Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Arrests, Abuses And Alleged Assaults

More than 400 mark anniversary of political arrests

Attendees pose with former ISA detainees behind banners calling for the abolishment of the Act, as well as for the safe return of exiled Singaporeans. (Yahoo! photo)

More than 400 people, young and old, gathered at Hong Lim Park on Saturday afternoon to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Operation Coldstore, a round of mass political arrests under the Internal Security Act (ISA) that took place on the same day in 1963.

Organised by a group of former Operation Coldstore detainees and volunteers, the event, titled “We Remember”, saw five former detainees from the Coldstore detention period, as well as Operation Spectrum detainee Teo Soh Lung, share their experiences in incarceration.

For organiser and former detainee Tan Kok Fang, 72, the commemoration of the day that changed his life and that of more than a hundred others is of great importance.

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Operation Coldstore 50th Anniversary: Yes, We Remember the People’s Heroes

It was not the usual sight, sound and fury at Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park on a warm Saturday afternoon on 2 February 2013. I heard speeches in measured tone and saw sombre faces, many with grey hair that betrayed the long years of sadness. The best part of their life was taken away from them, some for 10, 20 years and for one, Chia Thye Poh, more than 30 years, longer than Nelson Mandela, making him the longest detained political prisoner in the world and rendering him at least as deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize as Mandela if not more so, a Singapore’s first that PAP will conveniently ignore. Life must be hard even after their release. Yet there was no bitterness, only gladness to be together with old friends once again. I too was delighted to see some familiar faces. There was Dr Poh Soo Kai whom I first met last year at the late Dr Lim Hock Siew’s wake; Tan Kok Fang whose father and mine were ‘brothers’ from the same village in Hainan China. (The late Tan Jin Quee’s father was our fathers’ ‘brother’ too.)

I was hoping to meet family members of the late Ho Piao at the commemorative event; he used to stay in the same large house as my family in Queen Street when he worked as a trade unionist in a nearby union office. To this day, 50 years later, I could still remember the fateful day when he was taken away by Special Branch officers; that image remains forever etched in my mind to remind me of how good men and women could suffer for their beliefs and love for their country. I did not get to meet any of his family members who I understand, continue to live in the UK. If any one of them or a mutual friend reads this FB posting, please get in touch with me. It would be so nice to meet his family and to tell them how great he was.

As I walked away from the park when darkness fell, I could not help wondering how those Special Branch officers feel now, 50 years after they locked up the young patriots. Have they never been striken by their conscience for taking away the youth and freedom of fellow men and women fighting for the cause of justice? What do they tell their chidren, that they were mindless civil servants paid to do a job faithfully without asking any question, a moral vacuum? I do not know the answers as I was not put in a similar situation, having turned down two suggestions to join the organisation during my eleven years in the service.

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Democracy and human rights in deep freeze: the legacy of Operation Cold Store

Guest article by Poh Soo Kai, by invitation from Yawning Bread

Operation Cold Store was launched on 2 February 1963 by the British colonialists with the connivance of Lee Kuan Yew.  Over a hundred left-wing activists, including myself, were arrested.  In one fell swoop, the entire leadership of the Barisan Sosialis, the main opposition force in Singapore, was decimated.

Today we commemorate its 50th anniversary and pay homage to the young men and women cut down cruelly in the prime of their lives on that fateful day and in the relentless waves of detentions that followed.  This is also the moment to honour the sufferings of their families and loved ones throughout those long days, months, years, and decades.  It is time for all survivors to heal from the deep scars of arbitrary detention inflicted by the PAP regime for today we are all vindicated in our past youthful pursuit of a humane society.

Operation Cold Store set back our dream in the 1950s and early 1960s of a new and independent nation called Malaya, embracing Singapore – a multicultural nation in which all communities would be treated equally; a nation independent of colonial rule, where there would be economic betterment for the poor and full democratic rights for all people – both political and civil.

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HARD TRUTHS - Too Hard To Swallow

The end of the dragon year brings forth much changes and excitement.

Aljunied Hougang Town Council led to AIMgate.
Palmergate led to WP's Lee Li Lian winning Punggol East by 54%
PAP's White Paper on Population led to furore in Singapore over the 7 million in 2030.
Which will lead to 16 February's 'ZoukOut' at Hong Lim Park at 4.30pm!

Surprisingly, out of the blue, a huge crowd gathered at 4pm today 2nd February 2013 at Hong Lim Park to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Operation Cold Store where more than a hundred were arrested under ISA on 2 February 1963.

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Singapore: Running in Place on Human Rights 

<p>Four migrant Chinese transport workers, arrested for an “illegal strike,” thank civil society for legal assistance and bail and for arranging a public forum to discuss issues leading to the strike.</p>
Four migrant Chinese transport workers, arrested for an “illegal strike,” thank civil society for legal assistance and bail and for arranging a public forum to discuss issues leading to the strike.

Singapore continued its strict controls on free association, expression, assembly, and other basic rights in 2012, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2013.

In its 665-page report, Human Rights Watch assessed progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries, including an analysis of the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

In Singapore, the slight relaxation of mandatory death penalty laws and curbs on an opposition party leader did little to relieve the severe restrictions the government imposes on civil society, Human Rights Watch said.

NSP’s statement on the Internal Security Act

Powers of preventive detention may be given to the Executive but only to pre-empt and disrupt terrorist activities and subject to safeguards preventing misuse of such powers. The Internal Security Act, Cap. 143 (ISA) does not contain the necessary safeguards. It should be abolished and replaced by terrorism-specific legislation.
  1. The ISA gives the Minister for Home Affairs power to arrest and preventively detain an individual without warrant or trial for up to two years at a time “with a view to preventing that person from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of Singapore or any part thereof or to the maintenance of public order or essential services therein, it is necessary to do so”. [1]
  1. NSP accepts that it is necessary for the Minister to have preventive detention powers so as to be able to pre-empt and disrupt terrorist activities in a situation where there is not yet enough evidence to charge and convict such an individual under existing criminal laws.
  1. That said, Singapore being a functioning democracy, the internal security legislation which confers the Minister with preventive detention powers must contain safeguards ensuring that:
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Police probe ex-bus drivers' allegations against officers

Police probe ex-bus drivers' allegations against officers

The Internal Affairs Office (IAO) of the Singapore Police Force (SPF) has started investigations into allegations by two ex-SMRT bus drivers against the conduct of police investigation officers.

The police said two ex-drivers, who had been charged for their roles in an SMRT bus strike in November 2012, alleged in a video online that they been assaulted while in police custody.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a statement on Tuesday that it takes a serious view of the public allegations made

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Ex-SMRT drivers claim they were threatened, assaulted by police

Ex-SMRT drivers claim they were threatened, assaulted by police
The video interviews are part of background research for a possible documentary about the illegal SMRT bus strikes which took place in November 2012 (Photo: screen grab from Vimeo)

Two of the four ex-SMRT bus drivers under trial for their involvement in last year’s illegal bus strikes allegedly claim they were threatened and assaulted while in police custody in video interviews released online. 

related: Four SMRT bus drivers charged, China officals paying close attention 

The interviews with the two drivers, He Jun Ling and Liu Xiang Ying, were conducted as research for a possible documentary about the November 2012 strikes.

Posted on the documentary maker’s website, one of the filmmakers, Lynn Lee, explained that she felt compelled to share the men’s experience.

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Charged bus drivers allege “slapping, punching” by police

Former SMRT bus driver He Jun Ling speaking in an interview with documentary filmmaker Lynn Lee. (Screengrab: LianAin Films) 
Former SMRT bus driver, He Jun Ling, says he was punched while in police custody. He also witnessed his colleague, Liu Xiang Ying, being beaten by a police officer. He is accused of instigating an 'illegal strike' in November 2012.

Civil society groups and individuals have come forward to urge the Ministry of Home Affairs to conduct an inquiry into allegations by two former SMRT bus drivers that police officers abused them.

Charged for their involvement in a strike late last November over unequal pay, two of the four, He Jun Ling and Liu Xiangying, said that they were physically abused and threatened by their interrogators when in police custody in the days after the strike, which was later deemed by the government to be illegal.

A collective statement from the groups and individuals said the allegations "cast serious doubt on the credibility and veracity of the ex-drivers' statements to the police and the entire investigation process".

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Ex-SMRT PRC drivers allege being slapped and punched by Singapore police

Speaking in taped interviews to documentary filmmaker Lynn Lee on 9 January, 32-year-old He, who faces two charges for engaging in a conspiracy to incite an illegal strike, said he was punched in the stomach by a police officer during his interrogation.

“They locked me in a small room,” he says in Mandarin in the video clip, which Lee uploaded to video platform Vimeo on Monday evening. “At the time, a police officer handcuffed me, and after that he punched me in the stomach.”

In a separate interview, 33-year-old Liu Xiangying was recorded saying that a police officer had threatened to bury him alive, where “no one will be able to find (him)”. According to He and Liu himself, the latter was slapped many times by his interrogators.

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What’s going on in our interrogation rooms?

“Do you know I can dig a hole and bury you? No one will be able to find you.”

This is what Liu Xiang Ying says he was told during his interrogation. He was arrested after participating in the SMRT bus strike on the 26th and 27th of November 2012.

In the aftermath of the strikes, when the ‘ringleaders’ were being identified and the bus drivers arrested, Workfair Singapore has been documenting the issues and troubles faced by migrant workers, especially the SMRT bus drivers. The blog posts highlighted many points of concern related to labour relations in Singapore and how employees are treated. Then Lianain Films interviewed two of the four drivers who had been charged with inciting the bus strike. Below are excerpts of what the two drivers had to say about the police investigation and their interrogations:

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Arrests, Abuses And Alleged Assaults
Lessons to learn from the illegal SMRT strike
Why it took time to label protest a strike
Wage dispute? Protest? Or strike?