Thoughts upon witnessing the passing of a death sentence
April 20, 2015, 11:10 pm
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign

death-penaltyAt 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.



“Evil Western Values”
April 1, 2015, 4:23 am
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.

Meow.

Like I have said, this is all very amusing.



In solidarity with the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong
September 29, 2014, 7:30 pm
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng

image

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,
Rach

Related events:

Democracy Now! Singapore in Solidarity with Hong Kong

Calling for International Support for Democracy in Hong Kong



My letter to the Assistant Chief Executive and Chief Librarian of the National Library Board
July 9, 2014, 3:23 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore

Ms Tay Ai Ching
Assistant Chief Executive and Chief Librarian
Public Library Services Group
National Library Board

Dear Ms Tay,

I am writing in response to the news that two books have been taken off the catalogue and shelves of your libraries after receiving feedback that these books run in contrary to Singapore’s “pro-family” position.

I would like to emphasise that the two books which have been withdrawn from your shelves, are in no way contrary to Singapore’s “pro-family” position. As experience has informed me, “atypical” family units, for the lack of a better term, have been wrongly misunderstood and discriminated for far too long.

Having been an early childhood educator for the past 10 years, I have met and worked with children from different family backgrounds. While most of them come from the typical family unit consisting of biological parents who are in a heterosexual union, there are some who come from single parent families. I have also met children with parents of the same gender, as well as children living with adopted or foster parents. In most of these families, there exist a large amount of love and care despite the common fallacy that only families that derived from heterosexual unions are morally functional.

Due to society’s over-emphasis on what a typical family unit should be, some children from “atypical” family backgrounds do sometimes feel out of place. Being the odd ones out can hamper young children’s socio-emotional development, which in turn affects other areas of development. Hence, it is highly important that educators make the effort to create an inclusive learning environment that encourages acceptance and respect for one another. Furthermore it is the responsibility of educators to expose our students to concepts that exist in reality, in order to inculcate a sense of acceptance and respect for diversity within the local and global communities. This is one of the key purposes of education.

To achieve the abovementioned goals, educators should ideally provide materials that go beyond the narrow scope of what constitutes “normality” or “typicality”. This includes books such as And Tango Makes Three by Richardson and Parnell (2005), and The White Swan Express by Okimoto and Aoki (2002). Therefore I view the news with severe disappointment, especially when similar materials are few and rare in this overly conservative society.

Last but not least as a resource centre of knowledge, the National Library Board (NLB) should maintain a diverse collection of reading materials in your libraries that will cater to the educational needs of everyone from as young as 18 months old to those who are 60 and beyond. It should not limit the availability of knowledge by pandering to the standards of a conservative minority. I would like to take this opportunity to implore the NLB to put these two books back on the shelves of your libraries, as well as acquire a wider variety of such materials for the educational well-being of the public that the board seeks to serve.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,
Rachel Zeng (Ms)



Graffiti, the Circle A, and hilarious censorship
May 8, 2014, 12:56 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore

On the third anniversary of our last General Elections in Singapore where the People’s Action Party (PAP) saw a 60.1% victory and thus remained as the dominant political party in Parliament, some unknown individuals commemorated it by sprawling graffiti on the rooftop of a HDB flat at Toa Payoh Lorong 4. The graffiti said “F*** the PAP, wake up Singapore“, along with the Circle A which is the symbol of Anarchism. Here, take a look at it:

tpy1

What really amuses me was the effort put into scouting for a high rise building nestled in the heartlands, where surveillance cameras were nowhere in sight. I assumed that this was done by more than one individual, probably with a belay, and possibly inspired by this banner (see below) which was part of the effort to protest against the World Trade Organisation in Seattle in 1999. Visibility is always the main priority, and they’ve nailed it. I will give them an A+ for this.

Hanging In The Seattle Sky. Activists warn that the WTO is dangerous to democracy

However, I just don’t understand why the Circle A has to be used here. It is totally irrelevant.

An anarchist who knows and understands the fundamental principles of the ideology is not in support of any political parties and structures including the opposition parties. A real anarchist will write “Sack the Government, give the power back to the people“, “Down with the establishment“, and/or “Kill capitalism, it kills” instead of wasting such a prominent space for such a weak message that actually sounds kind of juvenile. This is obviously not an attempt to promote the anarchist cause, and will certainly lead to a lot of misunderstandings about the fundamental principles of the ideology. I may be wrong but then again, they get an F grade for the wasted opportunity to express a more substantial message, and the misuse of the Circle A.

Then again, the award of Epic Failure of the Day goes to the Straits Times for their censorship of the image published on their website. Here, I’ve got a screenshot:

By pixelating “PAP” along with “F***“, it certainly gave new significance to the acronym of the party’s name…

10277833_10152021838477026_5932669481039574994_n

Oh yes, censorship is so PAPPED up, don’t you think?



Some thoughts on the debate surrounding the Women’s Charter
April 26, 2014, 2:05 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Gender, Singapore

womens charter

The debate on the whether the Women’s Charter should be reviewed and renamed has surfaced again, and rightly so.

For many years now, I view it with disdain as I consider many aspects of the Women’s Charter outdated and hence, irrelevant to our society in this day and age.

Being outdated, several aspects of the Women’s Charter have contributed to the flawed understanding of feminism and feminists, as well as the movement to achieve gender equity. Unintentionally, these aspects also contribute towards the continuation of gender stereotypes, and gender discrimination.

Now, the Women’s Charter was relevant at a time when women were held disadvantaged by feudal practices when it came to marriage and gender. It was indeed a great achievement in the quest to emancipate women from such disadvantaged positions. In order to maintain its relevancy however, it should also be progressively reviewed so as to achieve greater equity within the society whose members the Act strives to protect.

Regarding the debate, some have called for the total abolition of alimony while others think that alimony should stay. I feel that the issue cannot be debated or discussed based on such a binary as there are many factors we have to consider. So here are my thoughts:

For those seeking for the abolition of alimony, I hope you will consider this –

Although in this day and age whereby the employment opportunities and education levels of women have improved, it is still not going to be a smooth sailing journey for women to immediately get a job after being full time home makers for several years. Alimony when granted, should cover this period of time as it is just fair to ensure that women who were fully dependent on their former partners, are able to financially survive while attempting to get back into the workforce again. The amount should be reasonable, and equivalent to the amount she was being supported with before.

For those who insist that alimony should solely be granted to women –

This is pure sexism, and promotes the idea that women are an inferior and are not able to support themselves. This insistence also discriminates men who have been home makers, and dependent on their wives financially. They should equally be eligible for alimony as well, in the time where they try to get back into the workforce.

This hasn’t been brought up as far as I have read, but should be considered –

Where children are involved, I am of the opinion that both parents should contribute to a child support fund, that will ensure that children coming from broken families do not suddenly become financially disadvantaged as a result of the divorce – something which they did not ask for.

Custody of children – 

Granting of custody should seriously cease to be bias. Society should cease to see men as inferior individuals when it comes to providing a nurturing and supportive environment for their children, and women should ceased to be seen as having more ability to do so.

In addition, no parent should restrict the other of visitation rights unless there are concrete evidences that this will put their children in dangerous positions of being harmed (e.g., all forms of abuse).

Regarding the name of the Women’s Charter –

Let’s just name it the Family Charter, or Family Law Act instead, because this is what it is all about.



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.




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