STATEMENT

声明

八号功能组织对年仅16岁的余澎杉所遭受的司法制裁,深表遗憾并给予谴责。
余澎杉于3月30日被逮捕,经过两天审讯后,法院判定他蓄意诋毁基督教教义,散布淫亵图片,并伤害某一家族成员的感情。但是,控方于5月8日案件审结后,申请撤销最后一项控状。案件虽然审结了,但尚未下判。为了等待监狱署的报告,评估他是否适合送往青年改造所;他被还押扣留,而还押期至今比任何监狱署对任何成年人所犯同等罪行的刑期还要长。余澎杉被令送往新加坡心理健康学院还押14天至2015年7月6为止;届时,包括前期2天的审讯,他总共被监禁的时间将达53天之久。
我们对司法机构处理余澎杉的保释金问题深感惊讶,他们在没有合理的情况下,将保释金从1万元调高至2万元及3万元,然后 又降回原定的1万元。余澎杉被令撤下他已制作并发表的涉案图样与视频 ,同时在案件判决前不得在社交网站任意贴文。原本当局取保候审的唯一理由是为了确保余澎杉不会潜逃保释;然而,向他施加如此苛刻的条件不外是要他强硬认罪,与余澎杉是否会潜逃保释完全毫无关系!
司法制度在审讯案件时没有充分考虑余澎杉的年齡,及其罪状的性质,我们对此也深表失望。如果监禁的刑罚对该少年是不宜的判决;那么,心理健康学院里的53天还押,诚然比监狱服刑的判决更加蛮横。
最后也是最重要的一点是,我们对余澎杉在还押期间身体和心理健康状况的迅速恶化表示深切关心。我们得悉,余澎杉在漳宜监狱期间,曾经出现如下症状:失眠、自杀念头、对阅读失去兴趣、与室友无意交谈等等。在心理健康学院期间,他被关在一间又脏又小的囚室,周遭则是凌乱嘈杂的环境,比漳宜监狱的条件更糟糕。目前,他仍然患有抑郁症,时常没有口味。
余澎杉并没有任何暴力罪行,他只是个早熟的少年,履行其宪法权限内所允许的言论和表达自由。当局对他在判刑前施予53天的还押囚禁,这是不能接受的。这位16岁少年应该去的正当地方不应该是精神病房,而是他自己的家庭,和家长、亲戚、朋友们在一起。我们呼吁当局立即释放余澎杉.

八号功能 (Function 8)

2015年6月27日

Function 8 regrets and deplores the manner in which Amos Yee, aged 16, is being treated by our judicial system.

Amos Yee was arrested on 29 March 2015 and interrogated for two days before being charged in court for insulting Christianity, publishing an obscene sketch and hurting the feelings of a family. The last charge was withdrawn after his conviction on 8 May. Though convicted, Amos Yee has not been sentenced. His days in remand for the purpose of reformative training and mandatory treatment reports have, to date, exceeded any prison sentence that would have been imposed on an adult who is found guilty of such crimes. By 6 July, when Amos Yee completes his two weeks of remand in the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), he will have served 53 days (including 2 days under interrogation) in remand.

We view with alarm and dismay the manner in which our judiciary deals with the issue of bail, raising bail bond from $10,000 to $20,000 and $30,000 and then reverting to $10,000 without any justifiable reason. The imposition of onerous conditions such that he has to remove his published video and sketch and is prohibited from posting materials on the Internet before trial amounts to a forced admission of guilt. Such conditions have nothing to do with the likelihood of Amos Yee absconding bail which is the sole reason for bail pending trial.

We are also deeply disappointed that our judicial system does not take into consideration Amos Yee’s age and the nature of the offence when considering sentence. If imprisonment is not a suitable sentence, then being in remand in prison and the IMH for 53 days is punishment worse than serving a prison sentence.

Finally and most importantly, we view with deep concern the fast deteriorating physical and mental health of Amos Yee throughout the period of remand. We are informed that in Changi Prison, he suffered from insomnia, harboured thoughts of suicide and lost his interest in books and conversations with his cell mates. In the IMH, he is confined to a small and dirty cell with noisy inmates in the neighbouring cells. The conditions are worse than those in the Changi Prison. He has now lost his appetite for food and continues to suffer from depression.

Amos Yee has not committed any violent crime. He is just a precocious teenager exercising his constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression. Fifty-three days in remand is unacceptable pre-sentence punishment. The rightful and legitimate place for this 16-year-old boy is to be at home with his parents, relatives and friends, and not the IMH. We call for the immediate release of Amos Yee.

Function 8
27 June 2015

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Book Review by Wu Yi – Beyond the Blue Gate, Recollections of a Political Prisoner by Teo Soh Lung (Chinese Edition)

Beyond the Blue Gate by Teo Soh Lung Chinese Edn

“张素兰的回忆录” — 伍 依 http://www.nandazhan.com/zh/wzhangsulan.htm

我几乎一口气读完厚达396页的张素兰回忆录《在蓝色栅门的后面——一个政治犯的回忆纪实》的中译本。译者林康,译笔臻于完美,应该是驾驭中文能力 强,吃透英文原著使然。张素兰的文笔极好,文学般的叙述,让我读懂了新加坡的法律。全书以法律贯穿,生动地描述了张素兰与新加坡司法缠斗的始末,诗文俱 佳,精彩绝伦,让人叫绝。读完全书,脑海里出现了白娘子与法海和尚各自使尽“法”宝无休止的缠斗,你来我往,最终落败下来,被法海和尚借“佛法”将白娘子 收在缽中,镇於雷峰塔下,拆散了许仙与白娘子的好姻缘,粉碎了张素兰及其伙伴“美化”新加坡司法的美梦。

张素兰,一个女律师,开了一家律师事务所;新加坡律师公会理事;陈华彪的代表律师,协助他处理公民权事;曾经协助工人党竞选活动;芽笼天主教中 心义工,帮忙外来劳工学习英语,为外来劳工、菲律宾女佣、前吸毒者和前罪犯提供免费法律咨询服务;在人民行动党开办的补习班教导小学六年级的学生,在租屋 楼下的空地上为学生补习;认识远在比利时工作的林发财;在办事处常和朋友聚会;在国会特选委员会审议法律专业(修正)法案时长时间被李光耀追问的证人之 一;阅读列宁、斯大林的著作和毛泽东诗词;新加坡女律师公会义务律师;有两年在女皇镇民众联络所提供法律咨询服务;参与新加坡律师公会推行刑事案法律援助 计划的组织工作,针对1985年修改宪法关于公民权部分条规,授权政府褫夺连续10年或以上不在境内的新加坡人的公民权一事提呈立法评议意见;新加坡律师 公会立法委员会(民事)——(特别任务)小组组长,先后针对1986年保障与印刷品(修正)法案和1986年法律专业(修正)法案提呈立法评议意见。 1987年5月21日被内部安全局逮捕,罪名是“参与旨在颠覆新加坡现行社会与政治制度的马克思主义阴谋,使用共产主义统一战线策略,意图在此建立一个马 克思主义国家”,“危害了新加坡的国家安全”。1987年9月26日有条件获释。获释后与八名被扣者同伴联名发表声明,否认内安局的指控,1988年4月 18日再度被捕,1990年6月1日获释。

根据张素兰的回忆录叙述,她与她的伙伴就是一群具有正义感,富有爱心,关心弱势群体的公民,运用宪法赋予公民的权利和义务,进行合法的活动,可 说是一等良民。任何体制的政权,应该都欢迎治下的人民都具有这些善良人的品质,“我只是一个不满政府某些政策和法律的普通公民。我没有参与任何推翻政府的 计划,更不必说暴力斗争了。我甚至谈不上是个异议分子,或参与相关活动的人。”(《张素兰回忆录》第339页)唯独行动党政权,却把一等良民的张素兰及其 伙伴视为洪水猛兽,把他们推向自己的对立面,何等愚蠢荒谬!

究其原因,是在萧添寿担任新加坡律师公会时,对行动党政权的一些法律修正提出评议意见,触动了行动党的敏感神经,直白的说,是触动了行动党老大 李光耀的敏感神经,促使他不顾同僚的反对,毅然采取所谓“光谱行动”,以莫须有的“马克思主义阴谋”逮捕了张素兰及其同伴,连同一度充当李光耀打手的萧添 寿也不能幸免。

强权政治,从希特勒到蒋介石,只信奉一个老大,绝对没有什么像梁山水泊的聚义厅排排座的平等,这是由老大的权力欲和极端意识的本性所天然限定 的。站在历史的大视角来看,迫害被认为持有异议的人,并不是任何私人恩怨能左右独裁者的主观判断。共产党和左翼党团都对行动党有恩,只因政见不同,就猛下 毒手;张素兰及其伙伴只因协助在野党,对行动党制定的法律提出评议,就不顾一切地加以迫害,独裁者决不可能认识到这是对历史的犯罪,对自己人品的贬低。

张素兰和其同伴大多是高级知识分子,有些是律师,懂得法律,就天真地要以法律作为保护盾牌来保护自己,替自己辩白。没完没了的官司,花尽了钱 财,关闭了自己的律师事务所,请女皇律师,代表律师费尽了一切可以使用的法律手段,也无法把张素兰及其伙伴从魔窟中解救出来。即使高等法庭宣判当庭释放, 一走出法庭就被重新逮捕,当政者可不管什么“藐视法庭”,否定自己制定的法律条文,尽失法律的尊严,也可以立马有针对性地在国会修正自己制定的法令,堵塞 人们用法律来保护自己的路径。最不守法的人,一副为了所谓国家安全,道貌岸然地照样高高在上,捧着自个的臭脚陶醉其中。强权制定的法律没有任何客观性,完 全是当今社会强者制定的法律,由强者的主观意志所决定,是彻头彻尾的真正人治。法律不讲道德,必然成为作恶的工具,

内部安全局就像希特勒的盖世太保,东条英机的宪兵部,蒋介石的军统和中统,具有无上的权力,只听从老大的意旨,什么法律、人道、人性在他们眼中 都是扯蛋!他们延续英殖民主义者的衣钵,都是千年的狐狸,跟他们玩什么聊斋?小娘子与老狐狸制定的游戏规则缠斗,只能如白娘子一样,被收在土钵里,压在雷 峰塔下,忍受长期单独监禁的煎熬,这是违背天道立法的必然结果。

如果一个政权为了生存,连子民爱父母爱子女的机会都被剥夺了,怎么可能指望这个政权去为人民服务?怎么可能指望他能用道德的标准来衡量别人的价 值?所以说:行动党政权是一种让统治集团人性扭曲的政权。他们的智慧很大,道德血液却欠缺,忽略了是否崇高。智慧再大,不崇高,所有智慧都是卑鄙的智慧, 那也是入不了佛门的。他们这样做无异于挥刀自宫。

张素兰及其伙伴是可敬的人,爱父母,爱兄弟姐妹,爱朋友,关怀弱势群体,子规啼血,比干剖心。小荷才露尖尖角呢,想为不完美的社会修修补补,乐 滋滋地想尽一尽做为一个公民的责任,就遭遇到意想不到的不幸,他们的天真想法和现实之间比牛郎与织女相隔的天河还要遥远。他们第一次出狱后,又勇敢地联名 发表声明,驳斥内安局和行动党精英对他们无休止的诬蔑和指控,导致再度被捕和逃亡。他们并不因为第一次被捕就鞋子里面长茅草——慌(荒)了脚,就此默默忍 受当政者的诬蔑和诽谤,而是勇敢地站起来战斗。毛泽东评价鲁迅说:“鲁迅的骨头是最硬的,他没有丝毫的奴颜媚骨,这是殖民地和半殖民地人民最可宝贵的性 格。”(《新民主主义论》)张素兰及其伙伴就有这种“殖民地和半殖民地人民最可宝贵的性格”,虽有小资产阶级知识分子的软弱性,在内安局高举免战牌,要张 素兰“收回上诉和撤销索偿申请”就予以释放下,最终作了妥协出狱。但他们毕竟敢于站起来抗争,敢于出版回忆录来写出真相,让人们从中可以透彻看穿行动党老 大的心态,和内部安全局的真面目,怎么对待政治犯(张素兰及其伙伴压根儿就不是因政治被捕),怎么出尔反尔,不兑现承诺,背后隐藏着的重大玄机,耍尽各种 肮脏手段要政治犯低下高贵的头颅。

我们高度肯定张素兰及其伙伴的韧性战斗和其历史意义。虽然在强势面前,风筝飘飞得再高,也挣脱不了放风筝人手中紧拽着的那根细线。就如在南极, 再努力,也烧不开一壶水一样。这就是张素兰及其伙伴无可奈其何的结果。但我们坚信,不管是希特勒的盖世太保,东条英机的宪兵部,蒋介石的军统中统,统统都 在浩浩荡荡的历史大潮中土崩瓦解,灰飞烟灭!希特勒自杀,东条英机被送上绞刑架,蒋介石凄凄惶惶地被驱赶到小岛上郁郁而终!有人虽然逃脱了其先行者的可耻 命运,极尽哀荣,但历史终究会作出正义的评判!历史是一面镜子,历史是教科书,历史是最公正无私的判官和孜孜不倦的老师。让历史去书写吧!不管是哪一种视 角,历史都不能割断,我们永远处于历史与未来之间。

马克思曾经指出,有的历史人物死得早是一种幸运,有的历史人物死得晚是一种不幸。李光耀如果在上世纪五十年代末就归西,他可是名声响亮的反殖英 雄,这是他的“幸运”,青史留名;而他竟然活到二十一世纪,是他摧残民族教育和残害左翼人士,迫害像原本不是敌人,对行动党政权毫无威胁的张素兰及其伙伴 这样的群体,连他的同僚都因此愤而辞职不干之后才死去,这是他的“不幸”,落得个万世骂名。

天理才是最高的法律。

 

Beyond the Blue Gate

Book Review by Wu Yi,
Translated by Chin Wey Tze

The book may be 396 pages long, but due to the superb translation skills of Lin Kang, his powerful command of both the Chinese and the English language, I finished the book in one uninterrupted sitting.

Teo Soh Lung writes beautifully. Her words flow in a scholarly fashion interwoven with legal knowledge enabling me to understand Singapore laws. Her lively description of battles with the judicial system in Singapore is sprinkled with some great poems making the book a fantastic read. Upon finishing the book, the imagery of the white snake, Madam Bai Suzhen (白娘子), struggling with the Buddhist monk, Fa Hai (法海和尚) from the Chinese folktale “Legend of the Madam White Snake” (《白蛇传说》) came to mind. After several rounds of skilful and tactical manouevres, Madam Bai lost to the vindictive and jealous monk Fa Hai. She was caught and imprisoned in Leifeng Pagoda and her marriage with Xu Xian ruined. Likewise, Soh Lung and her friends’ dream of making Singapore a better country was destroyed.

Who is Soh Lung and what has she done?

Teo Soh Lung is a woman lawyer who ran her own law firm. She is a Council member of the Law Society of Singapore; she acted for Tan Wah Piow, in his fight to retain his citizenship; she assisted the Workers’ Party in election campaigns; she is a volunteer at the Geylang Catholic Centre (now defunct), she taught English to foreign workers; she provided free legal service to foreign workers, Filipino domestic workers, former drug and other offenders; she gave tuition to primary six students at a PAP community centre and in the void deck of HDB flats; she volunteered at the Singapore Association of Women Lawyers and gave two years of free legal advice at Queenstown Community Centre; she is a founding member of the criminal legal aid scheme; she is the head of Legislation Committee (Civil) – (Special Assignment); criticized The Newspaper & Printing Presses Amendment Bill, 1986 and Legal Profession Amendment Bill, 1986. As a witness, she was grilled by Lee Kuan Yew at the Select Committee hearing on the Legal Profession (Amendment) Bill.

She is a friend of Paul Lim who worked in Belgium; hosted gatherings for friends at her office; she reads the poems of Mao Tze Tong

On 21 May 1987, she was imprisoned by the Internal Security Department – for being “ involved in a Marxist conspiracy to subvert the existing social and political system in Singapore, using communist united front tactics, with a view to establishing a Marxist state.” She was conditionally released on 26 Sep 1987. After release, she together with eight other fellow ex-detainees, issued a statement, denying the allegations of the government. For that she was imprisoned again on 19 Apr 1988 and, released on 1 Jun 1990.

According to Teo Soh Lung’s recollections, she and her fellow detainees cared for the marginalised segments of society; they were responsible citizens possessing a sense of justice and fair-play. Their activities were legal and constitutional. Governments of any system, would have welcome such citizens, possessing such caring qualities. Instead the monopolistic ruling party viewed these citizens as a destructive flood, as savage beasts, treating them as government’s opponents. How ridiculous and absurd!

In Soh Lung’s own words: “I was an ordinary citizen who was unhappy with some of the government policies and laws, I was not involved in any organized plan to overthrow the government by any means, let alone by violent means. I was not even a dissident or an activist.” (Page 339, Beyond the Blue Gate)

Ultimately, it was Francis Seow, President of the Law Society of Singapore, who touched the raw nerves of the PAP supreme leader, Lee Kuan Yew. Lee ignored the opposition of his party men, decisively launched “Operation Spectrum”, fabricated a “Marxist Conspiracy” and detained Soh Lung and her fellow friends and associates. Even Francis Seow who was once Lee Kuan Yew’s right hand man could not escape the long arms of the of the ISA (Internal Security Act).

Authoritarian governments, from Hitler to Chiang Kai Shek, believed in having just one leader. They can never visualize the 108 heroes told in the Chinese classic, “Water Margin”, who treated each other as equals, sitting side-by-side at Liangshan and having open discussions. Such authoritarianism is shaped by the leader’s mentality of superiority. From the macro historical point of view, the suppression of dissidents is always a dictator’s natural instinct. Communists and left-wing activist groups were one time allies of the PAP, making valuable contributions to the party. But due to political differences, they were subjected to brutal and violent treatment. Soh Lung and her fellow detainees were only helping the opposition party, and voicing disagreement on a few laws. But the consequence of their action was ruthless suppression. Dictators never realize that such suppression is a historical crime and through such crimes they belittle only themselves.

Soh Lung and her fellow detainees were mainly professionals and intellectuals, some were lawyers, understanding laws, instinctively and naively believed that laws can be used to protect and defend themselves. Endless lawsuits, incurring huge expenses, closing one’s law firm, engaging the queen’s counsel, lawyers, and utilizing all legal means, all came to nought. Even when the Court of Appeal ordered that they should be released and when they walked out of prison, they were re-detained instantly. The ruling party was obviously guilty of “contempt of court” by ignoring their own laws. They humiliated the judges. They amended their own laws for self-serving interests, creating obstacles for people who use laws to protect themselves. They are the greatest opponent to their own laws, constantly undermining judicial authority. In the name of national security, they behaved as sanctimonious hypocrites who are above the law. They were absolutely carried away by their deceptive tactics. Laws enacted by authoritarian government lack objectivity, and serve exclusively the powers that be. It is the rule of sheer power. There is no rule of law. When there is no morality in laws, laws naturally become the tools of those who believe in doing evil.

The Internal Security Department acts like the gestapo of Hitler, the Imperial Japanese Army of Hideki Tojyo, the Special Service Section and the Bureau of Investigation and Statistics of Chiang Kai Shek. They possess great power, and follow the wishes of the leader. Laws, compassion and human values have no meaning for them! They do not understand that the purpose of laws should be for the protection and not the persecution of people. Such leaders continue to serve the colonial master. They are the immortal foxes, not unlike the characters in “Liaozhai” — the little woman who attempted to make the rules of the games with the old man, can only end up like Madam “Bai Suzhen”, trapped by the monk and imprisoned in Leifeng Pagoda suffering long-term solitary confinement. This is the consequence of going against the mandate from the heaven.
If for the sake of preserving power, the elites could sacrifice the filial piety of children, how can we expect them to serve the people? How can we expect them to assess human values using moral yardsticks? The PAP government ruling power is therefore a regime that distorts human value. They are full of wisdom, but lack the moral blood cells. They possess despicable wisdom, that cannot be accepted by the teachings of the Buddha. Such acts are as good as self-castration.
Soh Lung and her fellow detainees are respectable and filial. They possess that love for siblings and friends and care for the marginalized. They are like the cuckoo which weeps till blood flows (子规啼血, from Tang poem); or like Bigan who lost his heart (比干剖心, as in folktale Fengshen Bang and translated as The Investiture of the Gods); or like young lotus merely budding, eager to reform the imperfect society, enthusiastically fulfilling their social responsibility; but they met with such unthinkable misfortunes.

The naivety of the detainees then and their failure to understand the crude reality of how the laws could be used against them seems more far-fetched and incredible than the separation by the Milky Way in Niu Lang (牛郎The Cowhand) and the 7th daughter of the Emperor, Weaving Maid (织女,A Chinese legend) . When they were first released, they bravely signed a joint statement, refuting the incessant false allegations of the ISD and the PAP elites. That caused their loss of freedom again and one went into exile. They did not remain silent just because they were arrested. They did not swallow the slander and defamation. They boldly stood up and fought for their rights and dignity. Mao Tze Tong once praised Lu Xun: “Lu Xun was a man of unyielding integrity, free from all sycophancy or obsequiousness; this quality is invaluable among colonial and semi-colonial peoples” (“On New Democracy”). Soh Lung and her fellow detainees possess integrity, though she has the weakness of a petty-bourgeois intellectual. When ISD “demanded” that she withdrew all lawsuits as a final condition for her release, she compromised. But they had struggled, fought, dare to publish recollections to reveal the truths, allow people to see through the mentality of the ‘big leader’, and the true colour of the ISD, and how they treated political detainees (they claimed that Soh Lung and her fellow detainees were not detained because of political reasons), how they went back on their words and never kept their promises. This was carried out, using all dirty tricks and means to force the political detainees to give up their dignity and to back down.

We admire the historical values of their mighty fighting spirit. Of course facing such strong and adverse circumstances, no matter how high the kites fly, they cannot loosen themselves from the hands of the people who fly the kites. As in the South Poles, no matter how hard one tries, water can never be boiled. This is the undesirable consequence they faced. But we firmly believe, be it Hitler’s gestapo, Imperial Japanese Army of Hideki Tojyo, the Special Service Section of Chiang Kai Shek, they will all crumble with the historical tides, vanishing and turning into dust! Hitler committed suicide, Hideki Tojyo was executed by hanging, Chiang Kai Shek was driven to a small island to lead a depressing life! But someone had escaped such a shameful fate, enjoying eternal glory. Yet history will eventually give a fair assessment! History is a mirror, history is a text book, history is the fairest judge and a diligent teacher. Let history tell all! Regardless of which perspectives, will reveal the truth. We are forever living in between history and the future.

Marx once said: it is a blessing for some historical figures if they die early. It can be a misfortune for those who die old. If only Lee Kuan Yew had died in the 1950s, he could be a famous anti-colonial hero. That would be his “luck”, to be crowned with eternal glory; however he lived till the twenty-first century. By then he had destroyed vernacular education, oppressed the left-wing activists, and persecuted those who were originally not his enemies. Soh Lung and her fellow detainees were no threat at all to the PAP. Even his colleagues were angry and resigned from their jobs before he died. This is Lee’s misfortune. He earned himself eternal infamy.

Heavenly justice (天理) is the highest order of law.

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FEAR is DEAD

By Teo Soh Lung

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Source: Function 8

 

Four days ago, Kenneth and I were asked by journalists from Hong Kong (click here) if we were going to pay our respect to Lee Kuan Yew. Kenneth replied that he would not. When pressed for an answer as to why, he muttered something like it was not necessary.
The young journalists were persistent in finding an answer and they turned to me. I too replied that I was not going. They pressed for an answer and I gave them the lame excuse that the queue was too long. I was dismayed at my own answer but didn’t know why.

For days during the week of “national mourning”, I have been asked by neighbours who were ardent fans of Lee Kuan Yew, if I was going to pay my respect. My answer was simply “no”. I did not elaborate and they never probe further. If I could interpret such an answer now, I think it was my way of respecting the dead, that I didn’t want to hurt the questioner that the dead had harmed me and my family and friends during his term of office as prime minister.

For days before the funeral, group chats had been flooded with reports of the long queue in the sun, the plans and funeral arrangements, the longer bus and train schedules, the unbelievable achievements of the dead and so on and so forth. On the sixth day, I could no longer tolerate such messages and left the groups. I did not give a reason, again perhaps out of respect for the dead.

Friends who knew my past had asked incessantly if I was going to write about Lee Kuan Yew. I did intend to write but for 20 days or more, my mind was a blank. I just could not put anything sensible on paper. It was as if an inner voice was telling me to remain silent and not disrupt the nation’s grief. Let them grieve in peace. I did however write a short piece about my mother’s thoughts on 24th March, a day after Lee died. I had no intention of doing so but the piece came naturally, as if my mother was instigating me to write for her. That morning, I had visited my mother’s niche, it being the third anniversary of her death. Suddenly, my sister started to talk about the past. She was having a conversation with my mother. I didn’t know much about what she went through and how she felt about my arrest, how she detested the dead and how she refused to watch the television whenever his image appeared. On the long journey home, I penned her thoughts. I didn’t care about Lee Kuan Yew. My mother’s grief was larger than that of the dead and the national mourning. I cried when I finished writing and posted it on my facebook. It was about the time of her death at home three years ago.

And so coming back to the journalists. I thought for many hours. Why was I not able to give an honest, direct answer? Why didn’t I say that I was not going because Lee Kuan Yew had imprisoned me up for two and a half years without trial and for no good reason? The more I pondered, the more ridiculous and stupid I felt. It was something in the sub-conscious that prevented me from giving an honest answer. I was angry. It was truly absurd.

After thinking for a few hours, it suddenly dawned on me that the reason was Fear – fear that people will think badly of me especially at a time when they were in deep mourning and hysteria, fear that they would conclude that I was angry and bitter, unforgiving, a person who refused to “move on” as the archbishop said. It was like the reaction of rape victims. They decline to report the crime because they were afraid that the investigator would not believe them or even accuse them that they had asked for the rape to happen because of the way they behaved or dressed. They were afraid that their own reputation and safety would be damaged with the report. How would the public view them? What would their reaction be? It was all just too complex, risky and intimidating and it was best to remain silent, forget about the nasty incident and “move on”. Let the rapists escape punishment and commit more crimes. Let more women suffer.

Realising that fear was the reason which prevented me from giving an honest answer to the journalists, I suddenly felt liberated. It was as if a heavy load was lifted. I immediately resolved that the next person who asked me if I was going to Parliament House to pay my respect, I would let it be known that I do not respect a leader who imprisoned citizens without trial, who caused so much suffering to those imprisoned, their families and their friends.

That evening, someone who had just paid his respect to the dear leader after waiting for several hours before day break, asked if I was going. I replied: “No, after what he did to me, imprisoning me for two and a half years, how can I go and pay respect to him?” Taken aback, he asked why I was imprisoned. I told him about the ISA and asked him to google my name if he wanted to know more. He said he didn’t know the other side of the great leader. Indeed, he didn’t know and was probably shocked at my answer. He asked two friends that evening if they knew about my imprisonment. One said he did and the other pretended she didn’t know.

In 1987 and 1988, Lee Kuan Yew and his ministers arrested and imprisoned 24 people without trial under the ISA. They were:

1 Vincent Cheng Kim Chuan, Church worker
2 Teo Soh Lung, Lawyer
3 Kevin de Souza, Lawyer and Church worker
4 Wong Souk Yee, Researcher and journalist
5 Tang Lay Lee, Lawyer and Church worker
6 Ng Bee Leng, Church worker
7 Jenny Chin Lai Ching, Journalist
8 Kenneth Tsang Chi Seng, Advertising executive
9 Chung Lai Mei
10 Mah Lee Lin, Polytechnic graduate and Church worker
11 Low Yit Leng, Project manager
12 Tan Tee Seng, Sales executive
13 Teresa Lim Li Kok, Publisher
14 Chia Boon Tai, Engineer and businessman
15 Tay Hong Seng, Translator and subtitling editor
16 William Yap Hon Ngian, Translator and subtitling editor
17 Tang Fong Har, Lawyer
18 Chew Kheng Chuan, Harvard University graduate and Businessman
19 Chng Suan Tze, Polytechnic Lecturer
20 Ronnie Ng Soon Hiang, Polytechnic student
21 Fan Wan Peng, Polytechnic student and president of the students’ union
22 Nur Effendi Sahid, National serviceman

In 1988, eight of the above were rearrested after issuing a press release together with their lawyers, Francis Seow Tiang Siew, former Solicitor General and President of the Law Society of Singapore and Patrick Seong Kwok Kei, Lawyer and member of Council of the Law Society of Singapore.

In the two years, two friends who were then in Europe had their Singapore citizenship revoked. They were Tan Wah Piow, an Oxford University undergraduate and Paul Lim Huat Chye, a PhD student in Belgium. They became political exiles together with Tang Fong Har, a signatory to the press release but escaped rearrest as she was then in the United Kingdom. In subsequent years, Francis Seow too became a political exile after nearly winning the general election in 1988. It was political persecution.

While Lee Kuan Yew’s children and grandchildren were able to be by his side during the last days of his illness and funeral, the political exiles, including those who left Singapore in the 1960s and 70s were not able to see their loved ones or attend the funerals of their parents and spouse who died in Singapore.

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Zhen Xian Bao

 

It is common to hear people say that for the good of the nation, it is perfectly in order to sacrifice some of its citizens. I never understand such a statement. Would they have the same opinion if they and their loved ones were arrested and imprisoned without trial?

Lee Kuan Yew as an astute politician knew the nature and character of who he demanded arrest. He knew Lim Chin Siong was as capable if not more capable than he as the prime minister. He knew that Dr Lim Hock Siew and Dr Poh Soo Kai were intellectually his equal if not superior to him. He knew that Pak Said Zahari commanded the respect of the Malay community and was capable of challenging his way of managing Singapore. If they had been permitted to contest in the 1963 general election instead of being arrested in Operation Coldstore and imprisoned for decades, their presence in the legislative assembly may have helped our nation to achieve even greater heights. There would have been genuine debates on policies and laws in parliament for the good of our country instead of bad policies and laws being rammed down our throats by one man and his docile cabinet. The “Stop at two” and restrictive marriage policies of Singaporeans and foreigners may not have been implemented and Singapore would not need to fret about its dwindling population and labour shortage. Languages and dialects may have flourished, making Singapore a unique and exciting multicultural and multi racial society. Casinos may not be necessary to propel the economy resulting in Singapore becoming a nation of gamblers.

Even among the 1987 and 1988 detainees, many were working on the ground and knew the precarious nature of importing foreign labour to boost our economy while not looking after their well being and providing them with a minimum living wage. They knew that the way the government managed the foreign workers would ultimately have an adverse effect on our citizens.

What good can such arrests bring to our nation? If the government had listened to the detainees and worked with them to improve policies, Singapore may be a better country today. You may disagree but please don’t tell me that arresting a small number of people who were or have the potential of being future leaders is for the good of our country. Don’t tell me to move on when you don’t even know what happened in the past and what Lee Kuan Yew had done to his own citizens.

Fear is dead. Abolish ISA.

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Freedom Film Festival 2014 – Film Review

The May 13 Generation

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The day is 2 June 1954. About 800 Chinese middle school students occupy Chinese High School (renamed Hwa Chong Institution in 2005) on Bukit Timah Road. The students are fighting for exemption for 125 fellow students who refuse to register for National Service under the British colonial government as they have not yet completed their studies. The 20-minute film depicts the three-week occupation of the school which ends on a victorious note for the students after the Ministry of Defence agrees to postpone the enlistment of all students of call-up age.

The polished production is one of Jason Soo’s first forays into the exhilarating yet hazardous world of filmmaking. It is an ambitious project because with a small budget, the director has to paint a broad historical sweep of an important period of Singapore’s political development, whose impact reverberates throughout Singapore’s post-independent days.

Soo decided to shine the light on the daily activities of the students during those three momentous weeks: singing, classroom learning and drama performance. He succeeds, without sentimentalism, in exuding the youthful passion and idealism of the middle school students in colonial Singapore who were fighting for not only exemption from National Service but also the larger goal of independence, though it was not articulated as such in the film. To a large extent, the young but experienced cast helps to endear the audience to the film even though many of the actors had little knowledge of the Chinese middle school student movement before the casting auditions.

As the film is essentially a mood piece, the audience is left to piece together the wider context of the Occupy Chinese High episode. This reviewer thinks that the scriptwriter/director could have selected a set piece that might better ignite the spirit of the time. An example would be a late-night discussion that turns into a fierce argument among the student leaders in face of the tactical as well as existential manoeuvrings with family, the school board of directors, agent provocateurs and the omnipresent police. This scenario could draw out the hopes and fears, desires and apprehensions of the characters. Such a scene might work better thematically and dramatically than the comic re-enactment of the court trial of the four students charged for protesting outside the Governor’s House against national conscription.

The 21-day occupation of Chinese High in 1954 was a precursor to the resuscitation of the left-wing student and trade movements that were clamped down with the imposition of the Emergency in 1948. The film, however, only hints at the pivotal role played by the Chinese middle school students in the subsequent formation of the then left-wing People’s Action Party (PAP) in November that year and the party’s resounding victory in the 1959 general election. Similarly, the film darkly alludes to the betrayal by the Lee Kuan Yew-led PAP of its socialist democratic cause, with the ending title: The monkeys departed. The wolves are here …

It is hoped that The May 13 Generation has whetted the audience’s appetite for a full-length feature film that gives another reading of our anti-colonial history which has often been described ad nauseum in the official narrative as a “fight against the Communists”.

The short film could not have been screened at a more appropriate time. This year, 2014, marks the 60th  anniversary of the 1954 students’ protest against national conscription and the subsequent occupation of Chung Cheng High and then Chinese High. The presentation of The May 13 Generation at the Freedom Film Festival in November also coincided with the intrepid students and residents of Hong Kong occupying Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay. The starkness of the comparison cannot be lost on even the most casual of observers. That we have only something that happened 60 years ago to show for is a sad reminder of how effectively the PAP government has sapped away our spirit and replaced it with only material yearnings.

Lessons in Dissent   

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Premiered in April 2014, Lessons in Dissent gains currency once more in recent months due to the headline-grabbing 75-day (at the time of writing) occupation of business districts in Hong Kong, led by students from universities and high schools. The 97-minute documentary juxtaposes the words and deeds of two young activists: Joshua Wong and Ma Jai. Both are in their teens and are passionate about their cause to fight for greater democracy in Hong Kong. The similarities end there.

Joshua Wong’s spunky protest against the Moral and National Education curriculum in 2012 has catapulted him to the international limelight as well as earned him the odium from the Chinese government. The Occupy movement to fight for genuine universal suffrage has put the Scholarism leader on the cover of Time magazine while at the same time got him labelled as an “extremist” by China’s state-run media.

In contrast, Ma Jai quit school to devote his young life to the work of the left-wing League of Social Democrats (LSD). The self-effacing Ma toils behind the scenes in social movements against issues that affect the lives of ordinary Hong Kong people. His quiet persistence sees him in protests against the government’s plan in 2009 to build a high-speed railway line to mainland China; the annual June 4th march to the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the HKSAR; campaigns against small-circle election of the Chief Executive; the anti-Moral and National Education movement; and in the 2012 Legislative Council election campaign for LSD candidate, Avery Ng.

The most obvious lesson for activists in the audience to take away is to have the mainstream media on your side. Ma notes that Wong shot to prominence when he was interviewed by the media as the convenor of Scholarism, and his answers were logical and well structured. The interview went viral on Youtube, receiving over 170,000 views in seven days. Social media adds impetus to Hong Kong’s free-wheeling mainstream media . Scholarism was formed during the proposal to implement the Moral and National Education programme in secondary schools. Students met on Facebook and decided to do something.

Ma observes that Wong’s way in civil society is to become famous through the mainstream media so that people would listen to what he says. Wong himself is only too conscious of his exalted status as the voice of a generation. ” I hope people can get from my words and actions the meaning of perseverance. That everyone can care about society and be a true citizen of society.”

While Ma does not disagree with Wong’s approach, he argues that the real battle is to develop a mature and politicised civil society and not events like the protest outside the Government HQ that attracted 100,000 people to call for the withdrawal of the Moral and National Education curriculum.

“They were waiting for the next Joshua Wong to lead them. If there is no increase of awareness about society, then, I don’t think it means much.”

Another lesson the film seems to advocate is that you can participate in a civil disobedience movement in a peaceful, rational and non-violent manner. Every year, the LSD has taken part in the candlelight vigil for victims of the June 4th Tiananmen massacre until they think that mourning for the dead could not achieve much and liken it to consumption of June 4th feelings. They decide to do more and that is when Ma and Avery Ng lead a march without a police permit to the Liaison Office to demand that the Chinese government account for its action. They reckon that the law protects the status quo and prevents progress, and as such is not worth respecting.

“The point of activism is promotion, education and raising awareness. It is the process of being politicised,” Ma says in the film. He adds prophetically, “More Hong Kong people are ready to accept more radical approaches such as pushing the barricades or blocking the road.”

Lessons in Dissent tries to provide a smorgasbord of maxims of organising social movements. Which ones to pick depends on your own sensibilities and vision for society.

Wukan, the Flame of Democracy

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Wukan, the Flame of Democracy sounds the warning bell that democracy is no guarantee of social justice. But unlike the aftermath we see of the Arab Spring where free elections ushered in more or less old wine in new bottle, Wukan shows us that while the struggle for democracy is a long and hard one, the road to righting the wrongs suffered under the old regime is even longer and harder.

Singapore’s filmmaking duo, James Leong and Lynn Lee, made this 97-minute documentary about how the villagers of Wukan, a village in the Chinese province of Guangdong, expel their corrupt local Communist government and elect their own village committee, an exploit not seen for over four decades. Weeks of uprising and the death of an activist leader, Xue Jinbo, under police custody, has led to the victory of the people.

After the new village committee comes into office in an election watched by the media from across the globe, it finds itself staring into the dark abyss left behind by the old committee who have sold off extensive land in Wukan without a cent from the proceeds returned to the villagers. The village chief and his committee members not only have to recover the land sold, but also take care of daily municipal matters such as clearing rubbish, mediating disputes, securing water and electricity supplies, implementing birth control and settling problems with the fishing industry.

Three months after the historic elections, the committee faces increasing pressure from the villagers who are losing their patience with the new committee for failing to get back their land. The villagers carry out protests and a road blockade to force the local and county governments to resolve their land woes. The film appears to be sympathetic to the village committee and shows the villagers to be concerned only about their land and little else. The village chief laments, “The provincial government has been working hard, but nobody knows how we can meet the demands of the villagers.”

The daily taunting from the villagers soon produces its first casualty. Zhuang Liehong, who feels that he has not lived up to the expectations of the villagers who elected him some months back, resigns from the village committee. The next one to follow is Zhang Jiancheng. He sighs, “The pressure is too much. The villagers’ resentment has only increased as days pass. It’s internal unity and our mental health that we are worried about.” However, a few days later, Jiancheng decides to carry on the struggle and bear with the strain.

“I hope there will not be any more resignation, especially since it was the first popular election in Wukan that brought us to power, and the whole world knows about us. If we resign, we will affect the morale of society at large. The flame of democracy has been lit; people will be disappointed with Wukan if we extinguish it.”

Though the film ends on a somewhat sombre note, it is a timely reminder that in the euphoria of a just victory, it is easy to forget that the gargantuan task of rebuilding society has only begun. Many sceptics in Singapore often ask, if the opposition is to form the next government, whether they will be able to run the country. My response to that is when that day comes, I hope Singaporeans will step up to the plate and play their part in active citizenry and not be like the villagers in Wukan who let their self interest overwhelm other things that matter as well.

By Wong Souk Yee

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人权组织“功能8”(Function 8)就陈彬彬所制记录片《星国恋》的官方禁映发表意下声明:

 

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日期:2014年9月12日

人权组织“功能8”(Function 8)就陈彬彬所制记录片《星国恋》的官方禁映发表以下声明:

一个国家的历史要兼收并蓄、博采众长,方能更全面地反映事实;近期出版的书籍,如《狮爪逃生》、《新加坡1963年的冷藏行动》、《1963年二二大逮捕事件始末》、《夙愿重燃》和《敢向英殖民统治者说不》等为新加坡建国时期具有重大意义的时段,提供了不同的回想。陈彬彬的历史纪录片《星国恋》为我国的历史编写又增添新的诠释,它讲述的是留居国外的新加坡政治流亡者,而这些流亡者有些竟已离开新加坡长达50年之久。

新加坡媒体发展局已宣布禁止这部影片在新加坡的公开上映,功能8 (Function 8)对此深表关注。禁止知识产品的作法诚然与新加坡作为第一世界国家的形象格格不入,它更像是中世纪时期一些统治者无知幼稚的计谋。新加坡不是说要大肆庆祝建国50周年,鼓励国人交流对话、畅所欲言吗?然而,这对话的精神实质哪里去了?

我们呼吁当局,让国人能更真实地评价国家历史,让新加坡发展成一个在人民心中具有智慧的国家,而非铁板一块的国家。

我们呼吁当局,让国人能更真实地评价国家历史,让新加坡发展成一个在人民心中具有智慧的国家,而非铁板一块

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Call on the authorities to allow an honest appraisal of our history

The history of a nation can aim to be accurate only if various and divergent voices are heard. In recent years, books like “Escape from the Lion’s Paw”, “The 1963 Operation Coldstore in Singapore”, “We Remember”, “That We May Dream Again” and “Youth on Trial” have added other perspectives to the memory of a very significant period in Singapore’s nation-building.

Tan Pin Pin’s documentary film, “To Singapore With Love”, on Singapore’s political exiles who fled the country, some as long as 50 years ago, adds another dimension to this on-going writing of our history.

Function 8 is deeply concerned that the Media Development Authority has banned this film from being screened in Singapore. Banning of intellectual products is far from being the hallmark of a first-world country; it smacks of medieval ignorance and naivety. Where is the spirit of conversation so much hailed and lauded as our country is preparing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of her birth?

We call on the authorities to allow an honest appraisal of our history, so that we can develop as an intelligent nation, not just in hard-wire terms, but in the heart and soul of our people.

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A birthday note to Singapore

waihanBy Chan Wai Han

Singapore is a country. Singapore is not a nation. Not yet.

A country has a physical boundary, although sometimes disputed. It has a political system that governs the life of its citizens. A flag, an anthem, all these and more – trappings of a country – Singapore has.

Passion, love for the nation, with the people being ready to die for Singapore… these we do not have. Well, at least not many are ready to die for the country. Yet there are some who are passionate and care enough to try and make a difference, with or without accolades and fat pay cheques.

What brings about this scenario? My view is that the people are treated as economic digits, workers for Singapore Inc. with hard-nosed accounting taking precedence in every facet of our policy-making. When this happens, our relationship with the country is merely transactional. You try to get the most out of the country. And if it doesn’t suit you, just up and migrate if you have the ability. If you can’t, then swallow your pride and try to make a life on this little diamond.

National TheatrePeople need to share memories and pass them on for a collective identity to evolve and survive. I think of the National Library’s red-brick building at Stamford Road, the National Theatre at River Valley, my primary school at Queen Street… all gone. Soon my childhood memories at Tanglin Halt will give way to the bulldozers of SERS. So too my secondary school at Anderson Road. The unspoken truth is that some of these sites are too valuable to be left to a mere school, even one with 135 years’ history. In the surroundings of Anderson Road, more and more multi-million condominiums have sprung up. The state’s land bank probably would be silly to pass over this piece of real estate and leave it as a school.

The ever-increasing minimum sum of our CPF accounts gives the sense that we’ll never be able to use our hard-earned savings in our own lifetime. Even the Pioneer Package comes with so many strings wrapping up the gift. I’ve seen thin old folks in one-room flats who can do with better meals. Why keep the “gift” wrapped in medical benefits? Why not give outright so they can get better nutrition and hopefully won’t become so ill that they need to use the medical benefits so soon?

Politicking need not come at the end of every four or five years. When boundaries are re-drawn and new names given to electoral wards ever so often there is no opportunity for residents to develop an affinity to a place. (In 30 years, I have lived in Fengshan, Kaki Bukit, East Coast GRC… all without moving an inch from Bedok North.) Fanciful names like Rainbowville, Eunos Ville, etc crop up overnight on big structures of precincts. These do not make for community bonding.

rallyOf course, much has been done for the country by the dominant ruling party, as fair-minded people would acknowledge. But I feel great discomfort that the achievements are on the back of the injustices inflicted on many human beings, among them:

  • Political opponents of the ruling party who had been placed under detention without trial.
  • Foreign workers who do not have fair recourse to abuse by employers.
  • Home-makers who do not receive any significant economic recognition (other than the wife relief granted to taxpaying husbands).

And a very frightening divide in the us-versus-them attitude is practised in the $100 daily levy imposed on Singaporeans entering the casinos in the country. The message seems to be: it is alright for non-Singaporeans to empty their pockets… they are welcome to gamble away their fortune here. But our citizens need to be protected (the $100 levy being a futile attempt anyway in deterring the gamblers). What kind of value does this beggar-thy-neighbour policy imbue in our people?

On Singapore’s 49th birthday, an accidental political construct by the way, I wish that we be a more caring and accountable country. Both towards our citizens and towards other nations. We don’t always have to be the top dog. There is a place to progress together, not progress at the expense of others.

Too idealistic perhaps. But without ideals, is life really worth living? And without ideals, can we truly build a nation?

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