FreedomFilmFest 2022!!

SEE YOU THIS WEEKEND!

We are looking forward to welcoming you at the Festival this weekend!

Our film ratings from IMDA have just been received and we would like to advise the following minimum age limits for the films. We seek your understanding and co-operation. For queries, please write in to freedomfilmfestsg@gmail.com

PROGRAMME 1: SINGAPORE SHOWCASE
Sat, 19 Nov 2022 – 2 to 4pm
There to Document: Restricted 21
Three Ways To Falter – PG13
Second Prison – Parental Guidance

PROGRAMME 2: THE RIGHT TO LIVE WITH DIGNITY
Sat, 19 Nov 2022, 4 to 6pm
Peluang Kedua: Restricted 21
Grey Scale: Parental Guidance

PROGRAMME 3: ARCHIVING OUR OWN STORIES (ORANG ASLI SPOTLIGHT)
Sun, 20 Nov 2022 – 2 to 3.10pm
Selai Kayu Yek(Roots of My Land): Parental Guidance
Klinik Ku Hutan(My Forest, My Clinic): Parental Guidance
Rasa & Asa: Parental Guidance

PROGRAMME 4: DREAM BEYOND THE DOMESTIC
Sun, 20 Nov 2022 – 3.10 to 4.30pm
Homebound: Parental Guidance
Rahsia Rimba(Secret of the Forest Guardian): Parental Guidance

PROGRAMME 5: YOUTH ACTIVISM & CHANGE
Sun, 20 Nov 2022 – 4.30 to 6pm
Padauk(Myanmar Spring): Mature 18

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Conversations with Authors: Seelan Palay

Session 1

Seelan Palay is a well-known Singaporean artist, activist and filmmaker. His one-man five-day hunger strike in protest against the Malaysian government’s detention of five leaders of Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) outside the Malaysian High Commission in 2008 resulted in the enactment of the Public Order Act. His solo work of performance art – 32 Years: The Interrogation of a Mirror took two years to plan and execute. It was unfortunately misinterpreted as an unlawful procession under the Public Order Act and he was charged, convicted and jailed. He concluded his performance by serving a jail sentence. As an artist, Palay’s primary medium is time. See more of his work at seelanpalay.com.

Date: SUNDAY, 13 NOVEMBER 2022 AT 15:00

Venue: Orange and Teal 35 Rochester Dr, #02-12 Rochester Mall, Singapore 138639

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Hong Lim Park Not Enough Meh?

by Teo Soh Lung

Sometimes I am asked these questions: Why did Dr Chee Soon Juan protest “unlawfully” and get himself arrested and sent to prison? Why did Jolovan Wham do a one-person protest knowing full well it is against the law? Speakers’ Corner or Hong Lim Park is the venue that protests can be carried out lawfully. Why don’t activists confine themselves to that space when they have fought so hard for it? Surely they know that the Public Order Act does not permit them to protest outside Hong Lim Park without a permit. They are wasting their time and they deserve to be jailed! 

I confess that I too had asked those questions. While I did not conclude that they were wasting their time even though when hauled before the courts, conviction, jail or fine would be the natural outcome, I wondered if anything could be achieved by other means or ways. It was the same with the endless persecution and prosecutions of the Late Mr JB Jeyaretnam. It took a long time for me to realise that there are no other ways. Some people have to sacrifice their personal freedoms in order that others may enjoy them. Had it not been for all these fellow Singaporeans, the situation in Singapore could be worse today.

In today’s high-tech age, a photograph or video can travel round the globe and cause much embarrassment to our government. Unfortunately, one of the ways that will change the backward mindset of our leaders is causing embarrassment to them! 

Singapore leaders are not amused by Jolovan Wham’s one person protest. That is why prosecutors had time and again complained to our courts that taking photos and posting them on social media is the “opus operandi” of activists. 

I have lost count of how many investigations and prosecutions activists face. But here are some that come to my mind:

Jolovan Wham was charged, convicted and jailed under the Public Order Act for taking a photo of himself with the smiley sign and outside the former State Court with the slogan ‘Drop the charges against Terry Xu and Daniel De Costa. 

Not long ago, artist Seelan Palay did an awesome one person performance art called Interrogation of a Mirror from Speakers’ Corner to the former Supreme Court and Parliament House. He was convicted of participating in a one person unlawful procession under the POA and went to jail.

In March 2020, two young climate activists from Fridays4Future SG staged solo demonstrations calling for greater commitment to de-carbonisation and fossil fuel divestment. Both were called in for questioning and had their electronic devices seized. 

Recently, several young activists were investigated for holding an “unlawful assembly” outside Changi Prison in the wee hours of the morning before a prisoner was hanged. The Bedok Police Headquarters confiscated the Anti-Death Penalty tee-shirts worn by Kirsten Han and Rocky Howe when they submitted themselves for interrogation. Till today, their tee shirts have not been returned and investigations are still ongoing!

No protest? No progress.

WHY IS IT AN OFFENCE TO HOLD A PEACEFUL PUBLIC ASSEMBLY IN A PUBLIC SPACE?

The POA or Public Order Act mandates police permits for any gathering or meeting of one or more persons intending to demonstrate for or against a group or government; publicise a cause or campaign; or mark or commemorate any event. This ridiculous law was passed in April 2009. The scope is very wide. Prior to the POA, only assemblies of 5 or more people required a police permit.

Article 14 of our Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to freedom of speech and expression, assembly and association. However, this so called supreme law is subject to other laws whether made prior or after it was enacted. Ordinary laws can therefor remove all our fundamental rights that are supposed to be guaranteed by our constitution. When I told this to a group of Malaysian workers in the 1980s, they immediately protested. What is the point? How can you call the constitution the supreme law of the land? And yet our judges have held time and again that our constitution is subject to our ordinary laws!  

It is a fact that attempts by Singaporeans to comply with such ridiculous laws have been futile. Activist Rachel Zeng applied in January 2011 to hold a one-woman march on International Women’s Day. She wanted to draw attention to the fact that single mothers below 35 years of age were not allowed to buy HDB flats. Her application was rejected without any reason. She appealed. Her appeal was rejected. 

Before Rachel Zeng, Dr Chee Soon Juan had applied many times for a police permit to protest but to no avail. Similarly, in December 2018, Jolovan Wham applied for a police permit to hold a one person public assembly to commemorate World Justice Day in February 2019. The application and appeal were both rejected and he was told to go to Speakers’ Corner. The number of applications to hold one person assemblies are numerous. They have all been rejected. What a waste of the time for the police to process these applications.  They might as well set a robot to work.

The definition of ‘public assembly’ in the POA is so broad that one individual handing out flyers on the street or collecting signatures for a petition, will be deemed to have committed an offence if they did not have a permit to do so. In 2010, an application by two migrant rights groups to distribute flyers for international migrants’ day was turned down. In 2018, the defunct Online Citizen’s editor, Mr Terry Xu was informed by the police that his plan to collect signatures outside Raffles Place MRT station for a petition calling for parliament to be live-streamed, would not be allowed. This is despite the fact that he wasn’t planning to make a speech or hold up any signs. The reach of this law is so wide that even a foreigner speaking to an indoor audience via Skype for a ’cause related’ event is an offence.  You can read some of these ridiculous cases in the book titled “RIDICULOUS, untold tales of Singapore” published by Function 8.   

Our ability to advocate for change and speak up against injustice are severely curtailed by the POA and many other laws. If we do nothing, we will one day lose everything.  We must therefore attempt to resist and even recover some of these rights. Our actions may make those in power  a little uncomfortable and stretch their imagination to hellish depths  such as chaos and bloodshed. But the act of protesting and not quiet and “respectful” consultation is how a democratic society functions. Citizens should not be punished for expressing their views. To make it a law that no one is permitted to demonstrate or take a photograph with a slogan outside Parliament House or the courts and other government buildings is absolutely ridiculous. Peaceful protests directed at law making or enforcing bodies should be encouraged. Who else matters more than these important and  powerful people who manage our country? They should be thankful that people are taking time and trouble to express their opinion for or against them. They should take it in their stride to pause and think why people are doing what they do and not send them to jail just because they have the right to abuse their power by using unjust laws.

WHY WAS POA INTRODUCED?

When the Public Order Bill was introduced, the then Second Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam said that this law was important because Singapore would be hosting the 2009 APEC meetings and we could not afford to have those meetings disrupted. It was also argued that the law was necessary for the preservation of safety of individuals!  

While safety concerns at large international events are valid, they can be addressed without restricting peaceful demonstrations. Surely our men in blue are capable of ensuring  public safety especially when our laws make it a serious offence for the possession of weapons. Besides, Singapore also has specific laws which punish individuals for inciting violence and disorder or hate speech. These should be enough to deter such imagined disruptive conduct of peaceful Singaporeans.   

WHAT DOES INTERNATIONAL LAW RECOMMEND?

International legal standards only require individuals to give notice of an intention to organise large peaceful public assemblies or procession. The purpose of such a notification is to give the authorities time to facilitate the event, and are not meant to be an approval process. No notice is required for assemblies or processions that do not require the government to take crowd control measures, or where only a small number of participants are expected and impact on the public is expected to be minimal. A one person protest therefor does not require any notification!

PROTESTS SHOULD BE ALLOWED

Protests encourage the development of an engaged and informed citizenry. They allow us to show our grievances, share views, expose flaws in governance and publicly demand accountability. 

I hope I have answered the questions which bother some people. We are used to obeying rules and regulations even if these are ridiculous. It is good to disbelieve the government’s imaginary fear that even one person can cause a riot and bloodshed. We are responsible human beings and we are born free. While Speakers’ Corner is a nice space that belongs to all of us and we should not even be required to inform NParks of what we intend to do, our freedom should not be restricted to such a space which is located away from those who govern us. We should be free to demonstrate peacefully anywhere, including the Istana, Parliament House, Supreme Court, Changi Prison.

It is time to abolish the Public Order Act.

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(Book Review) Ridiculous: Untold Tales of Singapore

by Ann Ng

Ridiculous: Untold Tales of Singapore is precisely that. Stories from a range of individuals documenting their fractious interactions with the Law in Singapore. For those who have claimed for years that the rule of law does not exist in Singapore, this book is clear substantiation of that. It’s not that these situations do not occur in other first world countries but that in squeaky clean Singapore, we have been brought up to believe that such actions do not exist. Everything is done by the book and you wouldn’t get into trouble if you just did things right. How far this is from the truth!

Friends reiterate that Singapore’s political situation has changed, life is much more liberal, the government is less draconian, but these eleven stories and a calendar of events remind us that this is not the case. You have to still only ‘stand up’ before the authorities will knock you on the head with their instruments of state. 

The book is divided into two large sections, and the second is telling. You don’t have to read all the fine print in the hundred pages to get the message; each and every bolded sub-headline screams out defamation suits, charges by the police, arrest and re-arrest, rounds of legal costs, rules governing very limited assembly, police raids, contempt of court actions and the list goes on, all weapons used regularly to curb any undesirable political action. 

Signing after the launch by guests of the panel discussion (available on our YouTube channel)

The first section documents eleven stories, the one about Roy Ngerng Impressing me the most. Here is a young man, naïve and idealistic, who embarks on a journey to share what he considers valuable information about Singapore’s CPF with his fellow citizens. It’s not long before the reach of the law tries to bribe him into ‘joining the gang’ and when this fails, to defame him and turn his life into hell. Little do they expect that crowd funding will raise $144,000 to help him in over just 9 days. 

It’s not easy to summarise the different stories; each holds its own context – fighting against the death penalty, alerting the public to police brutality against bus strikers, rubbery election advertising rules, prohibited sharing on Facebook, and even the obstacles imposed on the putting on of a play (that would be considered par-for-the-course in any other part of the world). What emerges from all these tales is this Kafkaesque ‘logic’, ridiculous (remember the title of the book), best illustrated by the questions police throw at you during interrogation – circular and amorphous to the point of being nonsensical, and the number of times the ‘victims’ get given a stern warning, tantamount to ‘they haven’t got a case’ and don’t really know what to do next. Equally disturbing is the raid on people’s homes and the forceful removal of their ‘equipment’ – mobiles, laptops, personal work drives, etc. If this is not an invasion of individual privacy, I don’t know what is.

For those of us who became politicised by the deportation of six university students from the then University of Singapore back in the 1970’s, this is just more of the same of Singapore’s underbelly, but this book is not documented for them, it is primarily (to my mind) for a generation of younger Singaporeans who still believe they live in a squeaky clean, uncorrupted city. Read the book and decide for yourselves what your path will be – to be brave and experience for yourself the pride in standing up for Singapore’s ‘unheard’ or to tacitly accept that things cannot change in this beautiful little city.

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The Price Of Liberty Is Eternal Vigilance

by Teo Soh Lung

Laws in Singapore are speedily enacted and speedily amended. I don’t know if existing laws are ever speedily repealed!

Sometimes new laws are made without any fanfare. Sometimes the public and the legal profession are invited to give their views. Elaborate select committee hearings are occasionally conducted and telecast over television. For most of us, we play no part in the enactment of laws. We leave this work to our lawmakers and expect them to enact laws that will protect us. It is only when we are adversely affected by the law that we realise the danger of trust.

The Criminal Procedure Code (2010) (CPC) was enacted after two years of public consultation. It seeks “to repeal and re-enact with amendments the Criminal Procedure Code and to make consequential and related amendments to such other written laws”.

Despite this long gestation period, some additions or amendments are unfortunately overlooked by those who scrutinised the bill. It is understandable because the CPC contains more than 400 sections and six schedules. It is extremely difficult to analyse everything, especially when the Code introduced several measures that are good for society. Criminal discovery and new forms of sentences that seek to rehabilitate the offenders such as community sentences are all commendable.

In this essay, I wish to comment on one clause in the CPC that has impacted human rights defenders who for short, I shall refer them as “activists”. I am sure the general public is also affected but we don’t hear their voice.

I am referring to section 112 of the CPC which allows enforcement officers to require the surrender of travel documents of persons who are subject to investigation as long as the officers have reasonable grounds to believe that they have committed an offence. The relevant section is reproduced below:

112.—(1) Despite any other written law —

(a) a police officer of or above the rank of sergeant, with the written consent of an authorised officer;

(b) the head or an authorised director of any other law enforcement agency or a person of a similar rank; or

(c) any officer of a prescribed law enforcement agency, with the written consent of the head or an authorised director of that law enforcement agency or a person of a similar rank,

may require a person whom he or she has reasonable grounds for believing has committed any offence to surrender the person’s travel document.

This power to request the surrender of travel documents is granted to a wide range of officers as long as they are in a “law enforcement agency”. A “law enforcement agency” is defined under section 2 of the CPC as “any authority or person charged with the duty of investigating offences or charging offenders under any written law”.

I don’t know if officers of the Manpower Ministry, Inland Revenue, Environment Ministry, Registry of Businesses and other government bodies exercise this power. But police officers investigating offences allegedly committed by activists routinely require the surrender of their passports when they are subjected to investigation.

In March 2020, lawyer M Ravi and Terry Xu, the editor in chief of The Online Citizen were investigated for contempt of court over some articles published in the now shut down alternative media. The police requested the surrender of their passports. Ravi complied. For Terry Xu, he had already surrendered his passport a year earlier over another matter.

In May this year (2022), M Ravi applied to the police for the return of his passport as he had intended to travel to various countries for work. It was rejected. Ravi then applied to the District Judge under section 113 of the CPC for the return of his passport.

Before the judge, the public prosecutor argued strenuously that Ravi was a high flight risk and that because of his mental illness and lack of cooperation, investigations for the contempt of court case could not be completed. Besides, there was at least one other matter that the police intended to investigate. (It subsequently turned out that the police interviewed Ravi for a little over an hour over six matters.)

The judge was not persuaded and ordered the release of the passport to Ravi subject however to certain conditions. The question of an appropriate sum of money to ensure Ravi’s return to Singapore pending completion of investigation then arose. The prosecutor suggested a sum of S$40,000. He informed the judge that Ravi was liable for some personal costs payable to the attorney general. The judge ordered the sum of S$30,000 to be guaranteed by one or two sureties. The matter was then schedule for review in three months’ time.

It was not easy for Ravi to find two people who have to deposit the sum ordered. But miraculously, Ravi managed to find the sureties. He must have prayed very hard to Lord Ganesh!

At the review on the progress of investigation in August this year, the public prosecutor informed the judge that investigations had yet to be completed. He confirmed that Ravi had cooperated and attended the interview requested by the police. He also suggested that the bond be reduced. Ravi objected. The judge after due consideration, ordered the release of the passport to Ravi saying that the police had more than two years to complete their investigation.

I understand that Terry Xu had also applied to the district judge for the release of his passport which was held by the police for over three years. He too succeeded in getting his passport returned.

Section 112 of the CPC was introduced in 2010. I do not know how many people have had their passports impounded by law enforcement agencies. I also do not know if anyone, besides Ravi M and Terry Xu have applied for the return of their passports.

At the second debate of the CPC bill in 2010, section 112 was mentioned by Christopher de Souza who praised its introduction saying:

“First, allow me to address the greater powers of investigation under the new CPC. Clause 112, division 7, empowers certain authorised officers to require a person to surrender his or her travel documents if there are reasonable grounds for believing that the person has committed an offence. If the person refuses to surrender his or her travel documents, he or she may be arrested. This is a positive measure as this will help our officers greatly in their investigations. Singapore is becoming an increasingly cosmopolitan society. We need to guard against the rise of triad activities, drug abuse, money laundering, and so on. Our men-in-blue need more tools at their disposal to keep crime rates in Singapore low as before.

Therefore, the surrendering of travel documents will deter international crime syndicates from carrying out quick “stop-over” crimes such as drug trafficking or money laundering.”

I do not know how many travel documents are being held by law enforcement agencies. During the debate, Minister Shanmugam did not address section 112. He did however give us a very important insight into the caseload undertaken by law enforcement agencies. He said:

“The Subordinate Courts deal with about 250,000 charges a year, of which some 200,000 are departmental cases. …”

If 250,000 people are charged in court every year, I cannot imagine how many people are investigated by law enforcement agencies every year. The number would surely exceed 250,000! If law enforcement agencies have custody of 250,000 travel documents a year, what is the total they are holding today?

Travel documents are exceedingly important documents. They are required not only when we wish to travel abroad but also in the course of our work or business. Sometimes we have to sign documents before a Notary Public or a Commissioner for Oaths. If passports are surrendered, great inconvenience and embarrassment can result. Besides, passports have expiry dates. What happens when there is a need to travel and the passports have expired?

I do not allege that passports kept by law enforcement agencies are in danger of being lost. But why burden them with custody of such important documents? The minister had time and again complained that they are short-handed. Besides, would confidentiality be lost? Would holding of travel documents infringe the Personal Data Protection Act? These days, the police don’t even want to keep our identity cards when we visit the police station.

SURRENDER OF PASSPORTS PENDING INVESTIGATION

I believe this practice of requiring the surrender of passports from activists did not come about until 2017. In that year, several activists were summoned to the police station for holding a vigil outside Changi Prison several hours before death row prisoner, Prabagaran a/l Srivijayan was scheduled to hang. According to journalist Kirsten Han, a couple who attended the vigil and were accompanying their grandmother back home in Johor Bahru were stopped at the causeway. Similarly, Terry Xu was turned back from the causeway as the police wanted to investigate him. (For details, read An Illegal Vigil in Ridiculous, Untold Tales of Singapore). As recalled in Kirsten’s article, the police did not exercise their power under section112 but merely persuaded or prevented Terry Xu and the couple to remain in Singapore for investigation

I believe this practice of requiring the surrender of passports from activists did not come about until 2017. In that year, several activists were summoned to the police station for holding a vigil outside Changi Prison several hours before death row prisoner, Prabagaran a/l Srivijayan was scheduled to hang. According to journalist Kirsten Han, a couple who attended the vigil and were accompanying their grandmother back home in Johor Bahru were stopped at the causeway. Similarly, Terry Xu was turned back from the causeway as the police wanted to investigate him. (For details, read An Illegal Vigil in Ridiculous, Untold Tales of Singapore). As recalled in Kirsten’s article, the police did not exercise their power under section112 but merely persuaded or prevented Terry Xu and the couple to remain in Singapore for investigation.

I suspect that it was after these incidents reported by Kirsten Han that the police and other law enforcement agencies started to make full use of section 112 of the CPC.

SURRENDER OF PASSPORTS PENDING TRIAL

While on the subject of surrender of passports, I notice that the practice of impounding passports by the court has become an accepted practice.

Several years ago, I learnt from activists who were charged in court that their passports were impounded. It was new to me because when I was in practice decades ago, very few accused persons had their passports impounded. The prosecution had to justify to the court that they were high flight risks and the offences alleged to have been committed must be grave. Defence counsel would as a matter of duty, object to the impounding of passports should such requests be made by the prosecutor. To the credit of prosecutors in those days, such applications were few and far between. These days however, it is common practice for prosecutors to apply for passports to be impounded. Defence counsel do not object to such applications. I understand that such requests are made even if alleged offences are trivial in nature and pose no flight risks.

Recently, I learnt that community worker and activist, Gilbert Goh was charged and convicted for holding a placard outside the immigration building, an offence under the POA. I learnt that one year ago when he was charged before the court, the prosecutor applied for his passport to be impounded. He was shocked. The request was granted and he had to contact his family to produce his passport before he was released on bail.

Recently, Gilbert paid a fine and served a day’s jail. His passport was then returned to him and he was elated.

Over the years, law enforcement agencies have been bestowed great powers, one of which is section 112 of the CPC. I don’t know what will happen next. If we are not vigilant, I think we will lose even more of what remains with us today. Someone said:

“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”

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社会企业“第八功能”及其出版物

林康

“第八功能”(Function 8),是一家社会企业(Social Enterprise)的名号。

一、先做“面”的介绍

根据“新加坡社会企业中心”(Singapore Centre for Social Enterprise, raiSE)给出的定义,社会企业是社会目标明确的商业实体,经营理念清晰,把经营所得用以实现其社会目标。

话说得简单明白,但社会企业仍有各种不同类别。

譬如,新型的私营化小贩中心,配合官方政策,交由社会企业如肥雄集团(Fei Siong Group)、职总富食客(NTUC Foodfare)、音质集团(Timbre Group)、小贩管理(Hawker Management)、海瑟商业集团(OTHM)管理。

这些社会企业管理的小贩中心,曾因为出台各项举措,对小贩施加不尽合理的限制,引来美食家司徒国辉(KF Seetoh)、学者刘浩典(Donald Low)等的批评,甚至大力挞伐。

* * *

“第八功能”和上述社会企业不是一类。

它基本上是具有商业分支的公民组织(Non-Governmental Organization, NGO),藉由某种商业运作(如销售商品或服务)筹措资金,以支撑起公民组织落实其社会机能的经费。

“第八功能”在其脸书专页,作以下自我介绍:

取名“第八功能”,寄托着我们的自我期许。电脑有“第八功能键”(F8 key),能将出问题的电脑重新设置为“安全”与基本模式,从而执行“问题查找”(troubleshooting)。我们期待也能如此,从凝聚社会出发,循构成社会坚强、公平、有意义的基础进行反思,并探索民主进程在达成上述目标中可扮演的角色。

通过举办研讨会、座谈、工作坊、交流与思考,我们希望重启批判性思维,给因为着重追逐经济发展的权宜而变得陈腐的社会,重新注入活力,找回生而为人不能或缺的根本:人的尊严与自由。

* * *

“第八功能”在举办研讨会、座谈、工作坊(如上述)之余,出版书刊其实也是其工作之一,而且是重点的工作。以下出版物清单,可资印证:

2012年,以英文出版陈华彪(Tan Wah Piow)的《烟幕与镜子——“马克思主义阴谋”追踪》(Smokescreens & mirrors : tracing the “Marxist Conspiracy”);

2012年与2013年,以英文与华文先后出版文集《狮爪逃生 : 新加坡政治流亡者思辨集》(Escape from the lion’s paw : reflections of Singapore’s political exiles);

2015年,以华文出版张素兰(Teo Soh Lung)回忆坐政治牢过往的散文《在蓝色栅门的后面》(Beyond the blue gate : recollections of a political prisoner),这是她2010年英文书的华文译本;

2016年,以英文与华文同时出版傅树介(Poh Soo Kai)的政治生涯回忆录《生活在欺瞒的年代》(Living in a Time of Deception);

2017年,以英文出版文集《三十年后回顾:1987年的新加坡马克思主义阴谋》(1987 : Singapore’s Marxist conspiracy 30 years on),尽管书名未予明示,这其实是“光谱行动”三十周年的纪念文集(文集执笔者,是“光谱行动”的一众受难者及其亲友);

2018年,出版张素兰的英文诗画集《大的小的,都是生命:来自蓝色栅门后面的诗与画》(Creatures big and small : poems and drawings from behind the blue gate),其中部分诗作附有华文翻译。

二、从“面”集中到一“点”

“第八功能”的出版物,从上列清单看,2012、2013年出版了两本书后,2014年轮空。从2015年开始至2018年,又陆续出版了四本书(每年一本)。接着,2019、2020、2021年三个年头,再次出现空档。这连续三年的空档,也许可联系到“苛疫”(COVID-19)爆发,侧面回推疫情降临本地后,对社会各层面运作所造成的影响。

不过,来到2022年,随着“阻断措施”逐步放宽,“休止符”间歇时间届满,“第八功能”终于又出版了一本新书,把貌似停滞的时间召唤回来。

* * *

新书是个英文文集。

《荒谬:未曾披露的新加坡故事》(Ridiculous: Untold Tales of Singapore)。

文集分成“部分一”和“部分二”两大部分。

该书编者在“前言”(Introduction)中,如此介绍“部分一”:

“部分一”收11篇散文。作者们论述法律在本地落实的情况。其中,九位作者书写的是他们亲身的经历,而身为律师的张媛容(Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss),她的两篇文章则写了在两届大选中,法律是如何被解读与应用的。

“部分一”的11篇散文(或11个故事),篇目与作者依序如下:

  1. 《阅读,面向机器》(Reading Against the Machine),考琪拉·安娜茉丽(Kokila Annamalai);
  2. 《守夜,这一次非法》(An Illegal Vigil),韩俐颖(Kirsten Han);
  3. 《对镜问惑卅二年》(32 Years: The Interrogation of a Mirror),希阑·巴莱(Seelan Palay);
  4. 《Skype视讯事故和监禁16天》(Jailed 16 Days Over Skype Call‘Event’),陈志成(Tan Tee Seng);
  5. 《火速追剿:“冷静日”干扰冷静的张素兰》(The Hot Pursuit of Cooling-Off Day Silence Breaker, Teo Soh Lung),张媛容(Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss);
  6. 《竞选宣传,究竟是如何构成的?》(What Constitutes Election Advertising? ),覃炳鑫(P J Thum);
  7. 《我到(警总)内部事务办公室里喝(啉)“㗝呸”》(Kopi at the Internal Affairs Office),李成琳(Lynn Lee);
  8. 《我被总理起诉》(Sued by a Prime Minister),鄞义林(Roy Ngerng);
  9. 《转贴脸书发文能构成毁谤罪吗?》(Can Sharing a Facebook Post be Defamatory?),梁实轩(Leong Sze Hian);
  10. 《里外与颠倒——呼唤一个独立的选举委员会》(Inside, Outside, Upside Down), 张媛容(Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss);
  11. 《舞台剧〈方形月〉:一台戏的奇遇》(The Square Moon Saga),庄瑄芝(Chng Suan Tze)。

* * *

其中,鄞义林、梁实轩的官司,开庭期间曾经是各大小报章连续报道,读者追看的新闻。

其他作者,如韩俐颖的为死囚犯请命、为废除死刑大声疾呼,覃炳鑫的时不时被官方拿来说事,考琪拉·安娜茉丽、希阑·巴莱的某种行为艺术“闯祸”;其他涉及事故,如范国瀚(Jolovan Wham)Skype视讯惹官非,张素兰“冷静日”贴文遭严查,中国籍巴士司机罢工触法,过程与结局都堪称惨烈的静山集选区补选,舞台剧《方形月》一波三折的上台风波。

这些,若说不为人知,的确不实。

尽管如此,文集说这些是“未曾披露的故事”,也没说错。

因为,书中说的这些人与事,其叙事面向确实有异于(人们一般易于接触到的)主流传播,呈现的是“未曾披露”的“我方”或云“另类”的一面。

* * *

该书“前言”,也对“部分二”做了介绍:

“部分二”摘要列述1970年至2021年10月期间所发生的事故、案件与重大立法,带出个人自由与司法裁决对社会形成的影响。民事或刑事的毁谤诉讼,破产,逮捕,拘禁,对个人电脑、电子器材的扣押,对媒体的噤声消音,无一不使社会遭受沉重的冲击。

在“前言”中,编者最后说了编辑出版该书的宗旨:

本书以极其简要的方式,记录了新加坡人的勇气、决心与牺牲。他们起而行动,无非为了自己的国家,能够成为一个更为美好的地方。本书的出版,是献给他们的纪念章,感激他们为此做出的巨大贡献。

三、结束前说一说新书两部分的引言

文集《荒谬:未曾披露的新加坡故事》,设计与编印都见讲究与用心。

“部分一”与“部分二”在进入内文前,个别置了一纸扉页,各放入一条引言。

(引言的置入,也许多少意在提纲挈领?)

* * *

第一个扉页,上面是“部分一”的标题:“未曾披露的故事”(Untold Tales)。

底下,引了美国幽默作家埃尔玛·博姆贝克 (Erma Bombeck)的一句话:

欢笑与痛苦,喜剧与悲剧,幽默与伤害之间,只有一线之隔。

(There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humour and hurt.)

这里说的,显然和用作书名的“荒谬”有关。

这个引言,不妨和詹姆斯·乔哀斯(James Joyce)句式相近的一句话摆在一起玩味。

詹姆斯·乔哀斯说的是:“从卓越到荒谬,只有一步之遥。”(From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step.)

* * *

“部分二”扉页,上面的标题作《历史碎片,1970年至2021年(10月)》(Snippets of History,1970–2021 (October))。

扉页底下的引言,出自巴基斯坦女孩玛拉拉·尤萨夫西(Malala Yousafzai):

当世界陷于一片静寂,单一个声音也将强大无比。

(When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.)

玛拉拉主张妇女受教育是基本人权,为此四下奔走,通过各种途径发声。

2012年10月9日,15岁。遭两名塔利班(Taliban)刺客枪杀,救回。

2014年,17岁。获颁诺贝尔和平奖,为迄今最年轻的诺贝尔奖得奖人。

“单一个声音也将强大无比。”

引述移用玛拉拉这句话,当中无疑寄托着对“勇气、决心与牺牲”终将带来改变的希望。

沉重。可感。

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Book Launch: Poems from Prison by Said Zahari

We launched Said Zahari’s Poems from Prison at The Arts & Civil Space (TACS) yesterday, 21 May 2022. This anthology, edited by Professor Abdul Rahman Embong contains more than 30 lost poems of the poet. It is a collection that every Singaporean should be proud to possess.

Dr Azhar Ibrahim led a very interesting discussion of Said Zahari’s poems. He encourages everyone not to shy away from literature of the Left.

Below is the message of Professor Embong read by William Yap.

1. Friends! Greetings and congratulations for organising this important and meaningful event today – the launching of the long-awaited anthology, Poems From Prison (new edition) by the great writer and patriot Said Zahari, and for inviting me to say a few words. My apologies for not being able to be present in person for this auspicious occasion.

2. As a member of the Board of Pusat Sejarah Rakyat (Centre for People’s History), the book’s publisher in Kuala Lumpur, and as the editor of the anthology, I would like to thank friends in FUNCTION 8 for collaborating with us to print the book in Singapore, for wider distribution and in organising this launch.

3. I believe everyone here knows Said Zahari as a victim of Operation Cold Store who spent about 17 long years– we can say the best years of his life — in Lee Kuan Yew’s prison between 1963 and 1979. He was the prisoner of conscience of Amnesty International, deprived of his rights, yet upholding his dignity with indomitable resolve, fighting various forms of intimidation and repression especially the mental and psychological torture in solitary confinement.

4. Yet after attaining his freedom, in an interview years later on the death of his tormentor, Lee Kuan Yew in March 2015, Said Zahari was very calm and dignified: He had no personal grudges or vengeance against the person, Harry Lee. He was against the undemocratic, repressive and discriminatory system propped up by LKY’s regime that denies the right of dissent, a system that crushes opposition — some of whom were his former friends and comrades — who are patriotic and loyal citizens of an independent modern island nation-state of Singapore. In a series of calculated moves and with an iron fist, the perpetrators of injustice of the LKY regime, excluded these patriots and democrats from history by labeling them “anti-national”, thus denying them their rightful place in history, together with their right to enjoy the fruits of the struggle and sharing the weal and woes of the nation together. Said Zahari was against such immorality and the inhumanity of the regime.

5. This is the beauty, inner strength and moral character of the man, Said Zahari — a legendary and towering figure, a public intellectual, a great patriot and champion of freedom, especially press freedom. This is Said Zahari, a gifted writer who kept his sanity, his fighting spirit and optimism in prison, by expressing his thoughts and emotions in various ways – especially through the 72 poems written while incarcerated behind bars, and published in the anthology launched here in Singapore today. Though the nights were cold, dark and long, he could reach for the moon and the stars. He could see rays of hope and light beyond the enveloping darkness of the prison walls. He could feel the advance and momentum of the people’s struggle, and hear the songs of freedom, the songs of the oppressed. And he stood tall, firm, resolute!

6. Friends! This collection of poems which contains such soul-searching thoughts, feelings and powerful emotions of sadness and joy is a priceless gem for us all, especially for future generations, an evidence of the inhumanity of heartless human beings who used power in their hands against defenceless fellow beings who are not on their side. This evidence of inhumanity has littered the checkered path of the history of the independence and liberation struggles everywhere as well as in the history of nation-making or nation-building in many parts of the world including Malaysia, Singapore and our neighbours in the region.

7. The story contained in the poems is a testimony of the painful narrative of the oppressed everywhere on this earth of mankind. This is a part of the story as people’s history that needs to be told, and must be told as fully and truthfully as possible.

8. This is because the use of power and brute force to inflict such cruelty and misery against others — when humanity loses its meaning and soul — is not pastness or something that lived in the past, quickly becoming a distant and fading memory. Indeed it lives in the present, and will continue to do so in the future if it is not resisted, exposed, and changed. This is the home truth, the truth that “haunts” all of us. This is the hard message of this anthology, Poems From Prison, by Said Zahari.

9. Friends! On this note, I would like to wish you all the best and every success for the launch. I hope the book will be well received by friends and supporters in Singapore and elsewhere and will inspire its readers. Thank you.

To purchase the book write to Function 8 at 2010function8@gmail.com with your details and screenshot of payment upon sending S$30 (inclusive of postage and other charges). Particulars are as follows:

Function 8 Limited
OCBC Account  # 629566092001 
FOR PAYNOW 
UEN 201025212E

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Pak Said Zahari’s birthday, 18 May 2015

by Teo Soh Lung on 19 May 2015 (https://www.facebook.com/sohlung.teo/posts/10205795787667740)

We had a wonderful surprise birthday celebration for Pak Said Zahari. Hishamuddin’s band, Bangsa Arts performed for him. He was very happy. His old friends and so many young people made his day. He asked in wonderment: “Who are all these young people? I am so sorry I don’t know them!” Ah I said, “It does not matter. They know you!”

Yes, I am so glad that Pak Said Zahari has not been forgotten. Old friends, young friends, new friends, his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren all sang Happy Birthday in English, Malay and Chinese to him – his 87th birthday!

Pak Said Zahari was arrested and unjustly imprisoned without trial under the ISA on 2 Feb 1963. Codenamed Operation Coldstore, he was imprisoned for 17 years by the PAP government under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew. His youngest daughter, Noorlinda, was born while he was in prison. He wrote a moving poem “Born Unfree” about her.

Pak Said recounted his gruelling 17 years in prison in his book “Dark Clouds at Dawn, A Political Memoir” which was published in 1999. It was the first political memoir by a Coldstore survivor. He inspired other ISA survivors to talk and write about their imprisonment.

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Jailed 16 Days Over Skype Call ‘Event’ (from Ridiculous: Untold Tales of Singapore)

by Tan Tee Seng (Translated by Lim Kang)

For the original article and other amazing untold tales, please purchase a copy

We have just replenished the stock of this book at Kinokuniya, Orchard Road. Hop over there to buy it this weekend and stay updated about the problems faced by activists, politicians and active citizens from 1970 till 2021!

Price of book: S$30.

You can also obtain the book when you enjoy the food at Dr Chee Soon Juan’s cafe Orange & Teal at Rochester Drive.

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Why The Haste?

by Teo Soh Lung

It is so bizarre. They want to hang Datchinamurthy Kataiah when he has a pending civil claim against the prison authority. The claim is for damages and declarations for illegal disclosure of correspondence between his lawyer and him to the Attorney-General.

Datchinamurthy and 12 other death row inmates have filed a civil suit against the State which is fixed for hearing on 20 May. But the Prison Authority want him dead today, 29 April.

Why the haste? Was the Attorney-General informed of the execution? If so, why didn’t he file an application to halt the execution? Was it his intention to finish Datchinamurthy off so that he cannot be present at the hearing and his case will be dismissed? If Datchinamurthy had not filed his application two days ago, he would have been dead today.

And what about the other 12 Applicants who are Datchinamurthy’s co-Applicants? Did the AG intend that they too will be executed before 20 May so that the entire suit will be dismissed because the Applicants have all failed to show up – all killed by the State?

IT IS SO BIZARRE! First world Singapore which boasts of its strict adherence to the Rule of Law with an Attorney- General behaving in this way!

Whatever the intention of the Attorney-General, he owes the people of Singapore an explanation.

What makes the Attorney-General look really bad is that he appealed after the High Court judge allowed the application of Datchinamurthy for a stay of execution yesterday morning. This decision really makes me wonder if the Attorney General had planned to hang all 13 death row inmates before the hearing of their civil suit. What is he afraid of if he has done no wrong?

Luckily, his appeal was dismissed by the Courr of Appeal. Was this appeal frivolous? Should Datchinamurthy be entitled to legal costs for so much pain and stress he had to endure?

Datchinamurthy is a very strong man. I wish him and his co Applicants success. May they be granted clemency after suffering so much pain.

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