WP Press Release: Escape Of Mas Selamat Tuesday, Mar 11 2008 

Escape Of Mas Selamat, Workers’ Party, 11 Mar 2008

Two weeks have elapsed since the escape of Mas Selamat Kastari from the Whitley Road Centre.

Since the occurrence, the immediate priority has rightly been placed on his recapture. Our security forces have been hard at work in an island-wide manhunt, and Singaporeans too have put up with various inconveniences at checkpoints and other areas to facilitate this massive operation.

Many questions have been raised about how this incident could have taken place in a country which prides itself on safety and security. In seeking to reassure Singaporeans, the Minister for Home Affairs has established a Committee of Inquiry under the Prisons Act “to discover how the escape occurred and to recommend appropriate actions to prevent such an incident from occurring again”. (MHA letter to media dated 7 Mar 08).

As Whitley Road Centre is gazetted by law as a prison, the government’s decision to convene the inquiry under the Prisons Act is not wrong. The problem is that the Prisons Act states that such inquiries shall not be open to the public. The Committee will submit its report to the Minister, and no part of the proceedings may be released to anyone except with the Minister’s written permission.

This raises important questions as to how much the public will eventually be told, since the Minister retains the discretion to release the findings as he sees fit. In a matter of such high public interest as the escape of a high-risk terror suspect from a government-run facility, what assurances or checks are there that the public will be given full information? In the interest of transparency, other governments have conducted public hearings into sensitive matters such as intelligence failures.

One option is for the President to appoint a Commission of Inquiry under the Inquiries Act. He can do so when he considers that having a Commission to inquire into any matter would be for the public welfare or in the public interest. This regime will allow the inquiry to proceed in public as the President shall direct. If there is concern that release of certain sensitive information will jeopardize the national interest, the President may direct that certain information not be made public.

Moreover, since Singaporeans have been marshalled to assist the authorities to hunt for Mas Selamat, the least the government could do is to keep us fully informed of the inquiry and its findings.

Sylvia Lim
Chairman
11 Mar 2008

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Singapore’s Minister For Foreign Affairs Said Absolutely Nothing In Parliament Thursday, Oct 25 2007 

Media Release: George Yeo said absolutely nothing in Parliament, SDP, 23 Oct 2007

The Government’s responses over its dealings with the Burmese military regime are evasive, patronizing, and utterly devoid of substance. (Pseudonymity: See below for excerpts of George Yeo’s replies in Parliament)

Answers like “our defence sales have not been substantial”, “we will behave in a responsible manner”, and “‘arms sales have been carefully limited to items that are not suitable for countering civilian unrest” are like cotton-candy: sweet, puffy and full of air.

No verifiable facts were produced. What does Minister George Yeo mean by “substantial”, what is the Government’s definition of “responsible”, and pray tell what on earth is “carefully limited”?

If this passes off as “debate” in Parliament, then we are in deeper trouble than we think.

Why should we believe these bald assertions that the Government makes? Why does the Government not open the books of GLCs for scrutiny?

The authorities have been less than honest with the Singaporean people in this matter. For example, when allegations first surfaced that our funds, through the GIC which Mr Lee Kuan Yew runs, were linked to Burmese druglords through an investment fund called the Myanmar Fund, the PAP Government prevaricated in answering questions as to its involvement. (see here)

This is why general statements asseverating goodness in its dealings with the Burmese junta will not do. Singaporeans have the right to ask and are entitled to know details of what our involvement in Burma.

The more the Government avoids giving hard facts and figures, the more suspicions it raises and the more Singaporeans must press it for answers.

When our funds are used by a murderous regime that targets innocent civilians and peaceful protesters, a dollar is one too many.

Mr George Yeo needs to stop deluding himself and deceiving the people that the Government’s involvement in Burma is for “moral influence”. Considering that we hang small-time drug peddlers but deal with big-time Burmese druglords, Mr Yeo’s claim is a bit rich.

The SDP reiterates its stand: Singapore must stop selling arms of whatever nature to the regime in Burma, pull out our investments there and freeze the assets of the corrupt generals and druglords.

Chee Soon Juan
Secretary-General
Singapore Democratic Party

$$$$$$$$$$$

Excerpts from transcript of replies by Minister for Foreign Affairs, George Yeo, to questions on Burma in Parliament on 22 Oct 2007

Mr Siew Kum Hong: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs (a) whether Singapore has supplied arms and weapons to Myanmar; (b) what is the total value of investments by Government-linked companies in Myanmar; (c) what is the total value of remittances from Myanmar into Singapore over the past 5 years; and (d) whether the Government intends to take any action, either by itself or as ASEAN chair, in addition to making statements and writing letters to the junta.

Ms Sylvia Lim: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether and to what extent Singapore businesses are or have been engaged with the Myanmar authorities in trade and consulting in the field of military hardware and surveillance equipment.

Ms Sylvia Lim: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether and to what extent there are arrangements in place for military cooperation between Singapore and Myanmar.

Minister

11. Singapore has limited economic links with Myanmar. Before the Asian financial crisis, we did encourage our businessmen to invest and to do more in Myanmar. At that time, there was hope that the Government was taking the Indonesian road from an authoritarian military government to constitutional democracy. But when Suharto fell in 1998, the Government in Yangon froze and the economy slid backwards. Generally speaking, our businessmen are not doing well in Myanmar and many regret having invested there. Singapore companies’ cumulative total direct investments in Myanmar for the year ending 2005 was only S$742 million. MTI does not keep track of how much of this is by GLCs, because the Government is not involved in the individual investment decisions of GLCs.

12. Overall, our total trade with Myanmar last year was S$1 billion, which represents only 0.1% of Singapore’s total trade. Myanmar ranked 50th among our trading partners. Therefore, our policy on Myanmar does not hinge on this. Instead, our actions are guided by what is best for the long-term interests of ASEAN.

13. As for remittances, MAS does not track the amount of money remitted into or out of Singapore by any country. For an international business and financial centre like Singapore, funds can be transferred for various purposes including payments for goods and services, trades on the stock exchange, even for school fees. But MAS operates a strict and rigorous regime against money laundering, like all other leading financial centres. Banks and financial institutions in Singapore are required to institute strict procedures, including the need to identify and know their customers, and monitor and report any suspicious transactions. Our rules are vigorously enforced. Should there be links with illicit activity, MAS will not hesitate to take necessary action.

14. If there are UN mandated sanctions against Myanmar, we will of course comply with them. Whatever policy we adopt must apply to all companies operating in Singapore, not just owned by Singaporeans.

15. Singapore has very few defence interactions with Myanmar. But we have to maintain links with the military because it is a key institution. These are largely limited to interactions at multilateral events such as ASEAN-related meetings, international defence exhibitions, and sports activities like the Army Half Marathon. As far as defence sales are concerned, it is established policy of the Government not to divulge details publicly. Myanmar is not subject to any UN arms embargo. If there is any UN sanction against Myanmar, Singapore will of course abide by it. Nevertheless, I can say that over the years defence sales to Myanmar have not been substantial, and have always been carefully limited to items that are not suitable for countering civilian unrest. There have not been any defence sales to Myanmar in recent years and, going forward, we will continue to behave in a responsible manner.

Ms Sylvia Lim: Mr Speaker Sir, what concerns me is to what extent Singapore might be implicated in somehow propping up the military authorities in Burma or Myanmar in their oppressive tactics. And the reason I ask this, there have been some press reports recently as well as in the past. Just to cite one example, a Melbourne newspaper called The Age last month came up with an article called “Web of Cash, Power and Cronies” which reiterated in fact, soft contents from earlier articles in Jane’s Intelligence Review in 1998 . And the content of those articles basically is to say that Singapore has in fact been much involved in shipping ammunitions and other military equipment to Myanmar and also been instrumental in helping to set up a cyber centre where intelligence equipment was subsequently used to monitor activists. So, I would like to ask the Minister to comment on these articles, whether there have been some activities as such, in the past, to what extent it has minimised now. Such clarity I think would be very important for us.

Minister: On the question of military sales, I’ve given a full answer earlier. It’s been insubstantial. We’ve always made sure they were items which could not be used against civilians and there has been no sales in recent years. I shouldn’t go on beyond that because it is our established policy not to divulge details of military sales. We have replied to the Australian newspaper. As for the reports about helping them establish a listening facility to monitor civilian dissidents, there’s no truth in that. We have made repeated clarifications to Australian newspapers. They have printed our replies, but somehow the journalists who wrote subsequently ignored those replies we’ve made. As for their accusations about us being involved in drug money laundering, it goes back quite a long time to Dr Chee Soon Juan. We’ve clarified again and again but they keep being recycled and that article you’ve referred to contains some of that recycled hash.

Pseudonymity: Do also read Leong Sze Hian’s Further questions about Myanmar and t-shirts

Burden of Fare Hikes on Commuters is Unjustified – NSP Thursday, Sep 13 2007 

NSP Press Release, 12 Sept 2007

The National Solidarity Party (NSP) condemns the latest approval of bus fare hike by the Public Transport Council (PTC). Fare hikes have become an annual ritual which highlights the sordid mechanism behind the regulation of standards and fares by the PTC.

The Chairman of PTC Mr. Gerald Ee acknowledged that “the current service frequency was not good enough when ‘operational deviation’ was factored in”. The tightening of the basic Quality of Service (QoS) by the PTC therefore constitutes a tacit admission that the service standard for buses has dropped below the mark of decent acceptability for some years, even as fare hike applications continue to be favourably approved year after year.

The PTC stated that it was “mindful not to increase the cost of compliance” to Public Transport Operators (PTOs), thus opting to phase in the new standards in 2 years, with fines thereafter of up to $10,000 per month for each instance of non-compliance.

The NSP would like to punctuate the salient point that such punitive fines will unavoidably result in either the passing of the cost liability to commuters, or in an invariable reduction in service standards not directly measured by the QoS such as interior ambience and comfort of ride.

The NSP strongly recommends that fare hike applications by PTOs be dismissed until the basic service standard is first achieved within the stipulated 2 years, and subsequently maintained for at least 5 years thereafter, subjected to a stringent and transparent process of annual assessment.

Mr Gerald Ee’s assumption that Singapore’s economic growth automatically translates to affordability for bus commuters is questionable. In the latest hike, the highest increment was for the shortest trips. This will hurt the heartlanders most as they are often those with low or no income. Affordability is a nonsense reason for a fare hike, especially since public transport is an essential service.

Singapore’s “economic growth” has seen workers in the lower 40% of the population suffering little or no improvement in their salaries. Their misery is compounded by the fact that the inflation rate for the lowest 20% continued to peak well above that of the highest 20% income earners, even surpassing the general household inflation rate. And this is despite the occasional government handouts. Those with ‘extra’ money would prefer to save it or spend in on other essentials instead of ‘squandering’ it on increased bus fares.

In the latest quarterly financial report of SBS Transit, fuel cost decreased by 6.6%, while operating profit increased by 36.9% as compared to the corresponding quarter last year. Profit after tax to shareholders increased by 25%. Manpower cost increased by a manageable 4.4% which was more or less offset by the decrease in fuel cost. For SMRT, cost of staff and fuel decreased, while profit after tax increased by a whopping 38.5%.

The impressive double-digits profits of PTOs far overshadow the meagre pay increment of many citizens. It is hence dishonourable to further fatten the coffers of the PTOs by diluting the citizens’ hard-earned gains.

The PTC acknowledged that Singapore has a “restricted number of service providers and an absence of real market competition”. The unchallenged business position of the existing PTOs will allow their businesses to continue to stay attractively profitable for the foreseeable long-term without needing to rip more from commuters. This is evident from the rapid expansion of profitable businesses of the PTOs both at home and overseas.

The NSP would like to pound on the need for improvements to the grotesquely inadequate fare formula, a demand which have been repeated incessantly by the indignant public.

The formula must include elements which incorporate the degree of compliance to the QoS. The PTC must recognise that the lower and lower-middle income group constitute the bulk of public transport commuters. The formula must thus factor in their (low) earning power and relatively higher incurred inflation, and not merely incorporates the national average which skews in favour of the well-to-do who do not generally commute by bus.

Finally, the profits of the PTOs and their payouts to shareholders must be considered in the equation. If necessary, the PTC should oblige these lucrative PTOs to raise extra funds from their benefited shareholders instead of exploiting the lack of viable alternatives for the people through constant fare hikes. It is preposterous for the PTC to safeguard the interest of the shareholders of PTOs at the expense of commuters.

The NSP hopes that the members of the PTC can step onboard public transports more regularly to enable them to empathise with the commuters, and recognise their fair rights and interests.

Central Executive Council
National Solidarity Party

Global Club of Democracies Decide Not To Invite Singapore Friday, Sep 7 2007 

Invitations for Global Club of Democracies Deemed “Largely Credible”, Freedom House, 6 Sept 2007

The Community of Democracies, a global club for the world’s old and new democracies, has decided which governments merit invitation to its meeting of foreign ministers scheduled for November in Bamako, Mali. The end result, after months of deliberations, is “largely credible,” according to a consortium of groups monitoring the process.

The final list of 126 participating and 20 observer states, issued by the Government of Mali as chair of the body’s steering committee, follows recommendations made in February by an independent panel of high-level experts, with some notable exceptions.

The diverse group of 16 governments that make up the Community of Democracies Convening Group, which is responsible for issuing invitations to the club’s fourth ministerial meeting, decided not to invite Thailand, Fiji, Singapore, Qatar, Venezuela, Bangladesh and Tunisia, all of whom had participated in or observed the last meeting held in Santiago in 2005. Their exclusion is consistent with the recommendations of the experts panel and underscores the Convening Group’s determination to keep out those governments which have failed to uphold the democracy and human rights commitments of the group.

Notably, the Convening Group decided to downgrade both Russia and Nigeria from participant to observer status for the upcoming Bamako meeting. Given the high profile of these two countries, this decision sends a clear signal to the international community that current trends of respect for democracy and human rights in both countries are on the decline.

To be credible, the Community of Democracies must hold all states to the same universal standards of democracy and human rights adopted by the Community itself. In this light, the Convening Group has not strictly upheld the association’s criteria for participation in its decision to invite both Afghanistan and Iraq as full participants. The experts panel had recommended Afghanistan be invited as an observer due to persistent governmental instability and its effect on advancing human rights; it advised that Iraq not be invited at all due to the continuing inability to establish an accountable state there.

Several other country invitations demonstrate that there is still further work to be done to ensure that all states are held to the same standards for future meetings. The Convening Group was lenient, for example, with regard to keeping some countries, such as Bahrain, Jordan, Malaysia and Yemen, as participants despite a downward trend in democratic standards and human rights. They also maintained several questionable countries in the observer category (Egypt, Oman, Burkina Faso and Azerbaijan) despite recommendations by the experts panel to not invite, and moved several new countries that are not making sufficient progress (Cameroon, Guinea-Bissau, Rwanda, and Uganda) to the observer category for the Bamako meeting.

The independent experts panel, composed of over a dozen former heads of state, parliamentarians, human rights experts and academics from around the world, delivered recommendations based on a comprehensive assessment of how well governments are meeting the club’s standards of democracy and human rights. The panel was formed on the belief that the value of the Community of Democracies rests largely on the character of its membership. By requiring a regular review of democratic principles and practices, the Community of Democracies process acknowledges that democracy is not an end-state but a process in which states may advance on or fall away from the path of democracy.

The experts panel, known as the International Advisory Committee (IAC), welcomes the Convening Group’s invitation to continue the fruitful relationship that has formed, and looks forward to continued collaboration to ensure that the invitations process for the Community of Democracies is transparent, credible, and legitimate.

The International Advisory Committee was supported by research and analysis conducted by a Secretariat composed of the Bertelsmann Stiftung (Germany), the Center for Democratic Development (Ghana), the Democracy Coalition Project (USA) and Freedom House (USA).

The Community of Democracies, a global grouping of democratic and democratizing states, was launched in Warsaw in 2000 as a forum for strengthening international cooperation for democracy and human rights promotion. Its participants also have established a Democracy Caucus at the United Nations for the purpose of coordinating common positions on democracy and human rights at the world body.

A chart comparing the Community of Democracies invitation status of all UN member states since the first meeting in Warsaw in 2000 can be found below. (Click here)

To read the International Advisory Committee’s recommendations, click here.

Click here for the PDF version of this press release

Click here for the International Advisory Committee country report on Singapore

CSJ Goes To Prison Again Wednesday, Sep 5 2007 

SDP Media Release: Citizen Chee Soon Juan goes to prison again, 4 Sep 2007

As expected, the high court today dismissed Dr. Chee Soon Juan’s appeal against a lower court conviction of attempting to leave Singapore as an undischarged bankrupt.

Judge Choo Han Teck upheld the fine of four thousand dollars or, in lieu, three weeks imprisonment imposed by a district judge on 26 February, 2007. As a result of the unsuccessful appeal, the Singapore Democratic Party Secretary-General has begun his prison term at the Queenstown Remand Prison.

On 1st April, 2006, Dr. Chee was stopped at the airport immigration check point and his passport confiscated while trying to leave for the World Movement for Democracy conference in Turkey.

Dr. Chee’s position during the lower court trial was that there was no clear directive from the Insolvency and Public Trustee’s Office (IPTO) to prevent him from leaving the country. The IPTO created confusion when it assigned at least six officers to handle Dr. Chee’s case.

This morning’s appeal saw both the defence and the prosecution taking more than an hour to put across their arguments. Dr. Chee’s counsel, Mr. Alfred Dodwell told the court that there was so much inconsistency in the way IPTO handled the case when all Dr. Chee wanted was fair treatment as an ordinary citizen, and not as a politician. Because of the uncertainty and confusion caused by IPTO, the benefit of the doubt should be given to Dr Chee.

Despite the elaborate argument put forth by the defence and prosecution, Judge Choo, took just a few seconds to dismiss the appeal and uphold the sentence, not to the surprise of everyone present.

Gandhi Ambalam
Chairman
Singapore Democratic Party

**********

Related post: One country, two systems

Death Sentences For Drug-Related Crimes Rise In Asia-Pac Region – Amnesty Friday, Jun 22 2007 

Amnesty International Public Statement, 20 June 2007

Asia Pacific: Death sentences for drug-related crimes rise in region

On the occasion of the UN Anti-Drugs Day on 26 June, the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN), of which Amnesty International is a member, expressed growing concern that more people are sentenced to death for drug offences than for any other crime in a number of Asia Pacific countries. This is at a time when there is a worldwide trend towards restricting and abolishing the death penalty.

Sixteen Asia Pacific countries continue to apply the death penalty for the offences of drug trafficking and possession, said ADPAN.

ADPAN recognizes that it is legitimate for governments to take appropriate law-enforcement measures against drug traffickers and related crime, and that states may be party to international drug control treaties which require them to do so. However there is no convincing evidence that the death penalty deters would-be drug traffickers more than any other punishment.

In the sixteen countries that impose the death penalty for drug offences, Amnesty International remains unaware of any evidence to show that the death penalty has led to a drop in drug use or trafficking. In China for example, police data shows that the number of drug users grew 35 percent in the five years since 2000. In Viet Nam, the BBC quoted an official who said in 2005 the quantity of drugs seized by customs had increased 400 percent year-on-year, despite its use of the death penalty.

Over the years, United Nations human rights monitoring bodies and experts have examined the scope of the death penalty as applied in different countries in the world. When it comes to the death penalty for drug-related crimes, legal definitions of the offences of possession and trafficking vary considerably from country to country. Most recently, in analysing the practice, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, Professor Philip Alston, concluded in January 2007 that the death penalty should be understood to be “a quite exceptional measure” that can only be imposed on cases where “it can be shown that there was an intention to kill which resulted in loss of life“. In a challenge to Indonesia’s Constitution, Professor Alston acting as a witness told the Constitutional Court in April that, “[d]eath is not an appropriate response to the crime of drug trafficking.

Because the death penalty is shrouded in secrecy in many Asian countries it is not possible to say exactly how many death sentences are imposed for drug crimes. However, reports have shown that in South East Asian countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, the majority of death penalty cases are for drug crimes.

In addition mandatory death sentences are applied for certain drug offences in Brunei, India, Laos, Thailand, North Korea, Singapore and Malaysia, giving judges no authority to take into account extenuating circumstances.

All legal proceedings, and particularly those related to capital offences, must conform to the minimum procedural guarantees contained in article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including the right to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal, the presumption of innocence, the right to adequate legal assistance and the right to review by a higher tribunal.

Some countries in Asia such as Malaysia, China and Singapore fail to apply the presumption of innocence for drug offences, instead creating a presumption of guilt. The presumption of innocence is an established international standard. The requirement that the accused be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in the course of a trial which meets all guarantees of fairness has enormous implications for the defendants’ right to a fair trial. It means that the prosecution has to prove an accused person’s guilt. If there is reasonable doubt, the accused must not be found guilty. If the burden is reversed, the accused person effectively loses the benefit of the doubt. This increases the risk that an innocent person may be executed.

The failure to apply the presumption of innocence to those charged with drug offences, combined with the mandatory imposition of the death penalty, is an obvious violation of international legal standards. Often these violations are coupled with lack of adequate legal assistance at all stages in the proceedings including when defendants are too poor to pay for proper legal defence,compounding the unfairness of the trial.

In China, UN Anti-Drugs Day has been used by the authorities as an occasion for mass executions in recent years. In the period between 13 and 26 June 2006, Amnesty International recorded 55 executions for drugs offences.

Studies have shown that the death penalty is disproportionately imposed on the poorest, most vulnerable members of society. In many cases, people have become involved in drug trafficking out of desperation or ignorance. Executing these people not only fails to deter others, but also fails to deal with the underlying issues that drive them to offend, such as poverty and lack of education, and obviously precludes the possibility of reform.

ADPAN urges Asia Pacific countries to take the lead of countries such as the Philippines and Nepal and join the global trend towards total abolition of the death penalty — starting by ending the use of the death penalty for drugs offences and studying and implementing alternative treatment to break the cycle of drug abuse and crime.

The sixteen Asia Pacific countries that still have the death penalty for drug- crimes are: Bangladesh, Brunei, China, India, Indonesia, North Korea, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and Viet Nam.

The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) is an independent informal network with over 34 members made up of individuals and organizations from 18 countries mainly from the Asia-Pacific region.

One Country, Two Systems Sunday, Jun 10 2007 

theslipNote: Credit for the cartoon goes to My sketchbook. All the links in this post are mine and not in the original NSP press release. After the press release, I’ve provided links to a series of reports from the SDP with regards to a case earlier this year in which Dr Chee Soon Juan was found “guilty of attempting to leave Singapore without permission”. In his case, the system worked “flawlessly and efficiently”.

NSP Press Release – Responsibility and Social Repercussions of Escape of Ex-NKF Chairman Escape

6 June 2007

The National Solidarity Party (NSP) shares the frustration of the public over the NKF issue which has dragged on for more than a year. The high public expectation in extracting justice ended in the incredible jaw-dropping development where Richard Yong, a key player in the NKF saga, fluidly escaped the gazes of the authorities, and fled Singapore while owing a huge sum of public money to NKF whilst being declared a bankrupt.

We are outraged over how “a matter of hours” of lapse by the authorities has practically brought down 4 decades of efforts in cultivating a public spirit of spontaneous charity. The social repercussions from a collapse of public trust in institutions meant to safeguard their social interests are simply immeasurable.

It is a total disaster when a defaulter of public funds slips through the tight law-enforcement net without undergoing the due punishment. Every such ‘success’ story emboldens more law-breakers to test the authorities, and impose further duress on the security of the nation.

The repulsive event further deteriorates what remaining sense of generosity there was in Singaporeans when the NKF incident first came to light. It also inevitably erodes public confidence in the ability of the relevant authorities to execute their duties diligently and responsibly.

The lapse is all the more lamentable considering that the defaulter had a few months earlier divested his private properties for a personal gain of $7.5million, and attempted to dodge the authorities by not reporting his whereabouts. Despite the cues, the authorities had not taken tighter precautions.

The frivolous approach of the authorities is inexplicable, considering how the authorities have the track record of freezing assets of defendants in sensitive legal cases even before their convictions.

The incident has made a complete mockery of the nation’s proclamation of good governance, further strengthening the case for the need of checks and balances, and more transparency in matters of grave social concerns.

On behalf of the indignant public, the NSP would like to know what measures the authorities are going to take to satisfactorily remedy the situation, and recoup the public’s hard-earned money donated through an innocent sense of trust. The authorities owe the public a thorough and convincing explanation for the “extraordinary” oversight.

Until the necessary justice is administered, public cynicism will gain in strength to threaten the precarious social coherence. Together with Singaporeans, the NSP is keen to see an acceptable closure to the saga, and nothing less will do.

Central Executive Council
National Solidarity Party

##########

Lawyer Dodwell says that CSJ should be treated equally under the law

Chee’s travel application rejected only after conference is over

OA on lookout for CSJ at airport even on Saturday night

Chee’s trial: The Prosecution at it again

OA’s office incompetent and unprofessional: CSJ

Chee found guilty for ‘attempting to leave Singapore’

Singapore Activists Face Police Harrassment & Intimidation Thursday, May 31 2007 

Resolute in the face of police intimidation, SDP Press Release, 30 May 2007

Several activists have been called up for questioning by the police for standing up for their rights of freedom of speech and peaceful assembly last year.

Fifteen local democracy advocates attended police investigations in the past several weeks to answer questions on their participation in two events: the World Bank-IMF meeting in September and on International Human Rights Day in December.

Despite the harassment, however, these human rights defenders remain defiant. In a signed statement as well as video-taped messages, the advocates reiterated their commitment to establishing their political and civil rights of Singaporeans.

The police have made outrageous allegations that the advocates have committed offences such as “counseling disobedience to the law”, “holding an assembly and procession without a permit”, and even “incitement to violence”.

In Sep 06, seven activists took part in a protest at Hong Lim Park during the World Bank-IMF meeting, calling for freedom of speech in Singapore. They were stopped by the police which turned the event into a 72-hour standoff.

On 10 Dec 06, several advocates conducted a Freedom Walk down Orchard Road to mark International Human Rights Day.

This is the first time that a group of Singaporeans have courageously stood up for their rights and they remain resolute in the face of police intimidation. They responded with dignity by going to the police stations to face the investigators.

They even called on fellow Singaporeans to step forward and join them in their fight against the despotic PAP Government (see video). They also made appeals to the international community to pay attention to the continued repression in Singapore.

The group’s action will shine the spotlight on the PAP which is running out of ideas on how to improve Singapore and resorting to desperate measures to silence a population which is becoming more assertive.

The latest police action signals a regime increasingly at odds with the people it rules and it is a clear indication of a Government that is insecure and lacking in confidence.

One of the activists, Mr Jeffrey George, who is a staunch advocate of democratic values and practices, said: “Singaporeans must not be cowed by this bullying. We must show that our right to democracy and freedom is inalienable, it cannot be taken away from us.”

Mr John Tan, another democracy advocate, added: “I challenge the Government to live up to the pledge our children recite in school everyday, that is, to build a democratic society, based on justice and equality.”

Mr Tan questioned how could Singaporeans feel proud when citizens “are hauled up for being patriotic?”

“How can we feel at home when we do not have basic human rights such as the freedom of speech and expression?” he asked. “The freedom of speech and the freedom to assemble are fundamental to the very definition of democracy. They are the elements that either make us a free people or a nation of slaves.”

Express your support for these courageous citizens who have found their voice and are standing up to the PAP. Write them a message of solidarity and encouragement (speakup@singaporedemocrat.org).

##########

It is our duty to speak up, 30 May 07

We, the undersigned, are being questioned by the police for taking part in political activities on 16 September 2006 and 10 December 2006.

We are Singaporeans exercising our sacred rights and speaking up for the rights of our fellow citizens.

We object to being harassed by the Singapore Government and reiterated our stand that as citizens its is our duty and responsibility to speak up and hold our Government accountable. These rights are enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We oppose the repressive measures of the ruling Peoples’ Action Party which continues to use laws to prosecute citizens for exercising our freedoms of speech and assembly.

We call on democracy defenders to denounce the anti-democratic stance of the Singapore Government and to support the cause of democracy in Singapore.

Signed,

Gandhi Ambalam
Chee Siok Chin (Ms)
Chee Soon Juan
Chong Kaixiong
Jeffrey George
Johnny Hoe
Isrizal
Kirat Kaur (Ms)
Monica Kumar (Ms)
Priveen Suraj
Gerald Sng
John Tan
Charles Tan
Tan Cheng Poh
Teoh Tian Jing
Yap Keng Ho
Francis Yong

S’pore To Hang 19yr Old Nigerian on 26 Jan 2007 Friday, Jan 19 2007 

Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi

With cold-blooded efficiency, those who are sentenced to die in Singapore are hanged by the authorities at 6am.

In the following press release by the Singapore Anti Death Penalty Campaign, the links to reports; articles and websites are my own and not by the authors of the press release.

Press Message on the Pending Hanging of Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi in Singapore

It is with great sadness that we compose this press message regarding the death sentence on Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi to be hanged at dawn on 26th January after a lengthy, lonely and soul-destroying imprisonment.

Tochi was arrested for allegedly carrying heroin into Changi airport in November 2004. He was 19 years old when he was arrested.

The court in Singapore delivered the death sentence after a 13-day trial.

Tochi has been waiting in maximum security section of Changi prison from 2004 until today. His family in Nigeria believed until July last year that he was playing football for a Singapore football team.

Tochi was indeed a champion footballer who played in Nigerian state league championships. He claims he was tricked into trafficking drugs to Singapore on the promise of being able to play for a club here.

It is particularly disturbing to note that the trial judge himself raised reasonable doubts in Tochi’s case, mentioning that it was entirely possible that Tochi did not know he was bringing in drugs to Singapore -before proceeding to convict him and pass the mandatory death penalty. *

At a time when the Singapore prison system has a renewed emphasis upon rehabilitation, and when the Yellow Ribbon campaign asks us to give even seasoned criminals a second chance, can we not find it in our hearts to extend this to a person who–if he indeed is guilty–made a desperate mistake at the age of 19?

The death sentence for drug trafficking in Singapore continues to be “mandatory”, which means that judges are not able to take into significance and mitigating circumstances (such as the age and general naivity of the accused) when passing their verdict.

And at a time when even the hangings of persons responsible for mass killings and genocide, such as Saddam Hussein and his cronies are being regarded with disgust by the world at large; are seen as reproducing the criminal cruelty of the original perpetrators, is it not time that we in Singapore reconsider our stance on the repeated, mandatory hanging of small-fry drug mules?

Signed,

Singapore Anti Death Penalty Campaign

* Tochi was arrested in Changi Airport in November 2004. He claims he was carrying herbal medicine for a third party, at the behest of his “friend”, Mr Smith. According to Tochi, Mr Smith befriended him months earlier and advised him to approach football clubs in Singapore.

Against Tochi, the trial judge, Mr Kan Ting Chiu, made the following finding at paragraph 42 of his judgment [2005] SGHC 233: “There was no direct evidence that he knew the capsules contained diamorphine. There was nothing to suggest that Smith had told him they contained diamorphine, or that he had found that out of his own.”

The Singapore Anti Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) comprises a concerned group of Singaporeans from diverse backgrounds who have come together over the issue of the Death Penalty . Through a series of debates and events we hope to foster a public debate on the practice of capital punishment in Singapore and throughout the world.

Amicable Parting From The SDA: NSP Press Release Friday, Jan 19 2007 

Press Release – Re-positioning of the NSP

A vote was conducted on the 18th January 2007 at the National Solidarity Party (NSP) party office to appraise the inclination of the party insofar as our continual membership in the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) is concerned.

This voting exercise constituted an important part of the continuous half-yearly internal periodic review of our party. The review process serves to improve our operational performance, strengthen the collective party resolve on crucial issues, and to focus the party on achieving its common goals.

After an open-minded and objective process, the majority had opted for the position of an amicable parting from the SDA.

The party took the view that the autonomy will harmonise our party’s aspiration to grow with our quest to explore new possibilities through wider latitude to manoeuvre, re-engineer, and rebuild the NSP.

The respect for collectiveness within a big grouping like the SDA which comprises members with different priorities can produce complexities in coordination, leading to less than optimal operational efficiency. We hence seek to re-prioritise our position, from one of integral teamwork by virtue of the status of component member of SDA, to one of external strategic partnership with the SDA by collaborating on future activities.

Contrary to the popular misguided speculation on Mr Chiam’s poor leadership and lethargy in the development of the Opposition, we would like to emphasise that the tireless statesman has performed a commendable feat of cementing the alliance over the years into a respectable political force which saw it underwent 2 successive General Elections with ever improving percentage of public support.

Mr Chiam is also widely acknowledged as one of the most successful Opposition figures in Singapore, deserving inarguably a place in the history of our nation. The public accolades heaped upon Mr Chiam are a testimonial to his merited symbol as an exemplary beacon for the institution of Democracy in Singapore.

The NSP has the utmost respect for the Chairman of SDA.

Moving forward, the NSP will strive to contribute significantly to the overall objective of the Opposition to contest in every electoral ward, so as to offer voters credible alternatives to the incumbent PAP.

We welcome the inclusion of anyone with moral standing and sincere passion for advancing the social, economic, and political demands of a maturing nation.

Despite the cordial parting, the NSP is confident of future joint engagements with both SDA and Mr Chiam. We will continue to strengthen the bedrock of mutual trust and understanding between the Opposition parties so as to build a true society for all.

Central Executive Council
National Solidarity Party

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