but manifestly seen to be done"?

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22 May 2007

Singapore Blogosphere and Political Participation

medium_PGConferencePoster.jpgI recently attended a Postgraduate Conference for the presentation of PhD research on the intersection of power and communication technologies organised by the Institute of Communications Studies (ICS) at the University of Leeds. I presented a paper titled -

The Singapore Blogosphere and Political Participation: An Ethnographic Approach.

Abstract
This paper questions whether or not blogs can help create participatory forms of democracy in non-democratic societies which have suppressed political participation among their citizens. Drawing on an event in July 2006 within a group of websites related to Singapore, this paper asks to what extent do bloggers in Singapore use their blogs for purposes related to politics, and investigates whether the blogosphere facilitates political participation among Singaporean bloggers. The internet has been heralded as a force for democratisation in the world (Pitrodi 1993) and also simply another means of disseminating propaganda, fear and intimidation in Singapore (Rodan 1997). Such predictions of how technology will affect upon futures is not new. This paper accepts Hine's (2000) position that there is a need for an ethnographic approach to question the assumptions inherent in these predictions of an increased public sphere and at the same time a loss of privacy associated with the technology. Singapore while being regarded by the Chinese Communist State and possibly the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) “as a laboratory for one possible future for the twenty-first century”, (Castells 1998) is regarded as a semi-democratic regime (Brooker 2000). A regime which allows elections but has limits on political and civil liberties and restricts competition between political parties (Brooker 2000). An ethnography of the Singapore blogosphere might help in analysing how the internet is constructed and shaped by social actors in order to overcome the technological focus and the domination of research that focuses on the United States of America. This paper argues that a sustained participant observation within the Singapore blogosphere could illustrate the position that the internet both creates public space to facilitate political participation and also helps to legitimise the semi-democratic nature of the Singapore regime.

The complete paper is available here in pdf format.

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21 May 2007

Amnesty International - Singapore Update

Received via email from Margaret John

To: Singapore/Malaysia Network
Date: May 20, 2007
Friends,


The following notes on Singapore and Malaysia are reported developments over the past few months, covering both Amnesty International (AI) concerns and the framework in which we work. The information is from normally reliable sources but has not always been validated by AI. Further information or corrections are welcome. Amnesty International's website is www.amnesty.org. The website of AI's regional office in Hong Kong is www.asiapacific.amnesty.org. AI Australia's regional death penalty information is at http://asiadeathpenalty.blogspot.com

Main points can be found in Berita, the journal of North American Malaysia/Singapore/Brunei scholars available from rprovenc@juno.com

Singapore
As the longstanding opposition critic and human rights defender J B Jeyaretnam is at last freed from bankruptcy and he plans to resume full campaigning, the international spotlight is again highlighting the government's tight restrictions on freedom of expression and is raising the bar on international concern. At the same time, challenges within Singapore to the political status quo are slowly increasing not only by prominent opposition activists and human rights defenders such as Dr Chee Soon Juan but also -- unusually -- from critics of recent high salary increases for the Prime Minister and Cabinet.


Margaret John
Coordinator for Singapore and Malaysia



1. International spotlight:
Foreign parliamentarians gagged;
International Bar Association meeting in Singapore -- human rights focus urged;
Chee Siok Chin in Italy;
Far Eastern Economic Review faces defamation suit -- and is honoured;
Australian University strongly criticised for doctorate for Lee Kuan Yew;
US Department of State assesses Singapore's human rights record 2006.

2. Human rights campaigners/government critics:
J B Jeyaretnam freed from bankruptcy -- and not silenced;
Dr Chee Soon Juan -- more challenges and also not silenced;
Francis Seow -- Beyond Suspicion? preface available;

3. Concerns continue:
Another death sentence;
Torture/ill-treatment -- ten strokes of cane;
Suspected terrorists still held;
Falun Gong persecuted;
Freedom of expression restricted but also rights exercised --
on Cabinet salary hikes;
on Said Zahari documentary;
on media (further controls?); on gender rights.

Read more...

Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam - On Bended Knees? Never

These words should be familiar to Singapore readers as it has been repeated often enough. But if not, this is a good time to take note of the late Devan Nair's observations on JB Jeyaretnam's strength of character. Lee Kuan Yew's comments on JB Jeyaretnam were made after the latter's significant Workers' Party Anson win in 1981.


"Immediately, however, Kuan Yew's attention was concentrated on how he would deal with J.B Jeyaretnam in parliament. I was quite alarmed at some of the things he told me at that lunch. "Look," he said, "Jeyaretnam cant win the infighting. I'll tell you why. WE are in charge. Every government ministry and department is under our control. And in the infighting, he will go down for the count every time." And I will never forget his last words. "I will make him crawl on his bended knees, and beg for mercy."

Jeyaretnam was made of sterner stuff. To his eternal credit he never did crawl on bended knees, or ever begged for mercy. And it is to Lee Kuan Yew's eternal shame that Jeyaretnam will leave the political scene with his head held high, enjoying a martyrdom conferred on him by Lee. Lest I be misunderstood, let me state that Jeya more than deserves the crown of the martyr for his indomitable courage and dignity in the face of the vilest persecution."

Posted by Eng Chuan Lee

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JBJ forms new party to reform Singapore

JBJ forms new party to reform Singapore - 1


JBJ forms new party to reform Singapore - 2


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Singapore opposition veteran to form new party

Sun May 20, 2007 3:02 PM IST

By Sebastian Tong


SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore's veteran opposition politician J.B. Jeyaretnam said on Sunday he plans to form a new political party to push for reform of the city-state's authoritarian political system.

Jeyaretnam, who led the opposition Workers' Party until 2001, was discharged from bankruptcy earlier this month after paying off damages in defamation suits brought by government leaders.

He was declared bankrupt in 2001 after failing to pay S$265,000 ($173,900) in defamation damages to plaintiffs that included then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and then Foreign Affairs Minister S. Jayakumar.

Jeyaretnam told a press briefing that he and a handful of supporters had begun work to register the new party and would try to attract support from Singaporeans eager for political reform.

"(This is) a party which will have as its main objective a complete and thorough change in the way this country is run -- no tinkering," Jeyaretnam, 81, said.

"Reform will be the main plank -- reform the system of government, all sectors of society," he said, adding that the group could be named 'The Reform Party'.

Jeyaretnam, who had to have reporters' questions repeated to him because of his poor hearing, said the new party would seek to contest in the next general poll, scheduled in 2011.

"I don't see why not -- unless the government moves against me again. I would like to be there," he said.

Jeyaretnam was the first opposition politician to win a seat in parliament in 1981. An acerbic critic and fiery speaker, he has long been a thorn in the side of the People's Action Party (PAP), which has ruled uninterrupted since Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965 and dominates the country's parliament.

The PAP, which has never lost more than four seats in any poll since 1965, won 82 out of the 84 seats in the last general election in May 2006. As in several previous elections, many of the wards were walkovers for the PAP because Singapore's tiny opposition parties did not manage to field candidates.

PAP leaders have brought defamation lawsuits against Jeyaretnam and several other opposition figures. After losing numerous libel lawsuits, Jeyaretnam was bankrupted, which prevented him from running for election and from practising as a lawyer.

Rights groups such as Amnesty International say the lawsuits are designed to stifle dissent, but PAP leaders say they are necessary to safeguard their reputation.

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19 May 2007

Singapore Filtering Internet

The following report has been compiled by the Open Net Initiative. ONI is a collaborative partnership of four leading academic institutions: the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto, Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, the Advanced Network Research Group at the Cambridge Security Programme, University of Cambridge, and the Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University. All these Universities will of course be ignored by those employed in the Singapore media or simply dismissed as a bunch of ang moh interferring in Singapore who have highly questionable methodologies that for some particular reason do not apply to the 'unique; situation that Singapore is'. Unique - just like Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Burma/Myanmar, China, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, UAE, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.

Rather than seeing it for what it is. A state that censors and filters the net.

Singapore

The government of the Republic of Singapore engages in minimal Internet filtering, blocking only a small set of pornographic Web sites as a symbol of disapproval of their contents. However, the state employs a combination of licensing controls and legal pressures to regulate Internet access and to limit the presence of objectionable content and conduct online.

Background
Singapore’s government uses restrictive laws, political ties to the judiciary, and ownership and intimidation of the media to suppress dissenting opinion and opposition to the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). Provisions of the Internal Security Act (ISA), the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (CLA), the Undesirable Publications Act (UPA), and other statutes prohibit the production and possession of “subversive” materials and permit the detention of suspected offenders without judicial review.1 Citizens, including Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) leader Chee Soon Juan, have been arrested for speaking publicly without a permit,2 and foreign activists from civil society organizations have been detained, interrogated, and deported.3 Government plaintiffs have been able to levy civil liability and heavy damages through defamation suits against independent and critical voices, including those of opposition politicians and of regional publications with domestic circulation.4 Moreover, virtually all domestic newspapers and television and radio stations are owned by corporations with economic ties to the government; hence they adhere closely to the PAP line when reporting on sensitive issues.5 Taken together, these economic and legal controls contribute to a climate of pervasive self-censorship of political commentary. These mechanisms of control and influence allow the Singapore government to cripple basic freedoms of expression and assembly under the guise of protecting public security and preserving order.

Internet in Singapore
In 2005, the number of Internet users in Singapore reached 2.42 million, or 67.2 percent of the population,6 giving the country one of the highest Internet penetration rates in the world. Home access is commonplace, with residential dialup and broadband subscriptions totaling more than 2.1 million.7 Over 70 percent of businesses use the Internet,8 and public access is widespread and expanding. In December 2006, a three-year national wireless service was launched, providing laptop users with free Wi-Fi Internet access in high-traffic areas across the island.9 Terminals in cybercaf├ęs and libraries supply the public with additional connectivity.

Three main Internet Access Service Providers (IASPs)—SingNet, StarHub, and Pacific Internet—serve as the “gateways” to the Web, providing access to Internet service resellers (ISRs) for sale to the public.10 Though all three IASPs are public corporations, Temasek Holdings (the government’s holding company) remains the majority shareholder in SingNet and StarHub.11

Legal and regulatory frameworks
Singapore’s Media Development Authority (MDA) claims to have instituted a “light-touch” regulatory framework for the Internet, promoting responsible use while giving industry players “maximum flexibility.”12 In addition to promoting self-regulation and public education, the MDA maintains license and registration requirements that subject Internet content and service providers to penalties for noncompliance with restrictions on prohibited material. The MDA is charged with ensuring that “nothing is included in the content of any media service which is against public interest or order, or national harmony, or which offends good taste or decency.”13 The core of this framework is a class license scheme stipulated by national statute (the Broadcasting Act)14 and by industry policies and regulations issued by the MDA.

Under the class license scheme, all Internet service providers (ISPs) and those Internet content providers (ICPs) determined to be political parties or persons “engaged in the propagation, promotion or discussion of political or religious issues relating to Singapore” must register with the MDA.15 As licensees, ISPs and ICPs are also bound by the MDA’s Internet Code of Practice. The Code defines “prohibited material” broadly, specifying only a few standards for sexual, violent, and intolerant content.16 Where filtering is not mandated at the ISP level, the Code requires that ICPs deny access to material if so directed by the MDA. Licensees that fail to comply with the Code may face sanctions, including fines or license suspensions or terminations, as authorized under the Broadcasting Act. In 2005, one Web site titled “Meet Gay Singapore Friends” was reportedly fined USD5,000 by the MDA for being in violation of the Code.17

Threats of civil and criminal liability under other laws further deter Internet users from posting comments or content relating to sensitive issues. In May 2005 the state-funded agency A*STAR accused Jiahao Chen, a Singaporean doctoral student in the United States, of posting “untrue and serious accusations against A*STAR, its officers and other parties,” and threatened Chen with “legal consequences unless the objectionable statements were removed and an acceptable apology published.”18 Chen complied with A*STAR’s demands and replaced the posts with an apology, thereby avoiding a potential defamation suit.19 The high-profile case prompted caution20 in the Singapore blogosphere and discussion21 on how to avoid suit under the nation’s defamation laws.22

In October 2005 two men were jailed under the Sedition Act23 for the first time in nearly forty years. One received a one-month sentence and the other a nominal one-day sentence and USD5,000 fine for posting racist remarks denigrating Muslims and Malays.24 In January 2006, a twenty-one-year-old was also charged with violating the Sedition Act after he posted four cartoons of Jesus on his blog. The charges were eventually dropped, but not before Singaporean authorities had confiscated the individual’s computer and removed the cartoons from his blog.25

In November 2006 SDP activist Yap Keng Ho was sentenced to ten days in jail after he refused to pay a fine for speaking at an illegal SDP rally, held in April 2006. Yap had posted a video of the speech on his blog and was ordered to remove it by a judge.26

The above incidents appeared to presage further repressive legislation and policies against Singaporean Internet users. In 2007 the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is expected to table before parliament a slate of amendments to the Penal Code. The proposed amendments expand the scope of nineteen offenses to cover acts perpetrated via electronic media, including “uttering words with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person” (section 298); defamation (section 499); and making “statements conducing to public mischief” (section 505).27 Section 298 is being modified further to cover “the wounding of racial feelings,” so that offenders may be prosecuted under the Sedition Act or the Penal Code.28 The MHA amendments also introduce nineteen new offenses, including abetting “an offense which is committed in Singapore, even if any or all of the acts of abetment were done outside Singapore,” as via Internet or mobile phone (section 108B).29

ONI testing results
ONI conducted testing on Singapore’s two major IASPs, SingNet and StarHub, and on a third ISP, SysTech. A common perception of the Singaporean Internet community points to the existence of a list of 100 banned Web sites purportedly maintained by the Media Development Authority (MDA). ONI found that only seven Web sites tested, all relating to pornography, were blocked, including sex.com, playboy.com, and penthouse.com. The blocking of only these high-profile sites suggests that filtering is indeed mandated for symbolic, rather than preventative, purposes. Moreover, the seven sites blocked on SingNet and StarHub were all accessible on SysTech.

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15 May 2007

Singapore, One-Party City State.

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Segment 1: Singapore, one-party city state.

A video from New Tang Dynasty Television
Singapore, the smallest nation in Southeast Asia, has an international reputation for being one of the most business-friendly countries. In terms of GDP per capita, Singapore is the 22nd wealthiest country in the world. It has a foreign reserve of 120 billion US dollars. The Constitution of the Republic of Singapore has established the political system as a representative democracy. Yet, the People's Action Party has won every election since self-governance began in 1959. Foreign political analysts and several opposition parties have argued that Singapore is essentially a one-party state. The Economist Intelligence Unit lists Singapore as a country with a "hybrid" system with democratic and authoritarian elements. Freedom House ranks the country as "partly free".

Guest: Chee Siok Chin, executive member of the Singapore Democratic Party..

to watch the video click one of the links below:
Online Download

Followed by Segment 2: America's coming war with China.

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14 May 2007

Singapore - The NS Song

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Came upon the following musical video from www.happeepill.com and it was written by The Evil Bunny I believe.

The NS Song


Place the NS Song on your handphones!
Click here to download 3GP format!

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Singapore: The State and Culture of Excess

Singapore: The State and Culture of Excess

by Yao, Souchou


About This Book
Taking ideas and frameworks from philosophy, psychology, political science, cultural studies and anthropology, this book tells the larger 'truth' about the Singapore state. This book argues that this strong hegemonic state achieves effective rule not just from repressive policies but also through a combination of efficient government, good standard of living, tough official measures and popular compliance. Souchou Yao looks at the reasons behind the hegemonic ruling, examining key events such as the caning of American teenager Michael Fay, the judicial ruling on fellatio and unnatural sex, and Singapore's 'war on terror' to show the ways in which the State manages these events to ensure the continuance of its power and ideological ethos. Key subject discussed include: leftist radicalism and communist insurgency; nation-building as trauma; Western 'yellow culture' and Asian Values; judicial caning and the meaning of pain; the law and oral sex; food and the art of lying; cinema as catharsis; Singapore after September 11. Sidelights are also offered on the roles played by the Lee Kuan Yew family and several other major personalities.



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12 May 2007

SINGAPORE: J B Jeyaretnam freed from bankruptcy

A press release from Amnesty International received via email.

"it's a heavy price I have paid"

J B Jeyaretnam, long regarded as Singapore's veteran opposition leader and human rights campaigner, is finally freed from bankruptcy. He is therefore eligible to resume his profession as a lawyer, travel abroad without permission, and contest the next election in Singapore, due in 2011.

After making payments of S$233,255 (roughly equivalent to the Canadian dollar) to the Official Assignee, he was given a discharge from bankruptcy. He had been declared bankrupt in 2001 after failing to pay more than S$600,000 in damages to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, former prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, and others. He had been found guilty of defamation at a 1997 election rally when he referred publicly to the filing by Workers' Party candidate Tang Liang Hong of a police report critical of ruling party leaders. He estimates he has paid out close to S$2 million in damages and court costs over the years. Bankrupts in Singapore are barred from seeking parliamentary seats. J B Jeyaretnam also lost his right to practise as a lawyer. He will now apply for the restoration of his licence to practise law.

J B Jeyaretnam, former judge and member of parliament, now in his eighties, has long been known internationally as a voice for freedom, justice and fundamental human rights in Singapore. As a result, he has faced numerous defamation and other charges, been imprisoned, made bankrupt, and excluded from Parliament and his profession.

Amnesty International (AI) has called on the Singapore government to stop using restrictive laws and defamation suits to muzzle critics and opposition party members such as J B Jeyaretnam. AI and numerous organizations have over the years sent representatives to Singapore as trial observers and have issued critical reports and statements. Amongst that group are Canadian judge Paul Bentley and Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada. AI remains concerned about the continuing use of restrictive laws and civil defamation suits to penalise and silence peaceful critics of the government. Laws allowing the authorities to impose restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly which violate international standards, combined with a pattern of politically motivated defamation suits, have served to maintain a climate of political intimidation and self-censorship in Singapore. This climate continues to stifle freedom of expression, deters the expression of views alternative to those of the ruling People's Action Party, and dissuades many Singaporeans from exercising their right to take part in public affairs. Such restrictions belie the government's repeated claims that it is building an "open society".


Further information: Margaret John, Coordinator for Singapore and Malaysia, Amnesty International Canada Malaysiasingaporecoordinator@amnesty.ca

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Zoo in tropical Singapore says it will keep polar bear despite animal rights concerns

You don't need to be an animal rights activist to be angry at how the Singapore Zoo can be so "blatantly uncaring". To paraphrase what they said, "Let's wait for the mother polar bear to die before we embark on any further action". Why does the Zoo need to wait until the mother polar bear die before they would move the young? WHy can't they improve conditions now? What would be the psychological impact of the mother's death to the young? This is despite The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, or Acres, reiterating that the bears' enclosure do not meet international standards.

Is this the kind of message/values we want to impart our young when they visit the Zoo? Forget the welfare of the animals as long as we can gawk on them from the other side of the glass window. The pathetic rhetoric that long life span equals faring well? What kind of twisted logic is that? Long life does not equal to good or even acceptable benchmark of living. Other incisive questions could be ask"how often does the polar bears fall sick?" and or "if they display any further signs of discomfort?"

You can read a published letter to Straits Times from Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) on this issue.

In the published letter on May 7, Acres stated that,

"The current polar-bear enclosure (of the Singapore Zoo)fails to meet the minimum standards laid out in the Polar Bear Protection Act, which was made law by the Government of Manitoba, Canada, in 2003... Indeed, if Singapore Zoo today wanted to acquire polar bears from Manitoba, the government, by law, could not allow it."


===

May 4
By DERRICK HO
Associated Press Writer

SINGAPORE (AP) -- The Singapore Zoo said Friday it will keep its male polar bear - reportedly the only polar bear to be born in the tropics - in a reversal of its earlier decision to move it to a temperate country, while animal rights activists urged the zoo to improve conditions in the bear's enclosure.

The zoo's parent company, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said its animal welfare and ethics committee had recommended that Inuka, the 17-year-old bear, remain at the Southeast Asian zoo because of the risks involved in moving it.

"The transport of a full grown polar bear to an institution in a temperate country will be a stressful situation and carries its own share of risks, most extreme being that Inuka may die during transportation or during the introduction process in the new facility," the company said in a statement.

The zoo had said last year that Inuka would be moved to a country with a temperate climate after his mother dies, following a Singapore animal rights group's complaints that the bears were showing signs of distress.


Polar bears normally spend most of their lives on sea ice. In Singapore, Inuka and his 30-year-old mother, Sheba, are kept in an open and partly shaded enclosure that is cooled by misting fans and includes a pool. The bears can also use an off-exhibit air-conditioned den.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, or Acres, said Friday it was surprised by the zoo's decision. It urged the zoo to improve conditions in the bears' enclosure, which it says fails to meet international standards.


"If you go to the zoo today, he is still pacing, which is a very clear sign he is not doing well in this environment," Acres Executive Director Louis Ng said, referring to Inuka.

The group says the enclosure is too small and should not expose the bears to Singapore's yearlong tropical heat.


The zoo says Sheba originally came from a German zoo, and Inuka is the only polar bear to be born in the tropics. Their long life spans, it says, are proof that they are faring well at the zoo. However, it says it will reassess the situation when Sheba dies.



© 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy.

posted by Charles Tan

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Help for the poor: So close, yet so far

Spotted on a mailing list, I thought I should reproduce this to illustrate how the current minimal "public aid schemes" available is not easy when it comes to applying for them. Even with the available aid schemes, how many of them, if applied, are given out in time? Some of the individual stories reveal only tip of the iceberg of how the poor is faring in Singapore. All those bracketed and in italics are my own inserted comments I have also highlighted certain sections by bolding them.

===

Available online on Asiaone.com website as a free story

May 7, 2007
Help for the poor: So close, yet so far
By Vivi Zainol, For The Straits Times

WHY do needy Singaporeans continue to fall through the cracks despite the Government's array of public aid schemes?

To tackle this question, 18 of my students at Ngee Ann Polytechnic interviewed more than 30 low-income households for a vacation module. They found the biggest bar-riers to be education and language.

Many are illiterate. With little knowledge or understanding of schemes to help them, it's not surprising that some say they know the Government is helping them, but they feel it is not doing enough.


Some would rather get an extra job than ask for help. Others struggle to make themselves understood and say they do not have the time, money or energy to make return trips to their MP or Community Development Councils (CDCs) to ask for more help.

For those who did bother, a common complaint heard by students was that the CDC officers are rude.

Several years ago, as a Straits Times community reporter, I had heard the same comment when I asked a woman with three children, and whose husband was in jail for a drug offence, why she did not ask for help. Describing how her experience with CDCs turned her off, she said a CDC officer had sarcastically asked her: 'Didn't your husband leave you any money?'

'If he had, why would I be asking for help?' said the troubled woman, who had contemplated suicide.

One group of Ngee Ann students decided to observe CDC officers in action after receiving the feedback. At one CDC, officers were unfailingly polite (Only one CDC? what about other CDCs? Perhaps they were not as rude because of the presence of students?) - it was the low-income group which was being demanding and uncooperative. However, all the CDC officers were Chinese - help- seekers speaking Malay and Indian had to struggle to make themselves understood.

At another CDC, student Nurlina Fatima Shafrin, 18, recalled how a CDC officer was heard commenting loudly to another officer nearby on how 'irritating' the people who had come to ask for help were, even when the latter, who were filling up forms, could hear them.

What is interesting to note is that interviews by students uncovered a perception among low-income earners that the higher-educated tend to look down on them and are arrogant. Formally attired CDC officers also unintentionally give the impression that they are less approachable.

Not all CDC officers are trained social workers - there are not enough social workers to go around in Singapore.

Also, some members of the low-income group can be downright prickly, believing they have a right to receive handouts from the state.

But surely everybody deserves good customer service regardless of income group? The poor have their pride too.

Could CDCs perhaps train their staff to understand the sensitivities and psyche of the lower-income group? Steps could also be taken to ensure that staff on duty speak different languages and dialects. Members from the low-income group could even be employed to help.

It's good news indeed to hear that the Government has raised public assistance spending from $96 million to $140 million, and ComCare funding from $43 million to $67 million. (What is the duration for that allocated amount spent? What is the percentage of the assistance that goes to actual assistance? How much of it is dispatched to those who need it, and in time? How much of the public assistance would be offset by the increase in GST?)With that much money allocated to the needy (It appears to be a lot of money but is it enough?)it makes sense to ensure these funds reach the ones who need immediate assistance.

Take Mr Ramasamy Ratran, a 52-year-old Indian man, who was a pitiful sight when my students and I chanced upon him. He was lying on the dusty floor in his rented two-room flat, having been discharged from hospital just two weeks earlier.

Fortunately, a former female neighbour and a male friend had taken it upon themselves to look after Mr Ramasamy, who is epileptic and living on his own. Medical social workers had settled his hospital bills, but he was getting no financial help while he was recuperating and unable to work.

'Can you please help him? He needs help. When I first came two weeks ago, there was no electricity. His flat was in total darkness,'
pleaded the former neighbour, who had helped to top up his prepaid utilities smart key to get the electricity back on.

Mr Ramasamy was not the only one my students and I found in need of assistance. When barber Yahya Pinghani, 39, was hospitalised for a kidney problem, he could not work and had no daily income for weeks. His children skipped school that week because there was no money for the bus fare.

Mr Pinghani's wife Murni, 41, complained how, after three weeks, her single friend who had applied for help with her at a CDC had already received assistance while she and her family were still waiting. She revealed that her family owed a whopping $4,000 in utilities bills.

CDCs do give $200 once-off emergency assistance, after which the needy wait six to eight weeks for CDCs to respond. (Six to Eight weeks? Is that how efficient our civil service is?)So what do they do when help is a long time coming? Many see their MPs, getting a $50 cheque for their trouble, or resort to collecting food from voluntary welfare organisations. How many know that they can get immediate assistance from your Citizens Consultative Committee? I did not either, for that matter, till I asked around. (The question in my mind is, how can the CCC help? How immediate can they help and how much. Unfortunately, the writer does not probe enough.)

Perhaps it is time that bulletin boards in HDB flats were put to better use. They could advertise where the poor can get help and give details of the schemes. Many low-income earners are illiterate, but the ones who are not will surely help to spread the word around.

It could also be made mandatory for medical social workers in hospitals to inform social workers or CDCs when a person who is from the low-income group is discharged so they will give him temporary financial assistance during his recovery period.

Last year, the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) set up a community care network for the elderly in Ang Mo Kio. Under this scheme, grassroots leaders are trained by family service centres to identify needy households.(Let's hope the grassroots leaders are not as rude as the CDC officers.)

Perhaps if this outreach scheme is formally extended to include all needy Singaporeans, not just the elderly, it could be used to ensure no one falls through the cracks and to explain the help schemes available to the needy.

MCYS minister Vivian Balakrishnan recently called on Singaporeans to be eyes and ears on the ground, saying 'we need the whole of society' and not 'an army of bureaucratic civil servants', when he outlined $140 million worth of initiatives for the low-income group.

The findings of the 18 Ngee Ann polytechnic students who ventured out of their classroom may not be conclusive, but simple observations like theirs should not be belittled. Like any jigsaw puzzle enthusiast will tell you, even one small piece makes a difference.

The writer is a lecturer at the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.


posted by Charles Tan,

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8 May 2007

Singapore's media ranked 154th

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In advance of World Press Freedom Day, on May 3rd, Freedom House has released several critical tools to highlight data from its annual survey of global press freedom, and to help explain the newest findings in their historical context. The current edition of the survey, Freedom of the Press 2007, points to improvements in several countries such as Italy, Nepal, Colombia, and Haiti; however, it shows mixed trends in Africa, as well as a continuation of a longer-term pattern of decline in press freedom in Asia, Latin America, and the former Soviet Union.



Freedom House
04 May 07
http://freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=362


Singapore
Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 24
Political Environment: 24
Economic Environment: 21
Total Score: 69


Media freedom in Singapore is constrained to such a degree that the vast majority of journalists practice self-censorship rather than risk being charged with defamation or breaking the country’s criminal laws on permissible speech.

The Singapore constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression in Article 14, but it also permits restrictions on these rights. Media freedom in Singapore is constrained by the Newspapers and Printing Presses Act, the Defamation Act, and the Internal Security Act, all of which allow authorities to restrict the circulation of news deemed to incite violence, arouse racial or religious tensions, interfere in domestic politics, or threaten public order, national interest or national security.

The government proposed a series of amendments to the Penal Code in 2006 that would cover offenses committed via electronic media. The draft amendments would not only provide jail terms or fines for defamation, “statements that would cause public mischief,” and the “wounding” of racial or religious feeling, they would also make it a crime for anyone outside the country to abet an offense committed inside the country, thereby allowing the authorities to prosecute internet users living abroad. Singaporean students studying overseas are the presumed targets of this amendment.

The Singapore government is quick to sue critics under harsh criminal defamation laws. In May 2006, for example, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, First Minister Kee Kuan Yew, filed criminal charges against the publishers of opposition newspaper The New Democrat, which is published several times a year by a committee of the Singapore Democratic Party.

The lawsuit started with an unsigned story that described as “secretive and non-accountable” the ruling party’s handling of a corruption scandal at the National Kidney Foundation.

Foreign media in Singapore are also subject to restrictive laws. In August, after the Far Eastern Economic Review published an interview with opposition party leader Chee Soon Juan, FEER and four other foreign publications were advised that they needed to post bonds and appoint legal representatives in order to continue to operate in Singapore. When FEER did not comply, its circulation permit was revoked, thereby effectively banning the publication. Meanwhile, on September 14, the Prime Minister and his father filed defamation suits against FEER over the article.

Nearly all print and broadcast media outlets, internet service providers, and cable television services are either owned or controlled by the state, or by companies with close ties to the ruling party. Annual licensing requirements for all media outlets, including political and religious web sites, have been used to inhibit criticism of the government.

Approximately two thirds of the population had access to the internet in 2006. Nonetheless, the government restricts internet access and Singapore has zero-tolerance for bloggers who challenge the government in any way. Prior to the May 6 Parliamentary elections, the Communications and Arts Minister warned bloggers and website managers that they do not have the right to back a particular candidate’s program or to express opinions on political issues. These same rules were applied to other new media, including podcasting and videocasting.

On April 26, the opposition Singapore Democratic Party was ordered to withdraw a podcast from its website. In June, popular blogger Lee Kin Mun (aka “Mr Brown”) was informed by state-owned Today newspaper that his weekly column, which had satirized the high cost of living, would be suspended. On November 6, a judge ordered Yap Keng Ho, a member of the opposition, to remove from his blog a video of himself speaking in public during the general elections.

Source
150
Cote d'Ivoire 68 NF
Malaysia 68 NF
Maldives 68 NF
United Arab Emirates 68 NF
154
Afghanistan 69 NF
Djibouti 69 NF
Gabon 69 NF
Singapore 69 NF
158 Iraq 70 NF
159 Bahrain 71 NF
Oman 71 NF
161 Chad 74 NF
Togo 74 NF
Venezuela 74 NF

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Singapore - Lee Kuan Yew

Lee Kuan Yew



Contains strong language and is posted here as a result of an email request.

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Facts & Figures on The New Immigrants from The Sunday Times

Facts & Figures from The Sunday Times, May 6, 2007:

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Figures for Applications Granted:

2002: Citizenship - 7,600; PRs: 39,500
2003: Citizenship - 6,800; PRs: 32,000
2004: Citizenship - 7,600; PRs: 36,900
2005: Citizenship - 12,900; PRs: 52,300
2006: Citizenship - 13,200; PRs: 57,300

Source: Immigration & Checkpoints Authority

===

Singapore's Population:

1970: 2.07 million with 2.01 million residents (citizens and PRs) and 61,000 foreigners
1980: 2.41 million with 2.28 million residents and 131,000 foreigners
1990: 3.05 million with 2.74 million residents and 311,000 foreigners
2000: 4.03 million with 3.27 million residents and 754,500 foreigners
2006: 4.48 million with 3.6 million residents and 875,00 foreigners

Source: Singapore Department of Statistics

===

Estimated breakdown of Major foreign nationalities in Singapore:

Chinese - 200,000
Indonesian - 150,000
Filipino - 120,000
Indian - 90,000
Bangladeshi - 60,000
Thai - 45,000
Japanese - 26,000
Sri Lankan - 20,000
British - 17,000
American - 15,000
South Korean - 15,000
Australian - 15,000
Myanmarese - 10,000
German - 5,000
French - 4,000

Source: Embassies & High Commissions

===

Between 1990 and 2006, there is an increase of 860,000 citizens and PRs. Of how many are originally born in Singapore? Between 2002 and 2006, applications granted to PR and citizenships is 266,100. Of course the problem of simply adding the citizenship and PRs over the past few years could be erroneous as there may be overlaps- people who applied for PR may go on to apply citizenships.

Questions persist:

1. Is Singapore "bringing in" too many new immigrants?;
2. Can we solve brain drain and birth stagnation problems by "bringing in" foreigners?;
3. What about the newly created jobs? How many of them goes to Singaporeans?
4. How much of the created wealth in the economy goes back to further building the economy of Singapore? How much of it translates into social policies that benefit the Singapore society?

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Bush is right to be firm on Iraq?

The Sunday Times front page top news screams, "Bush is right to be firm on Iraq: PM Lee"

Not exactly music to the ears considering that George Bush's Newsweek rating poll has hit an all time low of 28 percent, one percentage point lower than his father.

Almost 62 per cent of Americans disapprove of Bush's Iraq war, with only 30 per cent believing that his actions show he is "willing to take political risks" to do what is right, according to the news magazine. Bush scores a rating similar to Jimmy Carter, in 1979, after the Iran hostage crisis.

Should our government endorse what Bush has said or done when Americans have appeared to think otherwise?
What about Singaporean's attitudes towards Bush and the Iraqi invasion in 2003? Would our government's close links to the administration's stance towards the Iraqi war make us a more likely target of terrorist attack?

posted by Charles Tan

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3 May 2007

State of the Singapore Blogosphere, May 2007

I think my original rant was that there had yet to be a 'golden age' of the Sg blogosphere, not that there used to be. As for the infants now winning I agree, however I see it in a different light, it is those who argue for 'objectivity, fairness, unbiased and personal accounts' of their lives that are winning. In a regime that prides itself in de-politicisation of the polity then yes there has been a shift towards non-political narratives. But surely this is an acceptance of the Singaporean hegemony, so while the political blogs and aggregator blogs continue to be busy building resistance identities rather than project identities, the Singapore blogosphere is nothing other than a bunch of predominantly middle-class, university educated males constructing a space for self-referential echo chambers - myself included.


By Elia Diodati
Authoritarian, yes. But transparent nonetheless. - Kitana, b.Itter s.Weet sym.Phony, The Final Post, April 17 2007.

Back on April Fools’ Day, I wrote about how the Singapore blogosphere is losing its vitality; now akikonomu, the former high priestess of Ise, has already written its epitaph, an ode to rampaging infants. Even back when I started blogging, there were whispers that things weren’t as good as they used to me. Soci, then Steven McDermott, famously ranted long and hard about the “infantile sub-intelligentsia nonsense” permeating the ether.

But now the infants are winning. The great practitioners of online political discourse have declined into moribund obscurity, or sought out other, more rewarding, pursuits. Singabloodypore itself has degenerated into a post-and-boast groupblog. The old Singapore Angle is busy with his second child (congratulations!), while the new Singapore Angle is trapped in its self-pleasing, obsessive groupthink over academic rigor as applied to things that really don’t deserve such standards. Molly Meek’s feline invective somehow seems less vituperative of current affairs and has taken on the tone of self-indugent mockery, in exasperation over her1 inability to satirize the absurd truth. Even Mr Wang has tired of his self-effusing posts on how stupid the Singapore government can be at times, and has made a subtle shift toward “a new thematic focus” as announced on March 30. And in the past six months there has been a noticeable string of prominent self-imposed rigors mortis: Yuen Chung Kwong (December 1), Gayle Goh (January 28), Kitana (April 13), Zyberzitizen (April 18), and now sieteocho (May 1). Vox Leo, by my measure, has joined the ranks of the officially moribund, having last posted on August 22 2006. En & Hou (of Students’ Sketchpad fame) have yet to make good on their promise to “see you after the ‘A’ levels“. And Kway Teow Man’s personal blog seems to have been abandoned since sometime in March.

Unlike the L’Enfant that built the great architectural masterpieces of Washington DC’s National Mall, the infants now overrunning the Singapore blogosphere are killing it through apathetic karma. Sure, it’s not like the infants are engaging in wanton destruction, but on the rare occasions they leave their self-enraptured bubble of photos, linkwhoring ^o^~~~ posts to various offline friends and their pink Comic Sans CSS stylesheets, they tend to form the incessant, one-dimensional chorus of “cannot lah!”

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2 May 2007

Singapore - The Fake Times

Found the following on sammyboy's forum and it seems to be coming from 'I love my EXTRAORDINARY government'. Contains some bad language, but since when has that stopped you clicking on a link. It also seems to have something to do with the video compilation found on youtube. Looks damn good, and maybe someone should start printing it out and handing it out.

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Singapore extraordinary government

May Day Walk Montage



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Singapore - May Day Event @ Hong Lim Park

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These are some of the pics taken at the event. Basically, Dr Chee addressed the crowd emphasizing the need for Singaporeans to understand that the current economic situation is unsustainable; and hope that the supporters would take the initiative and be more forthcoming to support the Opposition.

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1 May 2007

Singapore - A Nation Cheated

A Report on Poverty and Labour in Singapore 2007
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Without the PAP, Lee Kuan Yew swears, our women folk would end up as domestic help in distant lands. So be thankful. In fact, be more than thankful. Be worshipful that we have national leaders who have brought us riches – and continue to do so.

Bunkum, many of you say. We may be grateful but we don’t have to be talked down to in such a manner even if it is by the Minister Mentor.

Maybe the MM was too blunt, the PAP admits, but at least the citizens are grateful, at least they should be, for all that the party has done for Singapore.

Bunkum, A Nation Cheated says. This latest SDP report written by Dr Chee Soon Juan punctures the propaganda that Singapore is well-served by the PAP.

Available in electronic format, this 72-page Report on poverty and labour in Singapore traces developments over the last 10 years since the Asian crisis in 1997, and provides evidence – hard, irrefutable evidence – that Singapore is ailing from failed PAP policies.

Unlike other emerging markets Singapore does not have an entrepreneurial class that can compete globally, continuing instead to rely on MNCs and inept GLCs. The emergence of a permanent underclass is a result of such an economic arrangement.

Experts, and there have been many of them, have repeatedly warned that without urgent reforms of the political and economic systems, Singapore's economic situation will continue to deteriorate.

To be absolutely sure, the unprecedented level of poverty seen in this country is not the unintended by-product of globalization, as the PAP would have us believe. It is a creation from Lee’s eugenicist views:

"Free education and subsidised housing lead to a situation where the less economically productive people in the community are reproducing themselves at rates higher than the rest. This will increase the total population of less productive people. We must... take the first tentative steps towards correcting a trend which can leave our society with a large number of the physically, intellectually and culturally anaemic."

One of his faithful ministers, the late S Rajaratnam, darkly promised: "We want to teach people the government is not a rich uncle. You get what you pay for. We are moving in the direction of making people pay for everything."

Such attitude has produced a society with individuals like TT Durai with his avarice, Mrs Goh Chok Tong with her "peanuts" comment, Wee Shu Min with her repugnant diatribe against Derek Wee (and her father’s defence of her comments), and Lee Hsien Loong with his petulance that he and his ministers should not be expected to make "unnecessary financial sacrifices."

A Nation Cheated pieces together an unmistakable picture of PAP's failure. It tells the real story of how our enormous reserves have been accumulated through forced savings under the CPF scheme as well as through the sale of HDB flats. The slew of taxes and fees designed to maximise the extraction of funds from the people is another avenue.

More recently, however, economic growth has been sustained from illicit money laundered from foreigners. The explosive influx of migrants has also contributed much to the fattening of state coffers.

The question is: Is this kind of growth sustainable and how much damage is it inflicting on our society?

Perhaps the ultimate indicator of the failure of the PAP is that in the half-a-century of uninterrupted rule, it has failed to create a nation where Singaporeans are proud to be identified with. A 2007 survey of young Singaporeans revealed that more than half wanted to emigrate. A shocking 37 percent said they were not patriotic to this country.

For Singaporeans, this Report is a must read. It informs, it rebukes, it persuades. It is a call for us to awake from our fearful slumber.

For the foreign observer, it is an opportunity to be disabused of the notion that the Singapore Way is a model.

The sin is not in being ignorant, but in choosing to remain so.

So click on 'Buy Now' button below and buy a copy of A Nation Cheated today!
Proceeds from the sales of this report will go towards promoting democracy in Singapore.

Option 1: You can place your order through Paypal, either through your own Paypal account or directly with your credit card if you don't have a Paypal account. (If you are not using Paypal account, please send us an e-mail separately to inform us of your purchase. The report will then be emailed to you.)

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