28 March 2008
Written by Ms Go Hui Leng
I was a participant in the 15 March 2008 protest organized by SDP along with two of my young children.
On 20th March 2008, at about 9.45pm, while trying to put my two tired kids to sleep, a loud bang on my door jolted them up.
At the door, I was greeted by two non-uniformed police officers who identified themselves and told me that I was under investigation for participating in an illegal assembly and procession.
My questions are:
1) Since they could identify me as one of the protesters, I am sure they are well aware that I have two young children. Did they need to bang on my door so hard? Yes, my door bell is not working, but my ears are. I am certainly not deaf!
2) Is this police way of intimidating citizens who are not afraid of exercising their constitutional rights to participate in a peaceful protest?
3) Do the police want my young children to see them as intimidating figures rather than as “friendly neighbourhood policemen”, as they like to market themselves to be?
4) What has become of our society if even speaking up is a crime, citizen are being intimidated for doing so, and yet limping terrorists are out on the loose?
Ms Go Hui Leng
Written by Ng E-Jay
25 March 2008
In an article entitled “Post-Modernism and the Silent Revolution” written by Marc Glendening and published in the November/December 2005 issue of The European Journal (a publication by the European Foundation, a think-tank established to promote democracy and free trade in the European Union), the concept of Post-Modern Authoritarianism is discussed in relation to political developments in the European Union in the past decade.
I find that the concept of Post-Modern Authoritarianism is especially applicable to Singapore and is precisely the foundation on which the PAP has managed Singapore since independence. I will highlight the main ideas of the article written by Marc Glendening and discuss them in relation to Singapore.
Glendening’s article begins as follows:
In the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the dominant view in the West was that liberal democracy had won a decisive, final victory. According to Francis Fukuyama we were witnessing the “end of history”. No illiberal ideology, including militant Islam, he argued, would from now on be capable of seriously threatening representative government.
According to Glendening, this view is dangerously complacent, as we (in the European Union) are now experiencing the emergence of what can be described as Post-Modern Authoritarianism (PMA). This refers to the way in which the institutions of modern parliamentary democracy are being hollowed out through the transfer of powers to a range of unaccountable agencies.
Glendening says that European political integration is a major component of this process, but PMA goes considerably beyond it. Glendening illustrates how the political class is gradually abandoning liberal democracy by citing the example of how prominent politicians like Neil Kinnock, Ken Clarke and Denis MacShane not only dismissed the significance of the “No” votes in France and Holland on the EU Constitution, but also opposed giving Europe’s voters a say on the EU Constitution in the first place. This shows that contempt for citizens outside the political class has grown.
I am sure many readers can readily relate to the Singapore situation, where power is concentrated in the hands of the Executive, leaving other organs of state effectively castrated, and where the state’s massive reserves are managed and invested at the sole discretion of GIC and Temasek which are not fully transparent and lack a sense of accountability to the electorate. For example, witness how Temasek has neglected to address the issue of recent investment losses in US banks exposed to the sub-prime crisis, even going to the extent of saying it is not a Sovereign Wealth Fund and therefore is not subject to international agreements or best-practices governing SWFs.
Chia Ti Lik: Confessions of a Protestor, World Consumer Rights’ Day – Protest in front of Parliament House Part 5
Written by Chia Ti Lik
19 March 2008
[News has it that Uncle Yap has been charged for 2 charges unlawful assembly and illegal procession. This is a sad day for Singapore. Something must be wrong with this nation when the administration punishes civil activists for speaking up for the Singapore people.
As it is, we are a nation under seige and a terrorist is on the loose, yet there is enough police determination to deploy surveillance policemen to be waiting for the civil and political activists outside parliament house on 15th March 2008. There was also enough resolve to get ready scores of female policewomen to soften the image of the regime. There was also enough determination to make sure the dirty deeds are done outside a police uniform.
All these point towards one thing that though what the police may be doing is backed up by law, what that is done is nevertheless clearly and morally wrong.
Things being done wrong in public would be done without the police uniform, but things done wrongly in police uniform would be done in private.]
Siok Chin was heard raising her voice in an exchange with the police whilst in custody. It must have been very loud for us to hear it when we are in the smaller lock up. We believed that Siok Chin was resisting the police’s demands. We did not wish that Siok Chin compromise her well-being and safety. Therefore, after a while we made a request to see Siok Chin. The request was rejected. At this time it was probably about 5 pm plus. We asked for water.
We were then transferred back to the 1st holding cell and we were given some water. We were then told that there would be dinner provided. Dinner came in the form of packed rice in styrofoam boxes. We took the food. Plain but edible and not much to complain about.
“Tyranny is worse than a Man-Eating Tiger”
By Dr Wong Wee Nam
Written March 18, 2008
On 5th of March 2008, just before the Malaysian General Election, Dr Mohd Mahathir, the former Prime Minister, declared in an exclusive interview with Malaysiakini, the online political website, saying “I believe in an opposition. I have always maintained that this country needs an opposition and they should be critical of the government without which we don’t have a mirror to look at our faces. We think that we are very beautiful but it is the opposition that keeps telling us (that may not be true).”
Of course, true to his style, he could not resist adding that it would be a “disaster” if the country “loses its opposition” as in Singapore.
Such a dig, unfortunately, sounds very much like a pot teasing another pot black because Dr Mahathir has not really been an exemplary democrat himself. Nevertheless it is difficult to disagree with what he says about the need for an opposition unless you are a control freak or have a dictatorial streak in you. He is not wrong because this is a universal principle of democracy. This is also nothing original because many thinkers from the past had said as much.
John Stuart Mill, for example, saw opposing views as a process to crystallize the truth and a way to prevent tyranny.
On 8th March, the voters of Malaysia elected more opposition candidates than anyone had expected. Not that they heeded Dr Mahathir. They simply felt that they needed a stronger opposition.
Chia Ti Lik: Confessions of a Protestor World Consumer Rights’ Day – Protest in front of Parliament House Part 4
Written by Chia Ti Lik
17 March 2008, mid afternoon
“I am exercising my constitutional rights.”
“I am responsible for my own actions.”
“I myself will answer for what I did.”
It came statement taking. I was amongst the first to be called. I was led to another room where I would sit down facing an officer in front of a PC.
The Officer taking my statement was polite. He revealed that he would be asking me a number of questions. He told me that I could decline to answer them.
I must say frankly that I co-operated with the police. I answered the questions the best that I could. However, any questions that turned towards pinning blame on other persons, I declined to answer.
Chia Ti Lik: Confessions of a Protestor World Consumer Rights’ Day – Protest in front of Parliament House Part 3
Written by Chia Ti Lik
17 March 2008, lunch time
The earlier process of surrendering personal items into a transparent bag took some time.
There was also some delay due to Siok Chin and Dr. Chee’s firm exchanges with the police.
At one stage, there was also so much tension that they placed 3 guards within the lock up cell with us.
Station Inspector Tan Kok Ann was uncomfortable about us grouping in a circle to talk. He entered the lock up and insisted on standing amongst us when Dr. Chee refused his suggestion to sit down on the bench.
All that took up some time such that by the time we were settled down people were then taking turns to go to the toilet. Accompanied of course.
I also went to the toilet under guard. I had to pass through a total of 4 or so gates. Each one was locked. I was accompanied all the time by a police officer.
The toilet bowl squarely faced the door. If the policeman stood at the door, there was no way I could get out of his sight. I approached the cubicles only to find that they were bathing cubicles. I did not see any urinals. There was only one cistern and flush and one washbasin. These were in a single straight line from the door. There were no windows. No side doors. No trapdoors. Nothing.
The Policeman remained there. I passed my urine under police guard. After that i was led back to the cell. This was repeated with each and everyone of us under guard.
To be continued in Part 4
Chia Ti Lik: Confessions of a Protestor World Consumer Rights’ Day – Protest in front of Parliament House Part 2
Written by Chia Ti Lik
16 March 2008, late afternoon
The trip towards Police Cantonment Complex was a very fast one.
The route was one which i often took as a lawyer, be it to bail clients / friends or to attend sessions when my clients were interviewed.
The police were ready at Police Cantonment Complex. The barrier was raised and there were extra police officers standing on guard to receive the welcoming of the vans. We drove into the basement carpark. The basement car park was also guarded.
We drove into a de-loading / de-bus bay. The vans reversed into the parking lots and a steel shutter was lowered to shut out the vans from the rest of the car park. A number of fresh police officers stood outside the van.
When it came for time to de-bus three police officers brought Seelan out first. They seemed to be unsure of what to do and then in a moment of haplessness asked us to stay right there where we were. Van doors open but steel shutters down. [a thought crossed my mind - did they tell Mas Selamat Kastari this as well prior to this escape?] After a while we were asked to move one by one out of the van and into the premises.
There were steel gates everywhere. Corridors had steel gates locking down wherever we passed. My mind begins to wonder – how did Mas Selamat Kastari escape?
We were asked to empty our pockets and put them into a transparent bag. The process was a tedious process. There were a number of us and the police took their time.
Chia Ti Lik: Confessions of a Protestor on World Consumer Rights’ Day – Protest in front of Parliament House Part 1
Written by Chia Ti Lik
16 March 2008, 0040hrs
My thoughts at this moment at 2341hrs on the events of the day.
I had started out feeling enthusiastic about the protest which i was about to take part today. Early awakening in the morning and thereafter straight for a breakfast with a couple of friends.
We found ourselves under cloudy weather when we arrived near the venue. After a while of speaking around, we proceeded towards Parliament House. There were probably about 25 to 30 of us. Excluding the children that were brought by their parents.
Straightaway, the seasoned eye of an activist spots a total of about 8 plain clothes policemen lurking around to do surveillance. The police and the administration were clearly rattled by the intention to protest in front of parliament house.
To me this was a symbolic gesture. As Parliament has failed Singapore in failing to keep the Cabinet in check, a protest by people from all walks of life in Singapore would bring them down a peg or two and for them to start listening to the people. I prided myself for being able to pluck up the courage to join in this protest.
After photos and interviews were taken by the local and foreign press on the paraphernalia and purpose of the protest, placards included. ASP William Goh, fearful of being identified as a police officer, failed to appear in his uniform. ASP William Goh made a hasty introduction of himself and asked for us to disperse from the the Parliament House. Dr. Chee Soon Juan and Gandhi Ambalam disagreed and started walking across the road towards Funan Centre.
There in front of Funan Centre, we were accosted again by a sweaty and panicky ASP William Goh who now demanded that the placards to be surrendered and if the placards were not surrendered, arrests would be made.
I met the SDP protest group at Delifrance at 1pm. Everyone was in a purposeful mood. The items for the protest had been prepared, and people were changing out into their red T-shirts which bore the words “Tak Boleh Tahan!”, which is Malay for ‘Cannot take it anymore!’. Yes, Singaporeans can barely tolerate the rampant inflation which has gripped our country. The exorbitant ministers’ pay are a further slap in the face for Singaporeans who are trying to cope with escalating food and fuel prices, not to mention 7% GST.
Together we walked to Parliament House, where the protest group laid out examples of essential food items like Milo, rice, cooking oil, etc, using them to illustrate the massive burden on Singaporeans who are paying more and more for these daily necessities.
Brave folks like Chia Ti Lik, Chee Soon Juan, Chee Siok Chin, amongst others, gave their views to the media on the issue of inflation and escalating prices, and why the government is not doing enough to care for Singaporeans.
Then we took a group photo for those decked in red. It took courage for me to even decide to be part of that photo. Chee Soon Juan exclaimed into the air, “Tak Boleh Tahan!” to a dozen cameras. That was firebrand politics at its finest, something I can only look up to, not live up to.
After the brief visit to Parliament House, the protest group picked up their placards and started to march to Funan Centre. The police warned them that there were conducting an illegal assembly, and wanted them to hand over their items. The group steadfastly refused, closed ranks, and moved on.
Outside Funan Centre, the group was stopped again. This time, the police surrounded them and would not let them pass. The police told the protest group that if they did not give up their placards, they would be arrested. Again, the group refused. They locked their arms and held on to their placards, protecting them from being taken.
Again and again the police warned them to surrender their placards, even saying they would be allowed to proceed if they did so. But the group held on to each other firmly, and looked them straight in the eye, conveying a singular message: WHAT TO DO. WE ARE WHO WE ARE, AND WE DO WHAT WE DO.
Then one by one, the police arrested each member of the group that locked arms. There were around 15 arrests in total. I did not photograph the arrests itself as I was myself decked in red and did not wish to approach closer. Pseudonymity the blogger did a superb job of that.
I sat down, stunned and shocked at the sheer high-handedness of the police. Someone came up to me and said LaMei and I should change out of our red T-shirts, lest we get arrested as well.
Later on, when the police dispersed, we changed back to normal attire, and wanted to head to Cantonment with some friends who were next of kind of the protesters to find out more.
Just then, a Straits Times reporter came up to me and abruptly asked me, why have I changed back to normal attire?
I told him the event had ended.
The reporter then bombarded me with an array of questions, like was I really showing enough support, and why I did not show more support by getting arrested with the group who held placards. I raised my voice and told him that every Singaporean who were the victims of the PAP were potential supporters of the protest group. A gentleman who was nearby, upon hearing these questions, flew into a rage and yelled at the reporter, which shocked the reporter. I tried to calm both of them down. Tempers and nerves were frayed. I knew the gentleman was just trying to defend me, and for that I thanked him.
I also apologize to the reporter for raising my voice. It was my slip, a lapse of judgment on my part.
Subsequently, I called Ravi to inform him of the arrests and Ravi told me he would try to help them out in his professional capacity.
However later, Ravi told me that despite trying to liaise with the police, the police were not forthcoming in providing relevant information to him. For example, even though the group later agreed to be bailed, they did not inform Ravi, who knew of this fact only from me (I in turned found out from my friend who is in touch with one of the next of kin).
As of 10.30pm, they have all been bailed out, except for one. It turned out Uncle Yap refused bail. He wants to go for maximum damage, as is his style.
And apparently, Chee Siok Chin was the most courageous of the lot. She was the only one WHO REFUSED to change into the attire the police gave her. All the men relented. Only Siok Chin steadfastly insisted on wearing her red T-shirt.
When the group was bailed out by my friend, the first thing they asked her was if she and her kids were okay, whether everyone else was fine. They cared FIRST AND FOREMOST about the welfare of their supporters, especially my friend who took the trouble to go down to bail them out.
This is the hallmark of a true Opposition.