April 29, 2017

34
PSI
CONNECT WITH US
 
 

by Shawn Danker and Lim Weixiang

Hong Lim Park became alive once more over the weekend, as both Singaporeans and Malaysians gathered in a “solidarity” rally held in the early evening on Mother’s day, with most of them decked out in black top dress code. Breakfast Network presents a photo composition describing how the event unfolded.

The demonstration begins in earnest with Mr Wham addressing and thanking the gathered crowd for their attendence (Photo by Shawn Danker)
The demonstration begins in earnest with Mr Wham addressing and thanking the gathered crowd for their attendence (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

Sometime controversial Alfian Sa'at is 2nd at the bullhorn as he recites a monologue in both Malay and English from a play due to open in Kuala Lumpur on May 16 (Photo by Shawn Danker)
Sometime controversial Alfian Sa’at is 2nd at the bullhorn as he recites a monologue in both Malay and English from a play due to open in Kuala Lumpur on May 16 (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

Jolovan and Alfian speak under the watchful gaze of the police (Photo by Shawn Danker)
Jolovan and Alfian speak under the watchful gaze of the police (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

A man penning a message of support to Malaysians on mahjong paper (Photo by Lim Weixiang)
A man penning a message of support to Malaysians on mahjong paper (Photo by Lim Weixiang)

 

Social Worker and Human Rights defender Jolovan Wham lights the first candle for the night's candle light vigil (Photo by Shawn Danker))
Social Worker and Human Rights defender Jolovan Wham lights the first candle for the night’s candle light vigil (Photo by Shawn Danker))

 

With the speeches over, the crowd moves on to show their solidarity with their northern compatriots by adding to the candle light vigil (Photo by Shawn Danker)
With the speeches over, the crowd moves on to show their solidarity with their northern compatriots by adding to the candle light vigil (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

People holding candles over the song sheet as they sang the song "We shall overcome", which was then followed by the Malaysian anthem (Photo by Lim Weixiang)
People holding candles over the song sheet as they sang the song “We shall overcome”, which was then followed by the Malaysian anthem (Photo by Lim Weixiang)

 

Check out the day’s Bread & Butter to also learn more about what happened!

 

by Bertha Henson

The Malaysians turned up. Unobtrusively. Quietly. In the black top dress code that the organisers of the “solidarity’’ rally suggested. Only when they spoke to each other could they be identified – not quite Singapore English, nor Singapore-like Chinese dialect. And finally, at the close the hour-long affair, they stood out when the people gathered at Hong Lim Park were asked to sing the Negara Ku.

417813_10151355752771862_243727949_n
Participants singing Negara Ku, the Malaysian national anthem, at the end of the event (Photo by Lim Weixiang)

Some had a lighted yellow candle in hand; some seemed determined not to hold anything in light of police warnings against “participation’’ in the event at Speakers Corner.

One group of six young Malaysians from Ipoh working here told Breakfast Network that they were grateful to see Singaporeans standing with them. They were full of stories of supposed electoral fraud when they went up North to vote, with one declaring that his family had stopped subscription to the Malaysian Chinese Association-owned Sin Chew Jit Poh. Clearly, they were not fans of the Malaysian ruling coalition.

The crowd numbered in the few hundreds including hordes of media people. There was a picnic-like atmosphere with canvasses laid out and families with little ones enjoying the cool evening air. One of the Malaysians pointed out that in her country, rallies were attended only by adults, the educated from urban areas. This was nice, she said.

Yes, they knew of the arrests of their fellow citizens for the Merlion Park rally but that was “illegal’’, said one young man. He didn’t think that Malaysians should be doing anything that might cause the host country any harm, he said. “We have to follow the law.’’

Others, including Singaporeans, probably didn’t feel the same way about the arrests. Civil society activist and organiser Jolovan Wham reiterated the rules against non-Singaporeans taking part even quipping that the plainclothes policemen among the people should show themselves. (They didn’t, but one of them was conspicuous enough to find himself the target of some photo-taking…)

Mr Wham was the first speaker and was organising the gathering, he said, because he believed migrant workers deserved the same right to freedom of speech and assembly like anybody else.

But even if the Malaysians were barred from speaking, a group of 260 Malaysian social workers and counsellors based here made themselves heard when Mr Wham read out a statement on their behalf.

The 1st speaker up is Mr Wham as he reads a message from 260 Malaysian social workers and counsellors who spoke on behalf of their countrymen (Photo by Shawn Danker)
The 1st speaker up is Mr Wham as he reads a message from 260 Malaysian social workers and counsellors who spoke on behalf of their countrymen (Photo by Shawn Danker)

They called on the Malaysian political parties to push for, among other things, a comprehensive and accessible judicial system, independent police complaints commission and an inclusive society which cares for people at the margins.

Second speaker Alfian Saat, a poet, started by apologising on behalf of the Singapore government for arresting the Malaysians, an act which , he said, was not in line with “norms’’.

He was uncomfortable, he said, with recent statements which racialised the election results as a Chinese “tsunami’’ or swing to the opposition . And just when it seemed he would go into no-go territory on race and religion, he was interrupted by a heckler who kept questioning his nationality (he’s Singaporean).

But the sometimes controversial poet did not launch into tirade on race. Instead he recited a monologue in both Malay and English from a play due to open in Kuala Lumpur on May 16. It told of a 17 year old Chinese Malaysian who went with his family to visit relatives in Guangdong. The teenager found himself mute as he could not speak Mandarin and his Cantonese was sparse. He couldn’t wait to go back to Malaysia. When he did, that was when he found his voice again when he had to buy tickets to get home.

Mr Alfian did not say so but the message was clear: that nationality, not ethnicity, was what rooted Malaysians. It was cleverly done.

Then candles were lit. People sang “We shall overcome”. And someone suggested the Singapore National Anthem be sung to be followed by the Malaysian anthem.

It was over. Just an hour or so. The crowd dispersed. And the six Malaysians walked out of the park and into the bowels of the Clarke Quay MRT station bound for somewhere, in Singapore.

 

Visit our Slice for more pictures of the event here.

by Bertha Henson

Sunday May 12 is Mother’s Day but some people want to turn it into a Singaporeans for Malaysians day as well. A group wants a gathering at Hong Lim Park to show solidarity with Malaysians who are aggrieved at the results of the recent election.

Now, this is interesting.

So Singaporeans, apparently led by civil society activist Jolovan Wham, are going to organise this rally in the cause of “free and fair elections”. There is also a call for speakers, placards and art etc. as an expression of “solidarity”. Malaysians are welcomed but only as observers.

Already comments are popping up on the legality of doing something like this and what sort of official attention – both within and outside Singapore – it will attract.

The organisers seem to think that all is above board going by the rules that surround activities at the Speakers’ Corner. They are mainly concerned with the nationality of the organiser – must be Singaporean. As for topics, it does look like everything is within bounds so long as the speeches do not incite ill feelings, enmity and hostility between different racial and religious groups in Singapore. Oh, and the placards can’t be lewd.

As for a police permit, that’s needed only if a foreign or permanent is speaking, organising or taking part in the activities.

So it does seem that the organisers would be in the clear so long as the foreigners themselves refrain from making their presence felt lest it be construed as “taking part”.

Already the police are investigating activities of Malaysians who organised the Merlion Park party, warning people against importing their politics here. Visas and work permits could be terminated.

Looks like this upcoming rally will set a precedent of sort. It’s probably fair to think that when the G allowed Hong Lim Park as a free speech place, it didn’t factor in that it might be used for other activities on behalf of other nationalities.

So is this good or bad? Well, the Malaysian G might well accuse foreigners of interfering in its domestic politics. Then again, there have been probably been countless of times when the Malaysians themselves take to rubbishing Singapore on public platforms. Fair game eh?

Yet, there is also that sense that Singaporeans should keep to their own affairs in their own backyard. The event has already drawn the ire of the online group called Say no to an overpopulated Singapore who had this to say: “We would like to STRONGLY CONDEMN and discourage any Singaporeans from participating in that event.

“We should focus our actions on our own national and domestic issues, and NOT meddle or interfere with foreign politics. Do not be hijacked by foreign politicians/activists’ influences to advance their own agendas.”

“As much as we respect the values of democracy and fair elections, we do not believe in participating in foreign political events, same as we do not wish foreign powers to meddle or interfere with our own national issues.”

That’s a strong position and might well be a sensible one. Let’s not forget that this is a small country. We don’t need to throw stones at outsiders and more importantly, don’t need others to throw stones at us.

by Lim Weixiang

603648_10151350716411862_211650794_n
Malaysian protesting at Merlion Park. (Photo by Lim Weixiang)

A large group of Malaysian Chinese dressed in black gathered at Merlion Park last night to protest against the results of the recent elections in Malaysia. They carried “Ubah” (meaning ‘change’ in Malay) placards – the clarion call of the opposition movement in Malaysia. “1758” spoken in Mandarin means “To Ubah Together”.

by Bertha Henson

If anyone should be hit with a contempt of court charge, it would be the parents of the late Shane Todd, the American engineer found hanged in his home here last June.

ST did the responsible thing by reporting only that the parents wanted a US congressional hearing because they feared that US security could have been “compromised’’. But the Todds went much, much further in interviews with foreign media.

Mrs Mary Todd told Reuters: “We believe China and Singapore are illegally transferring technology, our technology, from the United States. We believe it’s so high up that if our son was murdered, the implications for Singapore and China are so extreme that they will go to any lengths to make it look like suicide.”

Sigh. Perhaps it is the American way of exercising freedom of speech but this is rather pre-judging the case before the coroner’s inquiry that will start next week. Twelve days have been set aside – an extremely long time. And 63 witnesses lined up although not all will be called to testify. That’s also when the Todds and their lawyers can raise questions to their hearts content. The thing is, they have already decided what the verdict should be with Mrs Todd saying: “If they come out with a verdict of suicide, that’s too bad for Singapore. This is not going to go away. Our government, our FBI, has the proof. We have it.”

Well, well, good on you and your FBI! But can you wait for the Singapore court to sit?

by Bertha Henson

Wow! Were you impressed by the crowd Mr Anwar Ibrahim managed to mobilise last night to denounce the results of the Malaysian election? Tens of thousands, said ST, and other reports gave 120,000 and even 200,000. Really dwarfed whatever Hong Lim Park drew and people already went ooh and aah.

Mr Anwar’s crowd-pulling feat was achieved despite police having said that the protest rally had no permit and that those who attend would be arrested. Seems there was some kind of flip flop over the day with police toning down their position to say they would only intervene if the rally got out of hand. In any event, it seemed that a “peaceful’’ protest was conducted.

Surprisingly, several Malaysians here too gathered for a similar protest led by unknown persons via social media – and somehow managed to get placards distributed. They picked the Merlion Park in Marina Bay (because they wanted to roar?). What’s intriguing is how uniformed policemen watched from the sidelines instead of moving in to break up what could be deemed an illegal assembly, with chanting, placard-waving and what have you. After all, they moved in when some Malaysians here tried to get fellow citizens to go home to vote last month.

Here’s how ST ended the story: The crowd dispersed at about 11pm, when plainclothes policemen arrived at the scene.
So odd. Did they disperse because plainclothes policemen arrived? And what took the plainclothes policemen so long anyway? The crowd of about 200 had started gathering at 9pm thereabouts.

Perhaps, it is understandable that police, which are investigating the gathering, adopted a light touch last night. These were foreigners after all, and it might not look good to physically break up what looked like a peaceful protest. You wouldn’t want to risk a diplomatic note from the Malaysian High Commission alleging rough handling. Yet, letting the gathering go on might well incur the ire of Malaysian’s ruling party coalition. The consolation is that Malaysians in other cities were staging similar gatherings. (Except that Singapore is next door, and a “little brother’’ according to the Malaysians.)

It’s going to be tough for the boys in blue wondering what line to take against spontaneous or organised protests by Malaysians who live and work here. They are here in such large numbers too. Who knows? With the continuing attacks on the “greedy’’, “ungrateful’’ Chinese community, more of them might be heading down south for refuge.

It goes to show that having huge numbers of foreigners here would also mean dealing with their imported politics. The Malaysians here, however, seem well aware of the high premium Singapore places on stability and law and order. But will other foreign nationalities react in the same way when the politics back home rouses feelings? Already, Singapore has had a taste of the different methods of protest by people from different cultures when they feel aggrieved. It’s one more reason to secure a Singapore core and identity so that all, including foreigners here and those who aspire to live and work here, know what is important to this country.

by Shawn Danker

3540_602095509800494_177462430_n
Household rooting for BN (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

600793_602095529800492_1496899193_n
PKR campaigning crosses borders sharing space with campaign materials for their own coalition (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

One rocket vs numerous scales (Photo by Shawn Danker)
One rocket vs numerous scales (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

946285_602095613133817_879013196_n
Translation: Stop voting for BN (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

182300_602095636467148_1068637866_n
People on the way to vote (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

225740_602095703133808_1531099437_n
Patriots have done their part for their country regardless of the outcome, age or health (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

Malaysian voters speak to Singaporean media about their thoughts on the consequences of this election
Malaysian voters speak to Singaporean media about their thoughts on the consequences of this election (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

These excited baby boomers are ready for UBAH (change) to come to their country
These excited baby boomers are ready for UBAH (change) to come to their country (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

This excited individual leads a rousing cheer of UBAH within the gathered crowd awaiting the results of the election as election officials arrive with ballots for counting.
This excited individual leads a rousing cheer of UBAH within the gathered crowd, while awaiting the results of the election as election officials arrive with ballots for counting (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

Police on duty brandish a MP5 submachine gun to keep any trespassers out
Police on duty brandish a MP5 submachine gun to keep any trespassers out, in addition to the concertina wire (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

Election officials carry ballots towards the counting center for counting
Election officials carry ballots towards the counting center for counting (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

A reporter speaking to a resident about his concerns about the outcome of this election
A reporter speaking to a resident about his concerns regarding the outcome of this election (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

PKR supporters face off with the police after the police allowed BN supporters to enter the area without resistance to troll the PKR supporters
PKR supporters face off with the police after the police allowed BN supporters to enter the area without resistance to troll the PKR supporters (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

The police try to peacefully resolve the BN/PKR scuffle
The police try to peacefully resolve the BN/PKR scuffle (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

Members of the public checking online for polling news or any reports of the scuffle that just broke out (Photo by Shawn Danker)
Members of the public going online to check for polling news or any reports of the scuffle that just broke out… (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

As do the police when they think no one is looking (Photo by Shawn Danker)
…as do the police when they think no one is looking (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

One more set of ballots arrive... (Photo by Shawn Danker)
One more set of ballots arrive… (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

...as members of the public erupt in applause (Photo by Shawn Danker)
…as members of the public erupt in applause (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

Concerned members of the public surround this taxi after someone spotted it transporting ballots towards the side entrance of ballot center. Heightened paranoia coupled with anger and fear of the prospect of BN stealing this election caused the public members to suspect this was an attempt by BN to cheat (Photo by Shawn Danker)
Concerned members of the public surround this taxi after someone spotted it transporting ballots towards the side entrance of ballot center. Heightened paranoia coupled with anger and fear of the prospect of BN stealing this election caused the public members to suspect this was an attempt by BN to cheat (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

Police lock arms and surround the vehicle to stop members of the public from continuing to protect both the vehicle and its driver from an enraged public (Photo by Shawn Danker)
Police lock arms and surround the vehicle to protect both the vehicle and its driver from an enraged public (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

The SUV is stranded on the way to the counting center as agitated members of the public surround it and release the air from the car's tire in a bid to stop it from entering the counting center. Tensions are high as the people demand to see the ballots carried within to verify their authenticity. (Photo by Shawn Danker)
SUV stranded on the way to the counting center as agitated members of the public surround it and release the air from the car’s tire in a bid to stop it from entering the counting center. Tensions are high as the people demand to see the ballots carried within to verify their authenticity (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

Riot police deployed to disperse the crowd after they were agitated by unauthorized vehicles carrying ballots (Photo by Shawn Danker)
Riot police deployed to disperse the crowd after they were agitated by unauthorized vehicles carrying ballots (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

Tear gas launcher readied in case of trouble (Photo by Shawn Danker)
Tear gas launcher readied in case of trouble (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

Member of the police brandishes a MP5 submachine as he watches out for trouble (Photo by Shawn Danker)
A police officer brandishes a MP5 submachine as he watches out for trouble (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

Dr. Boo Cheng Hau speaks to the press at DAP media quarters after early returns indicate that he has won his contest (Photo by Shawn Danker)
Dr. Boo Cheng Hau speaks to the press at DAP media quarters after early returns indicate that he had won his contest (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

Returning officer announces the results of polling around Gelang Patah (Photo by Shawn Danker)
Returning officer announces the results of polling around Gelang Patah (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

Dr Zaini Abu Bakar speaks about his win in Nusajaya (Photo by Shawn Danker)
Dr Zaini Abu Bakar speaks about his win in Nusajaya (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

DAP candidate and winner Lim Kit Siang speaks to the press about his victory as Dr. Boo Cheng Hau looks on (Photo by Shawn Danker)
DAP candidate and winner Lim Kit Siang speaks to the press about his victory as Dr. Boo Cheng Hau looks on (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

Overjoyed OKR supporters greet Lim Kit Siang at the coffee shop outside the counting center (Photo by Shawn Danker)
Overjoyed PKR supporters greet Lim Kit Siang at the coffee shop outside the counting center (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

The entire police legion saying their final prayers as they prepare to fall out for the night since the race for Gelang Patah has been called (Photo by Shawn Danker)
The entire police legion saying their final prayers as they prepare to fall out for the night since the race for Gelang Patah has been called (Photo by Shawn Danker)

 

These photos were taken on polling day in Johor following the events that occurred. They also include photos of the winners of different seats within the state of Johor. Read what our editor, Bertha Henson had to say about the Malaysian polls.

by Bertha Henson

Here’s out and out race-based politics: What more do the Chinese want? That’s what UMNO-owned newspaper Utusan Malaysia screamed out yesterday. They were probably taking the line set by Prime Minister Najib who said that a Chinese tsunami had swept seats from BN to the opposition. He’s still sticking to the line although analysts have suggested that it might be an urban/rural divide or a digital divide. Racial polarisation? Or a class one?

Even if he was right, one wonders if it was prudent for a head of government to pick on a minority community. Does he believe he is merely uttering unwelcome truths which will not have serious consequences? Or should it be swept under the carpet or disguised in more pleasing words? Police are investigating the paper for sedition and have hauled up two bloggers. Don’t suppose they can haul up the Prime Minister too for starting the wave…

According to TODAY, Malaysians themselves are reacting strongly against Mr Najib’s use of a Chinese target and Utusan’s pronouncements. Good on them! Not that Mr Najib is helping anything by saying that the Chinese newspapers are similarly racist…

Nobody likes being singled out as a community, not even in Singapore where education results and drug statistics are still race based and the existence of the Group Representation Constituency is a reminder that people tend to vote for their “own kind”. (Recently, however, that reasoning has been put to the test with single-seat wards electing non-Chinese representatives, even if it was Michael Palmer. Sigh)

Many general elections ago, the late Ong Teng Cheong came up with a similar analysis for the People’s Action Party’s loss of votes: He said the Chinese-speaking heartlanders were unhappy. Singapore was strong enough to weather his words but perhaps this was because the Chinese are in the majority here. Now what if a leading politician here had accused the Malays of being a swing vote?

How should those on this side of the Causeway react to what’s happening next door? There’s plenty of discussion on the supposedly more unsavoury side of the Malaysian GE with allegations of vote-rigging flying. There’s plenty of sympathy as well for the opposition; a kind of rooting for the underdog attempting to overturn the political order. Although, really, having a BN government in place is probably much more in the interest of this country. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, you know?

What’s funny is that BN seems to think that anyone who doesn’t vote for BN is racist, even though the vote went to another Malay. The Democratic Action Party which was the biggest winner in the GE is being demonised for playing the race card and luring Chinese votes to its side. Already, we’re hearing about how DAP is like a clone of the People’s Action Party here which is mighty ridiculous given the G’s heavy hand against those it thinks are stirring up racist sentiments.

With all that turmoil in Malaysia, let’s hope that the finger doesn’t get pointed to Singapore, that convenient whipping boy. No matter how much sympathy or fellow feeling for the opposition, it might be best to sit back and shut up before allegations of interference in Malaysia’s domestic politics start flying from up north. This little red dot needs a shield…

In the run-up to Singapore’s own GE due in 2016, it’s worth pondering whether race is still a card that can be played by political opportunists. There’s been little evidence of that since the days of Tang Liang Hong. Is it simmering below the surface though waiting for a firebrand to stoke the flames? Or have we matured enough as a society to start thinking as one nation? The ongoing discussion on what it means to be a Singaporean and who comprises the Singapore core bodes well for us, even though it is sometimes framed as an “us-versus-foreigners” issue.

What we can be thankful for: even if it lost the popular vote, the G here is not likely to make those sort of statements that Mr Najib has made. In fact, it is more likely to thump those who do.

by Yen Feng

Have you heard of World Toilet Day?

If not, you’re gonna very soon, and it won’t be just you, but millions in 193 countries around the world when the United Nations accepts the Nov 19 event as an official UN commemorative day – on par with Human Rights Day and World Environment Day.

untoilet
Illustration by Jonathan Tan

The motion is now under discussion at a current UN meeting and is expected to pass in August, according to ZB today in what seems to be an exclusive report played in its inside pages.

What’s remarkable is that World Toilet Day is a wholly Singapore product, created by World Toilet Organisation (WTO) founder Jack Sim – a veteran in this area.

You may remember him as the guy who founded the the WTO in 2001, which at the time was met with not a little incredulity from the public actually – come on, World Toilet Organisation? Really?

Yes, really.

This latest nod from the UN is part of a growing global awareness that the need for toilet hygiene is not something to turn your nose up at – in fact, it is urgent and crucial to the social and economic health of developing nations – something Singaporeans thankfully don’t need to think very much about.

Last month, UK-based journalist Rose George gave a stirring Ted talk addressing this same issue – did you know, for example, that in this time and age, there are still 2.5 billion people who do not have access to a basic sanitary toilet?

Or that diarrhea stemming from fecal poisoning kills more children than HIV, tuberculosis, and measles – combined?

Toilet sanitation is not a popular subject – and hardly a sexy cause for which to raise money and awareness.

But putting aside a day on the UN calendar should be a good start – and for that, we have Mr Sim, Ms George, and others like them to thank. People who aren’t afraid to talk about shit – seriously.