#25: In which I'm scandalised by how broad Singapore's contempt of court laws are.

Sorry this issue is a day late! I’m finally back home after about three weeks away. It shows in the backlog of work I have. 😢

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Simi sai also contempt

Jolovan Wham, my colleague in the 2016 Don’t Kena Contempt campaign has… well… kena contempt. Both Jolovan and Singapore Democratic Party politician John Tan have been found guilty of scandalising the judiciary for their Facebook posts. Jolovan had shared an article about the constitutional challenge against the Anti-Fake News Act in Malaysia and commented that “Malaysia’s judges are more independent than Singapore’s for cases with political implications.” John Tan later posted on his Facebook page that “[b]y charging Jolovan for scandalising the judiciary, the [Attorney-General’s Chambers] only confirms what he said was true.”

Sentencing is yet to come, but under the Administration of Justice (Protection) Act (which was what Don’t Kena Contempt was campaigning against) the penalty can go up to a S$100,000 fine and/or three years’ imprisonment.

For an article with the perfect amount of scorn for how ludicrous and embarrassing for Singapore these convictions are, look no further than The Economist. The header cartoon itself is worth a click.

Bharati Jagdish leaves Channel NewsAsia

I was shocked to read that Bharati Jagdish has resigned from Channel NewsAsia. As usual, there is no transparency coming from our mainstream media outlets—CNA simply says she left of her own accord, but it seems like there’s more to the story.

According to The Online Citizen, it had to do with her interview with Ho Kwon Ping, founder and executive chairman of Banyan Tree Holdings. In it, Ho said that his salary was lower than that of Singapore’s ministers (again, that sensitive issue of ministerial salaries!) In the written article, Bharati points out that Ho’s salary, inclusive of benefits and bonuses, was over S$2.5 million, which is more than what Singapore’s ministers make. This then gets picked up by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who says that even “knowledgable, well-meaning people” like Ho can propagate “misconceptions” about ministerial salaries. Ho then responds that he was referring to base salary, and not his total compensation as Bharati referenced in the article.

It’s odd that an experienced journalist would voluntarily resign over something that a media outlet could just clarify and move on from. In fact, CNA seems to have done that, adding a clarification to the article instead of retracting it. So why has Bharati Jagdish resigned? Who was applying pressure? Another day in the opaque world of Singaporean power play! 🤷🏻‍♀️It’s a pity, because I found Bharati’s interviews more probing (if still limited by our press freedom realities) than the average.

Also, I agree with Pritam Singh here: if the government really wants to put a stop to misconceptions and confusion over ministerial salaries, then just tell us exactly how much each minister makes every year.

#MeToo

#MeToo has sparked conversations about sexual assault and harassment and how there are so many spaces that are actually hostile to women. A Singaporean athlete’s decision to speak out about sexual harassment shows just how far behind we are in dealing with this. The Straits Times is trying to improve things after two editors were demoted and redeployed for “improper relations” with a subordinate (see issue #24). AWARE has written a must-read op-ed on dealing with workplace harassment.

On forced psychiatric intervention (a submission from PPDFRC)

People with Psychosocial Disabilities of Singapore for the Full Realisation of the CRPD (PPDFRC)—welcomes the decriminalisation of attempted suicide. However, it’s alarmed by the accompanying proposal to expand State and psychiatric powers to detain people in psychiatric institutions against their will. PPDFRC's submission explains how the latter development would violate Singapore's obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Singapore has ratified. The submission also notes that this expansion of powers runs counter to the latest World Health Organisation standards, and renders more people vulnerable to human rights violations. Involuntary hospitalisation and forced psychiatric interventions have not been found to be effective, and on the contrary increases the rate of future suicide completion. Non-coercive approaches which do not have such negative outcomes are possible and are found across the world.

Still got some more…

At long-frickin’-last, the government has said that employers aren’t allowed to hold on to domestic workers’ money for “safekeeping”.

Power to Ivan Heng and Siti Khalijah Zainal for this hilarious skit lampooning Temasek Holdings CEO (and wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong) Ho Ching and Rosmah Mansor, wife of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The Independent Singapore reported that Action Information Management Pte Ltd (AIM), the ruling party-owned company mentioned in issue #24, has been struck off. I checked this on ACRA’s website myself and it’s true—so who owns the town council management systems that the PAP-run town councils sold to AIM now?

KF Seetoh, the founder of Makansutra, has written an open letter highlighting some pretty awful contract terms imposed upon hawkers in a Social Enterprise Hawker Centre.


And now for a visual break…

I love Dear Evan Hansen and am constantly listening to the soundtrack on repeat. This is one of my favourites, and it goes out to all the mums out there who are doing great (even if they don’t feel like they are at that moment).


Events and announcements

Keep Cats
There’s a cat adoption drive today from noon to 7pm at The Moon (57 Mosque Street). As the mother of/slave to two cats, I highly recommend adopting felines to run your life.

Seelan Palay’s release
Seelan Palay was fined S$2,500 for his performance piece—in which he walked from Hong Lim Park to Parliament House and stood outside with a mirror—because the court found him guilty of participating in an illegal procession (of one). He’ll be released from Changi Prison next Tuesday between 9am and 11am. You’re welcome to go and meet him and show support if you like!


About the neighbours…

Last week we focused on Palu—this week we’ll take a look at another part of Sulawesi. Eko Rudianto writes this great story about child marriage, which is common in Makassar and Kodingareng in South Sulawesi. He looks at the roots of the tradition, the motivating factors, and the problems with this practice.