Monday, 29 April 2013

Seditious Tendency


The Sedition Act has made its comeback. The last time it was used was in 2008 when a Christian couple deliberately distributed Christian material to Muslims for conversion purposes. The sentece was 8 weeks jail. However, it was the Internet that paved the way for the Sedition Act to reappear as deterrence and punishment in 2005.

In three cases that year, three individuals were charged with the Sedition Act for making anti-Malay and anti-Muslim Internet postings. The sentences were a day in jail and fine, a month in jail and one 24 months of community work. Hence, being charged and sentenced under the Sedition Act is not as horrible as being charged under vandalism. 

This week, cartoonist Leslie Chew from Demon-cratic was charged with the Sedition Act supposedly for his comic insinuating that the PAP government was racist and marginalised the Malay community. Leslie might be a mediocre comic artist and his comics are not slick compared to My Sketchbook or Cartoon Press, and even quite one-sided with a huge dosage of populist naivety e.g. when he dumbed down the foreign labour argument. However, although he is a so-so and shallow political commentator, he is not seditious, compared to those sentenced in 2005 and 2008. Even Amy Cheong , who was let off with a warning, was more seditious than Leslie as Amy was outright racist in her comments.

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Singapore police manhunt nabs suspect three days after war memorial is vandalised

Police caught up with the suspected vandal (centre) three days after the Cenotaph war memorial in Singapore (below) was defaced with paint. The ensuing manhunt was a good dress rehearsal which validated SOPs for tracking and apprehending a person of interest

The phrase "this is no drill" could aptly describe the manhunt for the person(s) who defaced the Cenotaph war memorial in the heart of Singapore city with red spray paint.

After just three days, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) paid a visit to the suspected vandal, a 32-year-old man. The look on his smug face when that knock on the door came would be a work of art. There he is in the picture (above) released by the SPF.

The SPF said today that officers from Central Police Division nabbed the suspect at about 11:30am this morning.

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In danger of silencing the voices that care

I’m a small fry. My web stats will tell you as much. But it hasn’t stopped me from speaking my mind about iffy issues people don’t usually feel comfortable talking about. Sure, it’s gotten me in trouble before (mostly with my wife), but that’s The Blogfather for you.

Which is why I’m quite concerned about the state of the blogosphere over the last few months, or rather, the state against the blogosphere; Bertha Harian has the lowdown, as well as a sort-of “word of warning” for us budding online social commentators. Most recently, though, the social networks are erupting with news of Demon-cratic Singapore’s creator Leslie Chew getting arrested over 2 comic strips he created that allegedly contained “seditious” material. Die-hard fans are up in arms, critics of his work are going, “Meh”, and people everywhere that like to discuss government policy, social adventures and misadventures, and other hot topics are suddenly sitting with their legs tightly crossed and a little pee in their knickers.

I remember the first time I encountered a blogger getting into trouble for writing something a member of the state felt wasn’t appropriate. It was way back in 2006, and the blogger was Mr Brown. Following his story from all the way back then to where he is now, I have to admit he’s become a major influence in what I write, as well as the way I write. Sure, the fella’s funny, but satire aside, the dude’s got balls, too. More than that, he loves this country enough to continue making fun of it despite the problems it’s caused him.

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Government should withdraw actions against bloggers

The SDP is concerned about recent legal actions or threats of legal action issued by various Government departments.

Websites such as EDMW Loves Singapore and The Real Singapore that had commented or carried comments on the outcome of the courts were ordered by the Attorney-General's Chambers to remove the offending posts.

The Council for Private Education has threatened a 21-year-old blogger with a defamation lawsuit for comments related to the Council. Cartoonist, Mr Leslie Chew, was arrested for sedition and questioned for almost three days over his cartoons. Freelance journalist, Ms Lynn Lee, has been warned that action may be taken against her for filming SMRT bus drivers who were convicted for going on a strike.

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Sedition charge would send wrong signals about managing race

Race and religion form the third rail of Singapore politics. They lie in the deep, dark recesses of our national life, ready to strike the reckless and the ignorant with an untamable force. Most Singaporeans – even many liberals – believe that freedom of expression should not apply in the vicinity of this third rail. As a result, they not only accept the laws that govern racially or religiously offensive speech, they have even been known to push for strong enforcement.

Now, a 37-year-old cartoonist Leslie Chew is under investigation for a possible breach of the Sedition Act. One of the cartoons that apparently earned the authorities' attention attacks the "racist government" of "Demon-cratic Singapore", including a leader who "abhors Malays". No reader would have the slightest doubt that this is a criticism of the Singapore government's race policies, so protestations that this is a purely fictional strip are unlikely to impress any judge.

However, let's hope that the case doesn't get that far. While the law gives the authorities the green light to take forceful action, that does not mean they have to go all the way.

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ONLINE CRITICS: They cannot be ignored

What does DPM Tharman make of all the online critics of the Government? He says some bloggers are quite thoughtful, but there needs to be more balance still.

ST: What do you make of the harsh views of the Government and on its policies on so-called anti-Government websites and Facebook pages? Do you take them seriously?

A: Well, it cannot be ignored and I think so far, on balance, the fact that you've got an active social media is a plus. It'll go through phases. I think it's still evolving. We're still in a phase where it is overwhelmingly critical of Government, not all, but overwhelmingly, and that I think it is understandable. You know, that's the way it starts. And I think there are now more serious bloggers and some very thoughtful bloggers who have views of their own that are not just motivated by wanting to hit at the Government but they want to express their thoughts and they're worth reading and listening to. Over time, hopefully, there will be a bit more of a debate, an even debate in the online media. We don't have it yet but you can see it gradually emerging and that's a situation that I think we want to come to. It is a plus that you have social media because a lot more people are involved in commenting and thinking about issues but it's got to evolve further, so that it matures and you've got a more even-handed disposition.

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Blogger files High Court application challenging statutory board’s legitimacy to sue for defamation

Landmark case to protect Singaporeans from defamation lawsuits by public bodies 

In the first case of its kind in Singapore, 21-year-old local blogger Han Hui Hui has applied to the High Court for a declaration that the Council for Private Education (CPE), a statutory body under the Ministry of Education (MOE), is not entitled to bring any defamation action against her.

Her counsel, human rights lawyer M Ravi, is arguing that the freedom of speech and expression, enshrined in article 14 of the Singapore Constitution, protects citizens from any defamation proceedings by the government and public bodies. The right to sue for defamation is reserved only for individuals and private entities, and not public bodies.

The CPE had threatened Ms Han with defamation proceedings by way of letter of demand through their lawyers, Allen and Gledhill, following two emails they received from Ms Han, which they regard as defamatory. Ms Han now seeks protection against this threat via the constitution and the ordinary laws of the land.

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Singapore Attorney-General's Chambers mulls action against filmmaker Lynn Lee
Asian Correspondent, 21 Apr 2013
Channel NewsAsia has reported that the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) are considering whether to take action against documentary filmmaker Lynn Lee after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) found that allegations made by ex-SMRT bus drivers in interviews she carried out were baseless.

He Jun Ling and Liu Xiang Ying had granted interviews to Lee after they had been charged for inciting bus strikes in late 2012 that saw over 100 SMRT bus drivers from China refusing to go to work.

In the interviews, they alleged that they had been beaten and threatened by their interrogators. Lee then posted their allegations on her blog, saying that they were “serious allegations” that had to be “addressed urgently”. Full story

  1. Local Filmmaker Lynn Lee Recounts Her Ordeal at Internal Affairs Office
  2. Filmmaker Lynn Lee investigated by police over SMRT bus drivers' video interviews
  3. Ex-SMRT PRC drivers allege being slapped and punched by Singapore police


It seems that in recent months, the government is beginning to move along in its new approach more decisively and speedily – by targeting the law at individual Singaporeans. This can be seen in the numerous cases that have already cropped up just in the first 4 months of 2013 alone, be them threats or arrests of individual Singaporeans.

Yet, all this while, the government is acting on a new two-prong strategy:
  • First, identity whatever Singaporeans are doing online to successfully rally themselves, and curb their abilities to use them, and
  • Second, transfer these successful ‘methods’ for the government’s own use.
What do I mean by this? You can see the government use this in some aspects – in the sector of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), for example, the government had identified NGOs which are not in line with their wants and they would create new organisations to render these NGOs not in their favour irrelevant.

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Race, Responsible Speech and a Hasty Response

If we desire freedom, we must take the verbal 'shit' that comes with it and be able to walk on unfazed, unbothered and unconcerned.  Remember this:  Sticks and stones may break my bones.  Words can never hurt me

Let me start this out with the following images.  I am a Hindu.  There'd be some expectation that I should be offended by the following images:

The image of a Hindu deity on a pair of shoes can be quite insulting.  Shoes are often accorded a 'lowly' status and taking out one's shoes and waving it at another is considered both an insult as well as a threat.  So, an image of Lord Vishnu on a pair of shoes would ordinarily (and should, objectively speaking) offend a Hindu.

If having an image of a deity on shoes is bad, this image of Lord Ganesha on slippers takes the cake.

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Strike Out! Forum Highlights Labour and Civil Rights

“This is not about local versus migrant workers. If migrant workers won’t be exploited, locals will not be displaced. The moment you underpay migrant workers, you undercut local workers. If workers don’t feel respected, why would they work hard for the company?”

Expanding on that, Mr Goh said, “Foreign workers are like cheap drugs. Companies do not want to invest in productivity if they can hire foreign workers. Some of the blame is on SMEs for not wanting to invest in advanced equipment.”

In his closing remarks, Mr Samydorai added, “Why are we looking differently at each other? I think the basis of human beings is us respecting each other as equals. What is preventing us from treating each other as equals?”

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I refer to the statement by Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim to the effect that money given by the state to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) should not be used "for the purpose of creating a platform for people to be involved in partisan politics" ("AMP director quits, alleging official pressure"; Wednesday)

A number of People's Action Party (PAP) MPs currently serve as advisers or board members of VWOs and NGOs that are in receipt of state funds. While they may be serving in their personal capacities rather than in their capacity as MPs, their service would tend to generate visibility and political capital for these politicians and their political party, in this case, the PAP

If politicians of only one party - the PAP - can serve in VWOs or NGOs that are positioned as non-partisan and accept state funds on that basis, while politicians of other parties cannot do so without the VWO or NGO being deemed partisan and ineligible for state funding for that reason alone, this is in effect politicising the VWO/NGO sector in favour of the ruling party

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The Untapped Power of Youth Activism

Unlike their international counterparts, Singaporean Youths here are unable to reach their fullest potential in being a changemaker.

Community service is popular among my peers in Singapore. However most people’s impression of it is confined to managing the effect of policies i.e. help the poor, help the animals. If youths want to speak out against government policies and decisions, they have to do so through govt-regulated platforms such as writing letters to our state-controlled mainstream media;  participating in PAYM forums, Singapore conversation or the grand school organized “ministerial forums” and “dialogue sessions”.

Thus, avenues for one to make a real fundamental change to policies which causing these effects are extremely limited.

Obstacles in place obstructing oppositions in Parliament

Many PAP MPs & NMPs rarely attend parliamentary debates while they attend to their lucrative professions and commercial directorships. Like Ms. Tan Shu Shan did not attend the initial 6.9M Population WP debate and vote and then, she attended later on to COS debate on need to import Foreign Talent.

So, PAP MPs always have fullest and detailed statistics and down to %, number, growth rate, and etc, like they are the walking encyclopedia. Because PAP MPs have been appointed to the working -committees to get insight. So, they are all singing from the same old song sheet without having to do detailed research, due diligence analysis, critical and independent thinking, going down to the ground to get the feel of people.

That is why of all failed policies from PAP with no 20/20 hindsight – tunnel vision because everyone sings the same old song sheet with praises and muted feed backs. None offers any out-of-box analysis, thinking, new and innovative criticisms and suggestions.

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Using The Law Against The People

It is with much regret and dismay that I read about the arrest of Leslie Chew in Yahoo Singapore, “the person behind the cartoon strip Demon-cratic Singapore, on Friday morning, for alleged sedition. He was held in custody and questioned over the weekend, and was released at 8.45pm on Sunday after posting bail of S$10,000.”

As Kirsten Han @kixes had mentioned on Twitter and on her blog #spuddings, “this is particularly significant as the news of this arrest has follows hard on the heels of the Attorney-General’s Chambers sending letters to websites demanding that they take down posts and issue apologies for comments deemed in contempt of court, and telling the media that it is considering taking action against a journalist who interviewed two of the ex-SMRT bus drivers involved in last year’s strike.”

This also follows from the charges of mischief that the artist, Samantha Lo, aka The Sticker Lady and her ‘accomplice, Anthony Chong, are facing for “spraying the words “My Grandfather Road” on sections of Maxwell Road and Robinson Road” and pasting “circular stickers at public places … (which) bore captions such as “Press once can already” and “Press until shiok”.” They were initially threatened to be charged with vandalism.

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Silencing the online community, curbing civic activism?

When people really organize their own ground up projects for causes they feel strongly for, they feel more connected to and have a sense of ownership over the cause. I feel that is akin to your wife/ girlfriend cooking for you or cooking together.. instead of dabaoing in a kopitiam as usual.

By giving people more power to have a say and play a role in shaping their nation’s future, I believe it will increase their sense of ownership, belonging and love for this country.

That is exactly what we need now when our national identity has been increasingly eroded due to internationalization.

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As some of you may be aware, a number of Facebook pages were issued letters from the Attorney-General’s Chamber Singapore demanding the removal of certain posts and comments claiming a contempt of court. (See: Facebook Pages Served Letters from AGC Regarding Contempt Of Court)

We would like to remind readers that comments that question the integrity of the judiciary are considered to be a contempt of court ; this includes implying that the courts are unjust, bias, unfair, corrupt, or any other similar allegations. We hope that this might clarify the issue for some readers to help prevent it occurring again in the future. 

Our effort to educate readers and remove the infringing comments, however, doesn’t seem to be enough for the AGC. Below is a copy of the emails exchanged between The Real Singapore and Jin Haw LI from the AGC:

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AGC demands apology from websites over verdict backlash

Singapore's Attorney-General Chambers (AGC) has issued a take-down letter and demanded an apology from several websites over posts which it said cast doubt on the judiciary's integrity.

The Attorney-General Chambers (AGC) has issued take-down letters and demanded apologies from several websites over posts which it said cast doubt on the judiciary's integrity in a case involving a China national

The websites and Facebook pages involved had suggested that a Singapore court had been lenient to Yuan Zhenghua, 31, who hijacked a taxi last year and crashed it into the driveway of Changi Airport's budget terminal, killing a Malaysian airport worker. Yuan, a technician, was sentenced by a district court to 25 months in jail Monday.

Singaporeans took to Internet websites and Facebook pages to criticise the verdict, prompting the AGC to issue letters asking for an apology and that the postings be taken down.

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"Anonymous" Hackers arrested & charged in Court