REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE – Amnesty International Annual Report 2007

Amnesty International Report 2007 Overview Video

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AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
Annual Report 2007

REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE

Head of state: S R Nathan
Head of government: Lee Hsien Loong
Death penalty: retentionist
International Criminal Court: not ratified

Freedom of expression and assembly came under increasingly close controls. Men arrested in previous years were held without charge or trial under the Internal Security Act amid fears that they were at risk of ill-treatment. Death sentences were imposed and at least five people were executed. Criminal offenders were sentenced to caning.

Background
The People’s Action Party (PAP), which has dominated political life and wider society for nearly half a century, was re-elected for a five-year term in May. The party’s stated commitment to building a more open society did not materialize.

Restrictions on free expression and assembly
Civil defamation suits and criminal charges were used or threatened against government critics, human rights activists, Falun Gong practitioners and foreign news media. Tighter restrictions on several major foreign publications were announced in August, enabling the authorities to take punitive measures more easily.

• Dr Chee Soon Juan, leader of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party, was declared bankrupt in February when he was unable to pay damages of 500,000 Singapore dollars (approximately US$306,000) to two PAP leaders when a 2001 defamation suit ended. As a bankrupt, he was barred from seeking election. He was imprisoned for eight days in March for contempt of court after saying publicly that the judiciary lacked independence. In November he was sentenced to a prison term of five weeks for speaking in public without a permit. On his release he faced further criminal charges for speaking in public without a permit and attempting to leave the country without permission. In August the publisher and the editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review were sued for defamation in connection with a favourable article about him.

• J B Jeyaretnam, former leader of the opposition Workers’ Party, unsuccessfully appealed against the bankruptcy imposed on him in 2001 after a series of politically motivated defamation suits. He remained unable to stand for re-election.

• Writer Lee Kin Mun was suspended by the state-owned newspaper Today following publication of a critical article on Singapore’s living costs.

• Two Falun Gong practitioners were convicted of holding an illegal protest outside the Chinese Embassy and sentenced in November to prison terms of 15 days and 10 days respectively. Nine practitioners were charged with illegally assembling to distribute leaflets. Jaya Gibson, a British journalist and Falun Gong practitioner, was denied entry to Singapore.

• The government restricted both domestic and foreign activism relating to a meeting in Singapore of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in September, provoking worldwide criticism, including from both institutions.

Detention without charge or trial
At least 34 men remained in detention without charge or trial under the Internal Security Act. The authorities claimed the men were involved in militant Islamist groups and posed a security threat to Singapore. Seven detainees were reportedly released after co-operating with the authorities and responding well to “rehabilitation”. In February, Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng was reported as saying that the treatment of such detainees was not a “tea party” but denied they had been tortured.

Conscientious objectors
At least eight conscientious objectors were imprisoned, and 12 others continued to serve their sentences during 2006. All were members of the banned Jehovah’s Witnesses religious group. There were no moves towards offering an alternative to military service.

Death penalty and corporal punishment
At least five people were executed, two in June following conviction for drug trafficking, the others in November after being convicted of murder. Death sentences were handed down to at least five people.

The presence of foreign prisoners on death row raised the international profile of Singapore’s high rate of executions. The UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions expressed concern about executions in Singapore and called for an end to death sentences for drug-related offences, arguing that the mandatory death sentence is a violation of international legal standards. In January the Singapore Law Society said it intended to carry out “an open-minded review of the legal issues” related to the death penalty.

People continued to be sentenced to caning throughout the year, including a 16-year-old boy convicted of theft and judged unsuitable for reformative training.

Asia Video
Watch Amnesty International’s Secretary General talk about the positives and negatives in Asia over the past year and give her message to the region.

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Yet Another Hanging – Singapore to hang ‘One Eyed Dragon’ for nightclub murder

The Death Penalty in action again. Can’t imagine this case resulting in mass protest against it.

End the Death Penalty Now!

Web posted at: 5/23/2007 8:30:19
Source ::: AFP

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Tan Chor Jin, nicknamed “One Eyed Dragon”, arriving at the magistrate’s court in Singapore for his trial last February. He was sentenced to death, yesterday, for killing a nightclub owner in a rare gangland-style shooting in Singapore. (AFP)

SINGAPORE • A man nicknamed “One Eyed Dragon” was sentenced yesterday to hang for killing a nightclub owner in a rare Singapore shooting which the judge likened to an assassination.

Tan Chor Jin, 39, appeared calm and smiled occasionally while the verdict was read.

He was convicted for the murder in February last year of Lim Hock Soon in a case that shocked Singapore, one of Asia’s safest cities.

High Court Judge Tay Yong Kwang said the killing had “the hallmarks of an assured and accomplished assassin.”

Court documents showed Tan, who earned his nickname for being blind in one eye, entered Lim’s flat on February 15 last year.

He tied up Lim’s wife, 13-year-old daughter and domestic helper, looted the family’s valuables and then fired a series of shots into the victim’s face and body.

He fled to Malaysia but was arrested and extradited 10 days later.

Tan represented himself without a lawyer at the trial. After the sentence was handed down, Tan’s only response was to ask the judge for permission to smoke in prison while awaiting his fate.

“They don’t understand what are human rights in the prison, nor allow us to smoke,” Tan said.

read more…

University of New South Wales (Asia) in Singapore shuts down

There is an issue circulating in the forums that the initial report from Channel News Asia has been altered and the time of release manipulated in the second report of the pull out of UNSW. Copied below is allegedly the first report and highlights the fact that a “quarter of a billion dollars” has already been spent – spent by whom?

The Economic Development Board?

But according to current reports [By Derrick A Paulo, TODAY | Posted: 24 May 2007 1005 hrs]“EDB assistant managing director Aw Kah Peng called the UNSW’s decision a “setback” and said: “In the end, decisions have to be made on what we both feel are our long-term interests.” She did not want to reveal how much EDB had invested so far in the project. “

When you google the story we get two links – one from Pearl Forss and one from Ashraf Safdar, but both link to articles written by Pearl Forss.

Students shocked by UNSW Singapore campus closure
Channel News Asia, Singapore – 18 hours ago
By Pearl Forss, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 23 May 2007 2311 hrs.SINGAPORE: The decision to shut down the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Singapore …

University of New South Wales (Asia) in Singapore shuts down
Channel News Asia, Singapore – 23 May 2007
By Ashraf Safdar, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 23 May 2007 1715 hrs. But less than six months since classes started, the University of New South Wales (Asia) …

However there are earlier versions.

medium_changicampus.jpg UNSW (Asia) Changi campus

So the story copied here is allegedly the first reaction that CNA had on the issue. Whether or not Ashraf Safdar reported the figure of ‘a quarter of a billion’ in error is one possible reason for the story being pulled or possibly they are trying to suppress the fact that ‘a quarter of a billion’ was spent by the EDB.

SINGAPORE: It was supposed to be Singapore’s first comprehensive foreign university.

But less than six months since classes started, the University of New South Wales (Asia) in Singapore has decided to shut its doors.

According to preliminary reports, this is because of low student enrolment.

The university had projected to get 800 students by August but it is not clear how many there are to date.

The closure comes despite the fact that an estimated quarter of a billion dollars had been spent on the school’s new campus in Changi.

To ease the transition, students who are currently enrolled at UNSW Asia will be offered a place in an equivalent programme at UNSW Sydney. – CNA/ir

Related Links:
The university said this was a ‘reputational issue’ for Singapore and A*Star.
Singapore learns hard lesson
University plays down fears about Singapore offshoot
UK university drops Singapore plan on freedom fears
Warwick lecturers vote against Singapore campus

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Singapore – You won’t believe what happened in court yesterday

Or maybe you will…

From the Singapore Democratic Party

22 May 07

In the lawsuit that Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his prime minister son, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, took against the SDP and its leaders, the Lees had applied for summary judgement, or Order 14 in legal parlance, for the case to be awarded to them without it going to trial.

The lawsuit was over an article the SDP had published in The New Democrat, the SDP’s flagship publication, describing how the NKF scandal was bred in a system built by the PAP where transparency and accountability were alien features.

During the Order 14 hearing in September last year defence counsel, Mr M Ravi, had taken ill and could not come to court.

The Lees’ lawyer, Mr Davinder Singh, then accused Mr Ravi and the defendants of being “devious” and that the lawyer’s absence was “nothing more than another attempt to delay the Order 14 applications.”

A medical certificate later proved that Mr Ravi was unfit to attend court.

During the hearing, Dr Chee Soon Juan had asked Judge Ang for a one- or two-week adjournment for Mr Ravi to recover or, if the the Judge refused, for time to look for another lawyer.

On both counts, Ms Ang refused, siding with Mr Singh. She ordered the summary judgment hearing to proceed with the defendants being unrepresented.

And so Judge Ang and Mr Singh sat cloistered in her chambers where she heard only the plaintiffs’ arguments and proceeded to award the case to the Lees.

Subsequently the Court’s Minute Sheet recorded what transpired between Ms Ang and Mr Singh. At one point, the Judge remarked that Dr Chee was “hedging his bets” to which Mr Singh responding, “Absolutely!”

On reading this, Dr Chee took out a Summons application to ask the Court for an extension of time to appeal Judge Ang’s decision as her actions and remarks were highly prejudicial to the defence’s case.

Things then got rather interesting. The Courts set the hearing for Dr Chee’s application for yesterday, 21 May 07. When Dr Chee arrived Mr Davinder Singh was already present.

And who was the judge? BINGO! Ms Belinda Ang!

“It is utterly amazing that you are presiding over this application which is about you,” Dr Chee pointed out the obvious.

As it turned out Judge Ang referred the matter to the Court of Appeal.

The burning question is why was another judge not assigned to hear the application? Isn’t it amazing that out of 12 High Court Judges, Ms Ang was assigned to preside over a matter in which she was the very subject of the controversy?

Hasn’t the Singapore Courts heard of the saying that “Justice must not only be done, but manifestly seen to be done”?

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Singapore Blogosphere and Political Participation

medium_PGConferencePoster.jpgI recently attended a Postgraduate Conference for the presentation of PhD research on the intersection of power and communication technologies organised by the Institute of Communications Studies (ICS) at the University of Leeds. I presented a paper titled –

The Singapore Blogosphere and Political Participation: An Ethnographic Approach.

Abstract
This paper questions whether or not blogs can help create participatory forms of democracy in non-democratic societies which have suppressed political participation among their citizens. Drawing on an event in July 2006 within a group of websites related to Singapore, this paper asks to what extent do bloggers in Singapore use their blogs for purposes related to politics, and investigates whether the blogosphere facilitates political participation among Singaporean bloggers. The internet has been heralded as a force for democratisation in the world (Pitrodi 1993) and also simply another means of disseminating propaganda, fear and intimidation in Singapore (Rodan 1997). Such predictions of how technology will affect upon futures is not new. This paper accepts Hine’s (2000) position that there is a need for an ethnographic approach to question the assumptions inherent in these predictions of an increased public sphere and at the same time a loss of privacy associated with the technology. Singapore while being regarded by the Chinese Communist State and possibly the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) “as a laboratory for one possible future for the twenty-first century”, (Castells 1998) is regarded as a semi-democratic regime (Brooker 2000). A regime which allows elections but has limits on political and civil liberties and restricts competition between political parties (Brooker 2000). An ethnography of the Singapore blogosphere might help in analysing how the internet is constructed and shaped by social actors in order to overcome the technological focus and the domination of research that focuses on the United States of America. This paper argues that a sustained participant observation within the Singapore blogosphere could illustrate the position that the internet both creates public space to facilitate political participation and also helps to legitimise the semi-democratic nature of the Singapore regime.

The complete paper is available here in pdf format.

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Amnesty International – Singapore Update

Received via email from Margaret John

To: Singapore/Malaysia Network
Date: May 20, 2007
Friends,

The following notes on Singapore and Malaysia are reported developments over the past few months, covering both Amnesty International (AI) concerns and the framework in which we work. The information is from normally reliable sources but has not always been validated by AI. Further information or corrections are welcome. Amnesty International’s website is www.amnesty.org. The website of AI’s regional office in Hong Kong is www.asiapacific.amnesty.org. AI Australia’s regional death penalty information is at http://asiadeathpenalty.blogspot.com

Main points can be found in Berita, the journal of North American Malaysia/Singapore/Brunei scholars available from rprovenc@juno.com

Singapore
As the longstanding opposition critic and human rights defender J B Jeyaretnam is at last freed from bankruptcy and he plans to resume full campaigning, the international spotlight is again highlighting the government’s tight restrictions on freedom of expression and is raising the bar on international concern. At the same time, challenges within Singapore to the political status quo are slowly increasing not only by prominent opposition activists and human rights defenders such as Dr Chee Soon Juan but also — unusually — from critics of recent high salary increases for the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Margaret John
Coordinator for Singapore and Malaysia

1. International spotlight:
Foreign parliamentarians gagged;
International Bar Association meeting in Singapore — human rights focus urged;
Chee Siok Chin in Italy;
Far Eastern Economic Review faces defamation suit — and is honoured;
Australian University strongly criticised for doctorate for Lee Kuan Yew;
US Department of State assesses Singapore’s human rights record 2006.

2. Human rights campaigners/government critics:
J B Jeyaretnam freed from bankruptcy — and not silenced;
Dr Chee Soon Juan — more challenges and also not silenced;
Francis Seow — Beyond Suspicion? preface available;

3. Concerns continue:
Another death sentence;
Torture/ill-treatment — ten strokes of cane;
Suspected terrorists still held;
Falun Gong persecuted;
Freedom of expression restricted but also rights exercised —
on Cabinet salary hikes;
on Said Zahari documentary;
on media (further controls?); on gender rights.

Read more…

Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam – On Bended Knees? Never

These words should be familiar to Singapore readers as it has been repeated often enough. But if not, this is a good time to take note of the late Devan Nair’s observations on JB Jeyaretnam’s strength of character. Lee Kuan Yew’s comments on JB Jeyaretnam were made after the latter’s significant Workers’ Party Anson win in 1981.

“Immediately, however, Kuan Yew’s attention was concentrated on how he would deal with J.B Jeyaretnam in parliament. I was quite alarmed at some of the things he told me at that lunch. “Look,” he said, “Jeyaretnam cant win the infighting. I’ll tell you why. WE are in charge. Every government ministry and department is under our control. And in the infighting, he will go down for the count every time.” And I will never forget his last words. “I will make him crawl on his bended knees, and beg for mercy.”

Jeyaretnam was made of sterner stuff. To his eternal credit he never did crawl on bended knees, or ever begged for mercy. And it is to Lee Kuan Yew’s eternal shame that Jeyaretnam will leave the political scene with his head held high, enjoying a martyrdom conferred on him by Lee. Lest I be misunderstood, let me state that Jeya more than deserves the crown of the martyr for his indomitable courage and dignity in the face of the vilest persecution.”

Posted by Eng Chuan Lee

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