Singapore Media Watch

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Ravi's "arrest": more than meets the eye

In the above article published on TODAY on 26 September 2006, Loh Chee Kong reported that Mr Ravi was warded at a private psychiatric hospital and could not represent his clients in a court case involving two Falungong members who were charged in August with displaying insulting words on a banner opposite the Chinese Embassy.

"His clients told the court Mr Ravi was warded at a private psychiatric hospital. They also claimed he had been questioned by the police before that - supposedly for creating a disturbance - but could not substantiate that claim."

Singaporeans who do not know Mr Ravi in person may form an unfavorable impression after reading the following sentences in the report:

1. Mr Ravi was warded at a private psychiatric hospital: Mental illness is still regarded as a stigma for many Singaporeans who associated it with "insanity" outright. This statement gave readers a false impression that Mr Ravi was suffering from a mental illness though there was no mention elsewhere of his actual diagnosis.

2. It is therefore not unreasonable to extrapolate from here that Mr Ravi is mentally unsound whose words and actions cannot be taken seriously by a mature, understanding adult in the street. It may also serve as a convenient explanation for his recent brush with the authorities who deemed his "antics" such as fighting legal suits on the behalf of Falungong members and Dr Chee as "bizzare".

3. The author has taken efforts to highlight the fact that Mr Ravi has been penalized four times by the Law Society. What we do not know is what offence Mr Ravi has committed and is it acceptable for lawyers to be penalized 4 times for the same offence in the Singapore legal context. A reader will hence be led to believe that Mr Ravi is an errant, unprofessional and even an unethical lawyer.

Now, contrast what you have just read to a report on the admission of a local singer, Mavis Hee to IMH in June 2006 by the same daily:

1. Mavis was reported to be creating a din at the Carlton hotel and was sent by the Police to IMH. The exact reason for her arrest and subsequent admission was make known: "The 31-year-old Hee tailed the guest - a stranger - from the hotel lobby to the guest room, before barging into the room."

2. In another report by Channel NewsAsia, (
view/216361/1/.html), doctors from IMH were interviewed and with apparent referral to Mavis, they stressed that admission to IMH does not mean a patient is mentally ill.

Let us examine carefully the discrepancies inherent in the article on Mr Ravi:

The reason for Mr Ravi's admission to a psychiatric institution was not made known clearly unlike Mavis's case. What we have are merely vague reports which cannot be substantiated: "His clients told......They also claimed he was questioned by the police before that - supposedly for creating a disturbance - but could not substantiate that claim."

However, this does not seem to be the modus operandi of TODAY or any newspaper. If Mr Ravi did indeed have a mental condition, why wasn't it reported like Mavis? Why did the writer choose to take us on a merry-go-round by using his clients' "claims" to create the impression amongst readers that Mr Ravi is mentally unsound?

There can only be 2 reasons:

1. Mr Ravi did not have a mental condition at all and was confined to a psychiatric hospital for non-medical reasons.

Based on the UTHCPC procedures for general psychiatric admission, Mr Ravi can only be admitted for the following conditions:


2. The doctors did not have a diagnosis of Mr Ravi's condition yet. This is highly improbable as all admissions to a psychiatric hospital, whether voluntary or involuntary, must be clinically justified by the admitting psychiatrist, according to the American Psychiatric Association guidelines. (

Based solely on the information we have from TODAY, we can only conclude that Mr Ravi had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital. We do not know the reasons for the admission or are we aware of his status now since the media has not followed up with subsequent updates yet.

Interestingly, the Epoch Times claimed that Mr Ravi was "confined" in a mental institution 2 days later:

1. It was revealed that Mr Ravi was arrested on 19 September by the Police on the day he was to travel to Geneva to address the UN Human Rights Council.

2. According to Mr Ravi's younger sister Seeniamah, he was sedated against his will and committed to Singapore's Adam Road Hospital. He did not suffer from mental illness, according to acquaintances.

The conflicting reports in both papers make it hard to discern the actual events surrounding Mr Ravi's arrest. If you have read only TODAY's article, you may not have questioned its factual accuracy and even believe what was reported. But now you have read another side of the story from the Epoch Times, we need to ask ourselves what information might be withdrawn from Singaporeans which has the effect, whether intentionally or unintentionally of distorting the real picture:

1. When was Mr Ravi arrested? Is it on 19 September or on 25 September, the day before TODAY's article was published?

2. Why was he arrested? If he caused a public nuisance, what exactly did he do or say? (Remember in Mavi's case, this was meticulously documented).

3. What was his medical diagnosis? If he is certified to have a mental condition, can a psychiatrist step forward to confirm it?

4. How long will Mr Ravi be kept in confinement? Is it in accordance to practice guidelines of psychiatry?

Based on logical and critical analysis, we can safely conclude that there is insufficient evidence to substantiate the claim by TODAY that Mr Ravi was arrested for psychiatric reasons. If not, why was he arrested? If he was indeed arrested on 19 September, could it be a ploy to prevent him from leaving for Geneva?

We must remember that in 2005, Ravi did make a successful visit to the UN—to the now defunct Commission on Human Rights. There, he raised Singapore authorities' ire by successfully lobbying the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston to publicly speak out against a case of mandatory death sentencing in the city state.

I doubt the truth will be reveal in its entirety, we can continue to speculate, make wild guesses and formulate conspiracy theories. The lesson to be learn is to take what is reported in the state media with a pinch of salt. They may not go to the extent to report untruths, but subtle inneudoes inserted will have the same effect of distorting the truth.

Heeding the PM's call to speak up

The Singapore Media Watch was set up in response to PM Lee's speech on 24 September 2006 urging Singaporeans to speak up and participate in nation building.

The members of the editorial team were so inspired and touched by the PM's sincerity and motivation that we felt compelled to do something about it.

As the PM did not outline what could and could not be said, we assume he trusts Singaporeans' maturity to speak up on the right issues in a meaningful and constructive manner.

We chose to focus on the media because it plays a critical and direct role in stimulating the interests of citizens in current affairs of the nation.

The present state of the media in Singapore leaves much to be desired. The Straits Times was ranked 140th amongst 167 countries in 2005 on the World Press Freedom Index conducted yearly by Reporters without Borders, an international media watchdog.

The role of the media has been reduced de facto to nothing more than a mouthpiece of the government over the years to fully "exploit" it as a tool in the name of "nation building".

There is little or no critical analysis or commentary on local politics. The leadership is always seen as right, flawless and perfect. They "know the best" to tell Singaporeans what to do while citizens who dare to express dissent or contrary views are suppressed.

Given such circumstances, it is not surprising most Singaporeans are either apathetic or ignorant of the nation's affairs. If Singaporeans are not even concerned or aware of what is going on, how do you expect them to speak up?

In October 2005, Frank Lavin, the out-going U.S. ambassador to Singapore criticized the government's restrictions on free speech in a rare public rebuttal.

Mr Levin said it was "surprising to find constraints on discussions here" given Singapore's strong international links in the economic sector. "In this era of Weblogs and Webcams, how much sense does it make to limit political expression?"

As Singaporeans become increasingly exposed to online foreign publications, blogs and forums, they will notice a glaring gulf between what was reported locally and elsewhere. The lack of plurality of views will further alienate a segment of the population to embrace the "alternative media" whose views are essentially anti-establishment.

In the long run, this could possibly lead to a polarization of Singapore's society, with a generation that is skeptical and distrustful of the government.

We can already see this happening in some internet forums where bashing of the governing authorities goes on unfettered.

SPH's recent purchase of Hardware Zone and the setting up of STOMP are viewed with suspicion by the online community as a government's 'ploy' to micro-manage the internet.

In this information age where news can be obtained from anywhere in the world with the click of a mouse, it is impossible to control or modulate what citizens read.

A moderate degree of fairness and freedom in local press coverage will go far towards encouraging active citizenry and meaningful dialogue between citizens and the government.

To borrow a quote from Martin Luther King: "Our days begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter". Let the media be liberalized and allow Singaporeans to speak up freely without any fear.

Singapore Locks up Rights Lawyer in Mental Hospital - Epoch Times

By Jaya Gibson
Epoch Times Staff deported to Sydney
Sep 28, 2006

Singapore authorities have forced the city-state's leading human rights attorney, Madasamy Ravi, into a psychiatric institution, The Epoch Times has learned. Ravi's hospitalization, which sources say is against his will, follows his legal defense of eleven Falun Gong practitioners in a series of cases which Ravi believes are politically motivated.

Falun Gong adherents believe the Singapore government is prosecuting the cases to please the Chinese communist regime, which persecutes Falun Gong.

Ravi was arrested on September 19, said his younger sister Seeniamah. Singapore officials arrested Ravi on the day he was to travel to Geneva to address the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Ravi had told The Epoch Times he would speak to the Council on Singapore court irregularities he had witnessed during his most recent defense of Falun Gong adherents in the Singapore Subordinate court, as well as on the court's lack of independence.

Two days later, he was sedated against his will and committed to Singapore's Adam Road Hospital, Seeniamah said.

In the days between Ravi's arrest and his commitment, he was released "conditionally" into the care of his family, said family members. Police then reportedly told Ravi's family that he would be jailed, and that they would have no access to him—unless they agreed to have him committed. Ravi's brother Sivam signed the commitment papers.

He does not suffer from mental illness, according to acquaintances.
A source close to Ravi, whose anonymity will be kept for safety reasons, managed to visit him on Thursday, September 22. Ravi appeared in good health, but said that he was being held against his will and wanted to be released immediately. Ravi said he "did not feel safe" at the hospital, said the source.

In 2005, Ravi did make a successful visit to the UN—to the now defunct Commission on Human Rights. There, he raised Singapore authorities' ire by successfully lobbying the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston to publicly speak out against a case of mandatory death sentencing in the city state.

Following his reporting on the Singapore trials of Falun Gong practitioners as well as the protests at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meetings in Singapore earlier this month, this reporter was regularly monitored and followed by local police.

Upon returning to Singapore after a brief trip to Europe, this reporter was detained by immigration authorities and deported to Australia on September 25. No reason was given for the deportation.

At the time of writing Ravi remains hospitalized. All attempts by The Epoch Times to gain access to him have been blocked by hospital officials. The Singapore state press has reported that the trial of Falun Gong practitioners will be postponed until next month as a result of his absence. The trail was due to continue on Monday, September 25.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Statement of the Far Eastern Economic Review - September 28, 2006

The Singaporean government today announced that it has banned the Far Eastern Economic Review from the country. It has explicitly warned that not only is the Review Publishing Company forbidden from importing or distributing the Hong Kong-based monthly, but Singaporeans will also commit a criminal offense if they import or reproduce the magazine for distribution.

In its September issue, the Review urged the Singaporean government to reconsider its decision to impose punitive regulations on the Review. These retroactive regulations furthered the interests of individual members of the government and harmed the magazine financially, but were never justified by the government under the applicable law.

Today’s statement shows that the government has refused to reconsider its repressive approach toward the media. We regret that this action infringes on the fundamental rights of our Singaporean subscribers and further restricts the already narrow scope of free expression in Singapore. The Review will publish a more complete response to the government’s actions in the next issue of the magazine to appear on October 6.

Singapore’s Shame

It is not surprising to learn that the Singapore government has enforced new rules on your respected publication and others for the “privilege” of circulating in the city-state.

The reasons behind these new requirements, including paying a security deposit and the appointment of a legal representative in Singapore, are obvious. It is done to silence you and all the other media, preventing reporting on any matters that the Singaporean leaders regard as undesirable.

The Singapore leadership’s libel suits against the leading publications of the world are legendary and make the idea of free, responsible reporting a joke.

Hasn’t the time arrived for the media world to come together and fight back? The publications named, most of which have had to pay fines or live with restricted circulation, are owned by the most respected media houses in the world. If all of them were not available on newsstands in Singapore, I have no doubt who would lose out most.

Gary Kitching
Hong Kong

Singapore bans FEER - from Reuters

September 28 2006
By Sara Webb

SINGAPORE, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Singapore's government said on Thursday that it had banned the sale and distribution of the Far Eastern Economic Review, a monthly magazine owned by Dow Jones & Co. , as it failed to comply with its press regulations.

On Aug. 3 the government ordered five foreign publications -- the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER), Time, Newsweek, Financial Times and the International Herald Tribune -- to post bonds of S$200,000 ($126,000) and appoint representatives in Singapore.

Later in August, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, both filed defamation suits against FEER's publisher and editor over an article that it published in July about opposition politician Chee Soon Juan, according to court documents.

The Ministry of Information, Communications, and the Arts said in a statement on Thursday that it had revoked its approval for FEER's sale and distribution in Singapore because the magazine had failed to comply with the government's conditions.

"It is a privilege and not a right for foreign newspapers to circulate in Singapore," the ministry said, adding that it was now an offence for any person to sell or distribute, import, or subscribe to the Far Eastern Economic Review.

The Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review said it was unaware of Singapore's decision.

Singapore's leaders have won hefty damages in the past from media groups including the Economist, the International Herald Tribune, Bloomberg and FinanceAsia.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, which ranks Singapore 140th out of 167 countries for press freedom, slammed the government's decision in August to issue restrictions for the five foreign publications.

"The authorities are looking for effective ways, including fear of prosecution and heavy fines, to intimidate these publications into censoring themselves," the media watchdog said at the time, as the S$200,000 bonds would serve as security in any future government lawsuit for alleged defamation.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Firing up the post-65ers - TODAY 28 Sept 2006

PM wants them to make noise but they are just finding their voice
Christie Loh
News analysis

Review by the Editorial Team

In the above article, TODAY's journalist Christie Loh wrote approvingly of PM Lee's forward thinking and openness in engaging the young.

The selective and clever choice of words used in the article seek to impress and convince readers that PM Lee is an approachable, warm and sincere leader whose thinking and mindset are in sync with young Singaporeans:

1. "This evening, I have been trying to get people to put their hands up to speak." quipped Mr Lee.

2. This was the 12th time a PM of the country had held a dialogue with young Singaporeans.

3. Mr Lee wanted more crossfire.

4. No issue was taboo.

5. The openness impressed participants...

6. ...applauded Mr Lee for his "warmth"....and being "not condescending".

Journalists are aware that most readers will browse through papers without probing deeper into the writers' intentions and the influence it will exert on their perception.

Selective and repeated use of certain words or group of words will invariably create a positive or negative impression in readers' mind of a certain person or event covered by the article.

If is often repeated and reinforced, readers will be led to believe it is the "truth" which seldom reflects reality. We all know there are no clear-cut "whites" and "blacks", "rights" or "wrongs" in life.

This positive appraisal and endorsement of PM Lee by the media has been gaining momentum since he took over the reins of government from Mr Goh Chok Tong in 2004.

Though not quite similar to the cult cultivation practiced by China's Xinhua agency of Chairman Mao during the Cultural Revolution, the methodology used is the same. The imprints it has left on Singaporeans' mind of PM Lee is a caring leader who understands the aspirations of young Singaporeans.

Does PM Lee really want Singaporeans to "make a nuisance"?

My mother used to tell me when I was young not to trust people easily. One can only determine who are one's real friends after years of observation. Similarly, we can only make a reasonable and objective judgment of PM Lee based on his words and actions as a Prime Minister so far.

In his augural speech as PM in 2004, Mr Lee calls for Singaporeans to build an "open and inclusive society." Let us refresh some of PM Lee's government handling of citizens' "making noises" over the past one year to assess for ourselves whether he does indeed practice what he preaches. These are widely reported in the Straits Times and TODAY. We leave you to make your own judgment on whether PM Lee truly deserves the accolades bestowed on him by the media or perhaps, it doesn't quite match his deeds in real life.

1. On 11 August 2005, 4 unarmed civilians planted themselves outside the CPF building to protest against the lack of transparency and accountability in certain institutions such as NKF, GIC, CPF and HDB. They were promptly wrisked away by a squad of fully armed riot police of 30.

2. Local flim-maker Martyn See was hauled up by the Police for producing a "political film" on opposition politician Dr Chee Soon Juan entitled "Singapore Rebel". The film was withdrawn from the Singapore Flim Festival on 10 May 2005 and was seized by the police. See was questioned several times by the Police, together with his acquaintances. He was eventually not charged with any offence and was given a "severe warning" for producing the film.

3. On 12 September 2005, 3 bloggers were charged under the Sedition Act for posting derogatory remarks on Malays and Islam on their personal blogs. Two were sentenced to terms in prisons while one 17- year old was sentenced to 180 hours of community service with the Malay community.

4. Buangkok MRT had remained close since its completion in 2003 as authorities believed it is not commercially viable to do so. Residents' repeated appeals and petitions were not successful and the end consequence was eight cardboard cartoons of white elephants lined a road to greet a minister on his visit to the area. When the long awaited station was opened in January 2006, a group of students from Raffles Girls Secondary School decided to raise funds for their commuity project by selling T-shirts emblazoned with white elephants at the station. They were later warned by the Police that "such acts may be misconstrued as mischief".

5. The Singapore Democratic Party was sued by PM Lee for defamation for alleging the government knows about the misgovernance of NKF and yet remained quiet about it. PM Lee argued that the reputation and credibility of his government will be undermined if such allegations are not rebutted. 6 out of 8 CEC members of the SDP have since apologized and retracted their statements. The remaining two plaintiffs, Dr Chee Soon Juan and Ms Chee Siok Chin chose to fight against the suit. A summary judgment was awarded against them by the High Court

6. In a most glaring blunder, PM Lee said during a lunch-time pre-election rally at Raffles place that "should there be 10 to 15 opposition members in Parliament, he has to spend time thinking how to "fix" his opponents by buy his supporters' votes". Channel NewsAsia had initially moderate his speech to "counter the opposition" on its website, but with the original transcripts widely spread on the internet, the Straits Times publish a full account of the speech together with PM Lee's apology the day after.

7. In July 2006, Mr Brown, a guest writer for TODAY, was reprimanded by the government for his satire on the uncanny coincidental timing of price hikes after the General Election. In an unusually harsh rebuttal to Mr Brown (and indirectly to TODAY), Ms K Bhavani, press secretary to Ministry of Information, Communication and Arts criticised Mr Brown for "distorting the truth and offered no solutions". Ms Bhavani added that opinions widely circulated in a regular column in a serious newspaper should meet higher standards. Her parting words: "It is not the role of journalists or newspapers in Singapore to champion issues, or campaign for or against the Government." Mr Brown's regular column in TODAY was subsequently suspended "indefinitely". In the following week, 30 Singaporeans wearing brown T-shirts gathered at City Hall MRT in a show of solidarity for the beleaguered writer had their NRIC numbers taken down by plain-cloth Police though they are not causing any disruption to the traffic.

8. Mr Seelan Peelai, a Singapore artist, was arrested by the Police for starting a "400 frowns" campaign on the internet to counter the government's 4 million smiles project in a coordinated effort to welcome delegates of the IMF-WB meeting. His fate remains unknown.

Make noise, but make the right one

Is PM Lee's continued exhortations to young Singaporeans to speak up really his real intentions or is it merely a facade put up to attract young voters? One interesting observation is that PM Lee has chosen to engage only the Post-65ers so far, and not the middle-aged working class or the elderly. Don't the voices of these people matter too?

Young Singaporeans with limited experience in working life are easily impressionable. Given the "depoliticalizing" of Singaporeans over the years by the state and media, young people are generally less radical and extreme politically and even if they are, they have few resources or connections to seriously mount a threat and "rock the boat".

These post-65ers will form a critical bulk of voters by the next GE in 2011. It is therefore crucial for the ruling party to prepare the battleground early by winning their hearts and minds. By speaking on terms with them, appearing to be understanding and accommodating to their concerns and aspirations and constant engaging them, PM Lee is effectively wooing the young over to his side.

In a country where the government is perceived to be almost faultless, it is little wonder how "making noises" by citizens will have any influence on policy-making and thereby Singapore's future. Ironically, the only way to do so is through the ballot and it is strange and baffling that PM Lee did not encourage young Singaporeans to join alternative political parties to make the "right noises" through the "right medium".

Thou shalt not speak

The message PM Lee is sending to Singaporeans seems to be mixed: You are encourage to speak up but not on issues which will irritate us. It is not hard to discern where the OB markers are based on speeches given by key cabinet leaders.

1. Political leaders: In a country reputed for its clean squeaky image, it is surprising that its leaders are seldom subjected to close scrutiny for their performance by the media and citizens. Long a taboo topic in Singapore, self-censorship is rampant and prevailing when it comes to questioning our leaders' words and actions. Journalists are only allowed to report or endorse what the leaders say without adding their own views, analysis or criticism.

2. Political system: MM Lee's recent remarks on maintaining the present system of government which has served the nation well since independence is a timely reminder to Singaporeans to maintain the status quo. However, what defines the "system" is open to debate. Does it refer to the present political system where one party dominates the Parliament, the control of the media by the governing authorities or its unique multi-racial meritocracy? For whatever reasons, MM Lee chose not to elaborate on what "system" he had put into place and how he wants the present crop of leaders to perpetuate its existence.

3. Government policies: The lack of a politically conscious civil society and a free media in Singapore means that ordinary citizens have no recourse to feedback or influence government policies. While they are allowed to vent their unhappiness and frustrations in a controlled manner through the mainstream media, attempts to influence public perception are often quickly clamped down hard and fast as evident in the recent Mr Brown's saga.

4. Media: In an interview last year on Singapore's 140th ranking in the World Press Freedom index conducted by international media watchdog Reporters without Borders, SM Goh remarked he is not too concerned with the ranking, further adding that western-style journalism is incompatible with the national interests of an ethnically diverse country like Singapore. His view was reiterated repeatedly by MM Lee, PM Lee and other ministers who continued to emphasize the anointed role of the media as a compliant partner in the nation-building process, following obediently the agenda set by the government and not the other way round.

5. Race and religion: The government has often recounted the racial riots of the 1960s as the prime reason for prosecuting citizens who make insensitive remarks on race and religion as exemplified by the incarceration of 2 bloggers who made "seditious" remarks on Malays and Islam last year. The mainstream media has also threaded carefully on issues involving race and religion by keeping sensitive issues out of the ambit of public discussion.

6. Judiciary: The decisions of the judiciary were seldomed questioned in public. Any efforts made to "undermine" the integrity and independence of the judiciary are countered swiftly with serious repercussions for the "offender".

In October 2005, Frank Lavin, the out-going U.S. ambassador to Singapore criticized the government's restrictions on free speech in a rare public rebuttal. Mr Levin said it was "surprising to find constraints on discussions here" given Singapore's strong international links in the economic sector. "In this era of Weblogs and Webcams, how much sense does it make to limit political expression?"

The urge to young Singaporeans to speak up may be a first sign of the government's acknowledgement of the proliferation of alternative media in today's IT age. How far it will relax its restrictions on free and open speech remains to be seen. So far, the signs are not encouraging. If PM Lee is serious and sincere about "building an open and inclusive society" he should do some introspection on why it is so difficult to get Singaporeans to speak up. For the time-being, most Singaporeans will rather err on the side of caution than to say the "wrong" thing in a moment of folly and regret for life.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

House angered by Lee's RI Chinese comments - The Jakarta Post

World News - September 26, 2006
Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Angry lawmakers are demanding a public apology and explanation from Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew after he reportedly said the minority Chinese-Indonesian community was being systematically marginalized.

"The statement is full of lies. We are very upset because it has disgraced Indonesia. We will ask the government to send a letter of protest to Lee," Djoko Susilo, a member of the House of Representatives' Commission I overseeing security and international affairs, told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Djoko, who represents the National Mandate Party (PAN), said there was no longer discrimination or systematic marginalization of the ethnic Chinese here.

"Now, the minority Chinese has access to all positions, even in the military. We even have ministers and lawmakers from the ethnic group."

According to reports, Lee told a forum in Singapore it was vital for the Chinese majority state to stand up to its majority Muslim neighbors, Malaysia and Indonesia.

He said the attitude of Malaysia and Indonesia toward Singapore had been shaped by the way the countries treated their own ethnic Chinese minorities.

"Our neighbors both have problems with their Chinese. They are successful. They are hard working and, therefore, they are systematically marginalized," Lee was quoted as saying.
Malaysian leaders also have reportedly demanded an apology from Lee.

Another lawmaker from Commission I, Amris Hassan of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), criticized Lee's remarks for the danger they posed to Indonesian unity as well as ASEAN's good relations.

"It is very dangerous for our unity because the false feeling of some people here will be justified, and they will think that marginalization really exists. Beside obstructing our bilateral relations, the remarks also hinder the process of establishing the ASEAN community."

Amris said Lee should issue a public apology, rectify his statement and explain what he meant not only to Indonesian leaders but also to the Indonesian people.

Indonesians of Chinese descent account for approximately 3 percent, or around six million, of the country's 220 million population.

Then president B.J. Habibie issued a decree ordering government officials to treat all Indonesians the same after he took power in 1998. In 1999, he renewed the call by issuing a decree banning discrimination against Indonesians based on their origins.

It was during the presidency of his successor, Abdurrahman Wahid, that Chinese-Indonesians were allowed to practice their faith and have cultural performances in public.

However, almost a decade after the antidiscrimination regulations, reports continue of persistent discriminative administrative policies in obtaining birth certificates, ID cards, family card and a citizenship certificate (SBKRI).

"We should analyze Lee's statement carefully because I think this time his remarks were not a slip of the tongue," Hariyadi Wirawan, an international relations expert at the University of Indonesia, told the Post.

"He's aiming at something. Probably, Indonesia is pressing Singapore on returning 'blacklisted' businesspeople, who happen to be ethnic Chinese who fled to the country, in recent extradition talks."

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What you don't read in the Straits Times and TODAY

NGOs to sue Singapore, WB-IMF for abuse at airport:

"I was grilled by six hours by Singapore Police." 2006091519851500.htm

Singapore detains reporter covering sensitive trial:

Monday, September 25, 2006

Better to call a spade, a spade - TODAY, 25 Sept 2006

News comment by Kim Quek

In this article, the author, presumably a Malaysian political commentator, wrote favorably in support of MM Lee's recent jibe on Malaysia marginalizing of their Chinese population. He has argued passionately for MM Lee's case, citing the NEP-inspired policies and the brain drain of Malaysian Chinese as examples to prove his point. He ends off with an exhortation of the "silent majority" in Malaysia to face up to reality and do some serious introspection.

The underlying political message inherent in this article is subtle, seeking to influence and moderate readers' perception after days of negative reports across the causeway of Malaysian leaders berating MM Lee. Most readers will be led to believe that MM Lee is justified in his comments on Malaysia after reading this article and thereby absolve him of any blame for the diplomatic fallout we may suffer as a consequence of his speech. MM Lee's comments and the subsequent backlash from Malaysian leaders are widely reported in the ST and TODAY. What is deafening is the absence of any objective analysis or critiques of the intention and impact of MM Lee's speech on bilateral relations (which is widely available on the internet).

The intention of this article by a Malaysian supporting MM Lee is obvious:

1. To justify MM Lee's statements that Malaysia Chinese are indeed marginalized in Malaysia.

2. To assauge the dissatisfaction of some Singaporeans who believe MM Lee's statements are uncalled for.

3. To buffer any potential political and diplomatic fallout in the days to come.

As a Malaysian, the author can be forgiven for believing and supporting MM Lee's remarks. However, as a Singaporean, I am not concerned at all about the fate of Malaysian Chinese. Whether they are marginalized or not in their own country has no bearing on me or my fellow citizens.

The issue is not about the bumiputra policy, whether Malaysian Chinese are indeed marginalized or if the NEP is wrong. It is about the relevance, necessity and validity of a statement made by a senior leader of the cabinet, regardless of its degree of truth, is unwelcome, provocative and rude.

Imagine if one day, Malaysia or Indonesia leaders start to comment on the marginalization of Malays in Singapore or the influx of Chinese nationals here, will our leaders or Singaporeans be pleased? Will this contribute to the stability or prosperity of Singaporeans?

Not long ago, Taiwanese politician Li Ao made a snide comment on Singaporeans being "stupid" and he was lambasted by both the media and Singaporeans alike. Similarly, we should also respect the feelings and sensitivities of our neighbors.

Singapore leaders should only be concerned about its citizens. We should not be poking our noses into others' affairs and preaching to them what to do. The government has always argued that Western democracy is not suitable for Singapore and therefore we should also be humble to admit that what the meritocracy which works for us may not work well in other countries.

It is both incredulous and disturbing that the media had chosen to defend MM Lee whereas little is said or discussed about the mishandling of the CSOs during the recent IMF-WB meetings and the impact of Thaksin's ouster on the Temasek deal. Is this a ploy by MM Lee to deflect the heat from his son and daughter-in-law?

Singapore and Malaysia are important partners in trade. Our economies are interwined in so many ways. There are many Malaysians working in Singapore while Johor, the southernmost state of Peninsular Malaysia, is a popular weekend getaway for Singaporeans. A good and healthy bilateral relationship will benefit both parties. Though it is not unusual for squabbles to arise between close neighbors, let us not take it for granted and allow it to snowball into a brawl. As a respected elderly stateman in Asia, MM Lee should be gracious enough to retract his comments and apologize for it. Even the Pope, leader of 1 billion Roman Catholics in the world, apologized to Muslims for his controversial statement made in a speech last week.

Let us just focused on "sweeping the snow in front of our house" while leaving our neighbors in peace to deal with their own affairs.

Mdm Ho's Temasek in firing line after Thai coup - Fortune

Eric Ellis Fortune 25 Sep 06

Probe on Madame Ho's Temasek may face hefty fines over its dealings with ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thailand's military junta has gone out of its way to assure that it's business as usual in Bangkok.

The baht has wobbled, likewise the stock exchange, but neither with symptoms to have neighbours sniffling with the contagion they caught here during the late 1990s financial crisis. The coup has been smooth as silk, as Thais like to say.

But there is one woman in Singapore who desperately hopes the generals are as good as their word, the person whose dealmaking with Thailand's ousted Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, precipitated the coup.

Her name is Ho Ching. She is chief executive of the Singapore Government-owned Temasek Holdings, which controls a $100 billion-plus portfolio, including Optus.She bought Thaksin out of his family businesses, Shin Corp, in March in a highly questionable $4.5 billion transaction that outraged Thais.

The Singapore company bought the Thai leader's controlling half share in Shin Corp and then quickly snapped up most of the rest on the stockmarket. Temasek now controls 96 per cent.

As Thaksin banked Temasek's tax-free cash, Thais burnt Madame Ho's effigy on Bangkok streets, traducing the reputation created for her by Singaporean spin doctors as a safe pair of hands. It was, at best, a spectacular misjudgement.

Far from being the great buy Temasek claimed, the deal ignited six months of political turmoil, culminating in the coup. Thais stopped using the television, airline, finance and technology businesses Temasek bought.

Now Shin buyers wear a $US2 billion ($2.6 billion) paper loss on the deal after less than six months. As Thai regulators deepen their probe into the transaction and Thaksin's "rampant corruption", Temasek and its partners reportedly face fines of up to $US2 billion if it's proved, as many suspect, that Thai licensing laws have been breached. Or have the deal declared illegal, the assets nationalised.

Coups d'etat tend to arouse shrill demonstrations of nationalism; Temasek is the convenient foreign villain, its predicament entirely self-inflicted.

In these post-Enron days where blameless corporate governance is paramount, if the chief executive blows $2 billion in six months, the bloodletting in the boardroom would be swift and brutal. But even if her Thai adventure worsens, that seems unlikely to happen to Ho, who is the wife of Singapore's Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong; the daughter-in-law of the nation's long-time strongman, Lee Kuan Yew.

At 54, Ho is no Singapore Girl. Dour and grim, with a penchant for unflattering grey business suits, she's been Temasek's unsmiling CEO since 2001, presenting as an untouchable corporate dominatrix protected by the formidable Lee family edifice.

The Lees, as compliant Singaporeans famously know, don't make mistakes. Any questioning of their methods - as bankrupted opposition politicians and the foreign press have frequently discovered - hazard libel suits heard in Singapore's courts, where the Lees' history of success is unparalleled.

Not that the Singaporean media does much questioning either. The day's newspapers after the coup did not report Temasek's obvious dilemma, odd given that ultimately it is Singapore taxpayers' money Ho has hazarded.

It was left to a sole letter writer, presciently published a week before the coup, who suggested that an alliance with the much-hated Thaksin might not be a wise risk for the national nest egg. "Hitching our investment bandwagon to the first family is a double-edged sword," wrote Danny Chua in Today."We can go higher with their rising star but when they fall, we can fall too. Our investment must stand up to scrutiny in the eyes of the law. There must be compliance with corporate governance and transparency. We must be able to sleep peacefully, knowing that we have done the right thing."

Singapore loves to control and, when it can't, to quietly work its power relationships behind the scenes. Temasek claims to be independent of government but often seems to follow government policy in its investment portfolio, spending to boost neighbours.

And in Thaksin, Singapore found an autocrat after its own heart, rare in a region where mostly-Chinese Singapore isn't much liked, derided though grudgingly admired as rich and arrogant.Thaksin was a big fan of the Lee's long-ruling People's Action Party and its compliant "Singapore System".

Thaksin and Lee were allies in pushing EU-style ASEAN integration and there was resentment in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur of a supposed Singapore-Bangkok axis within the group. Not any more. Serious questions abound for a Singapore that likes to lecture the world about "best practices" of corporate governance it supposedly employs.

Temasek is suspected of funding Thai partners in the Thaksin deal, the implication being to avoid breaching foreign investment laws. And where did Temasek pay Thaksin? Thailand's central bank limits personal cash transfers to $US1 million a year - thus it would take about 2000 years to transfer Thaksin's pile - and needs special permission from the central bank to go higher.But Thailand's central bank governor is seen as a cleanskin, and a contender to be appointed caretaker prime minister by the generals.

Thaksin presumably knew that so it raises questions whether Temasek paid some of the funds offshore, in a foreign tax haven perhaps, avoiding Thai rules altogether.And then there's impact beyond Bangkok.

Economic contagion seems to have been contained but the bloodless ease in which Thaksin has been removed, the popularity of the coup, has been noticed in Jakarta and Manila, both struggling to secure their own democracies.

Temasek is in serious trouble in Thailand. It's suddenly friendless, losing its main political ally in Bangkok and his cronies, and runs the risk of having its assets seized as the Thaksin probe deepens.

The deal itself is a fait accompli; Thaksin banked his $US2 billion months ago and, now in gilded exile in London, is unlikely to offer to return Temasek's cash.If Temasek and Thaksin fall out, the legal implications are fascinating.

For the moment however, the silence from Temasek has been deafening. It simply says it is "monitoring events". With $4 billion of other peoples' money in the balance, it might've added "anxiously".

Sunday, September 24, 2006

IMF/WB: Singapore fails to impress - The Asian Banker

Published 20 September 2006 (Excerpts)
By the Asian Banker Editorial Team

After much careful planning and detailed execution, Singapore appears to have fallen short in its desire to impress the estimated 20,000 delegates in the city-state attending the recent annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

At the heart of the matter was the banning of several prominent civic society organisation (CSOs) activists from entering Singapore, although they had been approved by the world organisations to attend.

Also, in the spotlight was the banning of protests by CSOs except in highly restricted areas.The president of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, summed up the general sentiment about Singapore at the meetings when he said, “I would argue whether it has to be as authoritarian as it has been and I would certainly argue that at the stage of success they have reached, they would do much better for themselves with a more visionary approach to the process.”

As Singapore does not have a strong CSO culture, his comments were generally ignored in the city-state.But some regulars at the annual meetings thought that the IMF and the World Bank were “disingenuous” in their comments against Singapore.

One regular delegate pointed out that this year, for the first time, CSOs were not permitted to enter the media room to interact with journalists. Restrictions on the activities of the CSOs worked in the global bodies’ favour – decisions that were well within their control to facilitate.

Outside of these concerns, it was business as usual. Mexican finance minister Francisco Gil Diaz, whose country received a slight boost in its quota in the IMF resolution voted this week, refused to join in the cry of other Latin American nations that questioned the quota reform.

But Argentina and Brazil were the most vociferous in their protests, along with Egypt and India, countries whose quotas were not increased, unlike China, South Korea and Turkey, whose quotas were. Several Latin American nations are pressing the IMF to use the purchasing power parity (PPP) method of calculating GDP, which would suggest greater representation for a country like Brazil, but not Mexico.

The transformation of the IMF representation mechanism promised to be a long drawn issue in the future.The World Bank’s attempt at making the fight against corruption as a central theme of the conference backfired when several central banks' governors questioned instead the world body’s own track record in this area.

Many were in praise of Singapore as a country with a similar model that they would like to emulate. Unfortunately, this was not a sentiment shared by most of the other emerging economies that would have liked to have seen a better functioning social infrastructure.

Instead they were greeted by very high security fences and road diversions that some said were excessive and which made it inconvenient to participate in favourite Singaporean pastime of shopping in well air-conditioned malls. Singapore was certainly a victim of its own ambitions to impress.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Singapore left lasting impression on IMF/WB delegates - CNA

Singapore left lasting impression on IMF/WB delegates

Channel NewsAsia
Valarie Tan
Posted: 22 September 2006 2131 hrs

After reading the above article, most unknowingly readers will be led to believe that Singapore has instead hosted the "best" IMF/WB meeting based on the choice of the following words:

1. Most were impressed with the facilities provided.

2. ...scored high marks amongst the delegates.

3. the best annual meetings they have attended.

4. Many delegates also appreciated the tight security provided by organisers.

Who is the targetted audience of this article? The average Singaporean who may not know much about the IMF/WB meetings and may be ignorant of reports from foreign correspondences. The intention of the writer is to lead Singaporeans to have a favorable impression of the event.

The use of "most" and "many" are unsubstantiated and the use of selective "positive" quotes from a few delegates serves to create a false impression that delegates are indeed full of praises for the host nation. However, these are merely diplomatic replies which do not quite reflect reality accurately. If you are guest at an event, do you give negative feedback on your hosts to reporters? Whether there are criticisms the public would not know as these are probably censored and banned from the publication.

Regardless of what good things delegates said of us and what the local media writes, it is the perception of foreigners that matter because one of the aims of hosting the IMF-WB meeting is to promote Singapore as a "MICE" destination. The foreign press, however, paints a drastically different picture from what was reported by Singapore papers. Instead of

Instead of feeding Singaporeans with "feel good" positive news, the media should instead look at the lessons that could be learnt.

I am surprised that the following issues were not addressed:

1. Singapore spent more than S$100 million dollars on the event. Have we recouped the investment? The tight security in Suntec and diversion of roads has led to a sharp drop in

2. Singapore has repeatedly invoke the threat of terrorism for the draconian security measures being imposed. On what basis did they justify it? The major terrorist attacks in the world, e.g. 911, the Bali bombings, did not occur in a street demonstration. In fact, all of the recent public demonstrations in Asia this year in Thailand and Taiwan are largely peaceful and uneventful.

3. The use of police personnel and vehicles to prevent Dr Chee and 6 others from marching to Parliament House during the IMF-WB meeting. Is this justitfied? If Dr Chee has committed a crime, why don't the Police made an arrest. Instead, Hong Lim park was surrounded by uniformed police, plaincloths detectives and the media. The footage of the hustlings was published widely on the internet and appears on the front page of Financial Times. This will create a wrong impression that Singapore is a "police state" intolerant of dissent. The use of a police squad to confine a group of unarmed citizens is making us a joke internationally.

4. WB President Paul Wolfowitz had made a damning statement that Singapore has done "enormous damage" to its reputation. By revealing that Singapore has breached an MOU signed in 2003 to allowed accreditated activists into the country, he has cast doubts on our government's honesty and integrity. Will international organizations and countries dare to deal with a country which breach MOUs at its wimp and fancy? Why didn't the government rebut Paul Wolfowitz's allegations?

5. If the IMF-WB meeting is such a great success, why didn't the foreign media report it as such. Instead, it focus on minor issues such as the banning and deportation of activists, the boycott of the event by major CSOs and Dr Chee's empower Singaporean rally. Do we have a department to liaise with the foreign press? This is a PR disaster for our nation. Have we learnt on how to be more savvy with the foreign media in future?

6. The role of CSOs had been grossly underestimated by the government. While it accords the IMF-WB officials with high regards and respect, the same cannot be said of CSOs whom it regards little more than potential "trouble-makers". This perhaps stems from a shallow understanding of the importance of CSOs in shaping public policy and in part from the absence of an active civil society in Singapore which explains their inaptitude and inexperience in dealing with them. Major CSOs such as Greenpeace have political affliations in many European countries and Green parties are part of government coalitions in Denmark and Germany.

Mind your own business, Gerakan tells Kuan Yew - From Malaysiakini

Mind your own business, Gerakan tells Kuan Yew
Alwin Yap
Sep 22, 06 6:23pm

Gerakan today ticked off Singapore’s Mentor Minister Lee Kuan Yew over his remarks that Chinese Malaysians had been “systematically marginalised” because they were successful and hardworking.

Party president Lim Keng Yaik and his deputy, Koh Tsu Koon, both lambasted Lee for making comments without having the full facts and accused him of causing racial tensions here.

Lim, who is also the minister of energy, water and telecommunications, said the former Singapore premier had a habit of making statements which infuriate Malaysians over the last 40 years.

When asked to speculate as to Lee’s reason for the latest remark, a visibly upset Lim said: “You go ask him-lah!”.

He said Lee was wrong in making such statements, and he urged reporters to report that Lee “was wrong, wrong.”

His heir apparent, Koh, who sitting next to him at today’s press conference, added that Lee should understand the challenges Malaysian leaders had in governing a much larger country which, unlike Singapore, has far-flung states such as Sabah and Sarawak.

The Chinese-majority Gerakan is a senior partner in the Barisan Nasional coalition and is the ruling party in Penang.
Koh, the Penang chief minister, also said the Malaysian government - at both federal and state level - was committed to bring economic development to all races.

“However, it’s not uncommon, even in developed countries, to have pockets of places like rural areas that are not yet developed,” he said.

He said the government had focused on bringing development to these areas so that ‘no ethnicity’ would feel they were sidelined.

Koh added that Chinese Malaysians, like their other fellow citizens, also have more freedom than those in Singapore in expressing their views to the mass media.

According to Koh, the non-Malay component political parties within the BN coalition often spoke out in the cabinet or Parliament on issues involving Chinese and Indians communities.
Koh has recently came under severe attack from his Umno colleagues for marginalising Penang Malays in his state.

Being naughty

At the press conference, both Lim and Koh echoed views expressed by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday that Lee was being “naughty” in making statements that were inaccurate and have serious political implications.

“I do not know the reason he made such a statement but it should not have been made at all. It’s a comment that we can do without, and it is not appreciated at all,” said Najib.

“We do not sideline the non-bumiputera in this country. What are in place are efforts to create a balance between the bumiputera and the non-bumiputera,” added the deputy prime minister.

Last Friday, Lee was quoted in the media as saying that it was vital for the predominantly ethnic Chinese Singapore to stand up to its bigger, majority Muslim neighbours, Indonesia and Malaysia.

He added that the attitude of neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia towards Singapore was shaped by the way they treated their own ethnic Chinese minorities.

Lee had said that these two nations had problems with their Chinese communities because they were successful and hardworking and “therefore, they are systematically marginalised.”
Indonesia and Malaysia “want Singapore, to put it simply, to be like their Chinese - compliant”, added Lee.


From Juzlonely:

Of course, Malaysia does marginalise the Chinese ethics. After all, she declares herself as a Malay country. She does have a duty to protect her people. Imagine, Australia populated with Chinese and Indians, wouldn't the Ozzies felt the same?

Another thing, in Singapore, we're told to stay away from racial issues since it is a sensative things. Why does LKY has his freedom to do so at his own will? In international law, as Mahathir pointed out, he should mind his own business.

Interestingly, not sure if I can find the remarks made by LKY in ST. I don't think anyone will write or an article to appear in ST rebutting LKY and I don't think the Perm Sec will reply as well. It does pointed out that race is a sensative issue in Singapore but only one person can say it and gets away with it i.e. LKY.

From Winnipegjets:

Singapore demands that the West not imposed its standards on it. Yet now the tiny dot imposes its standard on the neighbouring countries. Hypocriscy, isn't it?
Despite the so-called 'marginalization', the Chinese majority in Malaysia are wealthier - that's why many of their children can go overseas for university - and live a higher standard of living than the majority of Chinese in red dot.

From Mihailov1975:

As a senior leader of Singapore, MM Lee's comments may be misconstrued by our neighbors as a sentiment shared by the government though he made it in his personal capacity. This does not help in improving relationship between both countries in either way. MM Lee should reveal facts and figures to prove his point that Malaysian Chinese are indeed marginalized. Even if it is so, it has little relevance to Singapore. We should first take a look at how we treat our own citizens first.

Is this a clever ploy to divert Singaporeans from real issues such as the recent PR fallout from the mishandling of the IMF-WB meetings and the ouster of Thaksin which leaves the Temasek-Shin Corp deal in jeopardy by targeting Malaysia as the bogyman again? While we do not like other countries to interfere in our affairs, we should also be more sensitive to the feelings of our neighbors. Such jibes and taunts are certainly unwelcome and unnecessary at a time when bilateral relations are picking up.

On hindsight, during my frequent visits to Johor, I noticed many Malaysian Chinese are able to buy private properties. A plumber I know works only part-time and is able to afford a car and a semi-detached house. Even in their "marginalized" state, Malaysian Chinese seems to fare better compared to their Singaporean counterparts. What does that say about our own government?

Friday, September 22, 2006

From the Editor

Mission Statement

Through this blog, we hope to achieve the following:

1. To increase the political awareness of ordinary Singaporeans.

2. To scrutinize and analyze articles in the local papers on issues and policies concerning

3. To provide alternative viewpoints to balance the pro-government stance of the state media and to publish letters rejected by the mainstream media forum page.

4. To expose Singaporeans to foreign publications whose reports are often radically different from the local papers.

5. To serve as an active catalyst for media reform in the future.

Unlike other blogs which comment on local politics, this blog will focus on articles published in the local papers instead, further dissecting and analyzing them and debunk any factual errors, assumptions or prejudices inherent in them.

Please feel free to contribute your thoughts, views and opinions on any articles you read in our local papers. This small endeavor will only take off with the collective efforts of everybody. It's time to do something to contribute positively to the growth and development of a REAL civil society in Singapore!

Outdoor protest ban elicits mixed reactions from delegates - TODAY 22 Sept 2006

From the article above, it appears that while delegates felt Singapore could be a bit more "liberal", most if not all are impressed with a well-organized meeting without any "disruptions".

However, this is not quite what the foreign press wrote of us:

IMF-WB meetings a PR nightmare for Singapore.
AFP 20 Sept 2006

The Quietest Conference
Haaretz Newsonline 20 Sept 2006

Wolf in speakers' corner for once
AFP 20 Sept 2006

Singapore deports Japanese, other activists arriving for IMF meeting
Kyodo news 18 Sept 2006

Rights group say 48 deported, banned in Singapore
Reuters 17 Sept 2006

Activists allowed to protest - TODAY 21 Sept 06

In a reply by MFA to Asia Wall Street Journal, the PAP's resounding "MANDATE" in the recent GE was invoked again to justify Singapore's ban on "public demonstrations".

"Singapore's laws on public demonstration are for Singaporeans to decide".

1. Peaceful assembly is not the same as public demonstration. The right to peaceful assembly is enshrined in our Constitution.

2. When did Singaporeans even demonstrate their support for this law? Did they hold a referendum to find out?

"In the general election this year, voters gave the People's Action Party a clear mandate".

1. What was not written is that only 45% of Singaporeans are eligible to vote and out of which one third oppose its continued rule. What kind of "mandate" is this in the first place?

2. The election is hardly free and fair. The election commission, media and grassroot organizations are all under government control. Voters are threatened with not having their estates upgraded should the opposition win and state funds are "distributed" to citizens 5 days before the GE. How can one claim to have the people's mandate under such circumstances is hard to imagine.

3. Does returning a political party to power gives them wide-sweeping power to do whatever they wish? The NAZIs under Hitler won elections in Weimar Germary. Did the Germans give Hitler the mandate to start WWII? Similarly, did Singaporeans support the government's decision to deny upgrading to opposition wards, to increase public transport fares and to keep CPF's contribution at 13%? At least conduct a survey amongst Singaporeans before proclaiming we gave you the "mandate" to do this and that.