No abandoned migrant workers in Singapore?
March 19, 2014, 11:55 pm
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore

COIMr Kevin Teoh, MOM’s divisional director for Foreign Manpower Management who represented the ministry at the Commission of Inquiry claimed that he was “surprised that he (Mr Russell Heng from TWC2) made the assertion” that destitution exists among low-waged migrant workers in Singapore.

Okay. He should step out of the comfort of his white-collar office, and check out the shelter at Cuff Road for a start.

Oh wait, Minister Tan Chuan Jin conducted a fact-finding visit to TWC2′s soup kitchen and Cuff Road Project in 2011. He also met with the executive committee of the NGO to talk about the issues faced by low waged migrant workers (see report here). Since it was a fact-finding visit, one would assume that being the ministry’s divisional director for Foreign Manpower Management, Mr Teoh must be aware about the issues discussed during the meeting but it seems that he does not.

So what, is it due to the lack of communications within the ministry, or is he sleeping on the job?

Or is this simply a case of a civil servant who is in denial of the issues faced by low waged migrant workers, including delayed salaries and accommodation issues?

Well whatever the reasons are, I must say that I am shocked that he was surprised by Mr Heng’s “assertions” that destitution exists among our low waged migrant workers here.



Some thoughts about the Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Bill
February 21, 2014, 12:44 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore

Photo credit: TODAY

Photo credit: TODAY

After a four hour debate in Parliament, the Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Bill was passed on Tuesday.

Alright so, the result is hardly a surprise but I strongly oppose the passing of the additional measures, especially due to the following reasons:

1. While I acknowledge the government’s intentions to ensure that a similar riot does not occur, we have to bear in mind that the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) is currently on-going. However the government might have, in the absence of actual data and recommendations, assumed the causes and went on to establish preventive measures. Such an action also might weaken the status and standing of the CoI whose role is to work independently, with the objective of identifying the factors leading to the riot, which may also include any possible failures of law enforcement agencies as well as the government. (Yes this is all debateable)

2. The Bill grants the police and auxiliary police officers extensive discretionary powers to arrest anyone who they deem offensive or suspicious without a warrant. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I do expect them to do so reasonably. On the other hand, the lack of external oversight opens doors to abuse of authority. Being witness to several instances of racial profiling and rough treatment towards migrant workers in Little India whenever I am in the area, I feel rather uncomfortable with such a power being granted to the police and auxiliary police officers. On a related note but not limited to the Bill, should any police officers be granted the authority to search the premise or personal belongings of individuals without warrants, especially in the absence of violence?

3. Clause 19(3) of the Bill states that the government cannot be held liable for actions in respect of the act. This seems to suggest that victims of wrongful arrests or rough handling cannot seek redress by undertaking legal actions against the government or law enforcement agencies.

In addition, I find the Bill problematic because it assumes that all members of the law enforcement agencies hold unquestionable ability to be reasonable in actions and accurate in their assessment and decisions on who makes a suspicious individual.

I disagree with such harsh measures undertaken in response to the riot at Little India on 8 December. It is a rare incident that had occurred due to factors that are currently in the process of being identified by the CoI. In my opinion, it may be an emotional response to the sight of a fellow migrant worker being crushed under the bus. It may also be the perceived lack of emergency response. Whatever it is, the reasons are currently not fully known. So while I agree that the security in the area can be heightened to give the residents in the area a peace of mind, I am apprehensive that extensive discretionary powers should be granted to the police and auxiliary police officers.



Little India Riot: Repatriation frenzy
December 21, 2013, 12:25 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore

lir repatriation



Fair trial for the 53 workers repatriated?
December 20, 2013, 1:29 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore

(Published in The Online Citizen on 19 December 2013)


1525682_10151763607317026_1746343565_nIn its media release, Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs revealed that 53 migrant workers will be repatriated after being given a “stern warning”. These workers are those who have been identified as participants in the riot that took place in Little India and have failed to disperse despite the police’s orders to do so. They were said to be rounded up in the morning of 17 December. These individuals will also be prohibited from returning to Singapore. This is while 28 out of those arrested are still in the process of being tried in Court and the Commission of Inquiry into the riot is still taking place.

As I understand it, the Controller of Work Passes and Controller of Immigration hold authority over the revocation of work passes. However as rioting is considered a crime against public order in Singapore under sections 147 and 148 of the Penal Code, these 53 individuals should have been given the opportunity to stand trial, with concrete evidences being produced before they are being found guilty of undesirable actions and before any appropriate actions can be taken against them.

While some might view this as the Ministry’s effort to send a message to the migrant community that harsh consequences will befall them should they disrupt public order, I don’t think this is how “justice” should be served. On the contrary, I personally find it disturbing that they can be simply be rounded up and repatriated in such a non-transparent manner.

Being major stakeholders in how our system is run, I think it is time that Singaporeans question the non-transparency that goes behind this decision to determine who was not being co-operative and whose work permits to revoke. It is also time to ponder over Singapore’s harsh stance on migrant workers who have erred as well as the fact that there is currently no avenue for them to appeal against the revocation of their work passes.

Let’s understand this too – most migrant workers came all the way to Singapore in debt and they contribute to our industries with their labour and skills in exchange of a better life for their families back home. Instead of treating them with such a lack of justice, the least we can do is to let them explain themselves in Court, where evidences will be produced to prove their involvement or innocence in the incident and have all possible mitigating factors considered.



Flowers at Little India as goodwill and peace
December 17, 2013, 1:19 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore

A group of us distributed marigold at Little India to the migrant workers, Singaporeans (we also tried giving it to the police too) in memory of Sakthivel Kumaravelu as well as a gesture of friendship.

And of course, the police were very kind. They followed us everywhere ensuring law and order, filming our every actions. I hope none of us were digging our noses or scratching our bums though. :p



Statement in response to AGC Statement re Alex Au
December 10, 2013, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Singapore

Singapore, 10 December 2013

We refer to the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) statement dated 5 December 2013 which was made in response to our statement issued 29 November 2013.

We assure the AGC that the 170 persons who “purportedly” signed the statement did in fact do so.

It is regrettable that the AGC’s statement appears to predetermine that Mr Alex Au’s blog post did indeed scandalise the judiciary. Respectfully, we would like to point out that the AGC is not immune to errors of judgement. This is evidenced by Justice Belinda Ang’s decision to deny its application to bring action against Mr Au for another blog post dated 12 October 2013.

It is also regrettable that the AGC’s statement repeated an earlier instance where a blog post of Mr Au’s (18 June 2012) was deemed to have scandalised the court. This is not relevant to the current case.

The AGC states that the “Constitutional right to free speech and expression is not an absolute right, but subject to limits which are expressly provided for in the Constitution.” Our statement of 29 November 2013 was intended to query the extent of those limits vis-a-vis the AG’s intention to sue Mr Au.

We note again that the offense of scandalising the judiciary has become obsolete in the country of its origin and was repealed by the United Kingdom Parliament this year.

We reiterate the observation that the AGC’s action is not in keeping with the spirit of Singapore’s position at the 2011 UN Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights.

The AGC assures us that “[t]he hearing to determine whether the article is in contempt of court will be open to the public.” With respect, the assertion misses the point. The AGC’s decision to take action against Mr Au is counterproductive. It suggests that open and healthy debate about the judiciary is not allowed.

We repeat our call for the action against Mr Au to be abandoned. Further, we urge Parliament to reconsider the offense of scandalising the judiciary. It diminishes rather than encourages confidence in our legal system.

Signed:-

Abdul Salim Harun

Alfian Sa’at

Simeon Ang

K Z Arifa

Ariffin Sha

Dr Charan Bal

Jeremy Boo

Boo Junfeng

Sharmeen Nina Chabra

Qizhong Chang

Yan Chang

Rajiv Chaudhry

Chee Mun Leon Kenneth

Jeremy Chen

Vincent Cheng

Cheow Xin Yi

Leslie Chew

Tania Chew

Priscilla Chia

Roderick Chia

Joshua Chiang

Elvin Ching

Damien Chng

Stephanie Chok

Olivia Choong

Brendan Chong

Edward Chong

Jean Chong

Lawrence Chong

Chong Kai Xiong

Chong Wai Fung

Chua Chuen-Seah

Dominic Chua

Lyn Chua

Lucy Davis

Nicholas Deroose

Dr Saroja Dorairajoo

Farhan C Idris

Clara Feng

Fong Hoe Fang

Otto Fong

Foo Hui Shien Catherine

Koey Foo

Jeffrey George

Lukas Godfrey

Andre Goh

Dr James Gomez

Mohan Gopalan

Bob Graf

Johannes Hadi

Han Hui Hui

Kirsten Han

Ramlan Kamarudin

Gerald Heng

Ivan Heng

Ho Choon Hiong

Sam Ho

Vanessa Ho

Hoon Eng Khoo

Isrizal Mohamed Isa

Shawn Kathiravan

Sohni Kaur

Dennis Khew

Godwin Koay

Stuart Koe

Dan Koh

Ronald Koh

Kok Heng Leun

Ken Kwek

Dana Lam

Vincent Law

Basil Lee

David Lee

Lee Gwo Yinn

Howard Lee

Kevin Lee

Lynn Lee

Richard Lee

Lee Xian Jie

Philip Selwyn Lemos

Francis Leo

Leong Sze Hian

Leow Zi Xiang

Lisa Li

Liew Kai Khiun

Assoc Prof Lily Rahim

Chase Lim

Gary Lim

Lim Hoch Yong

Jeanne Lim

Jeramy Lim

Lim Jialiang

Lim Kay Siu

Lim Meng Suang Gary

Suchen Christine Lim

Andrew Loh

Loh Chee Leong

Andee Loo

Biddy Low

Braema Mathi

Marayd McElroy

Haron Mong

Ng Yi-Sheng

Jevon Ng

Roy Ngerng

Brian Nugawela

Azhar Sulaiman

Kay Omar

Ong En Hui

Linda Ong

Patrick Ong

Yanchun Ong

Stephan Ortmann

Osman Sulaiman

Pak Geok Choo

Seelan Palay

Vivian Pan

Engsien Pek

Ravi Philemon

Dr Noor Rahman

Francisco Raquiza

Max Revson

Mansura Sajahan

Martyn See

Frederique Soh

Prashant Somasundaram

Lily K Song

Eric Seow

Siew Kum Hong

Rev Miak Siew

K K Sin

Jeremy Sing

Constance Singam

Timothy Soh

Soo Teck Chong Jason

Dickson Su

Prof Paul Tambyah

Alaric Tan

Tan Elice

Jacqueline Tan

Tan Jing Dear

Joe Tan

John L Tan

Joyce Qiuyan Tan

Kenneth Tan

Luke Tan

Dr Netina Tan

Petrus Tan

Dr Roy Tan

Tan Ser En Daryl

Shawn Tan

Sylvia Tan

Dr Tan Tai Wei

Shawna Tang

Dr Tay Hu-Lin

Derrick Teh

Jennifer Teo

Jocelyn Teo

Kathy Teo

Teo Soh Lung

Prof Tey Tsun Hang

Tham Alex Ishibi

Callan Tham

Shelley Thio

Margaret Thomas

Ivan Thomasz

Dr Thum Pingtjin

Min-Wei Ting

Melissa Tsang

Vicnan KP

Caleb Wah

Vivian Wang

Lawrence Wee

Jolovan Wham

Dr Vincent Wijeysingha

Thaw Win

Brenton Wong

Wong Chee Meng

Dexter Wong

Melissa WS Wong

Raymond Wong

Dr Woon Tien Wei

Wong Tong Kwong

Benjamin Xue

Julius Yang

Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao

Yeo Yeu Yong

Yeo Khirn Hup

Richard Yip

Yuan Shuyi

Zaihan Kariyani

Rachel Zeng

Zeng Ziting

Zulkarnain Hassan

Leslie Low

Tricia Leong

Vina Siew

Sylvyn Lim

Yan Wai Chang

Arjun Naidu



Statement on AGC Action against Alex Au
November 29, 2013, 3:53 am
Filed under: Singapore

Singapore, 29 November 2013

We are deeply concerned that the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) has been granted leave to take action against Singaporean blogger, Mr Alex Au, for “scandalising the judiciary” in his blog post, “377 Wheels Come Off Supreme Court’s Best Laid Plans”.1

The right of free expression is enshrined in Article 14 of our Constitution. We believe that robust public debate is necessary for national progress. The AGC’s action, however, reflects an overzealous desire to police public opinion. This cannot be healthy for a mature, first world nation. If Mr Au had erred, then his claims should be rebutted in public. This would enable Singaporeans to make up their own minds.

We agree that it is important to uphold public confidence in the judiciary. However, this cannot mean that our judges should not be subject to scrutiny. The AGC’s action, rather than enhancing confidence in the judiciary, might weaken public confidence. It also implies that the public is not allowed to form opinions on judicial processes.

International legal opinion supports the advancement of the law in respect of public comment. In 2012, the UK Law Commission recommended abolishing the offence of “scandalising the judiciary” because it is “an infringement of freedom of expression and out of step with social attitudes”. The Commission noted that the offence “belongs to an era when deferential respect to the judiciary was the norm. But social attitudes have changed. Enforcing the offence today would do little to reinforce respect for the judiciary and, if judges are thought to be using it to protect their own, could strengthen any existing distrust or disrespect.”2

We note that the AGC action against Mr Au is not in keeping with the spirit of Singapore’s position at the 2011 UN Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights that “Political postings on the Internet are prevalent, including many that are highly critical of the Government. No blogger or other online publisher has been prosecuted for such postings.”3 Further, this AGC action contradicts Singapore’s obligations in the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, adopted on 18 November 2012. Article 23 states, “Every person has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information, whether orally, in writing or through any other medium of that person’s choice.”4

We call upon the AGC to help the Government of Singapore uphold its ideals and its international commitments, for the continued progress and prosperity of our nation.

Signed:-

Simeon Ang

K Z Arifa

Jacqui Ch

Sharmeen Nina Chabra

Xin Hui Supanee Chan

Qizhong Chang

Kenneth Chee Mun Leon

Jeremy Chen

Chew Kheng Chuan

Leslie Chew

Tania Chew

Joshua Chiang

Brendan Chong

Bryan Choong

Jean Chong

Chong Kai Xiong

Chong Wai Fung

Chua Chuen-Seah

Lucy Davis

Fazlur Yusuf

Fong Hoe Fang

Assoc Professor Cherian George

Jessica Goh

Johannes Hadi

Han Hui Hui

Kirsten Han

Helmi Yusuf

Ivan Heng

Dr Russell Heng

Adrian Heok

Irene Ho

Sam Ho

Vanessa Ho

Isrizal Mohamed Isa

Kenneth Jeyaretnam

Kwan Jin

Shawn Kathiravan

Dr Khoo Hoon Eng

Koh Boon Luang

Dan Koh

Patrick Koh

Joses Kuan

Annie Kwan

Ken Kwek

Dana Lam

Vincent Law

David Lee

Lee Gwo Yinn

Howard Lee

Kevin Lee

Lynn Lee

Richard Lee

Lee Shiuh Meng Kevin

Philip Selwyn Lemos

Tricia Leong

Leow Zi Xiang

Dr Liew Kai Khiun

Angie Lim

Gary Lim Meng Suang

Lim Jialiang

Lim Kay Siu

Lynette Lim

Michelle Lim

Nicholas Lim Yew

Andrew Loh

Loh Chee Leong

Dr Loh Kah Seng

Andee Loo

Braema Mathi

Marayd McElroy

Haron Mong

Neo Swee Lim

Ng Mei Fay

Ng Yisheng

Roy Ngerng

Dr Noor Rahman

Brian Nugawela

Irene Oh

Kay Omar

Ong En Hui

Yanchun Ong

Stephan Ortmann

Pak Geok Choo

Vivian Pan

Engsien Pek

Ravi Philemon

Francisco Raquiza

Indulekshmi Rajeswari

Gene Sha Rudyn

Alfian Sa’at

Mansura Sajahan

Nora Samosir

Katerina Sandiman

Seet Cheng Yew Michael

Ariffin Sha

Rev Miak Siew

Siew Kum Hong

Frederique Soh

John Solomon

Dickson Su

Osman Suleiman

Professor Paul Ananth Tambyah

Alvin Tan

Alvin Tan Cheong Kheng

Bian Tan

Caryn Tan Sun

Eugene Tan Siah Yew

Joe Tan

Joel Bertrand Tan

Jolene Tan

John L Tan

Tan Joo Hymn

Kenneth Tan

Kirsten Tan

Netina Tan

Dr Roy Tan

Serena Tan

Sylvia Tan

Estee Tay

Jennifer Teo

Teo Soh Lung

Professor Tey Tsun Hang

Callan Tham

Thaw Win

Melissa Tsang

Kelly Then

Shelley Thio

Ivan Thomasz

Dr Pingtjin Thum

Jeremy Tiang

Dawn Toh

Toh Boon Hwee

Jason Wee

Lawrence Wee

Jolovan Wham

Dr Vincent Wijeysingha

Andy Wong

Brenton Wong

Wong Chee Keng

Dexter Wong

Joe Wong

Melissa W S Wong

Wong Tong Kwong

Teresa Woo

Dr Woon Tien Wei

Terry Xu

Benjamin Xue

Julius Yang

Dezmond Yeo

Yeo Yeu Yong

Antoinette Yzelman

Rachel Zeng

Zeng Ziting

Zulkarnain Hassan

Gerald Heng

Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao

 

_____________________________________________________________________

Reference links

http://yawningbread.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/377-wheels-come-off-supreme-courts-best-laid-plans/.

2http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/news/2140.htm. The full report is available at http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/docs/ lc335_scandalising_the_court.pdf. The offence has since been abolished in the UK.

3http://www.mfa.gov.sg/content/dam/mfa/images/media_center/special_events/upr/UPR%20National%20Report_Singapore.pdf.

4http://www.asean.org/news/asean-statement-communiques/item/asean-human-rights-declaration.



In solidarity with Alex Au
November 28, 2013, 1:21 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore

solidarity with alex

 



Joint Statement Regarding the Re-sentencing of Yong Vui Kong
November 15, 2013, 1:24 am
Filed under: Singapore, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign

November 14, 2013, Singapore – The Singapore Anti-death Penalty Campaign and We Believe In Second Chances welcome today’s decision by Justice Choo Han Teck to spare former drug mule Yong Vui Kong from the gallows. It has always been our position that Yong, a young, first-time offender, deserves a second chance. We are relieved he will not have to pay the ultimate price for his mistake. However his punishment remains a heavy one – Yong will now have to serve a life sentence and receive 15 strokes of the cane.  

 

Today’s verdict was possible because of recent changes to Singapore’s death penalty regime. While we are glad that the amendments have given judges a restricted amount of discretion where they used to have none, we would also like to echo Justice Choo who on October 25, 2013, pointed out that the new law might be problematic in providing defendants a fair process in meeting requirements that need to be fulfilled, before they are eligible for a re-sentencing hearing.

 

Under the amendments, the death penalty is no longer mandatory for those convicted in drug trafficking cases if the accused is no more than a courier and if the prosecution certifies that he or she rendered substantial assistance to the Central Narcotics Bureau. 

 

The Court only determines whether the two requirements are met after the accused person is convicted. 

However, as Justice Choo noted, if evidence relating to whether the accused was a courier is introduced after he is convicted, there is a possibility that this could contradict the court’s original findings or even cast doubts on the accused’s guilt. 

 

Disallowing this evidence on the other hand, might prejudice the accused, making it impossible for him to prove he was just a courier. 

Justice Choo suggested that an alternative would be to make it a rule that evidence be produced at trial. However, this puts the accused in a tough position – in order to make the claim that he was just a courier, he must first admit he was trafficking drugs.

 

Either way, the accused person may potentially be disadvantaged in being able to discharge the burden of showing that the requirements have been met. This is unacceptable, especially since the punishment is mandatory death.

We note that this problem would not persist should full discretion be given to judges to decide on the punishment, and we reiterate our calls for this to be so.

 

We also question whether the caning of those who have already received a life sentence, is necessary. As Yong’s lawyer, M Ravi, pointed out in Court today, his client is “a pale shadow of the person he was four years ago. He has little fat. He is weak and frail.”

 

Given Yong’s poor health, we hope that the Prison or the Courts will be extra vigilant in meting out any punishment to him. Moreover, it is important to note that only 33 jurisdictions around the world allow the caning of convicted offenders. Most civilised countries consider the punishment to be a barbaric one. 

 

Furthermore, we would like to point out that the deterrent effect of the death penalty over alternative forms of punishment is unproven. Furthermore, the penalty is an irreversible punishment at the end of a process, which is subject to the fallibilities of humans. We may be able to release innocent persons from prison, but we cannot reverse their executions.

 

Finally, we join Yong’s family in expressing our deepest gratitude to his lawyer, M Ravi, for working so tirelessly and selflessly for his client these past four years. We know it has not been an easy journey and we are glad he never gave up. 

 

– end –

Contact information

 

Singapore Anti-death Penalty Campaign – rachelabsinthe@gmail.com

We Believe In Second Chances – contact@secondchances.asia

http://singaporeantideathpenaltycampaign.wordpress.com/statements-and-press-release/2013-2/joint-statement-regarding-the-re-sentencing-of-yong-vui-kong/



Words of a grieving parent
October 18, 2013, 1:28 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore

“I can feel how my son suffered before he died. I can feel that. Really, I can’t take it.” – Mdm Selvi, mother of the late Dinesh Raman who died in prison on 27 September 2010.

How can the State and its judicial system not see the need to let a grieving parent and the rest of the family members know what exactly happened behind the death of a loved one?

How can the system be so non-transparent about the facts, especially when they run on public funds and has a responsibility to answer to all of us?

We currently have 543 signatures on the petition to call upon the Coroner to re-open the inquiry into the death of Dinesh Raman. If you would like to join us in the call, kindly visit the following link to have your name added to the petition:

http://www.change.org/petitions/coroner-s-inquiry-for-dinesh-raman

Further reading:

High Court dashes mother’s hope for answers to son’s death




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