Singapore Democratic Party’s rallies became more interesting in this general election, and that was largely due to the fact that Dr Chee Soon Juan has made a return to the arena of electoral politics after being barred from contesting in, or speaking at any election rallies for the past 15 years. People were curious, and they came from different parts of Singapore just to hear him speak. He delivered well enough. His charisma, confidence, intelligence, and sense of humour draw the crowd into his speeches. What is most surprising to most I have spoken to however, is how ideological and rational he can be at the same time.
“Is this really the man they call a psychopath?” asked a friend of mine who has never been into anything political, after he attended SDP’s lunchtime rally on Monday, and who in the last elections voted for the People’s Action Party (PAP) because he couldn’t care less. “We need someone like that in Parliament to wake the PAP MPs up from their comfortable slumber. I actually don’t care if he can run the country or a town council but if he is in Parliament, I think he will be a voice for Singaporeans,” he added.
Working on the ground as a volunteer for The Online Citizen, I interviewed some who attended the rallies, and their impression of the man who was once labelled “a cheat, a liar, and a psychopath” has greatly changed. One of the attendees, a man who I spoke to at SDP’s third rally, went all the way to Commonwealth from Toa Payoh just to see Dr Chee in person. He said “Now you have social media, they cannot anyhow call him anything they want anymore.” He also remarked that Dr Chee sounded ideological and rational at the same time, and it will be great having him in Parliament to question flawed policies.
“They have matured as a party, and their alternative policies sound very matured and rational. They really put a lot of thought in their speeches and proposals. They do think about people who are not well to do. Things are getting more expensive now and we struggle to live. It is good to have someone understand this,” said another.
Interestingly, such views are also being shared on Facebook, especially in response to character assassination by PAP candidates Lawrence Wong, and Sim Ann.
“They have no substance in their offer to people, so they have to attack SDP and Chee Soon Juan. Comeon lah, there is the Internet now, and people do not believe in what is published on the Straits Times anymore,” said *Sheila, a friend’s friend, on her Facebook status.
“Thank you Vivian Balakrishnan for making me curious about SDP’s alternative policies. If he did not mention it right, I will never know that there is actually an opposition party out there that has been developing policies even though they are not in government. Wow I am impressed even if the policies are not perfect!” declared *Fahmi, a former classmate of mine. Fahmi was previously from Young PAP, but had resigned due to some personal reasons.
In a discussion with some friends, there was a general consensus that Dr Chee is a changed man. I beg to differ. He is not a changed man, but society has changed. The Internet has widened our perspectives, and we now have access to information that has made the content of the mainstream media seem whitewashed and censored to the benefit of the ruling party. Social media has played a big role in this general election, and the ground has somewhat shifted thanks to the victory of the Workers’ Party (WP) in the last general election. Although many are still apprehensive about voting against the PAP, there is a growing group in the electorate who are open to the idea of giving their vote to parties who are contesting against the PAP. Will we see more colours besides white and specks of blue in Parliament after 11 September?
Well, let the people decide.
*Names have been changed, as requested.
On Sunday, 6 September, Mr Goh Chok Tong reportedly said that if the opposition loses the election, they can still participate in Parliament, thanks to the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Scheme (NCMP).
“Let’s say they lose the election – they don’t have to run the town council. Their voice can still be as strong as before in Parliament. So in fact…they are more free to write more great speeches, to make more great rhetoric in parliament,” he said.
For a layperson, this sounds like a good deal. However, does this reflect the reality?
The NCMP in short, is the “best loser” of an election. Before Parliament dissolved on 25 August, three of the “best losers” from the last general elections, Yee Jenn Jong and Gerald Giam from the Workers’ Party, and Lina Chiam from Singapore People’s Party, were granted the seats as NCMPs.
Like an elected Member of Parliament (MP), the NCMP is allowed to pose Parliamentary questions, and engage in Parliamentary debates to present their views.
However while an elected MP is allowed to vote on all matters, the NCMP can vote on matters except for anything regarding amendments to the Constitution, Supply or Supplementary Bills, Money Bills, motions of no confidence in the Government, or removing the President from office.
Therefore, the NCMP do not have the same rights as an elected MP in the Parliament.
So in view of what is stated on the Constitution of Singapore regarding the power of an NCMP (see below), Mr Goh’s simplistic description of the power that an NCMP holds, is seriously misleading.
I wrote the following to Today on 4 August 2015, in response to two letters regarding unequal benefits for single and unwed mothers that were published on Today. Since my letter was not selected for publication, I am posting it here instead. Interestingly, the writer of the second letter responded to his critics with this letter, published on 6 August 2015, saying that his letter was “perhaps satire, but in bad form”, and he apologised for it.
While I respect everyone’s right to hold and express opinions, I am appalled by the attitude expressed in the letters, “Unwed mums did make choices that led to their situation” (Aug 1) and “Unequal benefits for single unwed mums a matter of deterrence” (Aug 3).
Both letters contain statements that not only support the continued institutionalised discrimination of women based on their marital status, but call upon society to blame women for not falling into line with the status quo. The writers have also failed to see the need for social inclusion or the need for all children to be treated with equity, and have patronisingly insisted that marriage is the only way one can legitimately have children, or engage in sexual activities.
First of all, the role of men seemed to be lacking in their arguments. They seem to have excused the men who have found it right to pack up and leave the women whose children they have fathered, and instead blamed women for finding the courage to take up the responsibility to bring up their children single-handedly.
Secondly, not all unwed mothers are single. Although it is still not very common in our society, there are couples who choose not to go down the path of marriage, but are still committed to one another as well as in their roles as parents. Besides that, there are some same-sex couples who may choose to have children, but due to the fact the same-sex marriage is currently illegal in Singapore, they are seen as single and unwed parents. Does the society then punish children from these non-conventional family units, because some hold contemptuous views against the decisions made by their parents?
In addition, what about women who have made the decision to adopt? It is legal for single and unwed women to adopt, so why should they not be included in the incentives provided by the system?
We should not dictate what women can or cannot do with their bodies and lives, or insist that marriage is the only option for every single member of society who wants to have children or even just sex. We should also reflect upon the way our system seems to hold those who do not fall into line with the status quo hostage through institutionalised discrimination, while at the same time demanding them to contribute to the country’s economy through holding down jobs and paying taxes.
Finally, premarital sex and having children out of wedlock are not crimes, nor are they immoral. The “threat of inequality” as a deterrent to prevent unwed women from engaging in premarital sex and having children, is grossly authoritarian, sexist since men are rarely held to the same standards, and the imposition of patriarchal values on women who deserve the freedom to choose what they do with their bodies, their sexualities, and their reproductive lives. We should become a more inclusive society that favours equal opportunities and incentives, over discrimination.
Screenshots of the letters, for archival purposes:
Fact: I have never said that crimes should go unpunished. However I am of the opinion that we need to peel the layers and discover the roots of these crimes, as heinous as they may be, and find a more holistic solution that will heal the society and victims, reform the perpetrators, and give us better knowledge on how to prevent such crimes from happening. Calling for blood and thinking that it is justice, is in my opinion not only a simplistic view which doesn’t help to solve any problems, but also a very contradictory position to have.
Indeed, murder and terrorism are heinous crimes against humanity. However some of those who are vehemently against these crimes, have spoken in favour of the most premeditated form of murder in which every single procedure is carefully timed and measured with the intention to kill, i. e., capital punishment. That sounds similarly heinous in itself, and I personally hold the principles behind “an eye for an eye” with utter contempt.
How about applying Urie Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory (of human development), as one of the ways to identify possible causes of crimes instead? Crimes, do not simply occur overnight. Alienation, harsh circumstances in the early years, abuse, trauma, discrimination, and extreme moments of desperation, along with low resiliency and the inability to seek for adequate options or in reality, the lack of options in itself, are some (note: I said, “some”) of the reasons that lead to crimes. It may be really easy for many of us to say that “Person A should have know better than to do this,” or “Perseverance is a value that Person B should embrace, instead of resorting to this”, but let’s remind ourselves that our lived experiences, realities, and challenges, might be entirely different from the ones whose crime we have condemned.
Of course, no one is obligated to agree with me. All I ask for is for everyone to reflect on, and question their personal stance once in awhile, before sending me death threats, spreading untruths, or send me emails with sexist remarks everytime I release a statement against State murder. Not that they actually bother me in the way that they were intended to, but I just feel that the time that was spent typing a death threat could have been spent on cognitively enriching activities such as reflecting, deconstructing (of personal thoughts), and further reading.
Urm… perhaps before hitting “send”, a grammar or spell-check might make your messages a little less hilarious.
“I wish you die by some thugs chop you into numarous peaces you uneducated bitch?!?!?!”
I nearly replied with an edited version.
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign
At the High Court this morning, Court 6C appeared more crowded than usual. It was then I realised that besides the re-sentencing of Cheong Chun Yin and Pang Siew Fum, it was also the day of sentencing for Michael Anak Garing and Tony Imba.
Anxious faces could be seen, and I was too, a bundle of nerves. Silently, I wished that everyone would go home with a sense of relief. I distracted myself by looking at what the security officers were doing, and tried to eavesdrop on the chatter between the lawyers present and the Prosecutors. Then we were called to rise as Justice Choo Han Teck took his seat.
Then the first process of the day began.
The microphones did not work too well, so we had to lean forward to hear what was going on. It did not help that my brain was having a conversation on its own – “Which one of the accused is Michael, and which is Tony?”, “Will we receive bad news today?”, “Chill woman, focus!”, and “Why am I suddenly so sleepy?”.
My heart sank a little when Tony, the second accused, was asked to stand. It is usually not a good sign for the first accused. Justice Choo announced that Tony would be sentenced to life imprisonment, and 24 strokes of the cane. Then, the Court was asked to rise for the sentence of death to be read out.
The mood was sombre. Everyone was silent, but I thought I could hear a sniffle from the row behind me. Michael’s death sentence was then passed.
“… you are hereby sentenced to be taken from here to a lawful prison and then to a place of execution where you shall be hanged by the neck until you are dead…”
Despite the fact that I have been on the campaign for 6 years now, that was actually the first time I was present in the courtroom when an individual was sentenced to death. I am still overwhelmed by how that moment felt, but I am unable to articulate it well enough to fully describe the intensity of it all.
Certainly, the victims did not deserve to be harmed. However, two wrongs do not make one right. State murder is still murder, and even more deliberately planned than the original crime, which was robbery with hurt (which led to the death of their victim). Michael, 26, is younger than me, and if all other avenues become exhausted in due time, he will no longer have a future or a chance to make amends in any other ways… for the noose is already halfway on its way to his neck.
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng
Disclaimer: I am expressing this with genuine amusement. It is a positive emotion okay? ;)
In Thailand: A man has been sentenced to 25 years in jail for an offensive Facebook post. Alamak, why sial?
In Malaysia: Several people who aren’t in the government’s favour, have been arrested, and are facing charges of sedition. Alamak again, why like that?
In China: 5 feminist activists are still under arrest for calling sexism out. So, lewd jokes about women in the official media is ok? Wow, is it too late to turn back time and return to being a ball of cells, so that I can try to grow a gigantic dick?
In Singapore: A teenager is assisting the police for the LKY death hoax, and another has been charged in court for posting an offensive video. Alamak, why are we taking them so seriously?
BUT when suppposedly well-educated, and very credible Asian politicians make derogatory remarks against any groups of people, including the religious, it seems ok and we hardly question them or throw them into jail for sedition. We even publish their remarks on the national mouthpieces for all to read.
Is that what we call… “Asian values”? Aiyoh, double standards leh, my dear sisters and brothers in Asia. How about treating royalties, politicians, and common citizens equally? WAIT, that’s “Evil Western Values”. Ok sorry, I will face the wall and think about what I have said.
Now, I wish that I am that community cat at the void deck. She can growl, scratch, walk away, and glare, but still gets good food and so much love.
Like I have said, this is all very amusing.
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng
To my dearest friends in Hong Kong,
I am in solidarity with you now, the way you have always been in solidarity with me, supporting my human rights work throughout the years.
Thank you for believing in the value of my work, and now comes the time for me to render you my moral support from where I am.
Yours in solidarity,