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

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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
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 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?

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.


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.…/what-does-mayor-in-singa…


According to

“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?


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.



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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Book Launch and Panel discussion on Prelude To The Post-Lee Kuan Yew Era




Escape from the Lion’s Paw, Reflections of Singapore’s Political Exiles edited by Teo Soh Lung and Low Yit Leng and Smokescreens & Mirrors by Tan Wah Piow were launched at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall,  Kuala Lumpur on 24 November 2012. These two  books were published by Function 8 to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of Operation Spectrum (21 May 1987) when 22 young people were accused of being Marxist conspirators intent on overthrowing the PAP government. They were arrested and detained without trial under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

Many Singaporeans live in exile but only a handful have written about their escapes and their lives in foreign lands. Escape from the Lion’s Paw is the first book in English and Chinese that contains the writings of six Singapore’s political exiles.

In Smokescreens & Mirrors, Tan Wah Piow debunks the Marxist Conspiracy and calls for a re-examination of those who were detained  in 1987.

The speakers were Tan Yew Sing, President of the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall and Dr Kua Kia Soong.

Following the launch, the topic “Prelude to the Post Lee Kuan Yew Era” was discussed. Maria Chin Abdullah moderated the session. The speakers were Dr Wong Chin Huat, Dr G Raman and Tan Wah Piow.

If you would like to be notified of our videos, please subscribe to our youtube video channel

Edit: Part 2 added…

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No to IMDA requirement to submit script for online rally broadcast

With physical rallies disallowed because of Covid 19, online political broadcasts have added significance to this election. However, to require participating parties to submit scripts in multiple languages to IMDA and Mediacorp 48-hours in advance is a logistical impossibility for opposition parties. It prejudices the opposition parties and makes such broadcasts irrelevant. It gives the incumbent PAP the knowledge beforehand of what will be broadcast. This is grossly unfair to the opposition.

We reject the IMDA’s requirement and call for a free and fair election. We demand IMDA to withdraw this rule.

Screenshot 2020-06-30 at 8.37.27 AM

29 JUN 2020 — 

Function 8 thank all signatories to the petition requesting IMDA’s withdrawal of its requirement that election candidates submit their speeches to it 48 hours before broadcast. We note that the issue has been promptly addressed this morning 29 June 2020.

It was PSP’s Mr Michael Chua who first voiced his concern over the requirement of IMDA. As concerned citizens, we were alarmed at this unfair and unjust rule. We were heartened by the vigilance of citizens in the matter concerning the call for a free and fair election.

Within 48 hours, 13,200 have signed our petition. We have closed the petition and have forwarded it to IMDA for their record.

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TAN JING QUEE, trade unionist, lawyer, poet, writer and historian (18 January 1939 – 14 June 2011)

by Teo Soh Lung

Tan Jing Quee was a trade unionist, lawyer, poet, writer and historian. He was a man of many interests and talents. Towards the end of his life, he wanted to write a play. It was all in his head but he did not have the energy to put it down in writing. His priority was finishing his memoir and his book on Operation Coldstore. That book “The 1963 Operation Coldstore in Singapore, Commemorating 50 Years” was finally completed posthumously by Dr Poh Soo Kai, Tan Kok Fang and Hong Lysa.

Jing Quee witnessed the arrests of many of his friends – young idealists who wanted Singapore to be free from colonial rule. They wanted a united Malaya and a region of peace and prosperity, a vision that leaders picked by the British with their selfish motives did not have and could not see. These friends included the late Dr Lim Hock Siew, Dr Poh Soo Kai and Ho Piao, his school mate in Raffles Institution. They were too honest and kept to the constitutional struggle, taking great care not to give the government an excuse to play foul. But foul play descended on them.

In politics, there is no need to be too gentlemanly. The PAP, the British and the Tunku mounted Operation Coldstore on 2 February 1963 and put all of them in cold store. Dr Lim for 20 years, Ho Piao for 18 years and Dr Poh for 17 years. It was so easy to use the ISA to arrest and imprison political opponents so that the government can do whatever it wanted with the country and its people.
Almost the entire CEC of the Barisan Sosialis were arrested. The faint-hearted would have retreated into their shell. But not Tan Jinq Quee. He was in his early 20s and had just graduated from the University of Singapore.

Jing Quee stepped up to the occasion. He joined the Singapore Business Houses Employees’ Union and became the vice-secretary of SATU. He contested the general election held on 21 September 1963, standing against the incumbent, S Rajaratnam in Kampong Glam. Harbans Singh was the spoiler. Jing Quee lost by a mere 220 votes. To the surprise of Rajaratnam, Jing Quee congratulated him with a handshake after the recounting of votes.

Despite losing the election, the PAP was so afraid of Jing Quee that they arrested him 17 days later, on 8 October 1963. Three Barisan members who were elected in the general election were also arrested. They were S.T. Bani, Loh Miao Gong and Lee Tee Tong. They were deprived of their seats in the assembly. At least 40 others were also arrested before the end of 1963. In that one year, more than 200 people were arrested and imprisoned without trial under the PPSO (Preservation of Public Security Ordinance, the forerunner of the ISA). That was how the PAP managed to stay in power.

Jing Quee was tortured and humiliated in prison. He remained in prison for more than two years. Upon his release, he left for London to study law. He returned to Singapore after graduation and chambered with Mr J B Jeyaretnam. Later he set up his law practice with Lim Chin Joo and became a successful lawyer. He joined the golfing community but his heart was always with the people of Singapore. He wanted to write the history of those who were marginalised by PAP.

Jing Quee did not return to politics to challenge the PAP though he enjoyed discussing politics and the economy with his friends. Even that harmless activity alarmed the PAP. And so he was “nipped in the bud”. This phrase was used by the British in colonial times when it arrested and imprisoned anti colonial personalities under the Emergency Regulations, the forerunner of the PPSO and the ISA. The most famous prisoner was outspoken and brilliant socialist lawyer, John Eber. He spent more than two years in jail and was exiled to England.

Nipped in the bud is the sacred guiding principle of the PAP. Whenever it recognises a person as a potential threat to its power, it would direct energy and resources of the state towards demolishing that person.
And so Jing Quee was rearrested on 15 February 1977 together with many of his friends. They were tarred with the name “Euro-Communists” a term coined by S Rajaratnam. No one except the PAP knows what this term means. Rajaratnam was mean despite the amiable gesture of Jing Quee towards him at the counting centre.

Jing Quee was again punished with solitary confinement in a tiny bloodstained and filthy cell. This time he was released after two months and returned to legal practice.

Jing Quee retired from legal practice early partly because he was having problem with his eyesight but more importantly, he wanted to write the history of the marginalised. In his retirement he attended several summer courses in the United States. He pursued a MA course in Asia Pacific Studies in 1995. It was a two year course and he did very well. He was persuaded by his tutor to do his PhD but he declined.

Despite his failing eyesight, he took many trips abroad to seek out the survivors of the ISA. His wife Rose accompanied him on those trips. She was the guide, driver and faithful companion when he visited his old comrades in Malaysia.

Every Lunar New Year, Jing Quee would take the trouble to arrange a dinner for former ISA detainees – the Chinese educated and the English educated. In the 2011 Chinese New Year gathering, he brought together both the Chinese educated and the English educated former detainees. He spoke clearly that in the past, it used to be two gatherings for the two groups but that year marked a joint gathering. He knew it would be his last dinner with them.

I end this note with a quote from Jing Quee’s poem, ISA DETAINEE:

How could I ever forget those Neanderthals
Who roamed Whitley Holding Centre
Under cover of darkness
Poured buckets of ice water
Over my stripped, shivering nakedness
Slugged my struggling, painful agony
Circling, sneering, snarling
Over my freezing nudity
More animals than men
What induced this
Vengeful venom, violent score
To settle, not for a private grievance
But a public, democratic dissidence
From whence sprang this barbarity?
What made men turn into beasts
In the dark, away from prying eyes
Protected by a code of dishonour and lies
To ensure they survive and rise

Photo: Jing Quee (right) with his good friend Ho Piao who was imprisoned for 18 years.

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TAN JING QUEE (18 January 1939 – 14 June 2011)

by Hong Lysa

I received a note from Function 8 asking if I would mind writing a short article about Tan Jing Quee on the ninth anniversary of his passing.

The note said: This is just to remind people…

… though no student of the political history of postwar Singapore needs to be reminded of Jing Quee. He lives on every time his writings as well as those that have grown out of them are being read.

If there is one person to be acknowledged as responsible for the history of the left in Singapore which emerged in the last decade, he would immediately come to mind. In fact from 2001 Jing Quee had already been a name familiar among students of history as the lead editor of Comet in Our Sky: Lim Chin Siong in History. This was followed by the torrent of history books a decade later: The Fajar Generation: The University Socialist Club and the Politics of Postwar Malaya and Singapore (2010), the translation of He Jin’s novel Ju Lang into The Mighty Wave and its accompaniment The May 13 Generation: The Chinese Middle Schools Student Movement and Singapore Politics in the 1950s (2011). And The 1963 Operation Coldstore in Singapore: Commemorating 50 Years which he had initiated, and was completed by Dr Poh Soo Kai.

One of my most valued possessions is my copy of Comet in Our Sky with his autograph dated 2006 in an almost illegible scrawl as his eyesight had already deteriorated when I got to know him, in what turned out to be the final five years of his life.

Jing Quee was not among the long-serving political prisoners incarcerated for ten years and above, and in the case of Chia Thye Poh, for 26 years, followed by six years under restriction orders. They had refused to compromise their integrity when given the ‘choice’ of signing a security statement that would justify their arrests, or rot in prison, and the twisted logic that the political prisoners held the key to get out of prison in their hands.

Tan Jing Quee was arrested on 8 October 1963; he signed a security statement and made a television ‘confession’ on 4 May 1966, not long after his detention orders were extended for a further two years.

He had graduated from the University of Singapore in 1962 where he served as president of the University Sosialist Club, and answered the call of the Barisan Sosialis after Operation Coldstore on 2 February 1963 to work in the Singapore Business Houses Union, and then to stand for the October 1963 general election as a Barisan Sosialis candidate when its ranks were depleted by the arrests.

To date, Jing Quee remains the only former political prisoner who had signed security statements (he was arrested a second time in 1977) and put that on record in his life-story. It was published posthumously and titled ‘I won them back one by one’. (The 1963 Operation Coldstore in Singapore edited by Poh Soo Kai, Tan Kok Fang, and Hong Lysa, 2013).

I worked with Jing Quee on the piece, edited the final version and chose the title.

It was both a painful and a liberating exercise as he relived the humiliation and guilt he bore for decades. He recounted how he was worn down into accepting the script that he recited on television, even though it had been agreed at the start that he could present his own statement.

It was a voice of anger that narrated his being stripped, ridiculed and beaten by the ‘swaggering thugs’ who were his interrogators during his second imprisonment. The statement he made to obtain release can be found in the newsletter of the Ex-Political Detainees’ Association.

A low, steady voice spoke of his joining country clubs on his release after two months to break into the middle-class stronghold, taking up golf and moving around the golfing circles.

A couple of times, Jing Quee needed a break. For a while, we turned to the book he had been gathering materials for a good number of years. It was on the history of the Communist Party of Malaya. Sadly, the book was clearly formed in his head, but most of his ideas had not been written down, and he had not the time left to retrieve the materials and notes he had made.

On another occasion, he turned to talking at length about his overland trip from the UK to Singapore after completing his studies. With his wife Rose chipping in, they gently recalled the out of the way places they visited and the people they met.

The final session of working on his chapter for the Coldstore book was quite a rambling one. Jing Quee did not have the energy to continue, but he insisted on trying to remember the occupants of every cell along his corridor during his first imprisonment. He was struggling. Rose phoned his former cellmate, Tan Yam Seng, who came over immediately, and they both pieced together the information.

Jing Quee’s final thoughts were of the most important people in his life: his comrades whom he felt he had let down, and in the end not only won back, one by one, but gave a rightful place in the history of Singapore.

Jing Quee saw himself as a wanna-be academic on his early retirement from his law practice to pursue research and writing.

He loved to interact with academics, both students and professionals, and attend academic seminars and conferences. He was overjoyed when he received an invitation to speak on the University Socialist Club at NTU.

He was particularly cheery on one occasion, and could hardly wait to ask if I knew the meaning of ‘quotidian’.

I replied: ‘Are you testing to see if I am a real academic?’
He gave a huge chuckle.

“Ah, you academics, why use words which no one uses when all you want to say is ‘everyday, ordinary’?”

Tan Jing Quee was a true academic.


Photo caption: Tan Jing Quee (right) with Dr Poh Soo Kai and Said Zahari, 8 March 2006, after Jing Quee and Michael Fernandez broke the silence by speaking as political prisoners in the Detention-Healing-Writing Forum. All three have published their history. Dr Poh and Said Zahari were both in prison for 17 years.

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[Joint Statement] Singapore: End the judicial harassment of Jolovan Wham; repeal Public Order Act

Singapore-joint-750x169(Bangkok/Singapore, 29 May 2020) – The summoning of activist Jolovan Wham by the Singaporean authorities for posting a picture on social media, including on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, points to an escalating repression of human rights defenders in the country.

In a joint statement, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), and Singapore-based civil society organisations Think Centre and Function 8 said that the Government of Singapore should instead ensure open spaces for people to peacefully express their opinions.

On the contrary, the Government maintains a tight rein on civil society with repressive laws that bar them from exercising their fundamental civic freedoms of expression through judicial harassment.

Wham was summoned to the Tanglin Police station on 24 May as part of an investigation into his alleged infringement of the Public Order Act, and had his mobile phone confiscated.

The investigation is centred on a photo that Wham had posted on social media in March which shows him holding a placard with a smiley face in front of the Toa Payoh Central Community Club in Singapore. Wham was expressing support with two climate activists who were taken into police custody for posting photos of themselves with placards calling for climate action.[1]

In recent years, Wham has been the subject of judicial harassment for his activism, facing multiple charges for his activism in Singapore.

In 2018, he was charged with contempt of court for criticising a court decision on political cases.[2] In 2019,[3]he was convicted for violating the Public Order Act after organising a public event without a permit. He served a one-week jail sentence in the same year, for charges of contempt of court, after he criticised the judiciary.[4]

Other pending charges against Wham include one for refusing to sign police statements under the Penal Code and another for vandalism. The recent summons is a continuation of the Government’s continuous use of intimidation against Wham.

Singapore has a track record of using the Public Order Act to criminalise dissidents and suppress civic space. Under Section 2 (1) of the law,[5] a demonstration by an individual person could constitute an assembly.

Further, a court precedent allows the law to be interpreted to include online assembly, which subjects Wham to a charge for organising an indoor forum that saw the participation of a foreign activist via video call without a permit.

The broad definition of what constitutes an assembly enables the Singaporean authorities to target any individual exercising their rights, effectively curtailing legitimate means of expression.

A person who fails to obtain permission to organise an assembly could be subjected to a fine of up to USD 5,000 under Section 7 and 16 (1) of the Public Order Act. Under Section 16(3), a repeated offender could be slapped with a fine of up to USD 10,000 and six-month imprisonment.

FORUM-ASIA, Think Centre and Function 8 call on the Singaporean Government to end the judicial harassment of Jolovan Wham and other human rights defenders who are targeted merely for exercising their rights legitimately.

The Government needs to repeal the Public Order Act, and ensure all laws governing peaceful assembly are up to par with international human rights standards, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Fundamental rights are enshrined under Article 14 (1) of the Constitution and should be guaranteed by the Government. The continuous weaponisation of repressive laws, such as the Public Order Act, proves Singapore’s lack of accountability to its own constitutional commitments to human rights.

The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) is a Bangkok-based regional network of 81 member organisations across 21 Asian countries, with consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and consultative relationship with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. Founded in 1991, FORUM-ASIA works to strengthen movements for human rights and sustainable development through research, advocacy, capacity-development and solidarity actions in Asia and beyond. It has sub-regional offices in Geneva, Jakarta, and Kathmandu.

Think Centre is an independent non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Singapore. First registered as a business (RCB) on 16 Jul 1999 and today as a society (under ROS) on 20 Oct 2001, the Centre aims to critically examine issues related to political development, democracy, rule of law, human rights and civil society. Think Centre’s activities include research, publishing, organising events and networking.

Function 8 is an initiative by a group of citizens who believe that there is a need to facilitate the sharing of social, political and economic experiences of those who had contributed, or are eager to contribute, to society through reflection and civic discussion.

For further information, please contact:
East Asia and ASEAN Programme, FORUM-ASIA at

For media inquiries, please contact:
Yi-Lan, Communication and Media Programme, FORUM-ASIA at






For a PDF version of this statement, click here

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