How do we identify a police officer?
June 2, 2016, 7:01 pm
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore

Growing up in Singapore, I have always been informed that we should always request for a proof of identity should any police officers approach us. As an early childhood educator, I have sat through educational talks by the police on their profession, and they have said the same thing to students in schools I have worked with and that is – police officers carry a card that identifies them as police officers, and to avoid being victims to impersonators, we should always ask to see the police identification cards. Thus, I was deeply troubled when I heard that two of the investigating officers who had searched Soh Lung’s residence, did not have their police identity cards with them. One of them, Inspector Diyana, had even claimed that she had left her badge “in the car” when she was questioned. The video can be viewed here.

Puzzled, I spent 2 evenings searching for information on whether plainclothes police officers are exempted from carrying their identification/ warrant cards or badges. I found an article dated September 27, 2010 in which the police spokesperson had said:

sept2010article

I have also found a recent article informing the public about the new features on the police warrant cards aiming to prevent identity fraud and impersonation, published on Channel News Asia’s website. The article ended with the following:

march2016article

Most importantly, good ol’ Google led me to the Singapore Police Force’s Facebook page. On it, I found this old post dating back to June 15, 2011:

police warrant card

Well I am not sure whether police protocols regarding this issue has changed but from what I have found so far, anyone who claims to be part of the Singapore Police Force do have to present their warrant cards when requested by any members of the public. So why were the two officers allowed to conduct a search of Soh Lung’s residence without their warrant cards?

Perhaps SPF could enlighten us here on this matter rather than releasing a joint statement with the Elections Department (the informant of the case) over the alleged breaches of Cooling-Off Day regulations, which in my humble opinion, should not have been done in respect of the neutrality of SPF as an institution when investigating claims made by the informant, i.e., the ELD.



What’s wrong, ELD?
May 29, 2016, 12:53 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore

ELD

News broke on Friday that the Elections Department (ELD) had lodged a police report against Teo Soh Lung, Roy Ngerng, and The Independent Singapore (TISG) for their posts made on 6 May, which happened to be the Cooling-off Day for the Bukit Batok by-elections. My personal understanding of the regulations for this ridiculous day is that it does not apply to anyone else except for political parties and their advertising platforms so it was rather puzzling as to why the ELD had found fault with Soh Lung, Roy, and TISG.

Here’s what I gathered from the ELD’s website:

“The eve of Polling Day is designated as Cooling-Off Day, a day when election campaigning is prohibited. This 24-hour campaign silence period is to give voters some time to reflect rationally on issues raised during the election before going to the polls.

There are some exceptions to the prohibition of campaign activities on Cooling-Off Day:

a. Party political broadcasts on television;
b. Reports in the newspapers, on radio and television relating to election matters;
c. Approved posters and banners that were already up, and lawful Internet advertising that was already published before the eve of Polling Day;
d. Books previously scheduled for publication;
e. The transmission of personal political views by individuals to other individuals, on a non-commercial basis, using the Internet, telephone or electronic means; and
f. Such activities or circumstances as may be prescribed by the Minister.

The above exception list, other than party political broadcast, also applies to Polling Day.”

1. Roy expressed his support for Dr Chee on his personal FB and blog;
2. Soh Lung expressed her support for Dr Chee on her personal FB;
3. TISG, while being a political news site, is not affiliated to any political parties, and should be accorded equal immunity status as mainstream media.

Do correct me if I am wrong, but I do not see how Roy, Soh Lung, and The Independent Singapore contravened the regulations of Cooling-off Day.

I am also deeply troubled by the last line of point number 3 of the ELD’s press release which reads, “The two individuals – Teo Soh Lung and Roy Ngerng – also regularly engage in the propagation, promotion, and discussion of political issues.”

Doesn’t the government and their departments regularly engage in the propagation, promotion, and discussion of political issues through the media, education system (especially through the use of history textbooks), and other online and offline platforms too?

Really, what is so wrong about anyone engaging in political discussions, or expressing opinions that are critical of the official narratives on a regular basis? In my opinion, these actions symbolise active citizenry, and all of us do hold the right to form and express opinions even if they are not complementary to the actions and narratives of the government. If Soh Lung and Roy were singled out because they regularly engage in the propagation, promotion, and discussion of political issues,” then we have an issue here – our freedom of political expression is at stake.

Therefore as a concerned citizen whose taxes go into funding the existence of the ELD (I mean, we don’t get a choice do we?), I am asking the ELD this question “Is there a political motivation to clamp down on the expression of critical views through this act of singling out some notable individuals for the slaughterhouse?”

I hope that ELD can clarify here because even after reading their press statement and the regulations for Cooling-off Day side by side for the 50th time, I still remain baffled by and filled with questions for their action.



In the memory of Francis Seow
January 21, 2016, 11:56 pm
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Internal Security Act

I just received the news that Francis Seow, former Solicitor-General, Law Society president and ISA detainee, has passed away. He was 88, and lived as an exile since 1988.

In his memory, I would like to share the following video interview in which he describes his views on Singapore and the Lee Kuan Yew government.

Rest in peace Mr Francis Seow, and my deepest condolences to those who hold him dear.



The “psychopath” has returned to a warm welcome
September 10, 2015, 12:50 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, GE2015, Singapore
Photo taken on 3 September, at SDP's first rally.

Photo taken on 3 September, at SDP’s first rally.

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.



The myth of equality between an NCMP and an elected MP
September 8, 2015, 10:43 pm
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, GE2015, Singapore
A screenshot of Yahoo's report on 6 September 2015.

A screenshot of Yahoo’s report on 6 September 2015.

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.

constitution article 39
I do not want to assume that this may be deliberate but if so, this is not the way to win an election especially if one is a former Prime Minister who should have known better.



Sex and having children out of wedlock are neither crimes nor immoral
August 7, 2015, 1:09 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Gender, Singapore

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:

unwed mums did make choices that led to their situation unequal benefits for single unwed mums a matter of deterrenceintention was not to draw parallel between single mothers and criminals



The “Stubborn Windbag” Clarifies
May 1, 2015, 4:37 pm
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign

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.