Instant Statutory Declaration

by Chew Kheng Chuan (KC Chew)

The article is taken from 1987 SINGAPORE’S MARXIST CONSPIRACY 30 YEARS ON. In solidarity with Jolovan Wham, Function 8 is publishing a Solidarity Edition of the book. Details of this publication will be released soon.

KC Chew is an independent consultant in philanthropy, arising from his career as a fundraiser for the National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Technological University between 2003-2012. He is President of the Harvard University Association of Alumni in Singapore. He is also chairman of The Substation Limited, an independent arts organisation. He was the first Singaporean admitted to Harvard College in 1978, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Studies in 1982.

“You know what they say ISD now stands for?” DSP (Deputy Superintendent of Police) SK Tan of the ISD remarked to me on April 19, 1988, not without some amusement, “Instant Statutory Declaration!”

I was arrested under the ISA the first time on 20 June 1987. After one month of being held, I was served a one-year detention order. However, in September 1987, after three months of detention, I was released — my detention order was suspended and I was served a restriction order — restricting my speech, movement, and my right to join any organisation. I could only travel abroad or participate in any organisation with the expressed permission of the Internal Security Department (ISD).

On April 18, 1988 we released the “Statement of Ex-Detainees of Operation Spectrum” to the foreign press in Singapore. On a slightlymischievous nod to the failings of the local press — all seemingly unindependent mouthpieces of the government — the release to them was delayed until after they worriedly pleaded to receive their copies of the press statement.

The reaction of the government was swift. Eight of the signatories of the Statement — a statement essentially declaring their innocence of any intended subversion — were immediately re-arrested. The ninth signatory, our friend Tang Fong Har was not re-arrested only because she was out of the country at that time. And she has since, grievously — gone into political self-exile from that time and has not been able to return to Singapore in 30 years.

The other ex-detainees who did not sign the statement for fear precisely of this consequence of re-arrest — were all rounded up by the ISD for questioning.

Thus it was that I found myself back at the ISD Headquarters at Phoenix Park, rather than back again at Whitley Road Detention Centre, facing an intense barrage of questioning by DD(O) [Deputy Director Operations] Sim Poh Heng and his ISD officers.

They wanted to know how our statement came about. Who initiated it? Details of our meetings, what actions I had taken after the statement was drafted, how did I help disseminate the statement to the foreign media, why was the statement drafted, who drafted the statement? I had to write all this down in a statement, and they wanted me to sign a statutory declaration (SD, what in other places one calls an affidavit) stating certain things they wanted me to declare. The grilling went on for hours. And after that, the drafting of the SD began. And the critical thing they wanted me to state in my SD was that NOT once was I assaulted by the ISD in my earlier arrest and detention. This was expressly to contradict the point made in the public Statement of the ex-detainees that “Most of us were hit hard in the face, some of us for not less than 50 times, while others were assaulted on other parts of the body, during the first three days of interrogation.”

This was their plan to discredit our Statement. They wanted every detainee or ex-detainee to submit an SD saying he or she was NOT physically hit or assaulted. Then when you read all of them together — hey presto! No one was ever hit! If not a single person said that they were hit — then obviously the Statement of the ex-detainees was a falsehood.

But the trouble was — I was slapped and assaulted. Very, very hard. On my face mostly, but also on my chest and my back. And about 50 times. I kept count. My mouth bled. I was hit with the full force and weight of my assailant’s body directed to his hand. It was their palms or backhand which contacted my face or body, not the fists. Had it been their fists, I am sure my bones in my face, my jaw, or my ribs, would have been broken by the force of the assaults. It would have been difficult to explain to the doctor if it needed medical attention.

But, I was told that day on 19 April that I had to state in my SD that I was not physically assaulted at all. I was asked to produce “alternative facts” 29 years before Donald Trump’s team invented the term. And the person who asked me to say that I was not hit was none other than the person who carried out most of the assaults on me during my detention.

I could not agree to it. I was hit when I was interrogated after my arrest in June the year before. Not hit once but 50 times, for god’s sake! How can I declare in an SD that I was not? It was an impasse. I did not have any trouble giving an honest account of the events that transpired leading up to the ex-detainees deciding to write the Statement — I don’t remember much of the details now, 29 years later. But that one point of their outrageous insistence of saying I was not physically hit was simply unacceptable.

Finally, Sim Poh Heng said to me point blank, “KC, if you don’t sign the SD (stating that I was not assaulted), I’m going to pull you in (that is, arrest me)! Once you’re inside, you’ll sign it — but it’ll be too late. And you know it will take a long time for you to get out!” It was said with a deadly seriousness, with great menace but no venom. The logic of the threat was impeccable. It punctured my resistance. It felt like the cold steel of an unsentimental knife against my throat, pressed by a hoodlum.

This was what the crushing might of the State felt like. I was fighting a tank armed with a toothpick. I knew I was defeated. OK, I said ruefully, I will sign the SD.

The SD was prepared with a selection of the statements that I have made. The critical point — the vital lie — that I was not hit was there. It had taken the ISD just eight hours of browbeating and ultimately the threat of arrest to extract it. I did not for a moment consider that it might have been an empty bluff. The metaphorical gun was put to my head. The metaphorical hammer was cocked. I was fucked.

When the SD was ready I was to sign it before a Commissioner of Oaths. I was led to another room in the ISD HQ complex. I entered a room where there was a coffee table and two chairs. I seem to remember that it was a windowless room, or they were hidden behind floor-to-ceiling heavy black curtains that covered the walls. The lights and the air-conditioning was on. A man — I think he was wearing a black suit — sat nervously in one chair. On the coffee table between the two chairs was the SD, perhaps only two or three pages in all. I was ushered in wordlessly by one of the ISD officers to the room. Then he left and closed the door behind him. I sat down on the chair opposite this very quiet man. I gathered he was a Commissioner of Oaths, where from I know not. He did not introduce himself. He asked me hopefully, “Are you ready to sign?” I looked at him straight into his eyes, balefully, and did not say a word. He averted his eyes and cast them down. I did not move to sign the document. I looked at it, and then stared at him. I did not say anything. My eyes were drilling into his forehead. He kept his eyes averted. After a while, he asked again, meekly, “Are you ready to sign?” I made no move and spoke no word. I just glared at him. I wanted him to be absolutely clear that I was not ready to sign, very unhappy to be there, and doing something against my will. At no point did he ask me, “Have you read the document and do you understand what you are about to sign?” He just kept his head down and eyes averted. I continued sitting in silence, glaring balefully at him. When they were not baleful, my eyes were daggers. I think we sat there like that, for 20 minutes, with me not uttering a word. The Commissioner of Oaths squirmed in his seat. But he did not rush me, and did not say anything except his hopeful question, now asked twice, “Are you ready to sign?” I answered with a deafening silence. And not a single movement.

Finally, after I felt that a sufficiently unmistakable amount of time had passed — and I think it was about 20 minutes — of silence, I heaved an internal sigh of the greatest regret, and moved to take up the pen on the table to sign the document in front of me.

I was startled by the swiftness of the Commissioner of Oaths’ next movements. He whipped out a blotter and blotted my freshly inked signature. Then he swiftly produced a self-inking Commissioner of Oaths stamp, stamped the document in the right place, dashed off his signature, blotted that in turn, gathered up the documents and practically fled from the room!

He did not say a word to me. He vanished like the Disney cartoon Road-Runner, almost leaving a trail of smoke.

The deed having been executed as the ISD wanted me to, I could now go. I was there at Phoenix Park for nine hours in all.

I went back to my office, where Tan Kheng Sun, Wong Souk Yee’s husband, and Jocelyn Lee, Patrick Seong’s wife, and a third person I was not so familiar with, were waiting for me. Their spouses had been re-arrested with the release of the Statement. Patrick Seong, counsel for some of the ex-detainees, had been arrested at the same time.

I told them what had happened at the ISD HQ at Phoenix Park, and how I was forced to sign, against my will, the SD. Jocelyn was mightily upset that I had done so. She berated me and said that I had betrayed her husband Patrick Seong by my action, which she called “cowardly.” I understood why she was so upset and did not want to argue with her. Although I may have said to her, “Jocelyn, Patrick is inside now. He will sign an SD as well, it’s just a matter of negotiating what he will be willing to say.” “No, he won’t!” she said in anger and tears.

The next day a plethora of SDs were published in The Straits Times. All those of us non-signatories of the Statement who were called back to the ISD HQ at Phoenix Park had SDs saying one thing or another which the ISD hoped would contradict the Statement. There was my forced SD which I signed at Phoenix Park. But lo and behold, directly next to my SD was an SD signed by Tan Kheng Sun and Jocelyn Lee, a statement reporting the points I had told them both, which clearly revealed that my hand was forced when I signed my SD. It served to completely nullify and void my SD. I was shocked, as I had not known anything about it, and Kheng Sun and Jocelyn had not told me of their intention or action at all. But I was not displeased. The wonder of it, thinking about it now, was that The Straits Times had the courage to actually publish Kheng Sun’s and Jocelyn’s SD that day, right beside and contradicting mine.

On 6 May 1988, 18 days after the release of the Statement by the ex-detainees of Operation Spectrum, Francis Seow, former Solicitor-General of Singapore, former President of the Law Society of Singapore, and counsel for Teo Soh Lung and Patrick Seong who had been re-arrested and arrested respectively on 19 April, was himself arrested under the ISA when he went to see his clients at the Whitley Road Detention Centre. That same day Hank Hendrickson, First Secretary of the US Embassy in Singapore, was expelled from Singapore, for apparently interfering in Singapore’s political affairs by having discussions with Francis Seow.

And two days later, on 8 May 1988 it was my turn to be re-arrested. This notwithstanding my having signed the SD they forced me to sign.

Why? Like my first arrest, I could say, absurd as it may sound — I don’t know why. Since the Marxist conspiracy was a fiction created by the ISD, and I was no conspirator and had no intention of ever bringing down the government through illegal or unlawful means, why was I selected to teach Singaporeans an object lesson about politics in Singapore as the Cold War was coming to an end in history? Why was Operation Spectrum executed at all?

This second time round, I was detained for another 10 months. I was released just before Chinese New Year, in February 1989. In all, between 1987 and 1989, I had spent 13 months in detention under the ISA.

In solidarity with Jolovan Wham, Function 8 is publishing a Solidarity Edition of 1987 SINGAPORE’S MARXIST CONSPIRACY 30 YEARS ON. Details of this publication will be released soon.

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Jolovan Wham and 1987

by Teo Soh Lung (first published on F8 Facebook page on 19th Feb)

I was in the spanking new state of the art Court No. 32A of the State Courts on 15 February 2021 where Jolovan Wham was sentenced to pay a total of $8000 or in default 32 days in prison. It was utterly absurd and incredible that he should be penalised so heavily for peaceful acts of civil disobedience which in any other country, including developing countries, would not have batted an eyelid. It was even more bizarre listening to the prosecution baying for blood and the judge taking in everything as gospel truth.

Jolovan was charged for organising an “unlawful assembly” in 2017 on trains running along the North South line. A small group of young people held the book 1987 SINGAPORE’S MARXIST CONSPIRACY 30 YEARS ON during their train rides. They were photographed standing or seated with or without blindfolds made from black plastic strips of trash bags.

At some point in time, two A4 sheets were scotch taped to a glass panel of a carriage. The words on the papers were MARXIST CONSPIRACY? #notodetentionwithouttrial and JUSTICE FOR OPERATION SPECTRUM SURVIVORS #notodetentionwithouttrial. These papers were immediately removed when they left the trains.

What is so wrong with such an activity on our trains? Are commuters not permitted to read or perform on trains? They were not inconveniencing anyone even though the prosecution and judge would like to believe that they had inconvenienced some commuters.

Jolovan and his friends were clearly inspired by the survivors of Operation Spectrum who had a few weeks earlier, commemorated the 30th Anniversary of the 1987 incident with the launch of the book. The book was published to place on record what actually happened in 1987. The book contains essays about the incident written by survivors, their friends and supporters.

The government may wish to forget the grave injustice done to 24 people in the 1987 incident. This incident is not in its official history. Unfortunately, many of the victims are still alive and well today. They have managed to arouse the curiosity of young people like Jolovan and Seelan Palay who not only did their own research about the incident but took upon themselves to publicise it so that it is not erased from the collective memory of Singaporeans. They have paid the heavy price of going to jail.

I can think of no country in the world where peaceful assemblies and protests are disallowed by law on the pretext that such assemblies would result in chaos and bloodshed. What is even more deplorable in Singapore is the law that even one person is not permitted to stand with a placard or perform in public without a police permit (which incidentally will never be granted) and certain areas in the city are out of bound to any person who wish to publicise a cause. When the law disallows peaceful expressions and the judiciary’s duty is merely to administer such a law, what can a person do to bring attention to his cause or unhappiness? Hold a placard in the middle of government sanctioned Hong Lim Park?

Pushed to a corner in colonial India, Mahatma Gandhi found a solution. He organised peaceful disobedience to unjust laws. He perfected civil disobedience and contributed to gaining independence for his country. He concluded:

“Civil disobedience is not only the natural right of a people, especially when they have no effective voice in their own Government, but that it is also a substitute for violence or armed rebellion.”

The judiciary in India sent Gandhi to jail several times.

Martin Luther King Jr who was inspired by Gandhi led huge protest marches against racial discrimination. He too was sent to jail several times. Reflecting on civil disobedience in Birmingham Jail, he wrote:

“One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

It is to be noted that while in India and America, people were and are allowed to march and protest peacefully, in Singapore we do not have such a right.

The Public Order Act, like so many recent laws passed by the PAP government are unjust laws. Our judiciary has time and again ruled that laws, including unjust laws are to be obeyed and it is their duty only to administer such laws. What then can a person, especially a citizen do if he wishes to champion a cause or voice his unhappiness over any matter? Disobey the laws or support the unjust system with silence?

We may have splendid buildings for the administration of justice but what justice can we receive?

Jolovan is presently serving a 22 day prison sentence for organising an unlawful assembly and vandalism. He paid the fine of $2500 for the charge of failing to sign a statement made in the course of police investigation. Under the law, the police have a discretion to insist that the person sign such a statement and if he refuses to sign, our colonial master and the PAP government can send him to jail.

In solidarity with Jolovan Wham, Function 8 is publishing a Solidarity Edition of 1987 SINGAPORE’S MARXIST CONSPIRACY 30 YEARS ON. Details of this publication will be released soon.

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Prison and Jolovan Wham

by Teo Soh Lung

Jolovan Wham pleaded guilty to three charges today –

  1. Illegal assembly for participating in a peaceful protest in trains using the 1987 Marxist Conspiracy book published by Function 8;
  2. Vandalism for scotch taping two A4 size paper on the glass pane; and
  3. Refusing to sign a statement recorded in the course of police investigation.

In mitigation, Jolovan told the court that he felt strongly about the injustices done to survivors of the alleged Marxist conspiracy who were arrested and detained without trial in 1987. Till today, they have not received justice. He said he is not ashamed of what he has done.

Jolovan said that his intention for doing what he did was to raise awareness to injustices. It was never his intention to create public disorder. For that reason he told those who were merely observers to alert them to disperse as soon as there was any sign of possible disturbance. There was none. All was peaceful.

On the vandalism charge, Jolovan said that the two A4 size paper with the words “MARXIST CONSPIRACY?” AND “JUSTICE FOR OPERATION SPECTRUM SURVIVORS” which were scotch-taped to a glass pane were removed as soon as they left the train. No damage was caused.

The prosecution was vehement in wanting to extract the maximum punishment and make an example of Jolovan so as to deter others from following his footsteps. They gave wild scenarios of chaos and disorder that may arise, something which we often hear from government officials. They demanded the global penalty of $9,500 for the three charges which in my view is manifestly excessive for three minor offences that caused no harm to anyone or damage to the trains.

The judge imposed a fine of $4500 or 18 days jail for the illegal assembly charge. For the vandalism charge, Jolovan was fined $1000 or 4 days jail and for refusing to sign the statement, he was fined $2500 or 10 days jail.

Jolovan paid the fine for refusing to sign the statement. He is now serving his prison sentence of 22 days for unlawful assembly and vandalism. He said he would go to jail because he believes that people should have the right to protest peacefully.

Jolovan’s concern for a just society and his willingness to sacrifice his freedom for such a cause is to be admired. He has had two stints of imprisonment before today. He is not afraid of going to jail again.

There is nothing wrong with people like Jolovan but there is everything wrong with a government which sees people who dare to highlight injustices as threats to society rather than threats to its own survival. The government deceives itself by claiming that it is for the good of the people that peaceful protests are forbidden by laws.

Court 32A was packed with young supporters of Jolovan today. They have witnessed how the judicial system works. They have seen the meanness of the prosecutors. The harshness and irrationality of the law and its administration is not lost on them. They said goodbye to him and sent him off to jail. No one cried.

But will they lose their respect for a system that sends good people who care for their country to jail? I don’t know.

Mahatma Gandhi who spent many years in jail once said:

“I care so deeply about this matter that I’m willing to take on the legal penalties, to sit in this prison cell, to sacrifice my freedom, in order to show you how deeply I care. Because when you see the depth of my concern, and how civil I am in going about this, you’re bound to change your mind about me, to abandon your rigid, unjust position, and to let me help you see the truth of my cause.”

Jolovan has shown us what civil disobedience is all about. Will the government change or will it take many more Jolovans to go to jail before things can change for the better?

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Detainees under ISA as at Jan 2021

This list is compiled after the destruction of the Twin Towers in America in September 2001 and updated till the date of publication. The first detainee was arrested just before the said destruction. Except for the last name, Dickson Yeo Jun Wei, all the detainees are Muslims. At the time of publication, it is not known if he will be charged in court or be served with a detention order before the expiry of 30 days of his arrest under the ISA.

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2020年自由电影节

自由电影节(FreedomFilmFest, FFF

一个由新加坡 “八号功能” (Function 8)与马来西亚“自由电影网络”(Freedom Film Network )联合主办的人权相关纪录片年度影展,本年度将于12月10日至13日在网上放映,您可舒适待在自家客厅里观赏。

入场券:入场券可上“马来西亚云端影院”(CloudTheatreMY)网站注册索取。

网址为:https://www.cloudtheatres.com/

首150张入场券免费,随后每张5元马币。注册请早。

20201211日(星期五)晚上7-9

伟大朝鲜电影的制作(The Great North Korean Picture Show )

制片/导演:李成琳 (Lynn Lee),James Lee

片长:94分钟

简介:

朝鲜电影业是朝鲜政权宣传机器的重要工具。在这个世界最神秘的国度,电影不是娱乐,而是教育民众、宣扬共产主义理念的媒介。然而,在这样的景观背后,究竟还能发现什么?李成琳 (Lynn Lee)和James Leong是最早被允许进入朝鲜唯一电影学院(一个培训有天分青年从事艺术创作,进而形塑国民精神面貌的精英殿堂)拍摄的外国人。片中的Kim Un Bom与Ri Yun Mi,两个充满抱负的演员,是国家挑选作为电影明日之星的重点培养对象。他们怀抱理想、雄心勃勃,对未来有着远大的憧憬。他们的生活,反映了这个神秘国家里最美好最光明的一面。至于朝鲜制片厂的导演Pyo Hang,正赶着在年底拍摄好一个大制作,一部动用数百名演员的时代剧电影。他必须在紧张的环境中完成这个艰巨任务,不只要驾驭好演员和工作团队,还要拿出能取悦于领导的伟大作品。

映后讨论:

李成琳 Lynn Lee(本片制作/导演)

主持Liew Kai Khiun(亚洲跨国媒体文化研究所独立学者)

20201212日(星期六)下午4-5.30

看不见的城市(Invisible City)

编导:陈彬彬 (Tan Pin Pin)

片长:60分钟

简介:

《看不见的城市》是一部关于记录者的记录片。编导访问了摄影师、记者、考古学家,一众受好奇心驱动展开了寻觅他们心目中城市之旅的人。影片传达了这些人高度个人的求索,透视了所谓历史只能经由记忆、依赖人为的极端脆弱。穿插在访谈之间的,是这些人私藏中有关于新加坡的片段视频与照片,在片中首次亮相。通过《看不见的城市》,你逐渐消褪的回忆被唤醒,你看见原本可能成形的一座城市。

映后讨论:

陈彬彬(Tan Pin Pin,本片编导)

主持 Mervyn Tzang(新加坡地下制片人)

20201212日(星期六)晚上8-9

爱的阴影(The Shades of Love)/首映

片长:20分钟

简介:

《爱的阴影》是关于新加坡三名性工作者的爱情、生活与迷失的一段隐私记录。随着这城市平凡一天的开始,这些女人的话语声带着我们走出熟悉的日常,进入她们所处的不一样的生活经历。除了性工作者的一面,这些女人同时也是别人的爱人、女儿,某种治疗师、企业家和教育工作者。通过深入了解这个被边缘化、被忽视群体的人性、尊严与生命力,她们的故事教会了我们——爱情和生活有不同的身影。

映后讨论:

Jessica Lee(本片制作人)

Vanessa Ho(Project X主任,这是一个维护新加坡性工作者权益的公民团体)

主持  妮娜 Nina Chabra(新加坡自由电影节负责人)

20201213日(星期日)下午3-4.30

赛查哈里的17年(Said Zahari’s 17 years)

片长:49分钟

简介:

赛查哈里的访谈。赛查哈里,一位坚定反对殖民主义的报章编辑。新加坡政府指责他参与亲共活动,从1963年至1979年被不经审判拘留,关押在牢狱17年。新加坡政府禁止本片公开放映,禁映的理由是“损害公众对政府的信任”。

映后讨论:

施忠明(Martyn See,本片制作人)

主持覃炳鑫(PJ Thum,“新叙事”网刊创办人与常务董事)

20201213日(星期日)下午5-6

实乞纳的四座组屋(The Four HDB Blocks of Siglap)

片长:9分钟

简介:

“此地曾被焚毁。” 这么说是个隐喻,但不开玩笑,1962年实乞纳确实发生过一场大火灾。今天,林先生手里的旧戏票,成了一件伤感的纪念品,勾起他对新加坡最早的公共住房其中之一的思念。别了,实乞纳的四座组屋。

新加坡啦汉子(为新加坡做对的事)

Orang Singapura (Make it Right for Singapore)  

片长:7分钟

简介:

一段歌颂新加坡好汉子的音乐视频,一个向惹耶勒南致敬的献礼。惹耶勒南(Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, JBJ),新加坡独立以来赢得首个国会议席的反对党政治人物。

映后讨论:

郑弥彬 Tay Bee Pin(本片制作人)

主持林继修(Lim Kay Siu)与梁瑞莲(Neo Swee Lin)(资深演员及网上艺人)

Posted in Freedom Film Fest Singapore | Leave a comment

Joint submission for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

Today, FIDH and Function 8 (F8) made a joint submission for the third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Singapore, which is scheduled to be held in April-May 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The joint FIDH-F8 submission focuses on the Singaporean government’s ongoing use of draconian laws that are inconsistent with various international human rights standards.

These laws include the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act (CLTPA), which provide the legal basis for indefinite detention of individuals without trial. Such deprivation of liberty is inconsistent with international human rights standards, particularly those related to the right to liberty and the right to a fair trial. Prolonged detention without any judicial oversight increases the risk of detainees being subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. These detainees are also at heightened risk of being denied their right to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.

During its second UPR cycle in 2016, the Singaporean government did not accept all four recommendations that called for the amendment of legislation that allows such detentions. In response to these recommendations, the government delegation extolled the benefits of these laws in combating “serious organized criminal activities” and “the threat of terrorism.”

The joint FIDH-F8 submission also details how two other laws, the Terrorism (Suppression of Financing) Act (TSOFA) and the Misuse of Drugs Act, have been used to detain individuals pursuant to dubious procedures that lack transparency and due process and have been applied in a manner that appears to be inconsistent with the purpose for which these laws were enacted.

(also published at https://www.fidh.org/en/region/asia/singapore/joint-submission-for-the-universal-periodic-review-upr)

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Stop Harassment Of Dr PJ Thum

Function 8 condemns the harassment of Dr PJ Thum, founder of independent media New Naratif by the Prime Minister’s Office acting through the Elections Department and the Singapore Police Force.

Dr P J Thum has not committed any offence and should not be summoned to the Clementi Police Station to be interrogated for four and a half hours on 21 September 2020. It ended with him being escorted home by four police officers and seizure of his mobile phone and laptop.

Dr P J Thum is not the first, nor will he be the last victim of the Prime Minister’s Office unless this abuse of the law committed by the very people who are entrusted to keep law and order is stopped.

We call on the police to cease its investigations and return the laptop and mobile phone in good order to Dr P J Thum immediately.

Function 8
Singapore
24 September 2020

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When Will It All End?

by Teo Soh Lung

Yesterday, a few friends and I gathered outside the Clementi Police Station to wait for P J Thum, founder of New Naratif (NN). He had been summoned there because of the complaints lodged by the Assistant Returning Officer of the Elections Department. We do not know when the complaints were lodged. The general election was held on 10 July 2020.

According to the press statement issued by the Elections Department on 18 September 2020, more than two months after the general election, Facebook was ordered to take down five “paid advertisements” during the election period. Those advertisements had cost NN the handsome sum of $341. P J Thum said that those advertisements were just boosted posts including one video with the sexy voice repeating the word “Discretion”. See https://www.eld.gov.sg/press/2020/Press_Release_-_Police_reports_filed_against_New_Naratif_for_breach_of_Parliamentary_Elections_Act.pdf but it seems the Prime Minister’s Office is not satisfied with the removal of the five posts by Facebook. Two months after winning a landslide victory, securing 83 of a 93-seat parliament, it is now going after P J Thum.

Why is the PAP government behaving in such an unreasonable and vindictive manner, using taxpayers’ money to investigate a petty matter. Even if all the “ advertisements” are found by a court of law to amount to unlawful election activities (which prospect is unlikely), does it serve any useful purpose for Singaporeans? The PAP cannot use taxpayers’ money to satisfy their own ego.

Most of us have not even seen or heard of the “advertisements”. I confess that besides the Discretion video which I thought was a clever satire and which appeared before the election period, I have not seen the other four so called advertisements even though I am a subscriber of NN.

The landslide victory of the PAP has already shown that the alleged advertisements of New Naratif did not have any effect on the outcome of the election or even if they had, the effect is miniscule. Why cannot the PMO let matters rest?

I can only arrive at one conclusion. It is this.

It is the unfortunate and sad trait of the PAP. It is steeped in ensuring its own interest and survival, and have no regard for the interest of Singaporeans who want to enjoy some fundamental human rights such as the freedom of expression. It wants to hold on to power at all costs. As a consequence, it is well known as a bully. The PAP will ensure that people who are capable of seeing the flaws in their policies and who have the courage to speak up and the ability to influence others are put down. This is so sad for Singapore. Why is our government destroying talented Singaporeans?

SEIZURE OF MOBILE PHONE AND LAPTOP
PJ Thum said that the police seized his mobile phone and laptop after four hours of interrogation. Why do they need to do that? Surely the fact that the “advertisements” were put up by New Naratif and Facebook had removed them on the orders of the Election Department are not denied. Surely the complainant must have taken the precaution of screen-capping and duplicating the video for record purposes.

PJ Thum is not the only person whose electronic devices and handphones have been seized by the police on the complaints lodged by the Election Department. So many of us – Roy Ngerng, Kumaran Pillai, Ravi Philemon etc have had our equipment seized and returned months later in a damaged state and without receiving any compensation.

There is no need to hold on to these electronic devices unless the police want to teach the owners a lesson and show them that they can do anything they want, including damaging these devices. If they wish to proceed with charging the owners in court and need to preserve the exhibits their own practice has shown that it is not necessary. In the recent appeal of Parti Liyani v PP , we have seen that alleged stolen goods of the family of Liew Mun Leong continued to be used by the family. They were only seized just before the trial.

The Singapore Police Force needs to redeem its image and win the hearts and minds of Singaporeans. Their actions are closely watched. How soon they finish their investigations and return the mobile phone and laptop of PJ Thum in good order will affect our opinion of them.

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Pandora Box, The Extraordinary Case Of Parti Liyani

by Teo Soh Lung (first published 16 Sep on F8 FB)

The prosecution of Parti Liyani, an Indonesian domestic worker for four counts of theft ended happily for her but not for the complainant, Liew Mun Leong. Liew, his daughter, son and daughter-in-law have their names sullied even as Temasek, Surbana Jurong and Changi Airport Group continue to heap praises on him.

Liyani’s case has highlighted the plight of migrant workers in Singapore and reveal many unsatisfactory facets of our justice system, not least, the attitude of our police and AGC when it handles complaints against the powerless poor.

We owe it to pro bono lawyer, Anil Balchandani and HOME for this rare and unprecedented victory of the poor. Balchandani’s hard work is appreciated by appeal judge, Chan Seng Onn J who said of him: “… I would like to commend Mr Anil for the pro-bono services that he has rendered for this case: the trial itself took 22 days with extensive cross examination of the Prosecution witnesses; his trial submissions for both conviction and sentence totalled 279 pages (excluding authorities and other attachments); the appeal hearing stretched over 3 days; his submissions for the appeal totalled 221 pages (excluding authorities and other attachments); his written submissions were detailed and well-footnoted; his arguments were persuasive; he explored carefully every aspect of the Prosecution’s case and scrutinised the voluminous evidence in the transcripts in order to mount his client’s defence both at the trial and the appeal with clarity; he analysed the grounds of decision of the trial judge in great detail to submit on areas where the trial judge had erred in her findings; he handled all these matters singlehandedly and had shown much dedication in his pro-bono work for this case.”

The judge’s dispassionate, cool and clear judgement is exemplary of a truly fair-minded, meticulous and courageous judge. He did not use a single harsh word for the shoddy investigation work of the police or the illogical conclusions drawn on facts by the trial judge. He called a spade a spade when he judged on the credibility of testimonies of witnesses.

Chan J’s judgement is devastating for Liew Mun Leong, his daughter, son and daughter in law. Not one of them emerged unscathed. This has not escaped the sharp-eyed netizens who are now busy digging out their connections in the unwieldly corporate world where many of their leaders, I suspect, have lost their moral compass.

In summarising his decision to acquit Parti Liyani on all four charges, Chan J said: “… I allow Parti’s appeal against all four charges against her. I first observe that in the present case, which involved a voluminous number of items, the proper handling of the evidence by the police and recording of the allegedly stolen items is crucial in order to preserve the chain of custody of the items. Coupled with the existence of an improper motive by members of the Liew family for mounting the allegations against Parti, I find that the convictions against Parti are unsafe and accordingly acquit her of all the charges.”

That there was an “improper motive by members of the Liew family” was a bold finding. That employers lodge complaints against migrant workers in order to ensure that they are black-marked and would never return to work is a practice that is known but never challenged.

A cool, clear and measured tone runs through the entire judgement. I hope the Minister of Law, the AGC and MOM will take note of all the issues raised in the judgement and implement immediate measures to protect migrant workers from suffering the same fate as Liyani.

PARTI LIYANI SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN PROSECUTED

I suspect that in lodging the police report, Liew Mun Leong never expected Liyani to be prosecuted. He had made the report purely “for the record”. He never expected Liyani to return to Singapore and to be arrested at the airport a month later. After all, the Liews had dismissed her without any reason, giving her just 2 to 3 hours to pack up and leave, a practice that is common and known to employment agencies and employers. I suspect too that this practice is also well known to MOM which takes the stand that since the Employment Act does not apply to domestic workers, employers are free to dismiss them in this cruel manner. This is something that MOM and embassies should seriously look into and rectify. Embassies should work harder to protect their nationals who come here to work in order to send hard earned cash home.

For the reason that a prosecution of Liyani was never anticipated, Liew’s report was carelessly drafted, not because he did not have the time to check and enumerate the alleged “stolen properties” but because, as the judge ruled, he thought that the report would prevent Liyani from returning to Singapore to lodge a complaint with MOM. Liew had included in his crucial first information report these items – hard disks worth $500, towels worth $100, gadgets worth $1,000. These items were subsequently not included in any of the four charges brought against Liyani. Any investigating officer would have questioned why these items were dropped from the list of “stolen properties”. An experience judge would have questioned this omission too. But this was not done.

Like Liew Mun Leong, the police too, I suspect, did not expect a prosecution of Liyani. The issue of a warrant of arrest against her after recording the complaint of Liew Mun Leong was probably a standard practice. They did not even bother to visit the scene of crime to seize the properties allegedly stolen. This again is probably a usual practice for domestic workers who have been repatriated. It probably never crossed their mind that Liyani would return one day. And here I wonder how many migrant workers have been wronged but have been compelled to leave Singapore at short notices, never to return.

When Liyani returned to Singapore on 2 December 2016, she was arrested upon arrival, detained and subjected to interrogation. This I think is the efficiency of technology! Once the warrant of arrest is entered into the system, the airport arrival terminal sounds the alarm. But what I don’t understand is why the police did not refuse the entry of Liyani and save all the hassle! Somewhere along the chain, someone may have forgotten about the case!

From the judgement, I gather that many of the things she carried in her bag were allegedly stolen from the Liews. These were seized and added to the items of alleged stolen properties! The trial judge noted in her judgement: “… Her bags were found to contain more items belonging to the victims. These items included:

a. The two Longchamp bags;
b. One Gerald Genta watch;
c. One Helix watch;
d. Two white iPhones with accessories;
e. One black Braun Buffel wallet;
f. One black Gucci wallet;
g. One Prada bag;
h. One Gucci sunglasses with red stains.

It is interesting that the appeal judge noted that all the above items were either used, old or damaged. I wonder why it didn’t cross the mind of the investigating officer to ask why a person who had committed theft of these items would bring them back to Singapore. I wonder too why the Liews (daughter, son and daughter in law) when shown these old and broken items by the investigating officer did not tell him that they were either discarded items or were given to Liyani. Their claim to ownership by attaching ridiculous values to each item, for eg $25,000 for the broken Gerald Genta Watch which was reduced to $10,000 by the trial judge upon hearing the evidence of the defence expert witness probably increased the number of charges against Liyani. From the theft of Liew Mun Leong’s properties, Liyani had to face 3 additional charges of theft of discarded properties of daughter, son and daughter in law. In the end, these additional charges simply embarrassed their standing in high society. The inclusion of 120 items of used clothings and 2 counterfeit watches further damaged their reputation.

I am puzzled as to why the prosecution proceeded with the case despite knowing that all or at least most of the goods were used, broken or old, things that rich people would discard without a second thought. Were they pressured by the fact that the complainant is a well known and powerful person?

If the prosecution was under some self-inflicted pressure, they certainly prosecuted with vigour. Liyani faced four charges (with one more being stood down) even though (if convicted), she was a first offender. This practice of heaping charges on an accused person who claims trial is well known. Under the law, if a person is convicted of at least 3 charges, two of the sentences would run consecutively. By proceeding with four charges with one being stood down, the prosecution probably hoped an accused person would plea bargain and plead guilty to at least one charge on the promise of a withdrawal of the remaining charges. For a migrant worker the temptation to plead guilty, serve a shorter prison sentence and be repatriated is tremendous. I suspect many guilty pleas were extracted from accused persons because they could not withstand the pressure of risking convictions of more than 3 charges. For standing up to the pressure, I salute Liyani for her courage. Her lawyer and HOME have done a great job in believing and supporting her claim of innocence throughout the four years.

Justice Chan Seng Onn has delivered a judgement that should wake up those who are in charge of law and order.

Before I retired from legal practice more than 13 years ago, I had noticed a sea change in the attitude of prosecutors handling criminal matters. Police prosecutors have been replaced by highly qualified and legally trained personnel from the AGC. I hear complaints about their being arrogant. As a senior lawyer, I too had been snubbed when duty prosecutor refused to see me.

I remember one instance when my case was stood down by a senior judge who advised that I should see the duty prosecutor. My client had, like Liyani, faced more than 3 charges of shoplifting some goods of little value. He was a good man and was a first offender. He shoplifted not because he needed those items but I suspect, he was crying for help. He did not attempt to conceal the items he took. The duty prosecutor rejected my request to reduce the number of charges.

I returned to court and informed the judge. My client pleaded guilty to all the charges and I asked for probation for my client. In those days, it was rare for adults to be granted probation. The judge granted my request, much to the surprise of the prosecutor and lawyers. I suspect he was not too happy with the attitude of the duty prosecutor.

Arrogance can arise as a defence mechanism to the lack of confidence and experience. It can also come about because of the desire to win at any cost.

In Liyani’s case, there was the charge for theft of a “spoilt” Pioneer DVD player. I was shocked that the fact that that dvd player could not play dvds was not disclosed at the trial but was only admitted at the appeal. Both the police and the public prosecutor knew that it was “spoilt” before the trial. If they had acknowledged this fact, Liyani’s defence that the owner had wanted to throw it away but that she kept it would have succeeded. This is not only a professional flaw but a character flaw on the part of the prosecutor. The only reason I can think of for this non-disclosure is that the prosecutor wanted to win the case at all costs. This should never be the attitude of prosecutors. I hope Liyani’s case will put an end to such attitudes.

The AGC, MOM and MHA have a lot to do to improve their established system. They should not spend time trying to POFMA young activists but concentrate on improving the system that has been deteriorating over the years. Turning a blind eye to these serious issues is detrimental to our country. We may have the best technology, machines and money, but what is the point when we have lost our soul. Liyani has opened the Pandora Box. Let’s empty it and recover our soul.

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Mayors Of Singapore

by Teo Soh Lung (first published 2nd Aug on F8 FB)

I have never paid so much attention to the appointees of our Prime Minister than this year. What shocked me was the appointment of 37 officials (including the PM) in his new cabinet. The PAP won 83 out of 93 seats this general election. A cabinet of 37 officials is 44.6% of elected PAP candidates. I woke up from my slumber.

There are five mayors on our little island of 721.5 sq kilometres with a population of 5.7 million. Do we really need five mayors in addition to 93 members of parliament?

New York and London has only one mayor and each serves a population of more or a little less than the whole of Singapore. http://sg50election.blogspot.com/…/what-does-mayor-in-singa…

WHAT ARE THE DUTIES OF A SINGAPORE MAYOR?

According to https://www.cdc.org.sg/office-of-the-mayors/our-mayors:

“The Office of the Mayors in Singapore serves the residents in the five districts. Each district is helmed by a mayor, each of whom also serves as a Chairman of the Community Development Council (CDC) in a particular district.”

Isn’t this a duplication of the work of a member of parliament who has to look after his constituents? And isn’t every mayor already a member of parliament? Why do we need to create this glorious title of Mayor with no additional duties but at humongous costs?

HOW MUCH IS A MAYOR?

A mayor’s minimum annual salary is $660,000. To this salary we should add the salary of a member of parliament which is $192,500 per annum. The monthly salary of a mayor is therefore a minimum of about $71,000. This is nearly twice the salary of New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern who earns just $35,800 a month. And New Zealand has a population of 4.886 million. If Singapore’s 5.7 million population is divided by 5, each mayor “takes care” of 1.14 million people.

The prime minister is answerable to the people of Singapore.
How can he justify his astronomical salary of $2.2 million a year and those that surround him? Has he a conscience?

The Leader of the Opposition, Pritam Singh is giving away half his allowance. Should not the PM, Dy PM, 2 Senior Ministers, 3 Ministers in PMO, 5 Mayors, 4 Ministers of State, Parliamentary secretaries etc voluntarily cut their humongous salaries by at least 60%?

The PM should have a leaner team in these difficult times and not expand his cabinet just to feel comfortable and secure. Despite the huge number of officials he surrounds himself, it will be difficult to see the economy of Singapore grow within the next one or two years.

High salaries must be matched by high performance, if we follow the PAP past assurance. If the cabinet is not able to produce extraordinary results, they should be sensitive to the rest of the population who are facing very challenging times.

***

I do not know who is the artist of this drawing below. The cabinet is probably made of ivory. Elephants have to be killed to make it.

110302894_1605132709663697_8418512137682176342_o.jpg

 

People’s Association And Mayors by Teo Soh Lung (first published 4th Aug on F8 FB)

Mayors, contrary to my earlier assumption, are not political appointments. They are non political appointments under the People’s Association (Community Development Councils) Rules (1997) which is one of three subsidiary legislations made under the People’s Association Act. Mayors are appointed under Rule 6(1):

“The Board may designate the Chairman of the Council for a District to be the Mayor of that District … “

The Chairman of the People’s Association is the prime minister. He is thus also the chairman of the Board of Management which oversees the setting up of Community Development Councils (CDCs) under the same People’s Association (Community Development Councils) Rules (1997).

116789362_1610674042442897_2818800264942809135_nThere are five mayors in Singapore and Ms Low Yen Ling(photo) is one of them. She is also the Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry & Ministry of Culture, (Community and Youth), earning a minimum salary of $770,000.

I am curious to know if she also receives the Mayor’s salary of $660,000 since she is also an employee of the People’s Association.

With regard to the other four mayors, would their salaries be paid by the People’s Association? The People’s Association is a legal entity, separate from the government.

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