Singapore – Labour Day Message 2007

Press Release – Labour Day Message 2007
Mon, Apr 30, 2007

The National Solidarity Party (NSP) stands in solidarity with the workers in Singapore. We are strongly of the view that each and every Singapore workers has contributed tremendously and significantly to the building of this nation. We lament however the lack of sincere treatment by the PAP government towards the hands which toiled to keep Singapore afloat.

The clearest testimony of that affront is illustrated in the PAP government’s unabashed claim that the nation owes its billions in GDP to the “extraordinary” leadership of the PAP, and as such the PAP must necessarily be compensated with “extraordinary” escalating wages. While the GDP of Singapore has grown over the years, the salaries of many Singapore workers have proportionately stagnated, seen tokenish improvement, or sadly even regressed.

Singapore workers have been mercilessly pounded by salvoes of undignified government measures such as non-negotiable hikes in GST, property tax, utility charges, public transport fares, postage cost, medical fees, education costs, and even PAP town councils fees. The PAP government does not pause for an empathising moment from inflicting punishing measures on the workers.

We are painfully concerned that many workers are now unable to accumulate sufficient savings to contemplate a decent retirement at old age, or to meet their medical expenditures. We are equally disturbed that the PAP’s more liberal policy on foreign workers has seen a collapse in salary floor for the lower-income workers. This trend is now rapidly infecting the middle-income workers caught in a hard squeeze of facing cheaper foreign competition and higher cost of living while receiving lesser state subsidies.

It is all the more deplorable that the PAP government now decides to prescribe the “bitter medicine” of urging workers to “work for as long as he can”, and to completely forgo the concept of retirement. It is also painful to see workers, especially those who have lost their jobs through the sordid government policies, literally begging for an increase in state assistance, only to be seen as a liability by the PAP government who wastes no time dismissing the pleas as one stemming from a “crutch mentality”.

The NSP is disappointed that Singapore workers are unable to enjoy the fruit of their 40-years of labour, needing to practically ‘work to their graves’. And to aggravate matters, the workers’ unions in Singapore have evolved from one amplifying the muffled cries of concerns of the workers, to one serving as a mere communication-bridge to disseminate and persuade workers to accept debatable government labour policies.

Nevertheless, the NSP is optimistic that Singapore workers will be steadfast in their quest to seek a fairer alternative for themselves and their future generations. We are hopeful that the Singapore workers will one day regain the sense of respectability and purpose that is enshrined in the original spirit of Labour Day.

We wish all Singapore workers peace and hope.

Central Executive Council
National Solidarity Party

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Singapore – May Day Rally: A personal appeal from John Tan

30 Apr 07

As I am writing this, Dr. Chee and Ms. Chee are probably walking along the streets of Hougang or Eunos. On May Day, they will be arriving at the Speaker’s Corner at about noon to address gatherers.

Our purpose for this event is to commemorate May Day by highlighting the plight of the workers in Singapore in juxtaposition to the incredulous pay raise the already rich ministers are giving themselves.

Some of you might have wondered what a walk such this can accomplish. After all, many had spoken and blogged on the issue, whereupon the ruling elites, in their usual manner, had chosen to turn a deaf ear to the citizens and bulldozed their self-serving policy through.

It is true that a two-person walk would not add much voice to what had already been said. But a 500-person walk would. The ruling party knows the power of a people united. That is why they use undemocratic laws to curb peaceful assembly.

MAY DAY WALK

Fortunately for us, there is yet no restriction to the number of people who can assemble at the Speaker’s Corner. Therefore, I urge all of you, who want to make your voice heard, to be at Hong Lim Park before noon this Tuesday (May Day). There is more than enough space there for 500 people. Make full use of the last remnant of your democratic rights before the day comes when even that might be taken away.

You must have heard this humorous story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but instead Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about this, because it was Everybody’s job. When Everybody thought Anybody could do it, Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

The joke might be old and moldy, but its relevance is timeless. If Everybody only wants to stay home and wait for Somebody to put up streaming video clips of the event, guess who will be there at the event? No prize for guessing that trusty Nobody will show up. So, if you are Anybody, I urge you to be there.

Let us shout to force the attention of our uncaring government. Let us rattle their beds in which they slumber while we, the Singapore Workers, slog our lives away.

See you there,
John Tan

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Singapore – Island sits in an ocean of economic turbulence

Recommended by an anonymous emailer who I would like to thank for drawing my attention to the article. It is from the Sydney Morning Herald on the April 30, 2007.

Eric Ellis looks for explanations for Singapore’s booming property market.

SINGAPORE’S property market is roaring. And why I know that is because the lease on our apartment will soon expire and our landlady wants 70 per cent more rent than she did in 2004.

No matter that the place leaks like a Canberra cabinet and that its 1970s-wired electricity trips at least once a week: these are details too far for our poco-curante proprietrix. But she has noticed that a private banker from Tokyo has signed, sight unseen, for a same-sized unimproved flat downstairs at 150 per cent more than the vacating lessee paid, and she reckons we are getting a bargain for $6000 a month.

It’s all very puzzling as there’s no textbook rationale to the sudden real estate boom here. The economy’s growing at an unremarkable-for-Asia 6 per cent, much the same as it has for years, save the difficult “Asian Contagion” period of the late 1990s. There’s no more government pump-priming than usual, none of the official withholding of land to get prices artificially moving that’s much loved in Singapore’s rival for city-state hothouse, Hong Kong. And though wealthy enough, with just 4.5 million people Singapore is still 2.4 billion consumers short of being “Chindia”, Asia’s neologism du jour.

From Sotheby’s to shares, Singapore has no shortage of places to park cash. But new luxury apartment blocks are sprouting among the frangipani, touting all manner of metropolitan arcadia – infinity pools, gyms, private clubs. They sport funky names such as Trillium and Botanika, fashioned on hoardings in designer fonts usually seen in Wallpaper magazine. My favourite promises that the elysian towers rising behind it will be “Home to 46 of the Most Luminous Families” – which will presumably take care of electricity bills, also on the rise.

The reasons why it’s suddenly salad days for Singapore developers seem to reside in neighbouring Indonesia, a country rated by the graft watchdog Transparency International at 130th of the 163 nations it tracks in its annual corruption survey. TI’s first place, ie, the world’s least corrupt place, is occupied by Finland, Iceland and New Zealand. Australia ranks joint ninth with The Netherlands.

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Censorship: What’s the way forward? and Zahari’s 17 Years

Refers to Zahari’s 17 Years which is available on google video. It has so far been viewed 7691 times and downloaded 634 times. So there are a lot of people out there, potentially in Singapore with this video on their hard drives and ipods passing it around.

From CNA

SINGAPORE: The decision by the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts — and its use, for the first time, of the Minister’s discretionary powers — to ban a film based on the arrest and detention of a former journalist and politician throws up a number of questions.

Why ban the film, Zahari’s 17 Years, when it was passed with a PG rating not once but twice last year, to be screened at the Singapore International Film Festival and the Substation’s Asian Film Symposium?

Neither organiser screened the film and it was reported that the Media Development Authority had told the Substation that the film may include defamatory content.

Why ban the film when the memoirs of Mr Said Zahari, a former editor of the Malay language newspaper Utusan Melayu and president of Parti Rakyat Singapura, are available in bookshops here?

As the 77-year-old told AFP: “What I said in the movie I have already said in my book, and much, much more.”

Why create unnecessary curiosity and drive people online to watch the film, which has already found its way on to the Internet?

In today’s wired world, it is more likely than not, the ban will be ineffective and counter-productive. Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said as much recently: Censorship in the Internet age “makes no sense”.

Indeed, a movie has a wider and more evocative reach than a book, since voice, motion, drama and images do tend to have a bigger impact on shaping the minds of audiences — which is why different rules must apply to different media, especially on issues that could get the viewers worked up.

I saw the film before the ban. It gave an account of Mr Said’s arrest and detention days — including his recollection of taking Chinese lessons from a fellow detainee. He said he was not a foreign agent, nor a communist sympathiser. He also spoke critically about Mr Lee, when asked for his take on why he was detained.

Mica said that the film gives a “distorted and misleading” portrayal of Mr Said’s arrest and detention and “could undermine public confidence in the Government”. The film, it added, was “an attempt (by Mr Said) to “exculpate himself from his past involvement in communist front activities against the interests of Singapore”.

Most Singaporeans recognise a good government — and a flat lie for that matter — when they see one. If the authorities were worried about whether the audience would be discerning enough to separate the wheat from the chaff, they could have given the film a higher classification rating.

If the intention was to send an unequivocal message, there are better ways to do so, including a rebuttal of the false accusations.

The Government has every right to take a stand against what it feels is a distorted account. If it felt that an open rebuttal would raise the film’s profile unnecessarily — which it has inadvertently already done with the ban — the authorities could impose, as a condition for screening, a “government advisory” at the start or end of the film, to refute any misleading statements.

Actually, this was a great opportunity for the Government to engage Singaporeans on an important part of the country’s history.

The tumultuous period from the ’50s right through the ’70s, with its backdrop of riots and demonstrations, can arguably be described as the defining period of nationhood.

These events, which were openly documented by newspapers, shaped the Republic’s relatively short but no less rich history.

Yet, our school children do not get a good grasp of these events from our history textbooks — the same sources that described the ’50s Hock Lee bus riots as having been primarily fuelled by dissatisfaction with long work hours and low pay.

Some researchers and historians have offered other possible reasons for the riots, such as anti-colonial sentiments and instigation by pro-communist quarters.

It is not that these accounts are not available here. One can go to the Internet, visit libraries and bookshops, attend forums — like the one held last year by former political detainees Messrs Tan Jing Quee and Michael Fernandez — or even get second-hand accounts from their parents or grandparents, to piece together this important chapter of the Singapore story.

Censorship is a double-edged sword, especially in today’s YouTube world, where privacy is constantly under threat.

Allow anything and everything and you are likely to have an uncontrollable situation on your hands. Cut and censor and you will have a population hungry for the forbidden fruit.

So, how do we move forward?

Engage Singaporeans, let contrarian views find their voice and challenge the views of those who have different accounts.

The Government took a rare and bold move to debate ministerial salaries openly in Parliament, although it was not duty-bound to do so. Singaporeans wrote in to newspapers to give their views, not all of them agreeing with the Government.

Censorship deserves a similar airing. I can’t think of a better way forward. – TODAY/fa

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SAFE responds to MM Lee’s comments on homosexuality

Below is a SAFE press release in response to Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s comments on homosexuality and the Penal Code, as reported in a recent Reuters article.

PRESS RELEASE
27 April 2007

SAFE is a group of family and friends who affirm and support gay and transgendered people as persons with equal rights to respect, dignity, acceptance and empowerment in society.

We are writing to express our appreciation and thanks to MM Lee for his recent comments at the dialogue with Young PAP and the interview with Reuters.

We appreciate the two cogent points he made,
1. That homosexuals are born with this propensity and not by choice. It is a genetic variation, not an aberration.
2. That the existing criminal law against homosexual acts in the Penal Code is outmoded.

We at SAFE fully agree with and support these points and are hopeful that the law that criminalises homosexual acts will be abolished in the proposed amendments to the Penal Code. We see this as a logical and responsible next step.

As with all complex human traits and behaviours such as intelligence, homosexuality is probably a result of many factors. Rather than arguing about whether particular genes can be found for these traits and behaviours, we should continue to accept our fellow Singaporean citizens and residents who deserve the same rights to respect, dignity, acceptance and empowerment as everyone else, and to be treated equally under the law.

We cannot agree with a law that proclaims our sons, grandsons, brothers, nephews, uncles, relatives and friends are criminals for a propensity that is not of their volition, is innocuous and part of their private lives. For far too long our gay loved ones from a young age, have suffered deep internalized oppression, often resulting in the disintegration of family, compromised relationships, low self-esteem, stunted maturity and unavoidable deceitfulness.

We therefore support the proposed decriminalisation of oral and anal sex as proposed by the Ministry of Home Affairs this past November, and ask that it apply equally to all consenting adults.

Since the 1970s, the law has been used in Singapore as an educational tool; we implore the Government to use it again for the same purpose. This will be a first step in educating the public on the nature of homosexuality, educating them to become more understanding, respectful and accepting of our human diversity.

The homosexual community is an essential element in the tapestry of peoples that make Singapore such a unique and cosmopolitan community. Homosexual men and women enrich our lives through their participation in business, the professions, the arts, and government. They are our sons and daughters, colleagues, neighbors, and friends.

Legal discrimination against homosexuals is unfortunate, outdated, and regrettable. It tells them that they are less than fully welcome; that their participation in Singapore life is subject to government forbearance. It diminishes the entire Singaporean community by allowing laws to stand that criminalise many of our fellow citizens. While contributing to intolerance it leaves the government and legal authorities open to the charge of being hypocritical for not enforcing a standing law.

As we focus on the richness gay people bring to our lives and our love and support for them, we not only liberate them, we also become a society committed to the Asian values of real family – strong, whole and committed to love against all odds.

Read the Reuters article: Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew questions homosexuality ban

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Singapore – May Day Walk for Workers

medium_MayDayroute.jpg

Dr Chee Soon Juan and Ms Chee Siok Chin will be walking the above route for the May Day Walk for Workers.

Starting at Hong Lim Park (Speakers’ Corner) at 6am on Sunday, 29 Apr 07, the two will proceed westward towards Jurong and then work their way north to Choa Chu Kang and Woodlands before journeying south to Yishun and then Ang Mo Kio.

The walkers expect to reach the Yishun/Ang Mo Kio sector by Sunday evening.

After some rest, they will continue to the eastern part of the island and hit Pasir Ris and Tampines before heading south towards downtown Singapore and, finally, ending back at Hong Lim Park on Tuesday, 1 May, at around noon.

The Walk is intended to focus attention on the plight of workers in Singapore who have been exploited by the PAP, and left voiceless without independent trade unions to represent their rights and interests.

Rest stops and meal breaks will be announced on this website during the walk itself. There will be updates on the progress of the Walk and video messages will be posted to keep Singaporeans informed.

Supporters are encouraged to come by and encourage the Chees in their attempt to cover the distance of 150 km.

So tell your family and friends of this event, and help spread the message that Singaporeans need to become active citizens and assert their rights. On this May Day, people need to know that they need not suffer in silence while the PAP and its ministers grow rich on the back of these workers.

Remember, workers made Singapore rich, not the PAP.

If you want to help make this event successful, contact the Singapore Democrats at speakup@singaporedemocrat.org.

Singapore – Enough of Enigmatic Words, Time for Government to Act

Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew Questions Gay Sex Law

From People Like Us

According to the Straits Times, Lee was speaking in answer to a question from Young PAP activist Loretta Chen, who had asked where censorship was headed in the next two decades. Young PAP is the youth wing of the People’s Action Party. The event was a gathering of this youth group at the St James Power Station, a trendy night spot, on 21 April 2007.

Especially as these comments were made extemporaneously, their meaning is open to interpretation. There remains considerable uncertainty as to what Lee had in mind when he spoke of taking a “practical, pragmatic approach” and not upsetting anti-gay groups’ “sense of propriety and right and wrong.”

People Like Us has long argued that equality for the GLBT minorities is more than just a matter of being practical. Fundamental rights are at issue. It is detrimental to fundamental conceptions of justice and equality as well as the constitutional development of Singapore not to respect these rights, whether with regard to GLBTs or other minorities.

Nonetheless, if the government thinks that it can sell the idea of decriminalisation – if indeed that was what Lee had at the back of his mind – through reliance on the argument of pragmatism, then so be it. The important thing is for the government to act. For many years now, it’s been one minister after another muttering words that have so far not translated into any meaningful change in policy or legislation. Enough.

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