Monday, 4 June 2012

Watz Online - 4 Jun 2012

Remembering ISA detentions of writers

Above: This afternoon's event at Hong Lim Park commemorated the 25th anniversary of Operation Spectrum.

It was organised by Maruah and Function 8. Read Yawning Bread's report of the event.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Operation Spectrum, the arrests under the Internal Security Act of young Singaporean activists who were labelled Marxist conspirators. The use of the ISA as a means to tame the media is described in my book, Freedom From The Press. Here is an extract from the book.

The list of individuals detained since the PAP came to power in 1959 includes several who were involved in media, although many of them were hauled up not for their media work as such, but for their activities in opposition parties, trade unions and other organisations.

Targets of the 1963 crackdown included Singapore National Union of Journalists secretary general A. Mahadeva of The Straits Times and committee member James Fu Chiao Sian of Nanyang Siang Pau (who would later become press secretary to Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew).

Others such as Poh Soo Kai and Tan Jing Quee were involved with the left-wing undergraduate magazine Fajar. Said Zahari, jailed for 17 years (the second longest period in detention), was editor of the opposition Barisan Sosialis party’s Malay newsletter, Rakyat, and before that editor of the Malay daily Utusan Melayu. Lim Hock Siew edited Barisan’s English organ, Plebeian.

China alarmed by Clinton’s comments on West Philippine Sea

China has expressed concern about remarks made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who said that Beijing’s claim in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) exceeded what was permitted by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

In a report posted Monday on its website, the Chinese Embassy in Makati City quoted Hong Lei, spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry, as saying that China had raised concerns about Clinton’s opinion when other countries had chosen to adopt a hands-off policy on the issue.

“On the issue of the South China Sea, nonclaimant (Association of South East Asian Nations) countries and countries outside the region have adopted a position of not getting involved in territorial disputes,” Hong said.

“On this important prerequisite and foundation, the Chinese side has consistently committed to safeguarding peace and stability in the South China Sea, region by means, such as negotiating and signing with Asean countries the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in parallel with our efforts to pursue dispute settlement through negotiations with countries directly concerned,” she said.

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US ‘pivot’ may stir Asian sensitivities

SINGAPORE—As the United States moves to bolster its military position in Asia, it faces severe budget cuts from Congress, an increasingly powerful rival in China and a hornet’s nest of regional political sensitivities.

The shift in US policy puts Asia and the Pacific front-and-center of its strategic priorities and is driven by concerns that China has raced ahead in the world’s most economically dynamic region while the United States was tied up fighting its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But in a region rife with disputes and increasingly beholden to China’s economic engine, the Pentagon is being careful its “pivot to the Pacific” doesn’t create too many waves.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is spearheading the US effort to sell the new strategy in Asia, told regional defense leaders at a major security conference in Singapore that it is only natural for the Asia-Pacific region to be in the spotlight because it is home to some of the world’s biggest populations and militaries.

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The Shangri-La Dialogue 2012: Day One Summary

President of the Republic of Indonesia, H.E. Dr. H Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, delivering the keynote address at The Shangri-La Dialogue 2012

The 11th Asia Security Summit, the Shangri-La Dialogue 2012, opened in Singapore yesterday, on the 1st of June, with a noteworthy roster of defence leaders and senior officials in attendance.

Defence ministers, chiefs of defence staff, top security analysts, and military and intelligence chiefs convened at the Summit, which will run from the 1st to 3rd of June, to discuss important strategic developments and other key issues affecting international security.

The Dialogue will also be a platform for defence ministers to make policy announcements on current strategic and defence issues and to facilitate private bilateral and multilateral meetings.

Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said, “This year brings together twenty-seven government delegations clearly recognising the Shangri-La Dialogue as an indispensable part of the region’s security infrastructure.

The Summit, now more than ever, is a crucial platform for understanding and collaboration between governments, for the discussion of key security issues in the region, and ultimately for the prevention and resolution of international conflict.”

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Uneasy US-China relationship overshadows amicable summit

Compared to previous years, when the verbal sparring in the cavernous hall of the Shangri-La Hotel's Island Ballroom was heated, all sides played nice this year.

Speaking to delegates at the Shangri-La Dialogue on Saturday, United States Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta stretched out an olive branch to China, saying Washington would do everything in its power to keep the world's most important relationship on an even keel, even as the US military 'pivots' to Asia.

A senior People's Liberation Army officer welcomed Mr Panetta's speech and asked how the two countries could improve their interactions.

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US to deploy LCS in Singapore in 2013

SINGAPORE - The United States Navy will deploy its first littoral combat ship (LCS) in Singapore from the second quarter of 2013, Singapore's Ministry of Defense said on Saturday.

Singapore's Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen conveyed the country's in-principle approval for the US request to deploy up to four LCS in a meeting with his US counterpart Leon Panetta, a joint statement said.

The four ships will be deployed in the city state "on a rotational basis," which means there could be up to four LCS in Singapore at any point of time, the Ministry of Defense said.

It said the navies of the two countries are still working on details and arrangements of the deployment.

The LCS is a type of relatively small surface vessel intended for operations in the littoral zone where it is less desirable to deploy larger warships. With a flight deck and a hangar, the LCS is envisioned to be a networked, agile, stealthy surface combatant.

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United States Navy to move 60% of warships to Asia

Redeployment by 2020 'a clear-cut message on its large footprint in region'

The United States will move the bulk of its warships to this part of the world, as it grapples with China's rising military power and a tightening defence budget.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said the US Navy will reposition 60 per cent of its warships in Asia by 2020, as part of its new military strategy that focuses on Asia.

This is up from the current 50 per cent of its fleet that is in this region, including six aircraft carriers, destroyers, combat ships and submarines. The other half of the fleet is based in the Atlantic.

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Singapore army gets new training ground

The Defence Ministry has proposed an additional training ground, possibly in Sukhothai, for the Singaporean military, Defence Minister ACM Sukumpol Suwanatat said yesterday.

Defence Minister Sukumpol Suwanatat inspects a guard of honour at the Defence Ministry in Singapore yesterday.

ACMSukumpol plans to cut short his participation in the Shangri-La Dialogue, an intergovernmental security forum being held in Singapore until tomorrow, and return to Bangkok after protesters converged in Bangkok to oppose the controversial national reconciliation bill.

He was speaking after a meeting with his Singaporean counterpart, Ng Eng Hen during his visit to the city state to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue, an inter-governmental security forum currently being held in Singapore until tomorrow.

ACM Sukumpol said Singapore, which has leased the training ground at the Sai Yok army camp in Kanchanaburi, needs a larger space as its military might need to use live ammunition during training.

Both sides agreed to establish another training ground.

A military source said the ministry might set aside an area in Ban Dan Lan Hoy in Sukhothai for the Singapore military, in addition to the existing training ground in Kanchanaburi.

"Allowing Singaporean soldiers to conduct more training in our country is to help a friend," he said.

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Singapore and Australia agree to extend RSAF training in Queensland

Defence Minister Peter MacKay revealed the plan in an exclusive interview Friday with The Canadian Press from Singapore, where he was attending a major security conference.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected to give more details of the Pentagon's renewed military focus on Asia during a major speech in Singapore on Saturday at the Shangri-La Dialogue. The Pentagon's Asia tilt comes in response to China's rising military spending.

"This entire concept — the buzzword is the pivot to the Pacific — it's a recognition of the regional power dynamics here that do affect us with China expanding and modernizing their military capabilities," said MacKay.

To that end, MacKay said Canada is looking at a cost-effective way of increasing its military footprint in the region. MacKay said a military hub in Singapore would be similar to the arrangements it has reached with Kuwait and Jamaica, to give it military footholds in the Middle East and the Caribbean.

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Panetta to visit former US base in Vietnam

Panetta to visit former US base in Vietnam

Panetta is the most high-ranking US official to visit Cam Ranh Bay since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.

The two countries signed a memorandum on defence cooperation last year and Panetta planned to discuss how to carry out the agreement during his two-day visit, officials said.

"We've had a great trajectory with Vietnam over a number of years," said a senior US defence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"Seventeen years into normalisation of relations, we really have a robust relationship with the Vietnamese government as a whole and our mil-to-mil (military) relationship is really healthy as well," the official said.

Cam Ranh Bay airfield, one of three main hubs used by US forces in the war, once hosted squadrons of fighter jets, cargo planes and troops at the height of the Vietnam conflict.

The Vietnamese handed over the air base and naval port to the Soviet Union after the war, with Moscow deploying fighter jets, nuclear submarines and a spy station during the Cold War.

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Quiet China-India power rivalry could get ugly

As the world moves into the second decade of the 21st century, a new power rivalry is taking shape between India and China, Asia’s two behemoths in terms of territory, population and richness of civilization. India’s recent successful launch of a long-range missile able to hit Beijing and Shanghai with nuclear weapons is the latest sign of this development.

This is a rivalry borne completely of high-tech geopolitics, creating a core dichotomy between two powers whose own geographical expansion patterns throughout history have rarely overlapped or interacted with each other. Despite the limited war fought between the two countries on their Himalayan border 50 years ago, this competition has relatively little long-standing historical or ethnic animosity behind it.

The signal geographical fact about Indians and Chinese is that the impassable wall of the Himalayas separates them. Buddhism spread in varying forms from India, via Sri Lanka and Myanmar, to Yunnan in southern China in the third century BC, but this kind of profound cultural interaction was the exception more than the rule.

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Summons filed to order PM Lee to court hearing on by-election

The Hougang by-election case takes another twist. (AP file photo)
The Hougang by-election case takes another twist. (AP file photo)

In yet another twist to the court case over the Prime Minister's (PM) discretionary powers to call by-elections, the Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) has filed an application to dismiss the application by Hougang resident Vellama Marie Muthu.

Vellama had sought the court to order the PM to call a by-election in Hougang within three months or any such time as the court deems fit. She also asked the court to declare that the PM does not have "unfettered discretion" in deciding whether and when to call by-elections.

The AGC's press release on Thursday said Vellama's application is "frivolous or vexatious and/or an abuse of the process of the court".

The AGC added: "Given the calling of the by-election on May 9, and the by-election on May 26, the AGC maintains the view that the entire substratum of the proceedings has gone and it would be an abuse of the process of court for the plaintiff to continue the proceedings."

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Bridging the rich-poor gap

The recent pay increases are seen by some Singaporeans as a step forward, but critics view them as tweaking, rather than resolving, a fundamental problem.

WHEN Cabinet ministers took turns to rebuff a proposal to push up salaries of lowly-paid workers, most Singaporeans viewed it as good as buried.

Given the strict way the government is run, the revolutionary idea raised by former state economic adviser Professor Lim Chong Yah might well have faced the death sentence.

His think-out-of-the-box way of narrowing the economic gap called for the salaries of low-level workers to be raised by 50% over three years, and those at the top-end be frozen for a similar period.

The widening gap between rich and poor is becoming one of the most pressing problems here today. It threatens Singapore’s social fabric despite its strong GDP growth.

To the PAP, Prof Lim’s suggestion probably smacks too much of socialism.

But according to the professor, this land of record millionaires needs such a solution because it has for years been significantly under-paying its poorer workers.

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Most S'poreans welcome foreigners but want slowdown

Reasons such as 'they do not speak English' and 'their presence in my neighbourhood makes me feel unsafe' are ranked near the bottom.

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Malaysia govt losing Chinese support

KUALA LUMPUR - Ethnic Chinese voters, upset over policies that favour majority Malays, have become increasingly alienated from Malaysia's ruling coalition, raising the risk of racial polarisation and a slowdown in the pace of reforms.

Support for Prime Minister Najib Razak among Chinese voters plunged to 37 percent in May from 56 percent in February, a survey by the independent Merdeka Center showed on Friday. It found 56 percent of Chinese were dissatisfied with the government, compared to 30 percent of Indians and 23 percent of Malays.

Recent state and by-elections underline the trend. The main Chinese party allied with the ruling National Front coalition in eastern Sarawak state lost 13 of 19 seats it contested in local elections last year and the opposition won a by-election in the same state in 2010 largely thanks to Chinese backing.

The Southeast Asian nation's 6.5 million ethnic Chinese turned heavily to the opposition in 2008 polls, handing the National Front, which has ruled uninterrupted since independence from Britain in 1957, its worst election showing.

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Abortions: Up for foreigners, down for S'poreans

Number of abortions by non-PR foreigners surged from 1,660 in 2003 to 3,020 last year

With more foreigners coming to Singapore to live and work, more are also becoming pregnant - but not giving birth.

Eight out of 10 abortions were performed on Singaporean women in 2003, and that number dropped to six out of 10 last year.

However, both the proportion and number of foreigners and permanent residents (PRs) terminating their pregnancies almost doubled in the same period.

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A letter to netizens from ST Editor Warren Fernandez

I am grateful that our efforts to help the less well-off through the ST School Pocket Money Fund (SPMF) have drawn support from the public over the years.

Some Netizens though seem to have misread our latest initiative. Allow me to explain.

Over the years, the SPMF has raised several million dollars every year from generous contributors to provide pocket money for thousands of students from less well-off homes. This we will continue to do.

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Passengers refuse to leave after delayed flight

SINGAPORE - Dozens of passengers refused to get off a Tiger Airways flight at the Budget Terminal yesterday, after demands to see management from the airline over a 12-hour delay were not met.

The stand-off lasted about an hour, until a representative from Tiger Airways arrived to apologise to the angry passengers and coaxed them off the plane.

Flight TR2105 from Bangkok was due to take off on Wednesday afternoon but, after a five-hour wait in the plane, passengers were told to get off.

Passenger Moses De Laure said: "They made us wait for about an hour. Then they said that there are some problems with the flight. Then they said we have to wait for another half an hour, and that half an hour turned out to be five hours on the plane alone. And they never offered a drink."

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