Hi all, Kirsten here!
So, this the first issue (is that the word for newsletters?) of We, The Citizens, a weekly newsletter about social justice, civil liberties, human rights, politics and democracy in Singapore.
I’ve been thinking on/off about curating an email newsletter about Singapore for some time. I finally got the push after looking at the great newsletters in the region—Erin Cook’s Southeast Asian round-up, Victoria Milko’s weekly offering on Myanmar and more recently, Mike Tatarski’s Vietnam Weekly—and feeling a creeping sense of FOMO. I decided that the only way to get around this is to just give it a go, so I’m going to try this for the next three months and see how it works out. (It’s not going to be an issue of interest, just an issue of bandwidth and having enough hours in the week to get everything done!)
The idea behind this newsletter is not to cover all the news that happens in Singapore, but to curate news items and events focusing on the areas listed above; the stories and events that need amplification and discussion. The newsletter is named We, the Citizens because I’d like to question the notion of citizenship and how we experience it—what are the rights and responsibilities of citizens in a country? How should we engage with one another, and society at large?
I hope this newsletter will be a useful resource for Singaporeans and people who want to learn more about Singapore. Subscribe to get a new issue every Sunday, and forward it on!
Read about inequality
If you haven’t already read Teo You Yenn’s This Is What Inequality Looks Like, I… don’t know what you’re doing. But don’t worry, Ethos Books has got your back: the first chapter, Disrupt the Narrative, is now available online. Give it a read and please, please get yourself a copy of the book—it’s an important look at inequality in Singapore and the myths that we tell ourselves. Plus it’s just really good lah.
Sentencing offenders with intellectual disabilities
A High Court judge has highlighted “severely limited” options for sentencing offenders with intellectual disabilities. The prosecution had pushed for a penalty of 15–18 years’ imprisonment and at least 15 strokes of the cane for a teenage rapist (who had been 14 years old when he raped a 16-year-old schoolmate), but Justice Woo Bih Li sentenced the boy to reformative training instead. Now 17, the teenager only has an IQ of 61. Although a prison psychiatrist said the teen is unlikely to benefit from reformative training, the judge felt rehabilitation was a better “practical long-term solution to the issues” than a long jail term.
Press freedom: still #151
Reporters Without Borders released its 2018 World Press Freedom Index on 25 April, and things aren’t looking good press freedom globally. Singapore’s still 151st out of 180, sandwiched between Ethiopia and Swaziland. The Southeast Asian countries that rank below us are Brunei, Laos and Vietnam. The country that comes out top in this region is Timor Leste at 95 on the Index.
Migrant labour and safety
A 27-year-old Indonesian domestic worker fell out of a third-floor HDB flat—it’s believed that she was cleaning the windows at the time. She sustained injuries and was taken to hospital. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, and there have been much more tragic consequences; in 2012 the Ministry of Manpower announced that employers of domestic workers shall not require them to clean the exterior of windows unless safety measures are in place, after nine “work-related FDW fall from heights fatalities” between January and June 2012.
The Singapore ambassador to the United States responded to an op-ed I wrote forThe New York Times last month. His response, published on The New York Timeswebsite and picked up by the local mainstream media, said, “I cannot recognise the country Ms. Han describes.” I’m going to leave you to read both pieces; you can findmy original piece here.
Fundraising for #MeToo in Singapore
Corinna Lim, executive director of AWARE, is going to Mongolia with Women on a Mission. They'll be camping in gers, ascending up to 4,000m above sea level. She'll also be speaking at the National Centre Against Violence in Ulaanbatar, a Mongolian NGO dealing with domestic and sexual violence against women and children. Corinna's paying for her own trip, so all donations will go towards AWARE's #MeToo Action Fund (for every $10 that the action fund raises, Corinna will donate $1 to the National Centre Against Violence). If you want to help her reach her fundraising goal, you can donate here.
And now for a visual break: Vinny Sharp—The Art of Lying (Falsehood)
Learn about Said Zahari
On 4 May, Dr Azhar Ibrahim, deputy head of the Malay Studies department at the National University of Singapore, and lawyer Fadli Fawzi will be talking about the journalistic, literary and political contributions of former political detainee, the late Said Zahari. The event, organised by social enterprise Function 8, is free to attend—you just need to register here.
World Press Freedom Day
Function 8 is busy this week—one day after the session on Said Zahari’s legacy, they’re co-organising the event Press Freedom and Fake News in Singapore with the Community Action Network (CAN). Panellists include Daniel Yap, former publisher of The Middle Ground, Braema Mathi, former president of MARUAH, former political detainee Teo Soh Lung, and from New Naratif, Thum Pingtjin and yours truly. If you’d like to attend, email communityactionnetworkSG@gmail.com to chope your spot!
Don't make things worse
It’s a common reaction after coming across the news of a natural disaster to want to help or volunteer in some way, but aid that isn’t thought through can often end up making things worse instead of better. Robin Low, co-founder of Relief 2.0 and Civil Innovation Lab, will be speaking on 5 May about how best to contribute in ways that actually meet on-the-ground needs. The event is free; just register here.
Paint homes on Pulau Ubin
This isn’t happening this week but I’m sharing it in case people need to more advance notice: there’s a call for volunteers to paint the homes of two elderly residents of Pulau Ubin for Hari Raya on 12 May from 10am–6pm. The meeting point is Changi Point Ferry Terminal—be there at 10am! More details here.
Last but not least, the Sungei Road Heritage Flea Market’s going strong at the Woodlands Recreation Centre every Saturday and Sunday. Head down to check out the eclectic collection of secondhand goods.