we, the citizens

Updates on politics, civil liberties and social justice in Singapore, straight to your inbox.

A Substack newsletter by we, the citizens

Updates on politics, civil liberties and social justice in Singapore, straight to your inbox.

#30: Tharman steps down as the 4G steps up.

Hello from Kuala Lumpur! I’m here for a series of New Naratif-related activities this weekend, including our very first open meeting in Malaysia.

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Not-the-Game of Thrones

The past week was a fairly big one for the ruling People’s Action Party, who elected their Central Executive Committee last weekend. It was one more step in the leadership transition for the party—five senior members of the party stepped down from the CEC to make way for next-generation leaders. Among the five was Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a national favourite and arguably the People’s Choice for Prime Minister (even though he’d ruled himself out).

At first the mainstream media said that the new CEC confirmed the three contenders to be Singapore’s fourth prime minster: Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat, and Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung. But no!, said the PAP cadres. According to them, Ong’s out, because he wasn’t one of the previous CEC’s recommended picks. #guagua

We might know the new members of the CEC, but we don’t know what position each of them will hold in the party just yet. That’ll be decided later, although it hasn’t gone unnoticed that Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam is now in second place seniority-wise. He’s dismissed speculation that he might be Assistant Secretary-General, but we’ll see.

Cherian George@cheriangeorgeA PM-designate who hasn’t yet inspired respect, backed by a hardline security czar, in a global climate of authoritarianism = #passionmadepunishable. Expect more repression of media, activists, opposition in the run-up to elections and beyond. https://t.co/DeUVDjAQdU @sgelection

I wish I didn’t agree with Cherian’s prediction, but I do. Please spare a thought for Singapore’s civil society.

More on the fake news thing

Following up on the fake news fracas in the last issue: right after that email went out I saw that both States Times Review and Facebook had declined to take down the post. It resulted in access to STR being blocked for some time, and the law ministry used Facebook’s refusal as a way to further justify the need for legislation to deal with “fake news”. I covered this in a piece for Asia Times.

Alex Tan of STR has claimed that he’s going to stop writing for the site and spend more time with his family, but then revealed that he’d helped someone in Canada to set up a new site, Singapore Herald. I’m not linking to any of this, because Alex Tan is highly unreliable and STR has never been a credible source of news—I’m not counting on Singapore Herald being any different.

More “fake news” in Singapore this week? The Land Transport Authority says that claims that their trial of enhanced security measures at MRT stations would lead to airport-style checks and long queues are false. I haven’t been at an MRT station doing such a check so far, since I’ve been away, so will have to leave those who have experienced it to tell us how it goes.

A reaction to NSF deaths—and the takedown order

It’s been a sad year when it comes to NSF deaths—there have been multiple deaths in the past 14 months. Two artists wanted to commemorate these tragedies, and put up a Facebook post of camouflage-design mourning pins (like the ones you see in Chinese funerals).

Then the post disappeared. On Friday, the duo, known collectively as ZZ, revealed that the authorities had told them to remove the post. It’s not clear which government agency told them to do this, and on what grounds. File this under: Yet Another Ridiculous Instance of Censorship.


Events and announcements

As mentioned above, New Naratif is having our first open meeting in Malaysia! It’s taking place in Kuala Lumpur on 18 November, and we’ll be live-streaming it so people can tune in from anywhere in the world. So keep an eye out on our social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter) for the live-stream link. (You can also check out our report on our first year. #transparency)

SingLit Station, a literary non-profit and writers’ centre in Singapore, is raising funds for their next year. Help them support the development of writers in Singapore.

Penawar, a support group for women who are Muslim or come from a Muslim background, are having their first public event on 21 November. They’ll be launching their website and their first zine, so RSVP here!


About the neighbours

Many ethnic Vietnamese living in Cambodia live on the river, fishing with baskets from their floating homes. But the authorities are now forcing them to move, evicting them not only from the river, but from their way of life. It throws into relief the long-standing issues of discrimination, prejudice and citizenship (or lack thereof) for the ethnic Vietnamese who have lived in Cambodia for generations. George Wright reports for New Naratif.

Updates on politics, civil liberties and social justice in Singapore, straight to your inbox.