#38: That's a lot to cram into one week...

Almost 100 of you signed up to this newsletter over the past week—hello all, and thank you very much! I’m glad people found the last issue informative/helpful/entertaining. I’ll keep an eye out for other issues/events that we can have fun with.

If you’ve been forwarded this newsletter, click here to subscribe and get updates sent to your inbox every Saturday morning. If you have any feedback, just hit reply!


Let’s talk politics…

It tells you so much about electoral politics in Singapore when the only opposition party in Parliament says they’re aiming to win one-third of the seats in the House as a “medium-term objective” and that’s seen as a “high bar”.

In the meantime, Wong Souk Yee, a member of the Singapore Democratic Party, is calling on the court to issue a mandatory order to get the remaining members of the Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC team to step down so there can be a by-election. The team has been short of one MP (and its minority MP, no less!) since Halimah Yacob stepped down to become President.

Tan Cheng Bock has announced that he’s re-entering politics. He and some friends—including other former PAP cadre folks—have applied to register a new political party (another one!) called the Progress Singapore Party. He says that “[f]reedom of choice and free speech without fear must be defended”, which sounds nice, but we’ll have to wait and see what this party’s politics and programme are going to be.

Judicial corporal punishment

The British press perked their ears up this week—until the Brexit botch-up drowned everything again—to cover the case of Ye Ming Yuen, a British citizen currently in Changi Prison where he is set to be given 24 strokes of the cane for drug offences. Jeremy Hunt had raised the case with Vivian Balakrishnan on his recent visit, but it seems unlikely that Singapore is going to budge. I wrote an op-ed for the Guardian about corporal punishment, in which I point out that high-profile cases of foreigners being caned in Singapore tend to drum up nationalistic chest-thumping.

Freedom of expression

Amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act passed this week. The changes to the law now criminalise disseminating or providing information to another person on the consumption, cultivation or trafficking of drugs. It’s ostensibly about dealing with drug abuse and addiction, but the freedom of expression implications are immense.

The Court of Appeal has reserved judgment in Li Shengwu’s contempt of court case. Li is currently challenging the court order that allowed the Attorney-General’s Chambers to serve him papers in Boston. The hearing on Friday morning apparently began with the AGC getting a bit of a dressing down.

TODAY wrote a feature article about troubles at the National University of Singapore and the Nanyang Technological University, talking to academics who have quit the two institutions over the past year. Then the story disappeared (but psst, you can still read it here). According to Mothership.sg, it’s because of a “legal challenge”.

LGBT rights

On the LGBT rights front, another privileged straight cis Chinese man is trying to feed us a line about how advocating for LGBT rights is “socially divisive”. This is alongside the news that the Ministry of Social and Family Development is reviewing adoption laws in the country after the court allowed a gay man to adopt his own son and raise him in a same-sex family. Desmond Lee says it’s because they have to balance the welfare of the child with “important public policy considerations” (read: not recognising same-sex couples or families). And we thought the best interests of the child should always come first... 😡

And just to make sure that things take a turn for the dumber, Lee Bee Wah wants to know if it’s safe for Singaporeans to be watching RuPaul’s Drag Race live shows. The Ministry of Communications and Information says there hasn’t been “much feedback” about them.

Human rights reports

It’s also been a week for reports, as HOME and Liberty Shared published their research on forced labour among domestic workers in Singapore. Human Rights Watch has also released its latest World Report, and the bit on Singapore emphasises the intensifying clampdown on freedom of expression.

While we’re on the topic of labour conditions, did you know that private security guards who fall asleep on the job or show up for work drunk can now not only be sacked, but face jail time and/or a fine?

That SingHealth breach

The punishments have been doled out for the SingHealth breach that compromised the data of 1.5 million people. Fines have been imposed (although it doesn’t even come up to $1 per affected person), two employees have been fired from Integrated Health Information Systems, and five members of its senior management have been slapped with “significant financial penalty”. The attacker is apparently known to the government and they’ve taken “appropriate action”, but they’ve decided not say more than that for national security reasons.

Last but not least

It seems like we might be off the hook to host a second Trump-Kim Summit, everyone! Whew!


And you’ve made it to the end of what feels like a crazy busy week! Be rewarded by Tom Holland killin’ it at Lip Sync Battle:

#37: The OxLee Feud Special

I’m chucking the usual format out of the window this week and doing something new at the request of some friends. In this issue (which is also coming to you a day early), I’ll be focusing solely on the Lee family feud, which resurfaced again this week with the AGC’s complaint against Lee Hsien Yang’s wife Lee Suet Fern. I’ll be taking it from the top (or as close to the top as I know to take it) and running through my reading of this whole sorry drama.

If you’ve been forwarded this newsletter, click here to subscribe and get updates sent to your inbox every Saturday morning. If you have any feedback, just hit reply!


The Story of Oxley P̶a̶l̶a̶c̶e̶ House

Once upon a time, there was a house on 38 Oxley Road.

To be honest, it was really not that much to look at, but it was the home of this guy…

…and his family, which made it a pretty big deal. A lot of historical stuff — like early PAP meetings — also took place in the basement. Then Mr Lee Kuan Yew — Singapore’s first Prime Minister and all-round Big Boss — passed away in 2015, leaving his estate to his descendants: Lee Hsien Loong (the current Prime Minister), Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling.

This is where our story begins…

Up to that point, things were pretty buttoned down in that family. They were unofficially known as the “first family” in Singapore because of their dad’s boss-ness, but we didn’t know a whole lot about what went on behind closed doors. The first sign that all was not well came in 2016 when Lee Wei Ling expressed unhappiness over the commemoration of LKY’s death and referred to her big brother Lee Hsien Loong as a “dishonourable son”.

Lee Wei Ling’s comments “deeply saddened” Lee Hsien Loong, but there wasn’t that much more to go on, so everyone went back to their usual business of grumbling-about-everything-but-still-supporting-PAP.

And then, early one morning in June 2017…

…the younger Lee siblings went public on social media. Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling, said that they were “disturbed by the character, conduct, motives and leadership of their brother, Lee Hsien Loong, and the role of his wife, Ho Ching.” They claimed that they “felt threatened by Hsien Loong’s misuse of his position and influence over the Singapore government to drive his personal agenda.”

SINGAPOREANS:

38 Oxley Road was at the heart of the dispute (although it became clearer and clearer that there was more to it — more on that later). You see, Lee Kuan Yew had made it very clear that the Oxley house should be demolished upon his death (once Lee Wei Ling stopped living there). Basically, once Lee Wei Ling vacates the premises, get a wrecking ball in.

(Something like this, but with a lot more health and safety gear. Although, knowing the way some subcontractors treat their migrant workers, maybe not.)

Lee Kuan Yew had put this wish to demolish the house in his will. But the younger Lees said that Big Brother wasn’t keen on knocking the thing down, because he and his wife wanted to “milk Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy for their own political purposes”, among which were political ambitions for son Li Hongyi. (Because Singapore needs more Lees? #heh)

Also a source of conflict was a ministerial committee set up to consider options for the house. What was the deal with that? Big Brother Lee had said there was no need to take any action right away (since Lee Wei Ling still lives at Oxley Road). But then Lee Hsien Loong had also made statutory declarations to the committee that questioned the preparation of LKY’s last will.

YOUNGER LEE SIBLINGS:

The siblings point out that the will was granted probate (empowering the executors to carry out the will) in October 2015, and that LHL had raised no legal challenge then. So why was he casting doubt on the preparation of the will?* Why was there even a committee?

(*NOTE: Under the law, it was entirely possible for the government to argue that 38 Oxley Road had great historical significance and had to be preserved despite LKY’s personal wishes. LHL didn’t need to question the will to preserve the house if that was all he wanted to achieve — which suggests that the way in which the house is preserved is just as, if not more, important a consideration.)

All this played out over Facebook, because the younger Lee siblings didn’t trust mainstream media outlets like The Straits Times to report their side of the story honestly and truthfully — an odd nod to the effectiveness of their dad’s undermining of press freedom in Singapore.

I said it then and I’ll say it again: I never saw so many popcorn-eating GIFs in Singapore’s social media scene.

It all culminated in a two-day session in Parliament, where LHL sought to answer questions and clear his and his ministers’ names. I’d previously summed up the parliamentary session, so I won’t do it again — you can read it here (don’t worry, I used GIFs there too). I also have an old tl;dr:

After those two days in Parliament, the siblings agreed to stop warring on social media — Singaporeans reacted with a mix of “oh thank God” and “aiyah no more drama to watch” — and settle their dispute privately. But the dispute never actually went away.

The contempt of court detour

After a period of silence, the saga recruited a younger cast member (in K-drama this would be considered fan service but in this case it was just deployment of the civil service), Li Shengwu, son of Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Suet Fern. Li Shengwu’s friends-only Facebook post got screencapped and circulated. He was sharing an article that provided an overview of this tedious makjang, and within his Facebook caption he said that “the Singapore government is very litigious and has a pliant court system.”

Next thing we know, the AGC’s commencing contempt of court proceedings against him, with over 1,000 pages submitted to the court. Now, I’ve seen those 1,000 pages, and it actually involves filing documents like affidavits over and over and over and over again, like a desperate student trying to pad out the dissertation an hour before the deadline.

Now we have this unnecessary sub-plot, which would be just lame if it didn’t have serious consequences for freedom of expression in Singapore. (Seriously, friends-only post also can kena?) For now, all you need to know is that the Court of Appeal has allowed Li Shengwu to appeal against the court decision that allowed the AGC to serve him papers in the US, where he’s a smartypants at Harvard*. So we’ll have to see how things go.

(* Lest K Shanmugam accuse me of fabricating Li Shengwu’s credentials, I’d like to pre-emptively declare that I’m not saying that’s his official academic title.)

And then, on 6 January 2019…

Lee Wei Ling took to social media again to reveal that the Attorney-General’s Chambers have filed a 500-page complaint against Lee Hsien Yang’s wife, lawyer Lee Suet Fern, to the Law Society.

In their media statement, the AGC said that they had lodged a complaint against Lee Suet Fern because there was “possible professional misconduct”. According to the AGC, Lee Suet Fern had prepared Lee Kuan Yew’s last will, which was a conflict of interest (because her husband was a beneficiary) that isn’t allowed under the legal profession rules. Lee Hsien Yang’s hit back, saying that Lee Suet Fern hadn’t prepared the will; she’d merely put one paragraph into legal language upon the instruction of LKY himself. Lee Hsien Yang also conveniently dropped in the fact that Lee Kuan Yew’s first will had been drafted by his mother Kwa Geok Choo, who had been the principal beneficiary at the time (read: lagi more conflict). But the AGC insists they’ve handled this in a way consistent with other cases, and that the matter will go before a Disciplinary Tribunal.

Lee Hsien Loong had said in Parliament in July 2017 that he wouldn’t sue his sister and brother because it would “besmirch” their parents’ names. But he hadn’t said anything about sisters-in-law or nephews.

What does this mean for us?

#36: Singapore greets the new year with some old habits

Happy 2019, one and all! I approached my 2018 end-of-year holiday with a vengeance: I binge-watched a 21-episode Korean drama in four days, read two novels and lay in bed all day. Coming back to work is a little painful after so much indulgence and sloth.

If you’ve been forwarded this newsletter, click here to subscribe and get updates sent to your inbox every Saturday morning. If you have any feedback, just hit reply!


New year, same crap

I’d love to say Singapore kicked off 2019 with an epiphany about human rights and civil liberties, but we actually started the year with the conviction of Jolovan Wham on two charges: organising an “illegal assembly” and refusing to sign his statement to the police. The “illegal assembly” in question was a forum on civil disobedience and social movements where Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong Skyped in. The authorities say, because Joshua is a foreigner, Jolovan should have got a police permit for the event, even though Joshua wasn’t physically in Singapore. 🤦🏻‍♀️ Sentencing for both counts will be on 23 January. Jolovan is also waiting for the sentence for contempt of court because of a Facebook post. I’m going to need a lot more of these emojis: 🤦🏻‍♀️ 🤦🏻‍♀️ 🤦🏻‍♀️

Also, Edwin Tong says a bill on tackling fake news could be tabled in the first half of this year.

But, some drama! Over the Christmas holiday period, it was reported that Leong Sze Hian, who is being sued for defamation by Prime Minster Lee Hsien Loong (see issue #33 for background) is counter-suing Lee for abusing court process. He’s also accepting donations from those who want to contribute to his legal funds.

Adding more juice to the story is that Lee Hsien Yang, Lee’s younger brother, contributed to Leong’s legal fund. Lee Hsien Yang, who is on the outs with his powerful big brother and whose son Li Shengwu is still on the hook for contempt of court proceedings, told TODAY that he contributed a “meaningful sum”. When TODAY asked why he did it, he said, “Surely it needs no explanation?”

If it’s about more than 200 years then why is it called the Bicentennial

2019 brings us the Bicentennial, i.e. 200 years since Sir Stamford Raffles came to Singapore and decided it would be a good spot for the East India Company to make some sweet sweet moolah.

To commemorate this 200th anniversary of Singapore’s subjugation to the British money-making endeavour, we’ve got an SG Bicentennial Office (SBO) to come up with a year-long programme. They’ve already done things like paint the Raffles statue so from a particular angle it looks like it’s “disappeared” and adding more statues to make it a bit more like Raffles ‘N Friends to "represent a wider cast of characters that arrived on Singapore’s shores in 1819 and before".

It’s confusing messaging-wise, because the SBO continually insists that “Singapore’s history is more than just one date, or one man”, all while commemorating the 200th anniversary of the one date on which that one man arrived in Singapore lies at the very core of the office’s own existence.

But at least we get some memes out of it.

Got some more…

An elderly Singaporean man found that his Medishield only paid out $4.50 of his $4,477 post-subsidy healthcare bill for his eye operation, which has triggered unhappiness about Medishield’s coverage for Singapore’s healthcare. The story is paywalled on the Straits Times’ website, but Chua Mui Hoong has shared a PDF here. If you’re anything like me and easily confused by numbers, then Sonny Liew has an infographic just for you.

Dr Shashi Jayakumar is Singapore’s new representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). As far I know, he doesn’t actually have a background in human rights, nor do I remember him speaking out that much about human rights. This is precisely one of the issues that AICHR reps raised when I spoke to them about the problems with AICHR.


Events and announcements

The aces at CAPE are bringing yet another great political education session, this time on the Budget debates and how they work. Get your tickets here.

Migrant rights group HOME and Liberty Shared (from Hong Kong) are launching their joint report on forced labour in the domestic worker sector in Singapore on 15 January. RSVP here.


About the neighbours

This week, we take a look at an “elastic” cyber law in Indonesia that observers say is used to silence dissent or criticism. Sound familiar?

#35: Hug your loved ones "a little longer and a little tighter".

We’re now in that time of year where we all start winding down and looking back. I don’t know about you, but I’m super excited about the holidays. I think I’m actually going to take Christmas to the New Year off (I really need it), which means this is going to be the last issue of the newsletter for the year.

If you’ve been forwarded this newsletter, click here to subscribe and get updates sent to your inbox every Saturday morning. If you have any feedback, just hit reply!


A child and his fathers

I’m starting this week’s newsletter with some good news. The High Court has overturned a previous decision that barred a Singaporean gay man from adopting the child he fathered via a surrogate. The decision means that he’ll be able to formally adopt his child—who can then apply for Singaporean citizenship—and raise the boy with his long-time partner. It’s fantastic news for the family; I love how the father told TODAY that he and his partner hugged their five-year-old son “a little longer and a little tighter”.

This doesn’t automatically signal a new era for same-sex families in Singapore, though. Under Section 377A of the Penal Code, gay men are still essentially criminals, and this decision by the High Court doesn’t touch that. Lawyer Remy Choo breaks down for us, clearly and concisely, how narrow the basis of the decision in this case was.

The Ministry for Family and Social Development, who opposed the man’s appeal to adopt his own son, has said they’ll study the judgment and “consider if the relevant policies and legislation need to be reviewed and further strengthened.” The minister, Desmond Lee, has also come out to reiterate that the Singapore government doesn’t support the formation of same-sex families.

So this can’t be counted as a big win for Singapore’s LGBT rights movement, but it still warms my heart to know that at least one family is going to have a very happy, love-filled Christmas. 🎄

The “light touch” is dead, long live the “light touch”

There was a time when the PAP government said they would govern the Internet with a “light touch”. Unfortunately for all of us, what Singapore’s experiencing right now is more like clumsy, insistent groping.

Last weekend, the Infocomm Media Development Authority blocked access to the Singapore Herald because their editors didn’t take down “objectionable” articles on the Singapore-Malaysia maritime dispute.

It’s been a busy period for the IMDA because they also wrote to The Online Citizen—whose chief editor has been charged with criminal defamation—to “remind” them that they can only receive money from “verified local sources”.

This means that Singaporeans who donate to TOC have to provide their full name and IC numbers to prove that they really are citizens. In a climate like Singapore’s where there are still many people who are afraid of associating with “dissenters” like opposition parties or alternative websites, such requirements could actually put people off donating. (I know this firsthand because I’ve had people come up to me saying that they’re apprehensive about supporting New Naratif after seeing the government’s reaction to us, because they’re afraid of being found out to be members.)

What interests me most about what the IMDA has been up to these days is how it demonstrates the power that they already have. They’ve been able to demand that people and websites remove content without six hours, and they’re able to block websites. So why do we need more laws, more powers, to combat “fake news”?

On the role of the Attorney-General

Despite his little swipe at “people posing as human rights activists” (who is he talking about, I wonder? 🤔) I enjoyed reading this op-ed by former Attorney-General Walter Woon, in which he argues that the two functions of the Attorney-General be split up.

In Singapore, the Attorney-General is the government’s legal adviser—acting as their lawyer when necessary—and also the public prosecutor. The problem comes in when people aren’t able to tell which role the AG is playing at any particular point of time. I think this is especially problematic since our government has been dominated by one party for so long; as Woon says, there are plenty who believe that the AG is acting on the government’s instructions when they decide to prosecute certain individuals. (And hey, having an AG who used to be Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s personal lawyer and a deputy AG who was a former PAP MP doesn’t exactly help the optics.)

In an environment like Singapore’s, splitting up the two functions isn’t going to entirely silent concerns over of the public prosecutor’s perceived independence (or lack thereof), but it could help to deal with some conflicts of interests. For example, in death penalty cases, the AG acts as the public prosecutor at the trial and appeal stage. However, when it comes to appeal to the President (who defers to the Cabinet) for clemency, the AG steps in as the government’s legal adviser to provide advice on the case. It’s a scenario that clearly highlights the conflict. So I think we should give Woon’s suggestion a little more thought.

Still got some more…

The Ministry of Home Affairs has announced that the amendments to the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act will take effect on 1 January 2019. This temporary law that allows for preventive detention without trial has been in place since 1955, undermining the definition of the word “temporary”.

A Chinese national based in Shanghai has filed an application to declare Lim Tean, the leader of Singapore’s newest opposition party, bankrupt. He says Lim hasn’t repaid a loan of US$150,000. Lim is fighting the application. Bankrupts aren’t allowed to stand for elections, so if Lim’s declared bankrupt, he’ll be out of the running even before the race officially begins.

A nurse mixed up the dose selection and rate selection on a machine and ended up giving an elderly woman 10 times more anaesthesia than she should have had. 😱 Still, the coroner found that she had died of natural causes and that there was no direct link between the overdose and her death.


Looking ahead

Since this is the final issue for the year, I thought I’d do a bit of a look-ahead for 2019.

There are more than enough whispers about the general election taking place next year. Lee Hsien Loong will still be leading the party, but it’ll be the last election he’s going to fight at the helm of the PAP as they transition towards the 4G leadership.

What civil society is worried about, though, is that the election and leadership transition will bring a clampdown (which is arguably already happening). We’re still waiting on new anti-fake news legislation, which would be yet another lever of control the PAP government can hold over the heads of independent news websites, bloggers and journalists.

I’ll also be keeping my eye on the courts in 2019: Jolovan is still waiting for sentencing for his contempt of court case (as is John Tan), and also the verdict for his first illegal assembly trial. Then, of course, he has all his other charges to go. Terry Xu of TOC and Daniel de Costa will also have their criminal defamation charges to face, while Leong Sze Hian grapples with being sued by the prime minister. The Workers’ Party members, too, are waiting on the outcome of the lawsuit over the management of town councils under their charge.

2019 is also the 200th anniversary of Raffles’ landing in Singapore (and the 60th anniversary of the PAP coming to power), and we’re going to have the bicentennial commemoration of our own colonisation. 😐 I feel like this is a good time to point out that Michael Barr’s Singapore: A Modern History is pretty affordable on Book Depository.


Events and announcements

It’s Coda Culture’s 2018 annual show this evening from 7pm!

The International Center for Nonviolent Conflict is calling for applications for a seven-week online course on civil resistance entitled “Civil Resistance Struggles: How Ordinary People Win Rights, Freedom, and Justice”. It goes from 7 February to 29 March.


About the neighbours

This week, I’d like to point to two longform pieces on New Naratif about West Papua, which is such an under-covered part of Southeast Asia. Indonesia has occupied West Papua for decades, and our stories point to the challenges that independent Papuan journalists and pro-independence Papuan political prisoners face.

New Naratif, too, is gearing up for 2019 and raising funds to keep producing our stories—if you haven’t yet, please support our work and sign up as a member. You can also buy a copy of our book online.


And that’s it for this year! I hope everyone has a great Christmas and a happy New Year. And now I’ll leave you with Sebuah Lagu.

#34: The never-ending saga of the SG-MY frenemies

I’ve made an incursion into Malaysian territory and am writing this from a shockingly affordable—dare I even say cheap—suite/AirBnB in Kuala Lumpur. New Naratif is hosting an open meeting and Christmas party at Rumah Seni Selangor on the 16th; if you’re in town, come and say hi! We also have our first book up for sale online: get yourself a copy!

This week is going to be a short one with just one section, because in the past 48 hours I’ve been in a full-on, full-day seminar in Chulalongkorn University, two meetings, and a flight to KL. I’m knackered and desperately in need of sleep. 😴

If you’ve been forwarded this newsletter, click here to subscribe and get updates sent to your inbox every Saturday morning. If you have any feedback, just hit reply!


Maritime and airspace disputes

The spat between Singapore and Malaysia is doing my head in—Malaysia is unhappy about what we’re doing at Seletar Airport, and Singapore says Malaysia’s extended port limits are encroaching on our territory. There’s so much back-and-forth between both sides, and not all particularly mature. In fact, the sabre-rattling has been pretty scary: here’s a video Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-jin shared on Facebook, which asks if Malaysia is doing all this to “destabilise Singapore” or test the new leadership, and asks people to pray for Singaporean soldiers. He comments that “no one is trying to be jingoistic”—yeah bro, no one’s saying you’re trying, we’re saying you are. And the message is getting received, as we can see in this case of a 76-year-old uncle who wants to be mobilised if Singapore goes to war. I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a daring prediction: WE ARE NOT GOING TO WAR.

Please read Sudhir Vadaketh’s commentary on this dispute: both sides are milking things for political points, and in the end it’s the people who are going to lose.

“The highest echelons” have hurt fewlings

Leong Sze Hian’s commented on being sued for defamation by Lee Hsien Loong for simply sharing an article, without comment (see issue #33). He says he’d received a letter from the Infocomm Media Development Authority ordering him to take the post down within six hours, and that he had complied, only to find himself on the receiving end of a lawyer’s letter two days later.

This is like what happened with The Online Citizen, where they complied with IMDA’s order only to get a police report filed against them anyway. TOC’s Chief Editor Terry Xu was charged with criminal defamation this past week, and is currently out on bail of S$5,000. Daniel de Costa, who had written the letter which claimed that there was tampering of the Constitution and corruption at the “highest echelons” of government under the pseudonym of Willy Sum, was also charged with criminal defamation. Daniel is also charged under the Computer Misuse Act because he’s being accused of using someone else’s email account without authorisation. (He told me that his friend hadn’t been using that account anymore, and had given him permission to use it.)

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin justified all this by saying that the government has to take a “clear stand” on those who make accusations “which go to the core of the integrity (and) reputation of (our) leaders and the Government.” What interests me, though, is how the law is going to be interpreted: who, exactly, is being defamed here? Who is the “highest echelons”? Whose reputation is on the line here? Are the “highest echelons” to be treated like natural persons under the law?

Terry and Daniel’s pre-trial conferences are going to be on 8 January. Meanwhile, Leong says he’ll be representing himself in the defamation suit.

The loyal opposition

The Workers’ Party is leaving nothing to chance and working the ground for the upcoming election (widely rumoured to be in the second half of next year). Someone posted on Reddit that they’ve received a WP pamphlet which takes pains to assure Singaporeans that they don’t “oppose for the sake of opposing”.

I understand why an opposition political party would feel the need to do this in Singapore, but it’s also really frustrating. There are so many political decisions made for the shorter-term win, but these gestures to show that one isn’t too radical and scary and can “play nicely” really limits our political imagination in the long run. It would be a lot more inspiring to have opposition parties working based on clear principles and values. The problem with a lot of opposition parties in Singapore is that, apart from not being the PAP, we don’t really know what they stand for. Where is the ideology, where is the vision? Why is everyone so afraid of using human rights language? (The question is rhetorical.)

Of course, this is a long-standing peeve I’ve had with the WP—they’re so cautious about their own image and standing that opportunities for solidarity and collaboration with civil society and activists have been lost. And then, of course, there are those unfortunate incidents where the WP ends up being complicit in oppressive smear campaigns.

No big no small

Does anyone have the instruction manual for public servants in Singapore? What does it say about dress code?

Photos of Li Hongyi, son of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Temasek Holdings CEO Ho Ching, have been circulating. If you haven’t seen them, here they are:

Seeing that my own 2018 aesthetic can be described as an exploration of the question “can pyjamas be outside clothes?” (the answer is that UNIQLO’s drape pants are both inside and outside clothes), I fully empathise with the desire to work in comfort. But this still seems remarkably inappropriate. I don’t know what event this is; the first photo shows that he’s at the State Courts, and in the second he seems to be part of a panel. It looks pretty official. In any case, it’s definitely work-related. You don’t wear your flip-flops to something like this.

Plus the Public Service Division should have a dress code—I’ve been trying to find if it’s written down somewhere publicly accessible but so far no luck—so this also seems to be in contempt of what’s required from someone who works for the Government Technology Agency of Singapore.

If he’s short of outfits, I think Miss Universe Singapore has a dress she would probably like to get rid of.

Loading more posts…