Was our phenomenal GDP growth worth selling our soul for?

When I listen to the painful experiences of ex-political detainees like Dr Lim Hock Siew, I question whether our phenomenal GDP growth over the past 40 years was worth selling our soul for (if indeed the two were interchangeable). Would I settle for a less developed country that did not have such a shameful past? It’s a hard question to answer, even though the morally correct answer should be obvious.

Watch Martyn See’s recording of a speech by Dr Lim Hock Siew, Singapore’s second-longest detained political prisoner, who was imprisoned without trial from 1963 to 1982. This is the kind of stuff that needs to go into our national education curriculum and screened in Singapore Discovery Centre. Our young people need to know the sacrifices these opposition politicians made for the sake of their beliefs and their convictions on how to forge a better Singapore for all of us.

Continue reading “Was our phenomenal GDP growth worth selling our soul for?”

Get my latest updates. ‘Like’ my Facebook Page.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Singaporeans strongly reject Myanmar generals

From CNA:

Myanmar’s military government has “strongly rejected” a statement by the Association of Southeast Asian nations condemning the trial of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, state media said Monday.

Myanmar accused Thailand, which issued the statement one week ago as the rotating chairman of the 10-member bloc, of interfering in its internal affairs, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.

“This statement issued by the alternate ASEAN chairman — which is not in conformity with ASEAN practice, incorrect in facts, interfering in the internal affairs of Myanmar — is strongly rejected by Myanmar,” it said.

“It is sadly noted that the alternate ASEAN chairman failed to preserve the dignity of ASEAN, the dignity of Myanmar and the dignity of Thailand,” said the statement, which was also carried on state-run television and radio.

The ASEAN statement expressed “grave concern” over the treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi, a rare step by the group which hardly ever speaks out on the domestic political issues of its members, including Myanmar.

It is quite rare to hear a public rebuttal from the Myanmar government against ASEAN. The fact that they have taken this step indicates that they have been quite stung by ASEAN’s statement. At least is shows that the generals are not deaf to ASEAN.

Continue reading “Singaporeans strongly reject Myanmar generals”

Get my latest updates. ‘Like’ my Facebook Page.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Peace vigil for Aung San Suu Kyi @ Speakers’ Corner

Message from Maruah (Singapore Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism), which is organising a peace vigil for Aung San Suu Kyi at 5.30pm on May 31 at Speakers’ Corner.

This is a peaceful rally to ask as many people in Singapore to give two hours of their time to show support to a courageous women – Daw Aung Sung Suu Kyi – who has been placed under house arrest for almost two decades and now is held in a formidable prison.

Continue reading “Peace vigil for Aung San Suu Kyi @ Speakers’ Corner”

Get my latest updates. ‘Like’ my Facebook Page.

Technorati Tags: , ,

My interview with an ex-ISA detainee

Passion for activism extinguished…but not for long

This article is the first part of a week-long focus on The Online Citizen of the 22nd anniversary of the 21 May 1987 government clampdown on a group of so-called “communists” and “marxists”, who were detained under the ISA – and never charged or brought to trial.

On 21st May 1987, 22 social activists in Singapore were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for allegedly plotting a so called “Marxist conspiracy” to overthrow the Singapore government. Although they were never tried in an open court, the full weight of the government’s machinery, including the state-controlled media, was used to make the government’s case against these activists.

The detainees’ side of the story has seldom been heard by the general public. In the 20 years after the detentions, the mainstream media has shied away from telling the ex-detainees’ stories.

Mr Tan Tee Seng was 28 years old when he was detained, along with 21 others. In an exclusive two-and-a-half hour interview with The Online Citizen, Mr Tan speaks about his background and activities in the 1970s and 80s, his arrest in 1987, his experience under interrogation and detention, and his life after his release.

Continue reading “My interview with an ex-ISA detainee”

Get my latest updates. ‘Like’ my Facebook Page.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Singapore, ASEAN must strongly condemn Myanmar

Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar’s opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been charged with breaching the terms of her house arrest after an apparently uninvited visit by an American man.

This is clearly a flimsy excuse to extend her detention, which expires at the end of this month. These latest charges carry a penalty of 5 years imprisonment, which would stretch her detention beyond even the 2010 elections, effectively disqualifying her from contesting it.

She has been under house arrest under the country’s military regime for 11 of the past 19 years in since her party, the National League for Democracy, was elected to power in the last democratic elections in the former Burma.

Continue reading “Singapore, ASEAN must strongly condemn Myanmar”

Get my latest updates. ‘Like’ my Facebook Page.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Israeli military no different from Japanese Imperial Army

The United Nations Human Rights Commission recently released a report on Israel’s war in Gaza. The report severely criticizes Israel for documented and verified reports of violations “too numerous to list.”

According to CNN, the report gave an account of how in a town southwest of Gaza City, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers ordered an 11-year-old boy to open Palestinians’ packages, presumably so that the soldiers would not be hurt if they turned out to contain explosives.

They then forced the boy to walk in front of them in the town, it said. When the soldiers came under fire, “the boy remained in front of the group”.

The report cited two alleged incidents from January 3. In one, it said, after a tank round struck near a house, a father and his two sons — both younger than 11 — emerged to look at the damage.

“As they exited their home, IDF soldiers shot and killed them (at the entrance to their house), with the daughter witnessing,” the report said.

In the second, it said, “Israeli soldiers entered a family house in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City. Standing at the doorstep, they asked the male head of the household to come out and shot him dead, without warning, while he was holding his ID, hands raised up in the air, and then started to fire indiscriminately and without warning into the room where the rest of the family was huddled together.

“The eldest son was shouting in vain the word ‘Children’ in Hebrew to warn the soldiers. The shooting did not stop until everyone was lying on the floor. The mother and four of the brothers, aged 2-12 years, had been wounded, one of them, aged 4, fatally.”

In a separate report by Israeli newspaper Haaretz, a group of Israeli soldiers said that Palestinian civilians were killed and Palestinian property intentionally destroyed during Israel’s recent 22-day offensive in the Gaza Strip.

In one account, a squad leader from a brigade serving in Gaza described an incident in which he said an elderly Palestinian woman was shot and killed at the orders of a company commander:

“One of our officers, a company commander, saw someone coming on some road — a woman, an old woman. She was walking along pretty far away, but close enough so you could take out someone you saw there. If she were suspicious, not suspicious — I don’t know. In the end, he sent people up to the roof, to take her out with their weapons. From the description of this story, I simply felt it was murder in cold blood.”

According to the Haaretz transcript, the squad leader protested the rules of engagement, which he said allowed soldiers to fire on Palestinian homes without giving residents a warning. After the rules were changed, his soldiers complained that “we should kill everyone there [in the center of Gaza]. Everyone there is a terrorist.”

According to Haaretz, the squad leader went on to say that, “You do not get the impression from the officers that there is any logic to it, but they won’t say anything. To write ‘death to the Arabs’ on the walls, to take family pictures and spit on them, just because you can. I think this is the main thing: To understand how much the IDF has fallen in the realm of ethics, really. It’s what I’ll remember the most.”

All these war crimes remind me of the evils perpetrated by another occupying force – the Japanese Imperial Army during World War Two, and what they did to the Chinese and other Asians in China, Korea and Southeast Asia.

Get my latest updates. ‘Like’ my Facebook Page.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Govt wiretapping opposition? MHA must respond to State Dept

I glanced through the US Department of State’s annual human rights report on Singapore. It contains little that I don’t already know. Much of it was a cut-and-paste from last year’s report.

Yet there were a few interesting tidbits that I noticed.

In June a visiting foreign citizen, Gopalan Nair, was arrested for comments he made in his blog about the High Court judge presiding in the hearing to assess damages in the Chee defamation case. He was charged with insulting a public servant, which carried a maximum fine of S$5,000 ($3,759) or one year in prison.

Gopalan Nair is a US citizen, albeit a former Singaporean. I found it interesting that the US State Dept (i.e., its foreign ministry), which is supposed to defend the interests of its citizens abroad, chose to avoid stating that Nair was a US citizen. I can think of two possible reasons. One, most Americans won’t even suspect or care that he is a US citizen; and two, they probably don’t want to cause an uproar back home over him, and jeopardize bilateral relations. Although that latter statement is probably me getting too big headed. Why would a hyperpower like the US care about offending Singapore in this respect?

The Films Act bans political advertising using films or videos as well as films directed towards any political purpose. The act does not apply to any film sponsored by the government, and the act allows the MICA minister to exempt any film from the act.

Another interesting omission was that they failed to mention anything about the AIMS committee, the government’s response to their report and the proposed “liberalisations” of the Internet and the Films Act. Either they thought that these were too insignificant to be worthy of mention, or it happened too late to make it to press time. I know that the US embassy here has taken some interest in these developments, so I’m surprised they didn’t report about it. Or maybe it’s because technically, the Films Act has yet to be amended — I believe it is still pending its second reading in Parliament.

The report also did not mention about the spike in incidences of cheating of foreign workers from Bangladesh, China and elsewhere. This must come as a huge relief to MOM, whose officers had probably already prepared a rebuttal and cleared it with their Minister for release.

The belief that the government might directly or indirectly harm the employment prospects of opposition supporters inhibited opposition political activity; however, there were no confirmed cases of such retaliation.

I’m glad to hear there were no confirmed cases — in 2008. I hope that continues on for 2009 and beyond, especially during an election year. In my opinion, this is the single biggest reason why the opposition continues to face such difficulties in recruiting more capable Singaporeans into their ranks.

Yet,

Law enforcement agencies, including the Internal Security Department and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Board, have extensive networks for gathering information and conducting surveillance and highly sophisticated capabilities to monitor telephone and other private conversations. No court warrants are required for such operations. It was believed that the authorities routinely monitored telephone conversations and the use of the Internet. It was widely believed that the authorities routinely conducted surveillance of some opposition politicians and other government critics.

I wonder who these opposition politicians they are monitoring are? “Politicians” could mean elected MPs, or simply opposition party members. I consider it a gross invasion of privacy if they are wiretapping the telephone conversations and emails of law-abiding opposition members. It will be even more appalling and unacceptable if they are monitoring elected opposition MPs. That would be a huge misuse of government and taxpayer resources for political ends.

Imagine if Internal Security Department (ISD) officers — who are civil servants — are monitoring opposition party conversations and emails, and are reporting all their election strategies to the Prime Minister! I sure hope this is not happening, because I think the ISD and the PAP will lose every remaining shred of credibility if they do revolting things like that. If they don’t, then the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) should come out and strongly rebut this accusation by the US and state clearly that nothing of this sort happens in Singapore.

I have written separately to MHA to highlight this to them and request for their action.

Get my latest updates. ‘Like’ my Facebook Page.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,