VIDEOS: Reform Party Saturday, Apr 19 2008 

Ng Teck Siong, Chairman of the new Reform Party, introducing the party at a press conference on Friday, 18 Apr 2008, at the Quality Hotel at Balestier Road

JBJ talks on Reform Party’s action plan and constitution

Q & A – Part 1

Q & A – Part 2

Cartoon from my sketchbook

by my sketchbook

New party vows to fight Singapore ‘enslavement’, AFP, 19 Apr 2008

SINGAPORE (AFP) – – A tough-talking new political party vowed on Friday to fight what it called the “enslavement” of Singapore after nearly half-a-century of rule by the People’s Action Party (PAP).

“Our people have been enslaved all this while,” J.B. Jeyaretnam, 82, interim secretary general of the Reform Party, told a news conference.

He said Singaporean society has been “castrated” and its people left powerless by an executive that holds “absolute power.”

For Jeyaretnam, a rare voice criticising the PAP over the past decades, the party’s formation marks his full return to politics after emerging from bankruptcy and being reinstated as a lawyer.

“We now in the Reform Party are not going to play pussy-foot with the PAP,” he told reporters at the close of a lengthy address which outlined what he sees as the country’s social, political and economic problems.

“I think it’s time now to ask questions and hold the PAP to account,” he said.

Party officials said they held the news conference a day after filing documents to register their party.

The opposition plays only a marginal role in Singapore but Jeyaretnam made political history in 1981 when he became the first opposition politician elected to parliament. He was then secretary general of the Workers’ Party.

The lawyer was disbarred when he was declared bankrupt in 2001 after failing to pay libel damages to members of the PAP, including former prime minister Goh Chok Tong.

During his bankruptcy, he was reduced to hawking his self-penned books outside city subway stations.

Last year Jeyaretnam paid 233,255 Singapore dollars (now 172,578 US) to clear his bankruptcy, which had prevented him from running for political office, after help from friends and his prominent lawyer son.

He was also reinstated to the bar and has resumed legal practice.

On Friday, Jeyaretnam said he did not care whether Singapore’s “obedient press” reported his comments — which continued for 80 minutes.

“Some things have to be said,” he stated as he began the speech.

He said Singapore, which prides itself on having ‘First World’ status, faces a widening gulf between rich and poor.

Government leaders earn millions but many families survive on one or two thousand dollars a month (605-1,1210 US), yet nobody speaks up, he said.

“There is, I don’t have to tell you, a fear culture in Singapore,” Jeyaretnam said. “It’s a total enslavement of the people.”

He said the party’s registration documents contained the names of only 10 people — and even attracting that many was not easy.

“People are still afraid,” he said.

Asked whether his news conference in a hotel meeting room was being monitored by police, he replied: “I’m sure that it is.”

Jeyaretnam said he hopes not only to reform the structure of the Singapore system but also people’s way of thinking, to rouse them from a PAP-induced “slumber.”

Jeyaretnam said that, if he is physically able, he will stand as a candidate in the next general election due by 2011.

He called for a complete overhaul of the electoral system, which he said places opposition parties at a disadvantage. The PAP won all but two seats in last year’s polls for the 84-member parliament.

The country’s leaders say its tough laws against dissent and other political activity are necessary to ensure the stability which has helped it achieve economic success. Thousands of foreign firms are based in Singapore, one of the most politically stable countries in the region.

The leaders dismiss criticisms from human rights groups who have said the government uses libel laws to silence critics, saying they have to protect their reputations.

Jeyaratnam spoke at a table with two other party officials beside him. To their left stood a white board which carried only two words in blue ink: “Reform Party.”

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Singapore Opposition Veteran Says His New Political Party Will Fight To Empower The People Friday, Apr 18 2008 

By Gillian Wong, Associated Press Writer, 18 Apr 2008

J B JeyaretnamSINGAPORE – A veteran Singapore opposition figure said Friday his new political party will press for more help to the city-state’s poor and strive to empower citizens by raising awareness of their rights.

Joshua B. Jeyaretnam, who turned 82 in January, also said that he will contest the next parliamentary election, due by 2011, if his health permits.

“If I’m still here, if I’m still fit – of course,” he said when asked if he planned to run in an election. “I thank God that I’m still able. I don’t suffer from any major illnesses, diabetes, or asthma, or anything.”

In 1981, Jeyaretnam became the first opposition politician elected to Parliament since Singapore’s independence from Malaysia in 1965.

He was declared bankrupt in 2001 when he failed to pay more than S$600,000 (US$367,000; euro308,500) in damages to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Lee’s predecessors Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, and others.

Jeyaretnam emerged from bankruptcy last year after paying off damages from defamation lawsuits filed by the country’s leaders. Being solvent again makes him eligible to run in elections.

He told reporters he submitted an application Thursday to register the Reform Party as a political party and that it would take up to two months to be approved.

The new party would first reach out to Singaporeans to remind them of their political rights, of which Jeyaretnam said they have been deprived by the ruling People’s Action Party, or PAP, in the tightly controlled city-state.

“The battle plan is to try and energize our people, to rouse them from this slumber into which the PAP has led them,” Jeyaretnam said, while pledging to press the ruling party on a number of issues affecting the poor.

The PAP, which came to power in 1959, holds 82 out of 84 elected seats in Parliament.

He said the party will ask the government to remove a sales tax for basic necessities, including some foods, medicine and schoolbooks; improve the public health care system; and question the million-dollar salaries of Cabinet ministers, among other issues.

“I think it’s time for us to ask the questions and hold the PAP to account,” he said.

The party currently comprises ten members, the minimum required to register a political party, but would recruit more after it is registered, Jeyaretnam said.

He acknowledged that finding the first ten members just to register the party had been a challenge, which he attributed to a fear of joining the opposition.

“It’s not been easy, let me tell you, because simply that people are still afraid,” he said. “You can’t scoff at this idea of fear in Singapore. It’s very real, I know it.”

Singapore says its political system has democratic features, including elections, but that it does not seek a freewheeling, Western-style democracy that could foment tension and even chaos. Authorities tightly restrict speech and assembly, saying such controls provide the stability that has helped turn Singapore into a global economic powerhouse.

Longer Queues For Free Food In Wealthy Singapore Tuesday, Apr 15 2008 

AFP, 14 Apr 2008

SINGAPORE (AFP) – Rising food prices are driving more people in Singapore, the wealthiest economy in Southeast Asia, to join the queue for free meals, charities said Monday.

Thirty percent more people are turning up daily to fill their stomachs at the Singapore Buddhist Lodge, which serves free vegetarian meals, the temple’s president Lee Bock Guan said.

During weekends the figures are even higher, when about 5,000 people arrive for the free food compared to 3,000 three months ago, he told AFP.

“Food prices have gone up and for them, their wages have not gone up as much,” he said, adding the needy are coming from all walks of life.

“Their income is not enough to cope with the higher food prices.”

Lee said donations from some of the temple’s wealthiest members are still strong, allowing it to handle the rising demand.

The Care Corner Seniors Activity Centre, which serves free breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, said inflation has led 10 percent more elderly citizens to turn up for meals, compared with two months ago.

Some of them have started to take more food at lunch and bring the extra home for their dinner, said a centre worker who declined to be named.

The Young Women’s Christian Association, which cooks meals and delivers them to the needy, said it is operating at peak capacity serving 200 people each day – despite a drop in rice donations.

“One of the possible reasons could be the increasing price of rice,” programme executive Han Shin Hui said, adding donations of other food items such as biscuits have increased.

She said the organisation has had to use its own funds to cover the drop in rice donations.

Singapore is an island state that imports virtually all its food needs.

Consumer price index inflation reached 6.6 percent in January-February, up from 0.8 percent in the first half of last year, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said last week.

MAS announced it had tightened monetary policy in a bid to address the price rises.

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The different faces of Singapore, Seah Chiang Nee, Insight Down South, theStar, 12 Apr 2008

The top 10% of the population are the rich, who live in wealthy districts, while the bottom 20% are the languishers who have difficulty coping with a high cost structured life. The third is the large middle class.

A SINGAPOREAN couple walked into a Lamborghini showroom and bought two units – his and hers – for US$650,000 (RM2.04mil) each.

“It’s amazing; young kids coming in and spending S$2mil (RM4.7mil),” the manager told a journalist. “I don’t think they were even 30 years old.”

Last year, 29 of these crème de la crème models were sold countrywide, beating Ferrari (26 cars).

In 2007 a total of 320 luxury cars including Rolls Royce, Bentley, Lotus, Aston Martin and Maserati, were sold to Singapore’s new rich.

As the nouveau riche basks in their newfound glory, more Singaporeans from the poorer quarters are approaching the government for food aid.

A growing number of homeless can be seen sleeping in void decks of buildings and, pressed by high living costs, more elderly citizens are working as toilet cleaners or collecting used cans for recycling.

Singapore remains largely a middle class society. The high number of shopping plazas attests to it. But the group may be decreasing as a result of globalisation and runaway prices.

The city-state of 4.7 million people has two – perhaps three – faces. On the top 10% are the rich, who live in wealthy districts, own yachts and blow S$10,000 (RM23,209) on a single meal.

At the bottom 20% of the population are the languishers who have difficulties coping with a high cost structured life in an international city. The third is the large middle class.

Take the case of Carol John, 27. She doesn’t own a bed, sleeps every night on thin mattresses with her three children. Hers is a one-bedroom flat that reeks of urine smell from the common corridor outside.

“I can’t save anything, it’s so difficult for me,” John, who is unemployed, told a reporter. She relies on her husband’s S$600 (RM1,392) monthly salary and S$100 (RM232) government handout.

She is luckier than others who are homeless – elderly and even entire families – who sleep at void decks or the beach and bathe at public restrooms.

In perspective, Singapore is the second richest country in Asia next to Japan, with a per capita GDP of US$48,900 (RM154,141).

Homeless cases are few, nowhere comparable in number to Osaka’s army of vagabonds or New York’s ‘bag ladies’.

In fact, nine out of 10 poor people in Singapore have their own home, and usually a phone and a refrigerator.

But in the local context, it is a potential minefield of unrest. The proportion of Singaporeans earning less than S$1,000 (RM2,320) a month rose to 18% last year, from 16% in 2002, according to central bank data.

The bad part is that life is often worse for the unemployed – compared to other countries – because Singapore has no safety net and no rural hinterland to cushion their suffering.

Unlike in Malaysia or Thailand, a jobless person who cannot cope with the global market has no countryside to retreat to so that he can live off the land.

The problem will get worse. In other words, the rich will get richer and the poor, poorer with the middle class remaining more or less stagnant.

The state’s Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, has worsened from 42.5 in 1998 to 47.2 in 2006, which makes it in league with the Philippines (46.1) and Guatemala (48.3), and worse than China (44.7) according to the World Bank.

Other wealthy Asian nations such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan have more European-style Ginis of 24.9, 31.6 and 32.6 respectively.

This is one of the worst failures of the modern People’s Action Party, despite its ‘democratic socialism’ principles.

It was with these that its first generation leaders were able to turn a poor squalid society into a middle class success story.

Economists attribute the major blame to globalisation, which benefits the skilled citizens and the rich but makes it hard for the unskilled, the aged and the sick.

Even the highly educated are not spared.

The use of new instruments like company restructuring, relocation or out-sourcing of workers – unheard of before – is widening the gap and creating more income inequality.

For example, while the proportion of lower income rises, those who earn S$8,000 (RM18,570) or more increased from 4.7% to 6%.

This rising inequality could eventually undermine the bedrock of society – the broad middle class.

Some economists say that the feared erosion of Japan’s middle class, first enunciated by Japanese strategist Kenichi Ohmae, may already be happening here.

His country was emerging into a “M-shape” class distribution, in which a very few middle class people may climb up the ladder into the upper class, while the others gradually sank to the lower classes.

These people suffered a deterioration in living standard, faced the threat of unemployment, or their average salary was dropping, he said.

Gradually, they can only live a way the lower classes live: e.g. take buses instead of driving their own car, cut their budget for meals instead of dining at better restaurants, spend less in consumer goods.

And, Kenichi said, all this might take place while the economy enjoyed remarkable growth and overall wages rose.

However, the wealth increase may concentrate in the pockets of the very few rich people in the society.

The masses cannot benefit from the growth, and their living standard goes into decline.

The Singapore government, which relies on the middle class vote to remain in power, has vowed to make economic gap-levelling its top priority – for survival, even if nothing else.

“Young Chinese Have No Sympathy For Tibet” Monday, Apr 14 2008 

China’s Loyal Youth, Matthew Forney, Opinion, New York Times, 13 Apr 2008

Many sympathetic Westerners view Chinese society along the lines of what they saw in the waning days of the Soviet Union: a repressive government backed by old hard-liners losing its grip to a new generation of well-educated, liberal-leaning sophisticates. As pleasant as this outlook may be, it’s naïve. Educated young Chinese, far from being embarrassed or upset by their government’s human-rights record, rank among the most patriotic, establishment-supporting people you’ll meet.

As is clear to anyone who lives here, most young ethnic Chinese strongly support their government’s suppression of the recent Tibetan uprising. One Chinese friend who has a degree from a European university described the conflict to me as “a clash between the commercial world and an old aboriginal society.” She even praised her government for treating Tibetans better than New World settlers treated Native Americans.

It’s a rare person in China who considers the desires of the Tibetans themselves. “Young Chinese have no sympathy for Tibet,” a Beijing human-rights lawyer named Teng Biao told me. Mr. Teng — a Han Chinese who has offered to defend Tibetan monks caught up in police dragnets — feels very alone these days. Most people in their 20s, he says, “believe the Dalai Lama is trying to split China.”

Educated young people are usually the best positioned in society to bridge cultures, so it’s important to examine the thinking of those in China. The most striking thing is that, almost without exception, they feel rightfully proud of their country’s accomplishments in the three decades since economic reforms began. And their pride and patriotism often find expression in an unquestioning support of their government, especially regarding Tibet.

The most obvious explanation for this is the education system, which can accurately be described as indoctrination. Textbooks dwell on China’s humiliations at the hands of foreign powers in the 19th century as if they took place yesterday, yet skim over the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and ’70s as if it were ancient history. Students learn the neat calculation that Chairman Mao’s tyranny was “30 percent wrong,” then the subject is declared closed. The uprising in Tibet in the late 1950s, and the invasion that quashed it, are discussed just long enough to lay blame on the “Dalai clique,” a pejorative reference to the circle of advisers around Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

Then there’s life experience — or the lack of it — that might otherwise help young Chinese to gain a perspective outside the government’s viewpoint. Young urban Chinese study hard and that’s pretty much it. Volunteer work, sports, church groups, debate teams, musical skills and other extracurricular activities don’t factor into college admission, so few participate. And the government’s control of society means there aren’t many non-state-run groups to join anyway. Even the most basic American introduction to real life — the summer job — rarely exists for urban students in China.

Recent Chinese college graduates are an optimistic group. And why not? The economy has grown at a double-digit rate for as long as they can remember. Those who speak English are guaranteed good jobs. Their families own homes. They’ll soon own one themselves, and probably a car too. A cellphone, an iPod, holidays — no problem. Small wonder the Pew Research Center in Washington described the Chinese in 2005 as “world leaders in optimism.”

As for political repression, few young Chinese experience it. Most are too young to remember the Tiananmen massacre of 1989 and probably nobody has told them stories. China doesn’t feel like a police state, and the people young Chinese read about who do suffer injustices tend to be poor — those who lost homes to government-linked property developers without fair compensation or whose crops failed when state-supported factories polluted their fields.

Educated young Chinese are therefore the biggest beneficiaries of policies that have brought China more peace and prosperity than at any time in the past thousand years. They can’t imagine why Tibetans would turn up their noses at rising incomes and the promise of a more prosperous future. The loss of a homeland just doesn’t compute as a valid concern.

Of course, the nationalism of young Chinese may soften over time. As college graduates enter the work force and experience their country’s corruption and inefficiency, they often grow more critical. It is received wisdom in China that people in their 40s are the most willing to challenge their government, and the Tibet crisis bears out that observation. Of the 29 ethnic-Chinese intellectuals who last month signed a widely publicized petition urging the government to show restraint in the crackdown, not one was under 30.

Barring major changes in China’s education system or economy, Westerners are not going to find allies among the vast majority of Chinese on key issues like Tibet, Darfur and the environment for some time. If the debate over Tibet turns this summer’s contests in Beijing into the Human Rights Games, as seems inevitable, Western ticket-holders expecting to find Chinese angry at their government will instead find Chinese angry at them.

Matthew Forney, a former Beijing bureau chief for TIME, is writing a book about raising his family in China.

SDP Website Wins Hitwise Public Popularity Award For Politics Friday, Apr 4 2008 

Click here to see the Hitwise media release (PDF) on the 2007 winners. SDP’s website won the award for “Politics” under “Lifestyle”. Here’s what SDP had to say…….

SDP website wins public popularity award, Singapore Democrats, 4 Apr 2008

The Singapore Democrats were awarded the Hitwise Singapore Online Performance Award for 2007 for our website.

Hitwise, an Australian-based company, informed the SDP of the results in March this year. The organisation announced that the award was a recognition of No. 1 websites across a variety of industries in Singapore.

It said: “This unique awards program recognises excellence in online performance through public popularity.”

The award was given based on internet usage of approximately 1.5 million Singapore Internet users visiting over 9,300 local websites during 2007.

Hitwise added that it measured “the largest number of websites and local Internet users of its kind throughout the course of the year.” Its methodology is audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The award ceremony was held yesterday.

The SDP thanks all of you for your support. We hope you will continue to do this by helping us publicise this website with your family and friends.

You can start by clicking on the “email” icon on the top right corner and sending this message to as many of your relatives, colleagues and friends as possible.

Help us spread the word of democracy and awaken the people of Singapore. This award means nothing to us if we cannot further our cause of speaking up for our fellow citizens.

NUS Student Magazine Censors Interview With Chee Soon Juan Friday, Apr 4 2008 

Singapore Democrats, 3 April 2008

National University of Singapore (NUS) The Ridge magazine, a student union journal, has declined to publish an interview one of its writers did with Dr Chee Soon Juan.

Mr Kelvin Lim, a student reporter for The Ridge, wrote to Dr Chee in January this year for an interview for the magazine when the Singapore Democrats held its public forum on election reform.

We reproduce the unpublished interview below:

The Ridge: Are you satisfied with the turnout of the forum?

Dr Chee: Yes, I am. But organising a forum is the easiest thing to do in this process because it’s not the number who turn up at a forum that is going to reform our election system. It’s really those who dedicate themselves to the work in the months and years ahead that are ultimately going to mean whether we have free and fair elections or whether we continue to live in a one-party state.

The Ridge: Do you think this forum has achieved the original intention of “kick-start a national effort to address and rectify an election system”?

Dr Chee: Whether the reform effort is ultimately successful or not depends on whether Singaporeans are willing to come forward and serve the cause. My role is to persuade and encourage Singaporeans, especially youths such as yourselves, to take up the challenge and push for change. The fastest way for anything to fail is for people to wait for other people to do the work.

We need leaders – real leaders, not those who call on others to make all the sacrifices and then demand that they be paid millions in salaries. We need Singaporeans who not only have the vision and foresight, but also those who have the guts to come out and fight for what they believe in.

For every 100 historians, researchers, analysts, and commentators, there is one activist out there with sweat on his brow, pushing the boundaries and working for change. It would be nice if the numbers were reversed.

The Ridge: What are the immediate future plans after this forum?

Dr Chee: We have called for a meeting where we will make plans to form a committee, identify the tasks ahead, and assign work. If you or anyone of your readers are interested, please contact us at speakup@yoursdp.org. Remember, it’s our future and our nation that we are talking about. If we Singaporeans don’t care, no one else will.

The Ridge: By and large, the Singapore Democratic Party has not been very popular among Singaporeans. Being at the forefront of this movement, would you view this as an impediment?

Dr Chee: I remember talking with Kim Dae-jung in the 1990s when he had still not yet become the president of South Korea. Kim was imprisoned for six years for his role in fighting for democracy in Korea and had survived a couple of assassination attempts. He had lost several elections and at one point was very unpopular among his fellow citizens, especially those from other provinces. This was because the military government relentlessly painted him as one who was soft on the communists in North Korea. You needed a strong military government, albeit a dictatorial one, to stand up to the communist North, the generals said. A democracy would weaken South Korea and invite the North to invade. Kim said that it hurt him deeply when his fellow citizens criticized him but he believed in what he was doing and would not stop working for a democratic South Korea. He persevered and won his people over.

Similarly, democracy activists in Taiwan were unpopular during the martial law years. In Indonesia the opposition could muster no more than a quarter of the votes during the Suharto years. Yet when democratic change came, when free and fair elections were held, the tables turned.

When there is not a free media and when we don’t have a free and fair election system, let us not just do what is popular. Instead, let us have the honesty and courage to do what is right. Popularity in an undemocratic system is like the wicked queen and her mirror on the wall. It is based on deception and vanity. This is what the situation with the PAP is. The opposition must not fall into the same trap. In truth it is not the lack of popularity that is an impediment to the reform of elections in Singapore, rather the craving of it.

The Ridge: In the face of an apparent polarization of political views among opposition parties, do you think it is possible for reconciliation or compromise to a common ground?

Dr Chee: If you are referring to ideology or platform, it is perfectly all right for political parties, even those in the opposition camp, to differ. Problems of society (and their solutions) are too complex for things to be neatly compartmentalized into just two views: government or opposition.

But if you are talking about democratic change and reform of an unfair and unfree elections system, I don’t understand why opposition parties cannot band together. Look at PAS and the DAP in Malaysia. They have very disparate ideologies and appeal to very different segments of the electorate. And yet when it came to the recent protest for free and fair elections, they were arm-in-arm.

It is to this end that the SDP will continue to reason with and persuade all opposition parties to see that in this one issue of electoral reform, we need to put aside our own interests and work together for the good of Singaporeans. Pride and prejudice will destroy not just our parties, but also Singapore.

The Ridge: In your speech, you suggested raising awareness among university students, NGOs, academics as one of the concrete action towards election reform. However, would ordinary Singaporeans such as heart-landers be engaged in this process?

Dr Chee: Yes. How? Through university students, NGOs and academics. As I mentioned, Singaporeans need to stop waiting for others to make the change. The SDP can’t do it alone. The committee that is going to be formed can’t do it alone. What we need to do, and will do, is to get more Singaporeans to actively participate in the process. The operative word here is “actively.”

If the people we meet say “Yes, I know its important that we reform our election system” and yet choose to do nothing while waiting for the next person to do the work, then we will be talking about change for a very long time. We need to reach out to the heartlanders, there is no doubt about that. But when I say “we” I don’t just mean the SDP. Get on board and let’s get busy.

The Ridge: An incessant preoccupation with the financial pursuits has left most Singaporeans politically disengaged. How would you seek to convince the politically apathetic to be more interested or involved?

Dr Chee: By reaching out to those who are not. Change always comes from the minority – the thinking and engaged minority. It always has and always will. When we show leadership and courage, others will follow. I remember what Shih Ming-teh, a Taiwanese dissident jailed for 25 years who is now an influential political figure in Taiwan, once said:

“In every era, there are always those who will struggle for freedom. These people play a difficult role, their paths are paved with pain and loneliness. These freedom fighters plod along a narrow path. But in the end, those who follow will widen the path into a broad avenue.”

Don’t worry about the politically apathetic. Don’t look at them and say if they’re not interested, why should I do anything. Instead, take that first step even when others are either too afraid or seemingly apathetic. It’s called leadership. You’ll be surprised how many minds you will change from your act of courage and leadership.

The Ridge: Finally, as a parting note, what do have to say to NUS students?

Dr Chee: My colleagues and I will be coming down to your campus as well as the campuses of the other universities. I hope to be able to talk to you about the reform effort and discuss with you about setting up a student campaign for electoral reform. Better yet, it would be good if one of your unions or clubs could organise a forum for us to discuss this. In the meantime, visit our website www.yoursdp.org to keep abreast of political matters in Singapore.

Singapore Democrats’ New Look Wednesday, Apr 2 2008 

Its not an April Fools Day joke. 😉

Welcome!, Singapore Democrats, I April 2008

…to our new home. You can even smell the fresh paint, can’t you?

We’re really pleased and excited to present to you our new website. As you can see, we’ve enhanced existing features and introduced new ones to make your visits here just that little bit more worthwhile.

Our top priority of bringing you important political news and analyses remains. The enhanced aesthetics is icing on the cake or, in more homely terms, the chai por on the chwee kueh. Equally important is that the website remains easy to navigate. All in, we hope you like it.

As with all good hosts, allow us give you a quick tour around the place. Our top menu carries the regular features of the party, our manifesto, archived material, etc.

Please note that on the left, you can access the page for financial contributions. For a party to grow we need funds. We need to keep our operations going and the only way that we can do this is if our supporters chip in. Please give generously. We thank those of you who have given in the past but the truth is that we need more finances just to cover our basic operations.

We’d also like to bring your attention to a new feature called Perspectives. This segment contains the more serious discussion pieces in our Vantage and Special Features sections as well as light-hearted snippets in Political Hors D’oeuvre. We’ve also added Feature Blogs where we will highlight well-argued essays from our talented blogging community.

We’ve also got a new Gallery section to house our photographs and videos that are multiplying by the week.

For those who are nostalgic, our Classics I and II will take you back to the older versions of the website. There’s much archived material there for those of you doing research.

For our younger readers, we encourage you to visit our Young Democrat page. In there you will find the YD’s Facebook. Come on in and be a friend.

Several of you have asked that we provide a News Feed service where you can be updated on SDP’s news and events. So here it is (bottom of the left column).

And if you wish to email a post to a colleague or friend, print it, or save a PDF format just click on one of the icons on the top right corner. And what about leaving a comment at the end of each post? Mi casa su casa. (Pseudo: That’s spanish for “my house is your house”)

Enough already! We’ll leave you in peace to explore the website.

Just one last word: Our new address is www.yoursdp.org. Please bookmark this and tell as many people as you can about us. This website is our only line of communication with Singaporeans (unless Dr Tony Tan has a change of heart). Our new email address is speakup@yoursdp.org. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it although the old one still works.

Thanks for your support all these years. We press on. Again, welcome.

First-Hand Account Of Tight Security At Whitley Road Detention Centre Tuesday, Apr 1 2008 

Singapore’s great escape by Jufrie Mahmood, Singapore Democrats, 27 Mar 2008

It is exactly one month today since Mas Selamat Kastari escaped from the Internal Security Department (ISD) Whitley Road Detention Centre. While we await the findings of the Government appointed “independent” Committee of Inquiry.

I have not stopped wondering how the escape could have taken place. It is next to impossible for any detainee at the centre to escape. And I am saying this from personal experience.

I was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) sometime in 1979 for an offence I did not commit. I was then a translator attached to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Prior to my transfer to the CID I was serving in the same post in the ISD. I was unceremoniously transferred to the CID after being accused of having pro-opposition sentiments.

I had privately voiced out my disagreement towards certain government policies which I felt was discriminatory and against the spirit of multi-racialism. I was only being honest about my disgust for such policies. I was, of course, found not suitable for the ISD and thus transferred to the CID.

Not long after working in the CID, I was arrested and detained without trial. The authorities said that they had “found” some anti-government petition circulated to many organizations. The petition, I was told, was some sort of protest against the detention of a group of university students and had contained information about the ISD.

The Government’s immediate response was to arrest me. They thought I was responsible for drafting and circulating the petition. Actually the petition was drafted and circulated by a colleague, a fellow translator in the CID, who got so worked up over the detention of some of his friends, many of whom were university undergraduates.

Among those rounded up was Mr. Ahmad Khalis Abdul Ghani, an ex PAP MP who stepped down during the last GE. The ISD found out after I was already detained that the author of the petition was indeed my colleague, now deceased, and that I was not aware of its existence because it was drafted and circulated while I was on leave and absent from the office.

Nevertheless, I was charged under the Official Secrets Act for revealing ISD operational methods to the my colleague and sentenced to nine months imprisonment. After some two months in Whitley Road Detention Centre I was moved to Queenstown Remand Prison. I was released after six months for good conduct.

So as I had said, I am giving a first-hand account about the tight security at the detention centre. All movements in the centre are closely monitored. When a detainee needs to move from one station to another within the compound for further interrogation or for other purposes, he is physically escorted. The gurkha guards will hold the detainee’s hands tightly while moving from one station to another. When he goes for a toilet break the guards would stand guard outside the toilet entrance. And since toilets are not situated near or abutting the perimeter wall/fencing, escape is practically impossible.

That being the case I can think of three possible reasons that could have led to the escape – that is, assuming the escape really took place:

1. Some party or parties were in cahoots with, and assisted, Mas Selamat in staging his escape. If this is the case there seems to be a breakdown in the system of screening security personnel. This is indeed a very serious development.

2. For reasons only known to the powers that be Mas Selamat was deliberately let loose.

3. Mas Selamat has magical powers which he may have acquired through long hours of meditation during his solitary confinement.

In the meantime the Minister-in-Charge Mr Wong Kan Seng should take full responsibility for this embarrassing episode. I do not detect any signs of regret in his demeanour when making public statements concerning the case. He appears to be as cocky as ever.

Ministers who are quick to claim credit for Singapore’s achievements must also be as quick in taking the blame for any shortcoming. The economic costs resulting from the delays and traffic jams at the causeway will easily run into tens of millions of dollars.

Thus far the response by our security officials have been less than assuring and lacks professionalism. If the government is to be believed, Mas Selamat is a very dangerous individual. He is not a petty thief. But the immediate response to his escape smacks of a tidak apa (the devil may care) attitude.

If I remember correctly it took the authorities four hours before they decided to inform and engage the public, one whole week before telling the public what clothes Mas Selamat was wearing and another few days to release information that his limp would only be obvious when he runs.

I wonder at what point of time was the Home Affairs Minister informed of the “escape”, and having been informed, what his first reaction was and what directions he gave to his officers. This is very important because Singaporeans need to know the true quality of their leaders which is only evident in times of crises. After all, we citizens have been forced to accept the argument that our ministers are world class and should be paid handsomely.

I would like to suggest that the Minister for Home Affairs volunteers to have his pay cut by $1,000 for every day that Mas Selamat is not caught. And since the cabinet claims to take collective responsibility, other cabinet ministers can join him and have their pay cut as well.

The longer Mas Selamat remains free, the more money will be accumulated which can then be used to help the poor. This can also serve to mitigate PAP policies where the Poor Also Pay. Yes that has always been the PAP philosophy – the Poor Also Pay.

Coming back to Mas Selamat, if he is rearrested the Government should put him on trial. Let the world hear his side of the story. Let him defend himself in court. If after due process of law the evidence shows that indeed he is guilty, then let the law take its course.

In my opinion it is not that simple to seize a plane, pilot it over a distance and crash it into a building. According to information supplied by the authorities Mas Selamat is only a trained mechanic. Since when can a mechanic, acting alone, pilot a plane without first undergoing any formal or informal training. If the authorities have information on Mas Selamat’s flight training lessons, they have not told the public. We only keep hearing the mantra that “Mas Selamat tried to crash a plane into Changi Airport”. The people who crashed the planes into the world trade centre on 9/11 underwent months of training to learn to fly the planes.

Let Singaporeans hear the truth – on how he managed to do the impossible of escaping from the Whitley Detention Centre, the whole truth – including how he was going to fly a plane to crash into Changi Airport, and nothing but the truth – from the man himself and not some Committee of Inquiry.

Mr Jufrie was an opposition candidate in the 1988, 1991 and 1997 general elections.

Quick To Kiss China’s A**! Wednesday, Mar 26 2008 

The Singapore government has been quick to support China on its handling of the recent unrests in Tibet. I’m not surprised coz its pretty much the same here even when the protests are peaceful. The most recent example of course is the tak boleh tahan protests.

As for the unrests in Tibet, the Singapore government’s rush to support China without actually knowing what happened, especially what triggered the recent events, is quite pathetic, to put it mildly. Even then, blindly supporting China’s handling of the unrests, and Tibet in general, without acknowledging the underlying causes and roots of Tibetans’ anger, makes the Singapore government look like one of China’s biggest ass-kissers!

We do know what the Tibetans are generally frustrated, upset and pissed-off about as these series of videos show……

20 Mar 2008

5 Aug 2007

13 Mar 2008

15 Mar 2008

16 Mar 2008

17 Mar 2008

How Sovereign Wealth Funds Were Left Nursing Multibillion-Dollar Losses Monday, Mar 24 2008 

by Richard Wray, The Guardian, 22 Mar 2008

· Investments in banking stock rapidly go sour
· Singapore group pours £9bn into leaking coffers

The financial crisis enveloping the world banking sector has left the sovereign wealth funds, controlled by governments from Singapore and China to Abu Dhabi and Kuwait, nursing multibillion-dollar losses after helping to bail out major western banks.

In recent months, banks including Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and UBS have turned to investment funds, including the Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC), its sister fund, Temasek, and China Investment Corp, for funding that western investors were unwilling to give as stockmarkets plunged.

But the dramatic fire sale of the US investment bank Bear Stearns and subsequent stockmarket run on HBOS this week have depressed banking stocks further and deepened the climate of fear in the world’s stockmarkets.

Singapore’s GIC, for example, which with funds of more than $330bn (£166bn) is one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds, spent more than £5.5bn on a 9% stake in UBS last year. Shares in the Swiss bank are down 46% so far this year. It spent a further $6.88bn in January as part of a $14.5bn funding round for the embattled US bank Citigroup,

Two months before, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), which with assets estimated at up to $900bn is reckoned to be the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, invested $7.5bn in Citigroup bonds that will convert to shares in 2010 and 2011 at prices from $31 to $37.

But since then Citigroup has become one of the most high-profile casualties of the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US, and its share price has plunged as low as $20 – nearly 40% lower than when the ADIA made its investment.

The pain shows no sign of letting up. Two months ago, Citigroup announced it had plunged into the red over the past three months of 2007 and sliced its dividend almost in half as it wiped more than $18bn off the value of its assets because of exposure to sub-prime mortgages. But Wall Street analysts reckon the firm could record a further $15bn write-down for this financial quarter.

China Investment Corporation’s investment in Morgan Stanley, made just before Christmas, is also facing a significant loss. The securities it picked up for $5bn will convert to stock at $48 to $57 a share in two years’ time. At present, however, Morgan Stanley’s share price is closer to $42.

Another Beijing-backed money manager, China Development Bank, has also suffered as the stake in Barclays it bought in July has plunged in value. When it acquired the 3.1% shareholding, the bank’s shares were trading at about 680p each. On Thursday, they were at 429p.

The Singaporean fund Temasek is also nursing losses on the 2.1% Barclays stake it bought last year, although its investment in the London-listed bank Standard Chartered has fared better. The bank, which has little involvement in the US sub-prime crisis, has weathered the storm better than many of its peers.

The losses sustained by sovereign wealth funds are relatively insignificant when compared with the $3.2tr they are believed to have at their control. Morgan Stanley reckons that with the price of commodities such as oil set to remain high, this amount will balloon to $12tr by 2015. But the losses may dampen their appetite for further involvement in bailing out western banks.

Western politicians are increasingly concerned about the power of sovereign wealth funds in their markets. Earlier this week the US government agreed voluntary principles with ADIA and Singapore’s GIC to regulate their investments.

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