Graffiti and Dissent

Recently while sitting in front of the goggle box I was struck by a sudden realisation. A while back during the NKF scandal, remember that?, there suddenly appeared in Singapore’s clean streets some graffiti pictured here.

This along with the attention the issue was receiving online forced the authorities into action. I have no doubt that the online petition had a major part to play but lets also allow for the possibility that the images in the media had an effect.

Many people view graffiti as nothing other than a blot on the otherwise clean landscape. Others, myself included, feel that it can be an enhancement. When I see graffiti it reminds me that people actually live here. Someone else has summed it up better though..”Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegel, a city where everyone could draw where they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a living breathing thing which belonged to everyone, not just the estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall – its wet.”

Sitting in the UK the coming together of the NKF image and protest was brought into close focus by a programme focusing on the highly acclaimed work of Banksy. An example of one piece of work that will probably have the site blocked for subverting the minds of the heterosexual young men of Singapore is included here.

Singapore does have a few places that graffiti appears regularly, in fact I am thinking of one particular place just off Selegie Road, next to an Art and Design College, (you know who you are). The recent white elephants at an unopened MRT station is another example.
It doesn’t have to be as stylised as Banksy’s work, in fact look the example from American activists from FreeWay Bloggers.

It is a well researched area in my home country and a good place to start for any young sociologist would be the CAIN Web Service.

According to Neil Jarman “The intention of this paper is not to focus on the symbolic content of murals or the developments in their style and form, as this has been dealt with extensively elsewhere (Jarman 1992, 1996a, 1997; Roiston 1991, 1992, 1995a; Woods 1995). Rather I will discuss the ways in which the murals are used as symbolic objects in themselves. Objects which are used and abused, admired and transformed, replaced and defaced and which, while they ultimately physically disappear, will often survive as reproductions, and thereby transcend their context in time and place. “

‘Painting Landscapes: the place of murals in the symbolic construction of urban space’ by Neil Jarman

Could actually be a rather good undergraduate or postgraduate study to conduct if applied to the Singaporean context. “Political Imagery in Singapore”. You have got to start with the ‘Men in White’ of course.

According to FreeWay Blogger

Here’s how it works:
When you put a sign on the freeway people will read it until someone takes it down.
Depending on its size, content and placement it can be seen by hundreds of thousands of people.

UK-CRIME-AUSTRALIA-SINGAPORE

CANBERRA (Reuters, UK) – Australia’s parliament urged Singapore to spare the life of a convicted Australian drug dealer on death row on Monday as the man’s lawyer called for direct intervention from Prime Minister John Howard.

Australian Nguyen Tuong Van, 25, was sentenced to death in March 2004 for smuggling almost 400 grams (0.9 lb) of heroin from Cambodia. He was arrested in-transit for Australia at Singapore’s Changi airport in December 2002.

Singapore on October 21 rejected Nguyen’s last bid for clemency, but his lawyer Lex Lasry, who held talks with Singapore’s High Commissioner to Australia Joseph Koh on Monday, said he remained hopeful Singapore could change its mind.

“Our client is alive, there’s probably four or five weeks to go, there’s plenty of time for the Government of Singapore to reconsider its position,” Lasry told Australian radio.

In parliament, the leader of the centre-left Opposition ALP, Kim Beazley, introduced a motion to urge Singapore to show mercy to Nguyen and to consider his full cooperation with police since his arrest.

The motion passed with bi-partisan support in a sign of the growing public campaign against the death sentence, but Foreign Minister Alexander Downer played down the chances the motion would help stop the execution.

“It pains me above all that it is proving extraordinarily difficult to win a reprieve,” Downer said. “We remain pessimistic about our prospects of convincing the Singapore President to grant clemency. We will just continue to try.”

He said the government had done everything possible to try to save Nguyen’s life. But Lasry said it was now time for Howard to make a direct plea to Singapore’s government.

“Now is the time that we need its (the government’s) leaders to basically speak in direct language and say they don’t want this young man executed. I’d like very much to hear such a statement from the Prime Minister,” Lasry said.

Australia is a staunch opponent of capital punishment, but Singapore, known for its tough stance on crime, mandates the death penalty for murder and drug trafficking.

S’pore firms Should be Wary of PM’s urge to invest in China

Singapore’s PM visit to China recently focused on urging Singapore firms to invest in the country. Read the Epoch Times article. China may not be a wise overseas investment decision that has been hyped up to be.

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Published in Channel News Asia:
S’pore firms urged to focus on next wave of growth in north-eastern China

CHINA : Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has described his first official visit to China as a success.

The week-long visit is Mr Lee’s first since becoming prime minister last year.

Mr Lee said bilateral cooperation was progressing well.

On the economic front, he said Singapore companies should take advantage of the next wave of growth in north-eastern China.

An impressed Mr Lee agrees with Singapore businessmen he has met on this trip that the next wave of development in China will come from the north-east.

Its most developed province Liaoning has set it sights on becoming the IT centre of north-east Asia.

And this offers tremendous opportunities to Singapore companies like business space provider Ascendas.

Ascendas has struck up a partnership with the software park in Dalian – a key city in Liaoning.

The first phase of the IT Park will be ready by the end of next year.

There are also other opportunities in Liaoning in areas such as services, manufacturing and port facilities.

And Singapore port operator PSA has already staked its claim.

There are also plans by the provincial government to convert the coastline into industrial land.

Mr Lee said: “As they develop, we will go with the flow and ride the tide.”

The Chinese government is revitalising the north-east and the centre of gravity is no longer as concentrated in the southern Pearl River delta and Yangtze delta.

As Mr Lee points out, the north-eastern region will be able to learn from the south in their development, thus ensuring quicker progress.

As for the growing bilateral cooperation between Singapore and China, Mr Lee announced that Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy has just signed MOUs with top Chinese universities – Peking, Tsinghua and Fudan – to offer joint degree programmes.

These programmes will allow students to study in both countries.

And it is in areas such as this that Mr Lee says Singapore has a role to play in the growth of China.

Mr Lee said: “We provide the meeting place, we provide the opportunities. We have an environment where the Chinese people, the businessmen, the academics, the students are comfortable. Others are comfortable and we can make a contribution.”

Education Minister and chairman of the Singapore-Liaoning Economic Trade Council Tharman Shanmugaratnam said Singapore schools must deepen their engagement with their Chinese counterparts.

“We have to get our kids to know a range of Chinese cities. Again not just the first-tier cities, not just Beijing, Shanghai. You’ve got to get to the second-tier cities where you can feel the hunger, aspirations and dreams,” he said.

Mr Tharman said in the past year, more than 90 Singapore schools have established links with Chinese institutions.

“For a broad-ranging economic relationship in the long-term, people- to-people relationship will have to be developed as a foundation,” he added. – CNA/de

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China’s Economic Oligopoly And Political Monopoly
By He Qinglian
Special to The Epoch Times
Oct 30, 2005

Recently China’s investors have been skeptical, wondering if “China’s enterprises could still make a profit.” China has used the mouths of “foreign investment experts” to say, “Though the relevant benefits of such heavy industries as car manufacturing and chemical industry are shrinking, the relevant benefits of light industries show no tendency of dropping down.” The statement was clearly intended to pacify worried investors who doubted if their investment in China could be beneficial.

In spite of the pacifying statement, the news from the U.S. stock market was negative. More than 90 percent of more than 70 Chinese enterprises on the U.S. OTC Bulletin Board (OTCBB) [1] turned their stocks into “junk stocks.”

No trading in the stock of Chinese companies on the U.S. stock exchange for a few days in a row has frequently been noticed. This gloomy phenomenon has been occurring since the second quarter of this year. Only seven of the Chinese companies hold stocks priced over US$3 per share, while the stocks of the other 50 Chinese companies are priced below US$1. In the U.S., stocks priced below US$3 are regarded as “junk stocks”. To put it in another way, over 90 percent of China’s concept stocks on the U.S. stock exchange have degenerated into “junk stocks”.

A state’s economic competitiveness is closely related to its enterprises. Why did these favorites in the Chinese business community degenerate into “deserted orphans” on the U.S. stock exchange? An analysis of the situations of these enterprises provides a window on China’s economy.

State-Run Enterprises Gain Dominance By Means Of Monopolization

In recent years the number of China’s enterprises who have entered into the top 500 of global enterprises is gradually increasing, which has been used by China as concrete evidence to prove the competence of Chinese enterprises.

Let’s start by taking a look at the Chinese enterprises that made it into the top 500. This July, U.S. Fortune Magazine released the latest annual rankings of the top 500 global enterprises. Totally, 15 of China’s businesses were chosen. The three Chinese enterprises that have a ranking higher than 50 on this list are China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec), State Grid Corporation of China (State Grid), and China National Petroleum Corporation (PetroChina). A closer observation of the chosen candidates reveals that almost all of them are state-run monopolies in the petroleum, chemical, banking and energy industries, and they are directly owned by the central government.

This September, China released its own list of top 500 enterprises. This “top 500” has the following features:

First, most of the “top 500” companies are still state-run monopolies. Of all, 83 enterprises make a pure profit of over one billion yuan (approximately US$0.12 billion), with combined revenues totaling 427.1 billion yuan ($52.85 billion), occupying 81 percent of the total revenue of the “top 500”. This points out that the major revenue of Chinese enterprises comes from a very small number of monopolies, most of which are state-run. Though the percentage of the private enterprises picked for the “top 500” has risen to 15.8 percent, the percentage of their revenue is merely 6.7 percent. Based on this, we can conclude competitively, China’s private businesses are far inferior to the large-scale state-run monopolies.

Second, there is the quite remarkable disparity of competitive strength among the chosen candidates. Sinopec, listed as number one, owns assets totaling 620.3 billion yuan ($76.77 billion), and has an annual revenue totaling 634.3 billion yuan ($78.5 billion). On the other end of the list, the assets and revenues of the Zongshen Industrial Group, listed as number 500, are 3.51 billion yuan ($0.43 billion) and 4.56 billion yuan respectively ($0.56 billion), which is only 0.57 percent and 0.77 percent of Sinopec’s assets and revenues.

Third, regarding per capita earnings, of China’s 2005 top 500 enterprises, the cigarette manufacturing industry has the highest per capita earnings, 244,500 yuan ($30,260), while life and health insurance industry has the lowest per capita earnings. Only five of the “top 500” reach a per capita profit over 100,000 yuan ($12,376).

How Are the Chinese Top 500 Enterprises Different From the Global Top 500?

Among the scholars in mainland China, many disagree with the Chinese media’s high praise that Chinese enterprises have entered the upper tier of global top of corporations with their competitive power. Professor Liu Jisheng of Qinghua University’s School of Business pointed out that there are three differences between the Chinese top 500 and the global top 500 corporations.

Firstly, most of the global top 500 are private corporations or family businesses, yet most of the big enterprises in China are state-owned, and some are solely state-funded corporations.

Secondly, most of the global top 500 are in competitive industries such as the automobile industry, but most of the Chinese corporations are in monopolized industries such as oil, electricity and steel.

Thirdly, in terms of economy of scale, operating income, total assets and profit made by the top 500 Chinese corporations constitute respectively 5.3 percent, 5.61 percent and 5.22 percent of those made by the global top 500.

In fact, big Chinese enterprises have two distinctive characteristics. Firstly, they do not rely on market competition to gain size and strength; rather they rely on administrative orders to have forced reorganization. Their survival and development often rely on having the strong state machinery as their backing.

Secondly, these corporations do not rely on unique technical advantages, superiority in service, property rights, price advantage or brand superiority to win in market competition; instead they rely on the monopolization advantage granted by the government to gain a high monopoly return.

Only by understanding these two characteristics of Chinese state-owned corporations can one understand why the stocks of Chinese corporations that were listed in the U.S., after some “initial hype,” have degenerated into “junk stocks” that nobody is interested in.

A General Misconception: The Downfall Of The State-Owned Economy And The Flourishing Of The Private Sector

The deepest impression that 27 years of economic reform in China has left is that China has undergone a large-scale and profound privatization movement, and that China has already become a market economy country.

However people have neglected one point: in the late 1990’s, when Zhu Rongji was the Prime Minister, his strategy for state-owned corporations to follow the policy of “seizing the big and freeing the small” and to withdraw from competitive industries, has formed the base that led to economic oligopoly in China in the end.

In short, “seizing the big” is to rapidly concentrate resources in a very few state-owned monopolizing corporations. Starting from the late 1990’s, relying on government support and profit gained from their monopoly, certain industries in China have already formed the economic pattern of being monopolized by a few state-owned corporations. The private sector can only flourish in the highly competitive industries that the state-owned corporations have withdrawn from.

The Chinese government has political needs for “seizing the big” (i.e., fostering large state-owned corporations). Since the 1990’s, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s one-party despotism has continuously faced with a crisis of legitimization. Many governmental think-tankers already suggested to the government to transform large-size state-owned corporations into “Party assets,” hence accumulating an enormous amount of assets that in name belong only to the CCP.

With this enormous Party asset base, even if faced with political changes in the future, the CCP, with its abundant economic strength, would still win in an election. Stemming from this kind of precautious concern, the CCP’s decision makers have always concentrated on seizing the few state-owned corporations that are most closely connected with the vitals of the national economy and that occupy the leading monopolizing positions, so that it can retain economic control when future political changes occur.

Central Government Enterprises Monopolize Chinese Economy

In recent years, the number of state-owned enterprises and enterprises with the state as the key shareholder has dropped by 4,000 to 5,000 each year. The number of central enterprises that are directly supervised by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council have decreased from 196 two years ago to the current 169. However assets of these enterprises are continuously growing and their profits are also constantly rising.

Official data shows that from 1998 to 2003, the number of state-owned and state-as-key-shareholder enterprises has dropped from 238,000 to 150,000, yet their profit increased from 52.9 billion yuan (approximately $6.54 billion) to 378.4 billion yuan ($46.80 billion). In 2004, the total profit further rose to 531.19 billion yuan (roughly $65.70 billion), an increase of 42.5 percent from 2003.

In 2004, the five industries that made the most profit nationwide were oil exploitation with 177.73 billion yuan ($21.98 billion) of profit, steel with 103.89 billion yuan ($12.85 billion), chemical engineering with 85.63 billion yuan ($10.59 billion), electronic communications with 82.19 billion yuan ($10.17 billion), and transportation with 77.19 billion yuan ($9.55 billion). These industries constitute 46.4 percent of the total profit earned by all industries combined.

An analysis of the profit structure for the state-owned enterprises and enterprises with the state as the key shareholder clearly shows that, in 2004, the profit realized by seven companies—China National Petroleum Corporation, China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation, China National Offshore Oil Corporation, Baosteel Ltd., China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom—constitutes 78 percent of the total profit earned by central enterprises.

It is well known that communication, energy, electric power and transportation etc. are the most monopolized industries among state-owned enterprises. This shows that the high profit increase for state-owned enterprises and enterprises with the state as the key shareholder are likely due to the strong monopolization of these industries.

These facts prove that, judging from an industrial perspective or the entire economic perspective, sales volume and profit for Chinese industry and monopolized service sectors are concentrated in a very few central corporations. In other words, the pattern of its economic oligopoly has basically taken shape. A monopoly formed with this kind of oligopoly-patterned economy has greatly benefited the Chinese government, such that the director of State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission Li Rongrong reiterated that the central government’s goal is to raise 80 to 100 large-size state-owned corporations and make their way into the global market.

The Chinese Government Facilitates the Oligopoly Economy

Many outside observers agree that an intense and cruelly competitive market has been one remarkable characteristic of the Chinese economy from 1992 to the present. In the late 90’s, the Chinese government declared that state-owned enterprises would completely withdraw from competitive business. This move hid from observers the reality behind the intense competition. That is, the high monopoly of key resources is another manifestation of the Chinese economy.

China’s large-scale state-owned enterprises, especially those directly controlled by the central government, have become the largest beneficiaries of China’s capital market with the help of a series of slanted policies and the unique market access regulations of China.

In just 10 short years, China’s capital market developed a clear route—to serve the peripheral enterprises, then the state-owned businesses, and then the businesses owned by the central government, which include other ultra-monopolized companies. This structure is not the outcome of natural evolution out of China’s capital market, but is the direct logical result of a capital market continuously geared towards political needs.

Political Monopoly Needs Oligopoly Economic Support

There is another question that needs answering: Why does the Chinese government so diligently build large-scale monopolized state-owned enterprises?

The answer is that it is completely a political need.

Right now China is transitioning from an old authoritarian regime to a new form of totalitarian regime. Observers have seen increasingly tightened control of the society by the Chinese authorities, in addition to the government’s high suppression of the general public’s political muscle. However, they have yet to see the dangers China currently faces while transforming from the longstanding authoritarian rule to a new totalitarian rule.

Totalitarian rule requires increased control of thought. It also requires a huge system of organizations with which to control the society. Meeting both needs, in turn, requires a solid economic foundation.

Mao Zedong used every means possible to control people. He did not rely just on political violence and ideological cultural violence; more importantly, he relied on economic control.

If the Chinese people at that time had left the Chinese Communist Party’s economic and cultural entities, they would have had no resources for survival. Chinese intellectuals often opined that they wanted to be Tao Yuanming, who abandoned his official positions and lived as a hermit. Yet there is no place to which they can escape, since China, including every rock and tree, all belong to the “Nationalized Properties” owned by the CCP.

The Chinese government under Hu Jintao relies more and more on total control of the society. Strengthening the party organization is just one method. Another important method is to strengthen economic control. It is unrealistic, however, to fully revert back to the complete economic control of the Mao era. Thus, they can only implement control over the industries that are the life-blood of the national economy, such as the petroleum industry, the energy industry, and the telecommunications companies related to information circulation.

China’s petroleum industry is immense with over 60 branches worldwide. This illustrates the Chinese government’s international energy strategy and, more importantly, its economic dominance within China through its control over petroleum—a modern economy’s life-blood.

There are three criteria for analyzing these increasingly growing state-owned businesses that are fed by the government.

The first criterion is to use the U.S stock market, which is purely based on the performance of the enterprises; the second criterion is to believe the CCP’s evaluation made explicitly to further its political and market dominance; and the third criterion, which is also this writer’s opinion, is to use humanitarian standards, such as whether to support or oppose China’s new totalitarian politics when deciding whether or not to invest in China.

Note: [1] The OTC Bulletin Board (OTCBB) is an electronic quotation system that displays real-time quotes, last-sale prices, and volume information for many over-the-counter securities that are not listed on The NASDAQ Stock Market or a national securities exchange.

Protest against Hanging of Nguyen

A protest in Australia and an indoor vigil to be soon held in Singapore …

Published in The Age, Australia
Singapore activists to protest hanging
October 31, 2005 – 4:07PM

Activists in tightly controlled Singapore plan to stage a rare public protest against the impending execution of convicted Australian drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van.

Next week’s indoor vigil would be an unusual show of opposition to capital punishment in Singapore.

Details have yet to be finalised.

“Individuals of the civil society who are concerned citizens against the death penalty are … coming together to organise it,” Think Centre campaigner Sinapan Samydorai said on Monday.

Think Centre is among Singapore’s handful of active campaign groups and has long opposed the death penalty.

It would help to support any Nguyen-related event, Sinapan said, and planned to post details on its website.

Melbourne salesman Nguyen, 25, was arrested at Changi International Airport in December 2002 as he was about to board a flight to Australia.

He had 396 grams of heroin taped to his back, and in his luggage.

Singapore has so far rejected pleas for clemency from Australia.

Nguyen is likely to be hanged sometime in November, possibly as soon as November 11.

Sinapan said the vigil would likely be small scale, and he conceded that as most Singaporeans support the death penalty the campaigners faced a tough task.

Earlier this year, a similar vigil was held to protest the execution of Singaporean Shanmugam Murugesu, who was hanged in May for trafficking 1.03kg of marijuana.

The Singapore government last year eased restrictions on some types of indoor gatherings, dropping the need for participants to obtain prior approval from the police.

Outdoor demonstrations, though, remain extremely rare.

Gatherings of more than four people require permission from authorities.

Plain-clothed officers attended the May vigil and at one stage prevented an open microphone session, where members of the audience had been invited on stage to express their feelings.

The Singapore government argues that the selective use of the death penalty helps to deter serious crime and has kept the country of 4 million people safe.

“We weigh the right to life of the convicted against the rights of victims and the right of the community to live in peace and security,” the Ministry of Home Affairs has said.

Human rights group Amnesty International has suggested that Singapore may have the highest rate of executions worldwide relative to its size.

According to official figures, 340 people were hanged in Singapore between 1991 and 2000.

In some years, such as 1996, when 50 people were hanged, the state-sanctioned death rate averages close to one a week.

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Published in ABC Regional Online Australia
‘Candles of hope’ lit for convicted drug smuggler
Sunday, 30 October 2005. 21:05

About 100 people have gathered in Brisbane tonight, lighting 3,000 ‘candles of hope’ for Melbourne man, Van Nguyen.

The 25-year-old faces execution in Singapore after being convicted of drug-trafficking.

Tim Goodwin from Amnesty International says tonight’s event sends a powerful message.

“What we’re trying to do with this event, it’s the first of a number of events we’ll be holding around the country in the coming weeks to send a message to the Singapore Government is that human rights are very important to all of us and they’re particularly important to Australian people as well and we don’t want to see the death penalty carried out in this case,” he said.

Calibrated coercion and the maintenance of hegemony in Singapore

Academic and journalist, Cherian George, has published a Working Paper Series with Asia Research Institute. The essay discusses the type of “coercion” that the government wields and explains why it seems to work. The entire PDF file can be downloaded here

Read extracts from the paper:

Coercion, nevertheless, remains one of the pillars of PAP dominance. There has been no move to repeal Singapore’s most repressive laws, such as the Internal Security Act, which allows arrest without warrant and detention with trial. On a 5-point repression index, Henderson (1991) rates Singapore as a “2”, together with other countries where there is “a limited amount of imprisonment for non-violent political activity. However, few persons are affected, torture and beating are exceptional. … Political murder is rare” (p.127). The array of repressive tools at the government’s disposal remains large. What has changed is the manner in which those tools are used. Generally speaking, there has been a shift from more spectacular punishments such as imprisonment, towards more behind-the-scenes controls. Economic sanctions are favoured over those that violate the sanctity of the individual. And, controls are targeted at limited numbers of producers and organisers of dissent, rather than at ordinary citizens. In short, coercion is increasingly calibrated for maximum effectiveness at minimum cost…

The authoritarian impulse behind Singapore’s press system is as old as the hills. What is more novel is the PAP’s astute use of global forces pushed by capitalist liberal democracies to reinforce a profoundly illiberal system. While less clever regimes assumed that they had to subvert the press completely in order to assure their preferred results, Lee Kuan Yew recognised that he merely needed to tweak its incentive structure and install the right barriers. This strategy worked because journalism’s main impetus by the late 20th century was commerce, not ideology…

Like all authoritarian governments facing minimal legislative and judicial checks, Singapore’s executive branch has seized sweeping powers to deal decisively with challengers. Catch-all laws give wide latitude to ministers, and the Constitution provides little protection to civil rights. These features of the Singapore system are nothing unusual. What is more unusual is that, even as it maintains and updates its arsenal of coercive powers, the Singapore government appears to have committed itself to the principle of strategic self-restraint, calibrating its coercion to get the job done with as little force as necessary.

The benefits of calibrated coercion have been apparent to various scholars ranging from critical theorists such as Foucault to researchers studying conflict resolution. First, calibrated coercion minimises the sense of moral outrage that could be used to mobilise the public against the state. Second, calibration reduces the salience of coercion, making consensus seem like the sole basis for stability and thus strengthening hegemony. Third, calibrated coercion preserves incentives for economic production and wealth creation, which rulers need as much as do the ruled…

Stop hanging people!

Yet another fine article from Yawning Bread.

I think it’s time I said it: judicial murder is wrong.

It is particularly distressing to me that Singapore is one of the black spots on the world map for this. An article by Amy Tan of Reuters, ‘Singapore death penalty shrouded in silence’ said,

The government revealed recently, only in reply to a question in parliament, that 340 people were hanged between 1991 and 2000.

In a response to a Reuters query, it also said 22 people were executed for drug trafficking in 2001 and 17 in the year before.

Singapore has one of the highest execution rates in the world relative to its population, Amnesty [International]’s Parritt said.

— Reuters 12 April 2002

Whenever this charge of being too quick with the noose is levelled at the government, they always say capital punishment works. It has deterrence value. Yet if they are so proud of doing the right and effective thing, it strikes me as strange how much they wish to hide it.

The same report by Reuters said,

“We do have a general policy not to give any information on the death penalty,” a prison official told Reuters.

As you can see in the sidebar, the identity of the hangman was also supposed to be a secret until an Australian news organisation found him.

Now, before we discuss the claimed deterrence value of judicial murder, an important facet of the Singapore case must be made plain. An estimated 70% of death sentences are given out not for murder, but for drug trafficking, which means the retributive arguments for capital punishment — a life for a life — do not apply. This must be borne in mind in the discussion to follow.

The death sentence is mandatory — that is, the judges have no discretion to reduce the sentence — if the accused is found trafficking in more than 15 grams of heroin, or the equivalent of heroin. Hence, 30 grams of cocaine would also get you the death sentence. We have had this law since 1975.

The prosecutor does not have to prove that you were trafficking. He only needs to prove possession, and the law makes the presumption that you’re trafficking.

to continue reading this well researched article

News You Won’t Find

The article below is written by John Pilger, someone I have referred to before on Singabloodypore. It may appear at first not to be relevant to those of you scratching a living in Singapore. Think again, Singapore has sent aircrew and aircraft to Iraq and is one of the few countries still aligned with the Americans in their coalition of the willing.

Can someone think of when was the last time The Straits Jacket referred to Singaporean involvement in the war? Email me any articles you know of or post them in the comments section please.

The Epic Crime That Dares Not Speak Its Name
By John Pilger

10/27/05 “ICH ” — —

A Royal Air Force officer is about to be tried before a military court for refusing to return to Iraq because the war is illegal. Malcolm Kendall-Smith is the first British officer to face criminal charges for challenging the legality of the invasion and occupation. He is not a conscientious objector; he has completed two tours in Iraq. When he came home the last time, he studied the reasons given for attacking Iraq and concluded he was breaking the law. His position is supported by international lawyers all over the world, not least by Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, who said in September last year: “The US-led invasion of Iraq was an illegal act that contravened the UN Charter.”

The question of legality deeply concerns the British military brass, who sought Tony Blair’s assurance on the eve of the invasion, got it and, as they now know, were lied to. They are right to worry; Britain is a signatory to the treaty that set up the International Criminal Court, which draws its codes from the Geneva Conventions and the 1945 Nuremberg Charter. The latter is clear: “To initiate a war of aggression… is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

At the Nuremberg trial of the Nazi leadership, counts one and two, “Conspiracy to wage aggressive war and waging aggressive war”, refer to “the common plan or conspiracy”. These are defined in the indictment as “the planning, preparation, initiation and waging of wars of aggression, which were also wars in violation of international treaties, agreements and assurances”. A wealth of evidence is now available that George Bush, Blair and their advisers did just that. The leaked minutes from the infamous Downing Street meeting in July 2002 alone reveal that Blair and his war cabinet knew that it was illegal. The attack that followed, mounted against a defenceless country offering no threat to the US or Britain, has a precedent in Hitler’s invasion of Sudetenland; the lies told to justify both are eerily similar.

The similarity is also striking in the illegal bombing campaign that preceded both. Unknown to most people in Britain and America, British and US planes conducted a ferocious bombing campaign against Iraq in the ten months prior to the invasion, hoping this would provoke Saddam Hussein into supplying an excuse for an invasion. It failed and killed an unknown number of civilians.

At Nuremberg, counts three and four referred to “War crimes and crimes against humanity”. Here again, there is overwhelming evidence that Blair and Bush committed “violations of the laws or customs of war” including “murder… of civilian populations of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war”.

Two recent examples: the US onslaught near Ramadi this month in which 39 men, women and children – all civilians – were killed, and a report by the United Nations special rapporteur in Iraq who described the Anglo-American practice of denying food and water to Iraqi civilians in order to force them to leave their towns and villages as a “flagrant violation” of the Geneva Conventions.

In September, Human Rights Watch released an epic study that documents the systematic nature of torture by the Americans, and how casual it is, even enjoyable. This is a sergeant from the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division: “On their day off people would show up all the time. Everyone in camp knew if you wanted to work out your frustration you show up at the PUC [prisoners’] tent. In a way it was sport… One day a sergeant shows up and tells a PUC to grab a pole. He told him to bend over and broke the guy’s leg with a mini Louisville Slugger that was a metal [baseball] bat. He was the fucking cook!”

The report describes how the people of Fallujah, the scene of numerous American atrocities, regard the 82nd Airborne as “the Murdering Maniacs”. Reading it, you realise that the occupying force in Iraq is, as the head of Reuters said recently, out of control. It is destroying lives in industrial quantities when compared with the violence of the resistance.

Who will be punished for this? According to Sir Michael Jay, the permanent under-secretary of state who gave evidence before the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee on 24 June 2003, “Iraq was on the agenda of each cabinet meeting in the nine months or so until the conflict broke out in April”. How is it possible that in 20 or more cabinet meetings, ministers did not learn about Blair’s conspiracy with Bush? Or, if they did, how is it possible they were so comprehensively deceived?

Charles Clarke’s position is important because, as the current British Home Secretary (interior minister), he has proposed a series of totalitarian measures that emasculate habeas corpus, which is the barrier between a democracy and a police state. Clarke’s proposals pointedly ignore state terrorism and state crime and, by clear implication, say they require no accountability. Great crimes, such as invasion and its horrors, can proceed with impunity. This is lawlessness on a vast scale. Are the people of Britain going to allow this, and those responsible to escape justice? Flight Lieutenant Kendall-Smith speaks for the rule of law and humanity and deserves our support.

First published in the New Statesman – www.newstatesman.co.uk