19 September 2006

Just Another Day in Singapore

As I walk to my office every morning, I am frequently accosted by people handing out flyers in public places. I get flyers with promotional offers to join the new "Fitness First" gym. I get flyers about special discounts at some newly-opened restaurant. I get flyers about investing in UK properties; about the wonders of noni juice; and how to make money by being a part-time telemarketeer.

Flyers are such a common part of Singaporeans' daily lives that I wonder why police officers must waste their time following the distributors around and using video cameras to film them in action. It is a sad reflection on our nation that the following story should even qualify as newsworthy:

Reuters, Monday September 18, 5:02 PM
Singapore opposition leader allowed to distribute flyers

SINGAPORE, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Singapore opposition leader Chee Soon Juan, whose stand-off with police in a city park near "Speakers' Corner" is in its third day, was allowed to leave the area and distribute pamphlets, police said on Monday.

At midday, Chee and a handful of supporters walked to Raffles Place, close to the Suntec City convention centre where the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank are taking place. He handed out pamphlets that criticised Singapore's curbs on free speech and freedom of assembly.

Chee and his supporters walked to the site separately, as any gathering of more than four people is illegal without a permit.

"(Chee) was advised not to proceed as a group as it might constitute an illegal procession," a police spokeswoman said.

After about an hour, the group returned to the park, where since Saturday police have blocked them from carrying out a planned protest march to the IMF-World Bank venue.

"Police followed the group to observe and ensure that they did not carry out illegal activities as they were still in the general vicinity of Suntec City and Parliament House," the spokeswoman said.

Chee told Reuters that he had distributed about 500 pamphlets, and that the group plans to hand out more during the evening rush hour.

"We just wanted to register the point that we have been stopped, but we are not defeated," said Chee.

Chee said many people were afraid to accept the pamphlets as policemen were recording the scene with several video cameras.

"The reason we are here is because we are protesting against the denial of the rights of Singaporeans to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly," read the pamphlet.

Chee reiterated that he and his supporters will remain in the park until Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gives his speech at the IMF-World Bank meetings' opening ceremony on Tuesday morning.
Incidentally, if you are a Singaporean and you don't already have the habit of surfing the Net for non-SPH-produced news about Singapore, I encourage you to do so. It can be quite an educational experience, whatever your own personal views about Singapore may be. Yawning Bread gives an interesting example.

Here's a photo from AFP. The caption they used was "Singapore dissident steals show from world financial summit".

753930470


Oh. So scary. What a severe threat to public security. No wonder we need to mobilise 23,000 police NSmen and surround Suntec City with steel barricades and barbed wire. Otherwise buildings may fall down and all the IMF delegates may die.

The following picture has been circulating around the Internet. It shows opposition politican Chee Siok Chin (Chee Soon Juan's sister) literally being surrounded by a bunch of police officers. Apparently this is to stop her from carrying out a protest march to Suntec City.

pic-651d


They know that they have no legal power to arrest her (she isn't committing any crime). So they decide to stop her by surrounding her. If you look closely at the picture, you can actually see the police officers putting their arms around each other to form a circle to confine Siok Chin inside. I wonder if Siok Chin did ever try to squeeze through their legs or something. I mean - what if she needed to go to the Ladies in a hurry?

This is so childish. And shameful. Furthermore, if I remember my first-year law school Law of Torts well enough, these police officers have probably just committed "the tort of false imprisonment". Basically this means that you're illegally confining a person and breaching her right to move about freely. Hey, police officers, she can sue you for that, you know?

I never did like Chee Soon Juan. But the Singapore authorities are certainly doing a great job in making me feel more sympathetic to his cause.

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85 comments:

JoE said...

i wonder if the intention of the police videographing these people is just to strike fear on them. i really can't think of any other reason why they're doing it.

sei-ji rakugaki said...

of course not, Joe;) why would the police want to create a climate of fear?They are most benign and constantly protecting us from bad influences. Look at the world bank meetings. In actual fact, the police is protecting us from the delegates, and not the other way round. we should always hold our police in the "greatest" respect;)

Anonymous said...

If only Slyvia Lim, Low Thia Khiang, Chiam See Tong and Steve Chia will join in the protests. Would the PAP regime arrest them in front of the international press? Will we support them or will we be politically anal and criticise them?

If we all go down and help CSJ, will we get arrested too?

For goodness sake, freedom of assembly in our Republic of Singapore CONSTITUTION!

For goodness sake, even China allows peaceful demostrations.

"To build a democratic society, based on justice and equality"

Singaporeans should stop looking away from Injustice!

Tell your PAP MPs that you dun approve of the police action.

Tell your PAP MPs that Singaporeans had enough!

JoE said...

sei-ji, i don't understand - in what way are the police protecting us by videographing people giving out and receiving flyers?

Kenny said...

Using cameras to strike fear into citizens is an old trick of the MIW. When students streamed into court to hear the proceedings involving Tan Wah Piow and Phey Yew Kok, a cameraman was stationed at the door, clicking away as the students file past. One of my friends was emboldened to go up to him and ask what was he doing. The cameraman said, "Don't worry, no film inside."

Anonymous said...

haha... the CSJ saga has made it to the front page of Financial Times

Anonymous said...

Anon above is correct. Freedom of assembly is allowed in the Singapore constitution (Mr Wang, you're the legal expert, so I won't comment further here.)

The problem is that here in Singapore, one needs to apply for a permit and invariably, our polices never approves it, particularly if one is from an opposition party or an "unapproved" oufit. And the blanket reason given is always maintenance of public order.

The police does however approve demonstrations by the ruling party and its organs. Recall the march led by NTUC against the US for alleged interference in Singapore's domestic affairs in 1987?

In most enlightened societies, one still needs to apply for permits to conduct a peaceful protest or demonstration. Depending on the conditions, these permits are always granted. In other words, the rule is for the police to say okay rather than a reflexive no.

In fact, the police often assist with the running of the demonstration, ensuring that traffic is cleared for the protest march for example.

I look forward to the day this can happen in Singapore. As some wisecrack will say, "wait long long".

Anonymous said...

I am happy with all these developments. Less good news, less hip Singapore means less foreign talent coming in. More jobs for Singaporeans. Yippee ! Aren't you glad?

Anonymous said...

The kind of foreign talents that come here aren't looking for hip, they are looking for transit stops.

I actually look forward to the opening of the Casinos.

It will be another battle with the foreigners. Unlike the IMF/WB reputable gangsters, the IRs are bringing in the also powerful but less reputable types.

All gangsters lah.

John Riemann Soong said...

It's rather curious how the police want to film everything ... it's like they're creating evidence against themselves to be charged later should an oppurtunity for upheaval occur ...

Take all they want lah, just give us some of the shots too. They shouldn't be so kaypoh and kiasu (a le meme temps) with their photos hor.

Anonymous said...

The actions by the police may seem pathetic and silly on the surface but it's actually rather clever if we look beyond the freedom of speech and security issues to the implications of allowing free speech.

We would probably be shocked by what could be revealed and defamation suits will no longer be effective weapons.

Furthermore, we are under the glare of international media right now. The probably accounts for why CSJ and company have not been arrested yet and are even allowed to distribute flyers.

There is a reason why wolves hide in sheep skin.

Anonymous said...

I wonder is the authority is over killing the situation. I never did like Chee but now looking at how they are being treated by the police, I really feel for them.

Food for thought - Why is the Police wasting their resources haressing SDP members? Shouldn't they be spending more time catching housebreaker and thieves? (They are on the rise judging from the police website)

Remember the tax payer are paying their salaries.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, the action depicted in the pictures is defecating on our constitution! And the law enforcement is the one doing it! Well done, Singapore, we have successfully acheived a new low.

Anonymous said...

Uh oh... yawning bread seems to be down. I hope this is merely a mundane glitch due to high traffic on the site, and not due to a concerted denial of service attack, or worse.

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Return to Yahoo!

Anonymous said...

I suggest another use for the videos. The police bring it back and distribute to government organisations. Now, the government may not be able to use their imperium power to get back at these Chee supporters, but this government has very strong dominium power it can use unaccountably. Many people depend on the favour to some degree, one way or another of this government to earn a living, whether or not . Not only is the government an employer, GLCs are also employers. Town councils are also employers. And they all have some limited discretion in who they enter into contracts with as consumers of goods and services. Be caught offending the government or one of its official or unofficial agencies, and they may use their power as private power as employers or consumers against you. Why do you think so many people volunteer their free time to serve in grassroots organisations? Why do they all pay good money to attend PAP MPs' National Day dinners. Why do some people turn up to show their support to their MP patrons? The exercise of dominium power is improper, but because the source of this power is private law, namely contract law, it is often able to exercise this power without public scrutiny and accountability. Nevertheless, it is a power that thould be watched, and it is a power the government will not give up easily. Hence its reluctance to stay out of commmerce.

ReportedYBSiteDownToYahoo said...

Ya, I also noticed Yawning Bread was down since Tuesday 19-Sep-2006 afternoon. Thought it was peak traffic volume issue, but cannot be since it's now 1+am Singapore time. Anyway, I just reported it to Yahoo from the link on the error message page.

'Police Officer' said...

these police officers have probably just committed "the tort of false imprisonment". Basically this means that you're illegally confining a person and breaching her right to move about freely. Hey, police officers, she can sue you for that, you know?

Yea.. but guess who'd win? Wong Kan Seng of course!

Galven Lee said...

Mr Wang, I would like to know why you never really liked Dr. Chee?

Anonymous said...

Can get http://www.yawningbread.org/ just fine from Canada

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr Wang, I wonder why you say you never did like CSJ, is it through personal experience?

Not that I'm a CSJ fan, but if you hear him speak and see him in person, you'll realise that he's really not as mad or deranged as the media makes him out to be (and I'm sure you would know better than to trust the MSM on this ;). In fact, CSJ's actually quite sane and rationale, so rationale that the powers that be are actually afraid of him, knowing that they can never answer or account directly to him (or to anybody) asking those questions, and so they choose to demonise, villify and otherwise paint in inimical terms his intentions for Singapore.

Anonymous said...

The police were merely obediently following their masters' instructions. I'm sure some men in blue are ardent fans of CSJ themselves too, but unfortunately ricebowl comes first.

Every member and kin of the Lee family must be exterminated, exiled, incarcerated or executed, before real change and progress can come to pass in Singapore, and I am not exaggerating. CSJ says non-violence, I say violence if needs be, as a last resort.

If there's a problem, you solve it. If there's a sickness, you cure it. The Lees are the problem. The Lees are the sickness.

Anonymous said...

I am yet another anon.. not the same as the one above.. :)

And also like to urge you to meet Dr CSJ in person.. I have heard him at one of the NUS LTs, and also at his rally.

He is truly amazing to me.. though I would admit that I will also perceive him as a moron if I also know him from out mass media.

Anonymous said...

From my observation, CSJ is a true singaporean and patriot. He went into politics because he believes in democratic ideals and how they will benefit Singapore and Singaporeans in the long term. Together with JBJ, the two are fighters against tyranny and enemies of authoritarianism and oppression. The two have been been incarcerated in poodle jails, made bankrupt by the kangaroo courts and the judicial system, and their credibility destroyed by the PAP-controlled media. Yet they persist. Their selfless courage and sacrifice is inspiring.

Those of you present at Hong Lim will notice CSJ made no mention of SDP. Unlike the rest of the political parties, CSJ is truly non-partisan and does not seek to do things in the name of his political party (though some would say this is politically naive). His ideals and actions rise above rhetorical showboating and petty party politics.

CSJ and JBJ have my utmost respect. Majullah Singapura.

Anonymous said...

i saw a some folks filming the police filming csj... dat was hilarious...

Anonymous said...

KTM does not agree wif you woh.

He is saying that u like to give "a very lopsided view of the world, and so the burden falls on the kay poh KTM to provide the other view of the world" leh.

What are your responses to that?

Mr Wang Says So said...

This KTM fella, heheh, he is always disagreeing with me - it's habitual for him. If you go to SIngapore ANgle blog and read comments about Singaporeans admission to universities, you can see him disagreeing with me again ... Anyway, about this demo matter, I already left a response on his blog.

Anonymous said...

hehe so fast u respond liao!

Anyway yeah both of you are always disagreeing with one another but at least he bring up some valid pts, which can only be gd right? lolz

annon Wednesday, September 20, 2006 12:44:50 PM

lee hsien tau said...

I stay nearby.

I went down to take a look 2 hours after the march was supposed to take place, and both Dr Chee and his sister were individually surrounded by ISD and policewomen goons respectively.

The 'march' hadn't even managed to cross the road; the stand-off was stuck in the park so to speak.

Shortly after I got there, Ms Chee managed to get almost to the 7-Eleven store before the river. Policewomen goons aren't as sturdy as ISD goons, and even then, only one of the ISD goons was chink.

A few hours and my arms turning a respectable red later, I limped alone to Parliament House, where nobody but 5 more goons were picketed outside the front of Parliament House (with renovation still going on). I overheard one goon asking another what was going on, and was told they were standing by (in case you weren't aware, goons do have brains but aren't expected to use them).

When I limped back from Parliament House, Dr Chee had still to make it across the road. I gave up and went back to watch 'full-metal alchemist'.

ReportedYBSiteDownToYahoo said...

Yahoo replied, said no problem with their server, their email suggested checking with the ISP and/or checking for virus. I still cannot access YB site. Had the problem since yesterday afternoon, and it is now 4+pm on Wed 20-Sep-2006 Singapore time. Anyone else in Singapore having this problem?

Mr Wang Says So said...

I just accessed, no problem.

Anonymous said...

"ELEVEN convent schools in Singapore have threatened legal action against Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) for an article that allegedly defamed convent schoolgirls."

Anonymous said...

I can now access YB, too, thank goodness. (I was the original anonymous coward who reported the problem here yesterday.)

Interestingly, at the same time that YB was inaccessible from Singapore, I had no problem connecting to the site when logged (remotely) into a computer in Malaysia. So the server was never actually down, and as far as I can tell there have been no major backbone disruptions between YB's server and our region.

Looks like our national-level proxy servers are the culprit here, albiet unwittingly.

Miss PO said...

I passed Chee Soon Juan and his protest earlier this week. It was a joke to see so many policemen surrounding a handful of 'protestors,' with slightly more onlookers than policemen. Do our policemen have such little confidence in their crowd control techniques that so many of them had to resort to circling the poor woman in that manner? I, too, have never really liked Chee Soon Juan, but that day I started to gain more respect for him. His timing is brilliant, and his brave actions announce to the world the gags we live under. I am a Singaporean, my family is here, and I like living here. But some days, such as these, I am embarrassed to be one.

ReportedYBSiteDownToYahoo said...

Yup, can accessed it liao! :) Paiseh, Mr Wang... had to use ur site to cross-check if it was technical problem or ??? :P

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the police is too involve in IMF. I thought priority is still to protect its own citizens first. Instead of arresting activists and protecting foreigners, they should look at us too. The person is dead, it is too late.


================================================== =====

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/230881/1/.html

Man killed in gang attack at Havelock Road

By Sharon Tong, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 17 September 2006 1057 hrs


A man has died after being attacked by a group of men at Havelock Road early Sunday.

Police responded to a call about an injured man lying at Central Square at about 1.40am.

He had suffered some stab wounds to his stomach and was sent to the Singapore General Hospital where he died about half an hour later.

Investigations showed the victim was with a woman when he was attacked by a group of about 8 to 10 men, believed to be Malays in their 20s.

A second victim, who was nearby when the attack happened, suffered some cuts to his right forearm.

The assailants, who were clad in black jackets or sweaters, were seen running along Havelock Road and into New Market Road.

No weapons have been recovered at the crime scene. - CNA/ir

ReportedYBSiteDownToYahoo said...

I share miss po's sentiments. That's why I kept going back to YB to check if there's latest update to the stand-off. Sorry, I'm too cowardly to go down to personally "look-see".

IMHO, given the police ratio deployed to handle only 8 peaceful protesters, no wonder the police needed to implement such extreme measures to "protect" the safety of the 16+K IMF/WB delegates :P Imagine how many police officers will be needed to surround 500 protesters?

Anyway, just like miss po and other commentators, I also did not think much of CSJ, probably MSM's reports added to my bias. But now I really respect him. At least he has the guts to stand for his beliefs and views.

1 CSJ is then worth more than those MIW toeing the party-whip. Those who have yet to explain why despite their annual million $ pay for the past years, the Singapore system is so shaky (according to LKY) that it will not survive an election outcome that changes the leading political party. Even Thailand, a developing country with much poorer-paid ministers, has a system that survives several coups! Based on reports about the Thai locals, they seem confident that the Thailand system will survive the current coup as well.

Mickell said...

Policemen don't just follow any Tom, Dick, Harry flyer-distributor. They were merely doing their job. They probably had been given orders by their superiors to keep a close watch on Chee and his supporters. So they didn't film the proceedings because they wanted to, but because they were ordered to do so.

Anonymous said...

I am really surprised that the grand sire has been surprisingly quiet. His subdued behaviour is extremely out of his nature. All I know is that the killer dogs will be unleashed soon. It will drastic for the grand sire and his brood have never been put to such shame before. I just hope the hunted manage to find that hole in the fence..

Anonymous said...

"My ambition, having created this Singapore, is to preserve the system..."

Creater of Singapore..so humble

moomooman said...

Chee Soon Juan's motives is to destroy Singapore in the name of Freedom of Speech.

He has try to smear a bad reputation of Singapore, an act not seen by other opposition leaders with an interest to help Singapore like Sylvia Lim, Low Thia Khiang, Chiam See Tong and Steve Chia.

We sometimes think CSJ is a hero, willing to go against the authority. But as a Singaporean, are you proud of what he did to your country, even if you think he has a point?

He could have done all these throughout the year but he chose to do this at the time to get maximum exposure worldwide, not to benefit Singapore but to champion his name as the lone "activist" and perhaps make a name for himself which he so succeeded with name and picture spread the whole wide world.

Why are we pitying them for destroying Singapore? Unlike you think Singapore should be "damaged" or should be "punished".

Anonymous said...

Frankly I think Chee just wants to get publicity for himself and undermine Singapore for his own reasons. There are also sources that say he is being funded by overseas groups that have a keen interest in trying to influence our politics. As Moo as said if you love the country, you will do your best to make things work even against odds not always creating a stir by doing things that are against the law and basically bringing shame to us all. The only thing Chee has done is to get Chiam almost kicked of of parliament because he lost his leadership of SDP. I respect opposition members like Chiam, Slyvia Lim and the sucide 6 (The young ones that went against PM Lee) who work with the rules to get us the people a voice. But not Chee.... and voters during the last GE have proven so too.

And I do admit that the police were really dumb in what they did... its either you arrest him and get him out of public eye or leave him alone... but now? it is embrassing......

John Riemann Soong said...

I don't get what's so bad at doing it at the meetings: the point is that they will put the government at a tight spot if there are more eyes watching!

It is to attract pressure to Singapore's undemocratic situation.

The government has hurt Singapore more than the opposition was ever able to.

Anonymous said...

In other words, Chee Soon Juan does things to highlight the bad aspects of Singapore so as to embarrass Singapore in front of the world ... but he does this in the hope that the government will therefore change those bad aspects of Singapore.

Let's face it - if Singapore freely allowed peaceful demonstrations, then none of the recent embarrassing things would have happened. Then the question is - why can't the government just ALLOW peaceful demonstrations?

Anonymous said...

That is because demos are never peaceful and they always have a chance to spill over to violence. Examples is Taiwan now. And frankly I dont think that Chee is doing anything to "correct" wrongs. Opposition members such as Chiam and Low get voted in without having to resort to calling for attention from the press. Chee on the other hand is like a mad dog raving at anything.

Anonymous said...

Anything can spill over to become violent too. Remember the MacDonald Hello Kitty promotion?

Also very violent leh.... I kenna bruises trying to get one of those kitties too.

Not only is Chee mad, some singaporeans also mad one.

Anonymous said...

Who says demonstrations are never peaceful? I am a Singaporean studying in a UK university and I see plenty of students demonstrating every year. Not only are the demonstrations peaceful, many are fun, creative, meaningful, entertaining and/or serious.

In Singapore, you have your own examples, what. I hear that there was an SDP demo last year in Robinson Road.

4 peaceful people, standing in a straight line, not walking, not moving, not carrying a flag, not even saying a word to anyone.

The only "violence" came from the big squad of fierce-looking riot police who came with shields and batons and police dogs to break them up.

Anonymous said...

PAP also got "demonstration", what. It's called "election rally" - lots of screamers and flag-wavers like to go. Hahaha.

Anonymous said...

Chee is violent? His demonstrations will be violent? My ass, lah.

S-League soccer match or Great Singapore Sale got 100 times higher probability of violence.

John Riemann Soong said...

May Fourth Movement was not peaceful. But we champion it in history.

So was the People's Power Demonstrations in Indonesia - what, would you have liked Suharto to remain?

Anonymous said...

Gandhi Ambalam's Speech at Speaker's Corner

Gandhi is former PSC scholar, chief Editor at TCS who is now part of the SDP. Smart Guy.

Really Good Speech, Please take a look.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-vaNPFzk6s

Anonymous said...

To anonymous above at Friday, September 22, 2006 2:56:14 PM:

Thanks for info :) I grateful that some1 made the speech accessible on the net. Sorry, I'm one of those cowards who don't dare to go to the event personally. Nevertheless, I care about how policies affect me and therefore am thankful for the broad-range of information so that I may be an "informed" voter (not just an "MSM-informed" voter).

Regarding the speech: To be honest, I'm a tad disappointed with some contents of the speech e.g. "Jobs for foreigners, NS for Singaporeans"... more for inciting emotions than reasoning.

Otherwise, I agree with many of the good points Gandhi raised, e.g.

1. Ministers who are so blinkered to a true local's life yet telling us how to live (e.g. quality of public transport, cost of living, underpaid job is better than nothing).

2. Influx of foreigners to keep wages down. IMHO, these foreigners are mostly transient by nature even though they applied for PR and/or even citizenship. Just speak to them personally, they'll review to you

(a) their retire-in-comfort-back-home plans after x years hardship stint here OR

(b) their grab-what-you-can plans to use their Singapore PR/citizenship as a stepping stone for them to facilitate their next PR/citizenship change.

As for keeping wages down, to maintain Singapore's competitiveness. Anyone with basic economic sense (or even common sense) will tell you this cannot only be long-term or even mid-term strategy. Yet the PAPpies-run-gahmen has been using this strategy for more than 10 years already and are still using it!

3. Police saying this-and-that is illegal without telling which law(s) is(are) at stake.

4. NTUC being more of a commercial income generator than a Trade Union representing workers.

Yes, who says the opposition does not have quality? In the 1st place, CSJ could have easily migrated to other countries with his PhD, instead of choosing to participate Singapore politics. Now there is Gandhi - former PSC scholar, chief Editor at TCS. Chiam who held his ward despite years of David-vs-Goliath battles. JBJ was so good that the PAPpies-run-gahmen had to back-date law changes to nail him. Quality of WP newbies are also good.

p.s. Aha! We finally hv our own "Gandhi" ya? Wonder if he can do a "salt match" equivalent [the match that showed unduly oppressive nature of the British colony's laws then] :P

Anonymous said...

Oops, typo for my anonymous post above at Friday, September 22, 2006 7:52:39 PM:

Anyone with basic economic sense (or even common sense) will tell you this cannot be long-term or even mid-term strategy. Yet the PAPpies-run-gahmen has been using this strategy for more than 10 years already and are still using it!

Anonymous said...

Dissent is patriotic.

Don't call someone violent, stupid, misguided, have insidious agendas, an attention whore etc for standing up, standing out and telling it like it is.

All is not right in Singapore, contrary to the mainstream news in print and in broadcast. The police actions are eloquent testimony to this fact.

Indi said...

You wrote: "I never did like Chee Soon Juan"

May I ask why you never liked Chee Soon Juan?

Anonymous said...

Don't think its a matter of like or dislike. Its not a popularity or beauty contest.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang is a very skilful writer. He may or may not actually not like CSJ, but I feel that at least part of the reason why he wrote that sentence is to get readers to see that whether you like CSJ or not is not the issue.

What happened in Hong Lim Park should not have happened. It does not matter whether that person being encircled by police officers was Chee Siok Chin, Catherine Lim, Lee Kin Mun, Lee Hsien Yang or Low Thia Kiang.

Whether you like or dislike the person in the circle, she was not committing any crime. She should never have been encircled like that.

John Riemann Soong said...

I think some people miss the point. They say they don't like Chee Soon Juan, fine.

But remember, it's EXACTLY when we don't like the person or what they say that we MUST stand up for their *right* to say it.

Indi said...

apart from the issue at the park, I am particularly interested to hear from Mr Wang why he chose not to like Chee Soon Juan.

Is it because of the personality of Chee Soon Juan?

I am eager to know because after seeing the film Singapore Rebel I thought Chee is quite likable. I felt like I could learn something from him.

Mr Wang Says So said...

I have observed how he often plays up certain events in his legal proceedings in the Singapore courts, which make it seem as if the judge is treating him in some horribly unfair way or as if the courts are trying to hide something from the public.

I note that on those occasions, actually nothing very unusual is happening and the case is just proceeding as per normal, according to the standard rules of court procedure.

That's what I don't like about Chee.

Example - he has kicked up a big fuss about "summary judgment" proceedings; which is a kind of legal proceeding where the case is decided but without a full trial, and not in open court. He has tried to suggest that something unusual, unfair and strange was happening to him.

Actually, summary proceedings happen every day in the Singapore courts, as well as in the courts of other countries - there are clearly defined rules about when they can be used and when they cannot be used, and so on.

I could run through all those rules, but they would take a long essay, which I'm not inclined to write today.

John Riemann Soong said...

Hmm, but without expert knowledge, it would seem to conveniently invoke summary judgment at a point where judicial independence is a major issue is a tad suspicious ...

Of course, it might be perfectly justifiable but I have no knowledge what those rules are.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Exactly. Chee, however, knows, because he is in the thick of things. However, he chooses to play things up as if something really wicked is happening.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

I agree that the court proceedings may be normal, however, in dealing with political cases, I think an exception needs to be made.

We are not talking about a two bit criminal but matters of national politics. Surely the events of NKF warrant a clear airing?

Whatever CSJ is, at least he deserves our respect for his ability to "play" in the system that is heavily stacked against the opposition.

Mr Wang Says So said...

The point is that as far as I can see, nothing unfair happened to CSJ in the court proceedings. The system treated him as it would have treated any other defendant. CSJ however spun it to look as if something unusual and unfair was happening - that really just wasn't the case.

Anonymous said...

As much as I applaud his courage to fight for freedom of speech, I am not inclined to vote for his party simply because they don't have concrete plans on how to run the country.

It is easy to find fault but more difficult to solve problems.

Indi said...

mr wang,

which aspect of his mission would you support? (for the sake of Change in SG).

do you have any suggestion on how he should act/re-act in the context of what happened at the park?

Anonymous said...

The Police are merely doing what has been instructed to them. iT's not as though they wanted to stay there the entire day to block the procession.

Also, everybody pays taxes. If tax payers pay the wages of the Police, do you mean to say that the Police are working for free?

Do remember that the Police serve the NATION, not the GOVERNMENT.

NATION = Singapore and its people. GOVERNMENT = Ruling Party (ie PAP). There is a difference you know. A BIG one.

Anonymous said...

I agree that some of the opposition candidates are quality ones, as can be seen by the new crop unearthed by the WP.

However, CSJ is just a person who talks without having evidence to back his claims. That's how he got into all the unnecessary lawsuits in the first place innit; he shot his mouth off without any proof.

Of course he'd be sued for defamation, right? If he cannot control his emotions and speak rationally, how can he be an MP and serve the people?

You might say no to the PAP, but then most alternatives are better than CSJ.

Anonymous said...

The Police enforce the law, they don't create it. If you've any issues with Singaporean Laws, kindly let the Chief Justice know.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, in the current "summary judgement" case, wasn't it the Lees who said they would stand and face trial in an open court? Yet they chose to apply for summary judgement, and most crucially the court agreed and went ahead. What do u call that, if that is not a compliant court in Lees' favour?

And if we go back even earlier, to cases involving all opposition politicians being sued for defamation, the ruling on police action at the peaceful CPF building protest, the court's behaviour and judgement were certainly biased and partisan. Everyone can see for themselves how partial the court is.

I can understand mr wang's unhappiness at CSJ choosing to highlight such matters because it doesn't put the court in a good light. But where i stand, the court's poor rep is entirely of its own doings.

It is also my guess that being a former employee of the system Mr Wang may have momentarily lost sight of the broader picture when the matter of CJS arises, and let old ties and feelings come to the fore before objectivity.

Anonymous said...

"The Police enforce the law, they don't create it. "



Vaguely-worded laws allow the police to act inappropriately. Most importantly, after the fact the partisan and compliant court will interpret the law and back the police's actions. This symbiotic relationship allows the police to act with virtual impunity in cases involving opposition politicians.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Told you already.

A trial is for cases where there is a dispute of fact. What is a dispute of fact?

Example:

the Plaintiff alleges, "On 31 Dec, the Defendant wrote this sentence - XYZ - about me and published it in his newsletter which was read by many people" ...

... and the Defendant denies it: "No, I never wrote such a thing. Someone else must have written it. In fact I wasn't even in the country at that time and I have never even heard of such a newsletter."

That is a dispute of fact. Then a trial is needed and the judge hears all the witnesses and evidence, in order to decide whether it was Defendant who said XYZ, or some impostor, and whether Defendant was even in the country, and whether such a sentence "XYZ" was even published.

Sometimes there is no dispute of fact. For example, Plaintiff the Plaintiff alleges, "On 31 Dec, the Defendant wrote this sentence - "XYZ" - about me and published it in his newsletter which was read by many people."

... and Defendant agrees, he says, "Yes, that's true, XYZ is exactly what I think of the Plaintiff and that's why I wrote it."

So there is no dispute of fact.

Then it becomes a pure question of law as to whether XYZ constitutes defamation or not. No witnesses are required (and therefore no trial is required), if Plaintiff and Defendant agree fully on all the relevant facts.

Summary proceedings instead are taken where the judge (or more precisely the registrar) will hear the lawyers' arguments on whether XYZ is defamatory.

That's it.

Records of summary proceedings, btw, are publicly available. You can get them from the court registry for a small fee. Something else which Chee forgot to mention to you.

By the way, if there is no dispute of fact, and I apply for summary proceedings, it would be legally and procedurally wrong of the court to deny the application.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, I don't have any particular CSJ case in mind. But to me, his cases always seems to involve a dispute of FACTS.

For instance, when he is sued for defamation (which often happens), there might be no dispute over what he had said. But whether his words constitute "defamation" is often disputable. CSJ oftens claims that he will produce evidence to support his claim if LKY is cross-examined.

Another reason why I support CSJ is that the Singapore courts are clearly biased against him. As a lawyer, you should understand that few lawyers will want to represent him. Often, Queen's counsels in other countries are willing to represent him for free. However, the Singapore courts have often (or always?) turn down those applications (because they are "not complex" enough). Then again, why allow PAP leaders to be represented by Senior Counsels (which are the Singapore's equivalent of QCs)?

There are lots of double-standards whenever an opposition politician is involved. Lots of details are their website:

http://singaporedemocrat.org/

Anonymous said...

People, people. Please lah, must be reasonable.

Just because a person is a PAP member, therefore he cannot be allowed to engage Senior Counsel? This is not right.

Anyone in Singapore should be allowed to engage any lawyer in Singapore, provided that the lawyer is willing.

Whether the lawyer is willing is of course another question and I think it's probably fair to say that many lawyers would not be willing to represent CSJ.

BUT just because few good lawyers would not be willing to represent CSJ does not mean that PAP members should be barred from engaging good lawyers!

Finally I hate to be pedantic but this discussion is going offtrack. Mr Wang says he didn't like CSJ, and he gave his reasons why (CSJ loves to play up things). Now, whether the courts are compliant or not is a DIFFERENT issue. Mr Wang could agree that the courts are compliant or he could disagree that the courts are compliant, BUT this hardly changes the (purported or actual) fact that CSJ loves to play things up.

- a lawyer

Anonymous said...

That is mighty simplistic coming from a "lawyer". I could say the Lees and the PAP "love to play things up too", suing and hauling people to court for the slightest things that displease their eyes and ears. Fortunately for them, the court is on their side.

Anonymous said...

You COULD possibly say that. Who knows, Mr Wang might INDEED agree with you. He MAY count it as his reasons for disliking the PAP (assuming that he DOES dislike the PAP). This DOESN'T necessarily change any of Mr Wang's reasons for disliking or liking CHEE (not the PAP) any more or any less.

- the same lawyer

Anonymous said...

Concerning the anon who wouldn't vote for the SDP because they don't have a "concrete plan", I can see where you are coming from but I think a few clarifications should be made.

First and foremost, members of parliament are not the equivalent of ministers - their duty is to represent their constituents. Do they have to have a concrete plan to run everything, as long as their constituents know their representative knows what they would like?

CSJ and his SDP does not need to know everything under the sun about civil administration in order to replace the government. Part of the virtue of a good elected government is deferring to other experts when it is needed.

Singapore does not follow the spoil systems, so if the opposition were to win, it wouldn't be so topsy-turvy as some people think.

Also there are other forms of democracy besides elections: referendums, more localised polls, creation of community organisations independent of the central government ....

This is why ITE graduates can run for elections, and in fact I would perhaps be inclined to vote for a karang guni man if he showed that he understood the key tenets of democracy.

Anonymous said...

"The Police enforce the law, they don't create it. If you've any issues with Singaporean Laws, kindly let the Chief Justice know."

The CJ isn't supposed to make laws either. Lawmaking and judicial review are two different concepts.

Anonymous said...

grammar correction, pardon:

*CSJ and his SDP do not need

Anyhow, people seem to have an oversimplistic view of what government is. Electing a new ruling party does not mean turning the government inside out - it just changes the mandate within the lawmaking body that is the Parliament, and gives a new faction the ability to remove or appoint individuals to government positions.

If an opposition party is elected, the police chiefs are likely to be the same, the CCCs will probably the same, the SAF is likely to be still the same, and so on. Of course the new party has now the ability to remove or appoint people (to the limits of their power) ... or perhaps some judicial reshuffling (might) ensue, but people seem to have this notion that everyone from the old would suddenly get fired if they elected a new party ... which I fear is the real reason why people vote for the PAP, the misunderstanding of how transitions to power work.

Part of the blame is not on them, considering what, we haven't experienced a power change for nearly fifty years.

Even reducing the PAP's mandate is making a statement. If you like the status quo except for a few things that you wish to change, voting for a different party does not entail giving up every single thing in the status quo the party has chosen not to explicitly mention.

If I am angry at the ruling party for not implementing a certain policy, or especially denying a fundamental right, even if this other new opposition party are completely green, I might vote for them. They don't need concrete plans on how to run a country (except the common sense items) - they just need to know how to represent our views, then pass them to others to be made into law.

Just look at the Suicide Squad.

Anonymous said...

Were LKY and his comrades any more credible when they first became rulers? LKY say things to make it seem like running a government requires rocket science or some special genetic elements found only within his family and the people he chooses. Yet we see blunders after blunders. Dont be fooled by the propaganda. I dare say many ordinary Singaporeans would do an equally credible job of leading Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Nail on the head.

It seems that the school textbooks always stressed what it took to make Singapore successful, the magician governments.

"Compare all sources. How do each show the success of the HDB programme?"

Rarely have I seen any emphasis on how the common citizen's active participation in a democracy, except for things like "not being complacent", "being loyal to country", "contributing to society".

Unless of course it's in the GEP lah. But then it wouldn't be the common citizen now, n'est-ce pas?

Anonymous said...

I think the issue goes beyond capability. Just as you wouldn't hire a CEO who does not have vision and plans to materialize it, I wouldn't trust my country's future in the hands of someone who can identify problems in a current system but does little beyond that to prove that there is a viable alternative.

Anonymous said...

The world is changing faster than we can imagine. Tony Blair, after 3 election victories and 10 yrs as PM, said in his final labour conference last week, "In government, and in politics it's always about the next challenge. The truth is, you can't go on forever." And here we have an 83 yo from a different era still at the top of the heap. To me this spells trouble. Much like Mubarak's Egypt, a giant shackled by its own chains, so too is Singapore weighed down by the burden of the older Lee. Singapore and Singaporeans should not be bearing this burden still. PAP is long overdue for renewal and remaking.

lee hsien tau said...

"The point is that as far as I can see, nothing unfair happened to CSJ in the court proceedings. The system treated him as it would have treated any other defendant. CSJ however spun it to look as if something unusual and unfair was happening - that really just wasn't the case."

Ah, but Mr Wang, that is exacty the point. You are looking at it straight and narrow. 40 odd uninterrupted years is a long time in which to tune the system absolutely to your advantage. It's like the mafia protection racket. Give him 40 years and he becomes a godfather only a gun could remove. Give him 40 years and nothing would appear unusual and unfair.

Give Thaksin 40 years and he wouldn't need to have 58 x 2 suitcases on standby. That's why Sonthi Boonyaratglin sent in the tanks. Anything more than 6 years would be too difficult to reverse.

It is LKY's legacy to strait-jacket everything, not just how the DPP and the kangaroo court thinks. Otherwise, civil cases should be subject to the same strait-jacketing.

Mr Wang, it's all in the mind. That's why I don't like you. You have been subject to the same brainwashing.

Take, for example, I'm being incarcerated for not being able to pay Town Council fees.

If you live in private estate, that's a civil matter. Who but Wong Kan Seng made it criminal?

And then the question becomes, "Is it a fact that you did or didn't pay Town Council fees? And whether this fact is disputable or not in the deliberation during the incarceration. And I'm afraid, the kangaroo would think not.

And what of the COVERT measures taken to ensure that you could not possibly have the means to afford Town Council fees in the first place? That is outside the ambit of the criminally disputable facts, the kangaroo would be persuaded to announce."

Anonymous said...

www.feer.com

The Singaporean government’s recent decision to ban the REVIEW and the defamation lawsuits against us by its two most powerful politicians take us back to a time when the city-state was a poor speck of a country sitting on one of the fault lines of a fractious region. Besieged from without and within, the government of the young People’s Action Party resorted to Draconian colonial-era laws to crush dissent. Today, Singapore is an affluent and peaceful society with ample means to protect itself, and its Southeast Asian neighborhood has progressed from confrontation to cooperation. So why is it still using repressive measures against a monthly magazine that employs a total of three full-time journalists and has 1,000 subscribers in the country?

The July article that started this most recent dispute with Singapore, “Singapore’s ‘Martyr,’ Chee Soon Juan,” sought to raise a similar question, only it focused on the methods used to silence the leader of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party. We put it to Mr. Chee himself, and he laid the blame squarely on the country’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who now holds the title of “minister mentor.”

The ruthless suppression of dissent must be kept up, he said, because as long as Mr. Lee is alive, a new generation of leaders is unable to emerge and distance themselves from his record. Mr. Lee’s past actions, which have led to human rights abuses and statist management of the economy, haunt the government. Mr. Chee believes that is the true reason dissidents like himself are hounded: “If we had parliamentary debates where the opposition could pry and ask questions, I think he is actually afraid of something like that.”

After the article was published, we received letters from Davinder Singh, a lawyer for Mr. Lee and his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, claiming that these sentiments and several other sections of the essay defamed the two men. Mr. Singh demanded apologies, removal of the article from our Web site, and an undertaking to pay damages and legal costs.

We did not comply with these demands, and proposed instead to publish a clarification that the REVIEW did not intend the article to express the defamation alleged by Mr. Singh. After several rounds of correspondence with Mr. Singh, all of which is posted on our Web site www.feer.com, we heard nothing more for 10 days. Then the Singaporean Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts announced new conditions to be imposed immediately on the REVIEW, requiring us to appoint a legal representative in Singapore to accept lawsuits, and post a S$200,000 ($126,000) bond to cover damages from such lawsuits—even those relating to already published articles—if we wished to continue circulating. This order had no basis in Singapore’s own law, which stated clearly that such regulations could be imposed only on publications that publish at least weekly or which have been found to have engaged in domestic politics. We have also posted all of our correspondence with the ministry on our Web site.

The timing and substance of this move were in our view no coincidence. It followed hard upon our refusal to apologize and pay damages. Moreover, to sue the REVIEW in Singapore, the Lees would have to serve the papers in Hong Kong, where the magazine is based, since we do not have any employees in Singapore. This means we could challenge that service and/or the enforcement of damages in Hong Kong.

With Singaporean efficiency, the government bureaucracy leaped into action on the Lees’ behalf, imposing conditions with retroactive effect in order to force the magazine to put its head on the block for the Lees to chop off. When the REVIEW refused to comply with these conditions, the Lees proceeded with their lawsuits anyway. This episode tells us much about the use of official power to chill free speech in Singapore.

The Lees’ court filings of Aug. 22, which we have posted on our Web site, claim that the REVIEW article carried the message that Mr. Lee Sr. is “unfit for office because he is corrupt.” We believe that no rational subscriber to this magazine would read the article in the way the Lees allege. Reporting an opposition MP’s claim that a leader’s policies may have led to human-rights abuses and the concealment of government errors is very different from alleging he is corrupt. Mr. Lee’s probity is legendary; we do not believe that his faults include personal corruption, and it strikes us as fantastical to allege that such an allegation was made by the REVIEW.

The lawsuits also make reference to the section of the article that notes “Singaporean officials have a remarkable record of success in winning libel suits against their critics. The question then is, how many other libel suits have Singapore’s great and good wrongly won, resulting in the cover-up of real misdeeds? And are libel suits deliberately used as a tool to suppress questioning voices?” The lawyer claims that this means that Mr. Lee Sr. “has set out to sue and suppress those who would question him as he fears such questions would expose his corruption.”

Mr. Lee certainly has an impressive record of suing his critics, as do other Singaporean officials, but since we don’t believe he is corrupt, we could hardly have meant that these lawsuits were intended to conceal corruption. Rather we asked the question, one that is legitimate and in the public interest, whether Singaporean officials have used libel lawsuits as a tool to suppress legitimate criticism.

Even defending oneself vigorously in Singapore can incur punishment. For instance, in a case involving a REVIEW article from 1987, a London queen’s counsel vigorously cross-examined the prime minister. After finding for Mr. Lee, the court awarded him aggravated damages in part because the barrister’s questions were calculated to “increase the hurt to his feelings.”

Finally, the Lees’ lawsuits against us allege that the REVIEW defamed them by referring to the scandal of the National Kidney Foundation and Chief Executive T.T. Durai. We noted that this case was exposed only because Mr. Durai, having prevailed in one defamation case, filed a second against a major bulwark of the regime, Singapore Press Holdings, which he lost. The obvious and legitimate question asked by the opposition is, how many more Durais are there in Singapore officialdom who are getting away with abuses because of the lack of an independent media and a vigorous opposition?

Corruption undoubtedly exists in Singapore, as the National Kidney Foundation scandal shows, but asserting this is not a slur—no country is entirely free of this taint. The key thing to watch is whether a government uses sunlight as a disinfectant, or sweeps its errors under the rug. Singapore’s use of press restrictions and politically motivated libel actions makes us wonder whether its reputation for clean government is deserved. For instance, in July, Minister Without Portfolio Lim Boon Heng encouraged the local media to focus more on good news and stop trying to uncover abuses: “If you want to do investigative reporting, there must be something which is wrong which has not been attended to. I think there are not many issues in Singapore that fall under this category.”

Mr. Lim’s words reflect Singapore’s deliberate program to neuter the domestic and international media. Over its 60 years, the REVIEW has often borne the brunt of this campaign. In a 1995 column for the Independent newspaper, the late Derek Davies, a former editor, recalled that in 1976 Mr. Lee Sr. threatened the magazine with ruin if it commented on sensitive matters. Then in 1985, Mr. Lee confided he had a new plan:

“He told me that he was determined to set things straight with the foreign press before he handed over power to the younger generation,” Mr. Davies wrote. “He was drafting a new press law aimed at the pockets of owners and publishers, not editors. If any publication was deemed to be ‘engaging’ in Singapore’s domestic politics, its circulation (and its profits) could be cut to a trickle, while denying it the right to claim it had been banned.”

The new law was passed in 1986, and as a commentator noted in the Times of London the following year, there was little doubt what engaging in domestic politics meant: “As a rule of thumb, any article with which Singapore disagrees and which does not carry its views is deemed to be an interference in its internal affairs.” It wasn’t long before the REVIEW fell afoul of the stricter standard. In 1987, Mr. Lee sued for libel over its coverage of the detention without trial of Catholic social workers, claiming he was portrayed as intolerant of the church and religious freedom. The government restricted the REVIEW’s circulation to a tiny number, and when Mr. Davies withdrew all distribution, it pirated the magazine with the advertisements blacked out.

Sadly, the government’s efforts at controlling coverage of Singapore have been largely successful. For local journalists, whose coverage is controlled by the government through Singapore Press Holdings, resistance is futile. And given that Singapore represents an important market for media in the region, many foreign publications are wary of offending the government. Correspondents who want to tackle controversial subjects find that even carefully nuanced articles involve so much back-and-forth with the lawyers that the effort hardly seems worthwhile. When something critical does make it into print, the appearance of a letter from Mr. Singh demanding an apology and damages has in recent years too often resulted in immediate capitulation.

We respectfully submit that balanced coverage of Singapore in the international media requires deeper reporting and tougher analysis of government actions, as well as an occasional opportunity for opposition politicians to speak for themselves without fear of financial ruin. This is one reason for the REVIEW’s decision to defend itself against these latest defamation suits.

In this issue, academics Michael Barr and Garry Rodan take on two taboo subjects in Singapore: the racial composition of its educational system and the government’s control of the local media. Mr. Barr examines whether Singapore’s claim to be a meritocracy stands up to scrutiny given the striking inequality between the races as shown by the educational advantages enjoyed by ethnic Chinese. Mr. Rodan looks at how the government controls the flow of information for the purpose of protecting and reinforcing the founding myths of the PAP regime.

These articles go straight to the heart of some of the most sensitive issues the Singapore government doesn’t want discussed: race, language, religion and culture. These topics are sometimes said to be “out of bounds.” As Mr. Lee Sr. once explained, “They are not cerebral matters which we can discuss in a Western salon. In our society, these are visceral matters. People take their religion very seriously. It is extremely dangerous to treat this just as another conversational subject.”

Mr. Lee apparently still sees the country he shepherded to independence as fragile and vulnerable. Yet having enjoyed almost 40 years of PAP rule, Singapore has had plenty of time to tame its ideological and racial demons. If after four decades the society remains so volatile that one can’t even discuss sensitive topics openly, the government must have failed in its duty to build a harmonious society.

We don’t think that’s the case. There is much to admire in Singapore’s development under the PAP, and the REVIEW has a responsibility to its readers to provide a balanced view of this record. When honest criticism is forbidden, however, balance is hard to attain. We come back to Mr. Chee’s appraisal that the real impediment to Singapore’s emergence as a self-confident, pluralist society is Lee Kuan Yew himself. After all his contributions, the minister mentor is tarnishing his legacy with attacks on the REVIEW, the international and regional press, Mr. Chee, and others who pose no threat to Singapore. We believe most Singaporeans recognize this and yearn for a fully free democracy. We look forward to that day, when we hope the REVIEW will circulate in Singapore once more.

H.R.

Anonymous said...

It is a thought, because had it been a jury trial, it would not have been settled so easily, even though juries are just finders of fact.