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The law being used to silence critics, uniquely Singapore

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Grim Reaper
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The law being used to silence critics, uniquely Singapore

Postby Grim Reaper » Tue, 19 Dec 2006 10:11 am

I am not at all a fan or supporter of Amnesty International, but they are spot on with this.

Jailing someone for expressing his opinions to other people and abusing the law to make him shut up, it is simply disgusting and there could not be a better example of how authoritarian this state in fact is.

I wish this case would get a bit more attention back in Europe and USA, so all would get a better picture of the politics of this government.




Dec 15, 5:36 AM EST


Amnesty International says Singapore government using laws to muzzle critics

SINGAPORE (AP) -- Singapore's government is using restrictive laws to stifle critics, human rights group Amnesty International said in a statement supporting the jailed leader of the country's main opposition party.

Amnesty International said civil defamation suits continue to "stifle freedom of expression" and may deter Singaporeans from expressing their views.

It also called for the immediate release of Chee Soon Juan, leader of the Singapore Democratic Party, saying he had been "arbitrarily detained for exercising his right to free expression."

Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs could not immediately be reached for comment on the statement, dated Thursday.

"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," the human rights group said.

The statement followed one last week from Human Rights Watch, which also called for Chee's release.

Chee, an outspoken critic of the government, was jailed for five weeks on Nov. 23 after he refused to pay a fine stemming from a conviction for speaking in public without a license. Two of his supporters - Gandhi Ambalam and Yap Keng Ho - also chose jail time instead of payment of their fines. They have already completed their shorter sentences.

Chee was due to be released Saturday, after just over three weeks in prison, under a state policy that prisoners serve just two-thirds of their term if they show good behavior. While in jail, Chee was hospitalized for four days after the prison doctor detected low blood pressure and traces of blood in his urine.

Singapore's authorities regularly come under fire from international human rights groups for tightly restricting speech and assembly. The authorities say such controls provide the stability that has helped turn the Southeast Asian city-state into a global economic powerhouse.

Singapore's leaders have also drawn criticism for several successful defamation suits in past years against journalists and political opponents. The leaders say they have sued to defend their personal and professional reputations.

Chee, an outspoken critic of the government, was bankrupted in February and barred from standing in elections after failing to pay former Prime Ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong some 500,000 Singapore dollars (US$303,000; €232,000) in libel damages for comments he made during the 2001 elections.

Time will come....

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Postby ksl » Tue, 19 Dec 2006 2:58 pm

yes i got to agree it's a little over the top! Although one does need to know, what was actually said too!

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Re: The law being used to silence critics, uniquely Singapor

Postby jpatokal » Tue, 19 Dec 2006 10:07 pm

Grim Reaper wrote:I am not at all a fan or supporter of Amnesty International, but they are spot on with this.

Dare I ask what your beef is with Amnesty?

Jailing someone for expressing his opinions to other people and abusing the law to make him shut up, it is simply disgusting and there could not be a better example of how authoritarian this state in fact is.

Welcome to Singapore. Now shut up and consume. :?
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Postby renter » Fri, 22 Dec 2006 10:36 am

8-) Consume as pigs do, and everyone lives happily, until the G-man comes with a chopper and we all become pork.

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Postby ashnd76 » Wed, 20 Jun 2007 2:40 pm

Well...to compare the political climate and the human rights issues of Singapore and US or Europe is impractical.

Firstly Singapore is a young nation, not even 50 years old. US on the other hand since the War of Independence nearly 300 years ago, have since come a long way. Similarly for France. Or even UK which has their common law dating back to close to 1000 years ago.

At least we in Singapore are addressing these issues. You do not see the US citizens talking about these issues in the last century, in fact there were gross human rights violations there if we look at Ku Klux Klan.

ITs a shame that even now US does silence its critics when we see the unlawful detention of suspected terrorists without access to attorney. Dats why they are situated in Guantanamo and not on US soil coz no US state will allow blatant breach of rights on their soil.

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Postby huggybear » Wed, 20 Jun 2007 4:14 pm

ashnd76 wrote:Well...to compare the political climate and the human rights issues of Singapore and US or Europe is impractical.

No it's totally pratical.

Firstly Singapore is a young nation, not even 50 years old. US on the other hand since the War of Independence nearly 300 years ago, have since come a long way. Similarly for France. Or even UK which has their common law dating back to close to 1000 years ago.

Along those lines, then Singapore can draw on the experiences and what makes those countries successful as opposed to starting from scratch and making history repeat itself.

At least we in Singapore are addressing these issues. You do not see the US citizens talking about these issues in the last century, in fact there were gross human rights violations there if we look at Ku Klux Klan.

Um, if you'd open a history book and read the history of the USA, you might come across a Martin Luther King or a Malcolm X. Two people who changed US history forever and most likely two personalities you will never find in Singapore.

ITs a shame that even now US does silence its critics when we see the unlawful detention of suspected terrorists without access to attorney. Dats why they are situated in Guantanamo and not on US soil coz no US state will allow blatant breach of rights on their soil.

there are plenty of organizations that are actually fighting for the rights of these detainees. If you've been following the press the US Court of Appeals already overturned parts of the Patriot Act that allowed the denial of due process of law for the detainees. Furthermore the US released 3 Chinese prisoners to Albania as that is the only country that will accept them (they don't want to go back to China for free of being imprisoned) so the administration is scrambling to find a country that will accept them. Besides the Bush Administration is crumbling as evidenced by the Democrats winning both the House and Senate in the last election.


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Postby ashnd76 » Wed, 20 Jun 2007 6:08 pm

sure we learn from these countries experiences, where do you think we get our law and singapore constitution from?

I'm fully aware of indivuduals like Malcolm X, and i have opened US history books and have learnt about US Constitution, but tell me when did individuals like Malcolm X talk about rights? what year was that? Was it within 50 years of the War of Independence?

I'm, sure it was much much later, after 150 years if i'm not mistaken?

What i'm saying is Singapore is still a young country, but we are addressing human rights issues, but we are not the US and we are not Europe, we are a immigrant society, as such we cant adopt lock stock and barrel.

The fact that you mentioned there are human right breaches in the US now, shows that the system there isn't perfect either.

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Postby ksl » Wed, 20 Jun 2007 6:56 pm

Or even UK which has their common law dating back to close to 1000 years ago.
And it appears nothing much as changed with regards to human rights! The so called draconic authoritarians still dictate between them selves and create their own political parties at will.

Any serious political threat is taken out of the equation at an early stage, like "Come on old boy, play the game! You know your on the losing side, now be quite and we will promote you, with a nice income, and a comfortable position in Europe, just look at all the perks you will be on"

Joe public are still left in the dark! It's true that even Singapore have adopted change in the last 50 years, although when there is a threat, like the UK, it is dealt with, only Singapore have yet, to find a more subtle way of dealing with these threats.

I guess defamation in accordance with the legal system may have served its purpose! A little unfair in the heat of a discussion don't you think!

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Wed, 20 Jun 2007 10:30 pm

ashnd76 wrote:sure we learn from these countries experiences, where do you think we get our law and singapore constitution from?

You got it originally from Britain but is has been so mangled to fit the local purpose it no longer resembles anything.

I'm fully aware of indivuduals like Malcolm X, and i have opened US history books and have learnt about US Constitution, but tell me when did individuals like Malcolm X talk about rights? what year was that? Was it within 50 years of the War of Independence?

I'm, sure it was much much later, after 150 years if i'm not mistaken?

It started long before that, but without the benefit of mass instantaneous media on the 9 o'clock news. Had that been available to Harriet Tubman or Harriet Beecher Stowe or John Brown who's to say how early change would have been accomplished. Singapore has the advantage of all the mistakes the west has made as well as the ability to use the media that the west created in order to effect those changes quicker.

What i'm saying is Singapore is still a young country, but we are addressing human rights issues, but we are not the US and we are not Europe, we are a immigrant society, as such we cant adopt lock stock and barrel.

I beg you pardon, but Singapore does not address human rights issues. It much prefers to sweep them under the rug and insist that they don't already exist (they like to claim their actions are to prevent it from when it's been here for years). Where is the human rights in detention without access to a lawyer? Terrorist or Combatants excepted. The fact that the US did has provoked an outcry that has been recently righted albiet 5 years too late. But it wasn't swept under the carpet like a certain little Red Dot is wont to do all too often.

Woopee. Singapore is an immigrant society. What is so damned unique about that? The US is the largest immigrant society on earth with the most diversification. Singapore, just like the US screwed it's native residents just like the US did. You still give the Malays short shrift just like the US does with the Native Americans. (bet you didn't expect that!) When are you going to stop swallowing the pap the the PAP puts out.


The fact that you mentioned there are human right breaches in the US now, shows that the system there isn't perfect either.

I don't, for a moment, believe anybody here said our western systems were perfect. In fact, in our quest to eliminate our breaches we have created a different but equally as bad monster called reverse discrimination thanks to the "affirmative action" laws. At least, in form we have enacted laws against discrimination and human rights. This is directly opposite to the local laws that embrace discrimination. (HDB profiling). Regardless of the reasons given the net result is the same. When you tell someone they can only buy a home if your skin is the right shade, now matter the reason it's still discrimination. And the old comeback of "it's what's good for the country" sort of tramples on human rights pretty heavily doesn't it!

Guantanamo? ISA also does a good job of ignoring human rights as well. Within the country!

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Postby huggybear » Fri, 22 Jun 2007 9:53 am

am i SMS reincarnate?
hahahaha. nice post.

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Postby Wind In My Hair » Fri, 22 Jun 2007 10:16 am

Since I'm Singaporean I'm too afraid to have a personal opinion, of course 8-[ .But if I did have one, it would be this:

Firstly, Chee Soon Juan is an idiot who gets on my nerves, but he's one of the few who has the guts to stand up to the entire government and is today probably single-handedly responsible for drawing attention to some of the appalling laws of our country. I admire him for that, but suspect that his methods are scaring off others who also have strong political convictions but just don't see themselves having to do what he does to make their point. I wish he would show the way in a more restrained, sensible manner. The Buangkok white elephant protest was much more subtle, much cleverer, and won over Singaporeans much more effectively, getting a few laughs in the process. And we in Singapore need to develop some political humour. It was very unlike Chee's limelight-grabbing tactics. But at least he's doing something.

Secondly, individual human rights have never been the focus of Singaporean society. EF can give a better thesis on the Confucian roots which mean that society's good takes precedence over individual rights as we are, as individuals, better off in a prosperous society anyway. My question is whether we really are better off as a society. Perhaps so. Many international companies that invest here cite strong governance as a key factor in their decision.

Amnesty International would do much better convincing potential investors or exisiting investors to boycott Singapore. When the government is hit economically, things will start to change pretty fast. Until then, all the rhetoric in the world is a waste of paper. And if US and European citizens feel that strongly about the lack of human rights here, then their companies should also be willing to vote with their feet. As long as they say one thing but keep pouring investments into Singapore, any idiot would know that actions speak louder than words.

But of course, I have no political opinion one way or the other. :wink:

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Postby huggybear » Fri, 22 Jun 2007 1:05 pm

Wind In My Hair wrote:Secondly, individual human rights have never been the focus of Singaporean society. EF can give a better thesis on the Confucian roots which mean that society's good takes precedence over individual rights as we are, as individuals, better off in a prosperous society anyway. My question is whether we really are better off as a society. Perhaps so. Many international companies that invest here cite strong governance as a key factor in their decision.


Companies don't give a damn about individuals. All they care about is profit. A bad public image hurts profit so in that sense they'll attempt to show they give a damn but at the end of the day it's not like you'll ever see a company being proactive in trying to pay their employees a fair wage or provide healthy working conditions. otherwise you wouldn't see companies establishing businesses in china. of course this is all driven in term by consumers who want products at the cheapest possible price. Vicious circle really. If Amnesty International or other voices in Asia didn't highlight poor working conditions, child labor, slave wages, then most people probably wouldn't know about it and there would be no pressure to change.

As far as society's good taking precedence over individual rights. I think everyone looks the other way unless it directly affects them... But then again, if the gov't restricts your access to news, it's not like you know what the real world is like and what advances are out there, or that you know you have options. It's not like anyone will give you a voice / avenue to state your case.

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Postby jpatokal » Sun, 24 Jun 2007 2:43 am

ashnd76 wrote:I'm fully aware of indivuduals like Malcolm X, and i have opened US history books and have learnt about US Constitution, but tell me when did individuals like Malcolm X talk about rights? what year was that? Was it within 50 years of the War of Independence?

The US declared independence in 1776. The Bill of Rights passed into law in 1791. Next?

What i'm saying is Singapore is still a young country, but we are addressing human rights issues, but we are not the US and we are not Europe, we are a immigrant society, as such we cant adopt lock stock and barrel.

America is just as much an immigrant society as Singapore, if not more.
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Postby earthfriendly » Sun, 24 Jun 2007 6:07 am

jpatokal wrote:
ashnd76 wrote:I'm fully aware of indivuduals like Malcolm X, and i have opened US history books and have learnt about US Constitution, but tell me when did individuals like Malcolm X talk about rights? what year was that? Was it within 50 years of the War of Independence?

The US declared independence in 1776. The Bill of Rights passed into law in 1791. Next?



Two sentence reply? Isn't that oversimplifying? Does the original Bill of Rights of 1791 imply rights for all men? And do "all men" include voting rights for women, blacks, native indians and other colored folks? Does it allow the later few groups to live and practice their original way of life amongst the masses or best kept within the confines of indian reservations, japanese intern camps or chinatown?

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Sun, 24 Jun 2007 2:26 pm

EF,

Why should JP bother to just repeat over again those thoughts that have already been said? He added new data to the equation in answer to an erroneous pronunciation/statement by the other poster.

Oversimplification? Nah. I also made mention that the west was not perfect and had we had the benefits of the 9 o'clock news and the media we eventually created, back then I would have assumed our changes would have been a lot sooner as well. We have always been an open society (right or wrong) without sweeping our warts under the carpet or pretending they don't exist, or the asian trait of blaming anti-social or lack of individual rights on Confucian Ideals (just because it's Confucian doesn't make it right). It's a cop-out. We made a lot of mistakes and we still do. Big difference is we don't hide them or try to "blame" it on some set of outmoded ideals that are only trotted out when something unpalatable is being said against their country. "It's OK if 'WE' say it but it's not OK if 'YOU' say it" type of thing. This always fascinates me how Asians hide behind a set of double standards while accusing the whole western world of doing same.

Does it allow the later few groups to live and practice their original way of life amongst the masses or best kept within the confines of indian reservations, japanese intern camps or chinatown?


Japanese intern camps? How long? Under what circumstances? Little off base there I'd say wouldn't you? Were your parents stationed in Hawaii on Dec 7, 1941 when Tojo did his thing? Want to talk about the usage of St. John's Island here? Thought not. Indian Reservations? Nobody forces the American Indians of the USA to live in a reservation, The Seminole Indians have never lived on an reservation. Those that do, do so in order to follow their own Indian laws which are not the same as the US Federal Laws that the rest of the US population have to follow. They are free to live elsewhere but in doing so then they must follows US laws as they pertain to all other citizens. (The early days of the reservations no longer exist - unlike ISA here in Singapore).

Wonder why there is a Chinatown in Singapore? Wonder why the government only decorates "Chinatown" during the lunar new year? Again, it would seem I have to repeat myself for the Asians among us. Nobody said the west had it right. The West has made and are still making mistakes all the time. At least we are not blaming our human rights cock-ups on our Asian/Confucian ethics then trying to convince others that it's OK as "We are Asians therefore we are allowed to because of our 'Asian Ethics'"

Let's get real here.

But all of this is not relevant to this thread which was about Dr. Chee and Amnesty Int'l.


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