For the third week in a row, the news agenda is dominated by the spread of the novel coronavirus, now officially known as COVID-19. So since we’re going to have a rather somber issue of this newsletter once again, I thought it best to start with some happiness.
If you haven’t seen it yet, please go to WILD RICE’s The Importance of Being Earnest at their theatre in Funan. Even if you’ve seen previous productions, you should check it out again, because we could all do with some laughter these days, and this play is hilarious. And if you buy a ticket to Earnest you can also get a discount to other shows by Pangedemonium or the Singapore Repertory Theatre!
COVID-19 in Singapore
Singapore has now seen 67 confirmed cases, with 17 considered fully recovered, and hundreds of GP clinics are going to be repurposed as Public Health Preparedness Clinics to improve the detection and treatment of COVID-19 cases. We’re also at the stage where we have to face up to the difficult fact that this virus outbreak is going to really whack Singapore’s economy. The government is also putting out millions of dollars to help taxi and private hire drivers, who say they’ve seen a drastic drop in customers (I haven’t seen a Grab surge price since DORSCON Orange). And unfortunately, we always seem to have to remind people not to be complete assholes to their domestic workers.
If you have some time and are well, please consider donating blood—the blood stock is low!
I’ve also been gaping at this Facebook post by PAP MP Low Yen Ling. Didn’t anyone point out how bad the optics are in these photos?! Absolutely intense #eyepower.
But then again, as I said on Twitter, the lack of awareness is a big part of why I think this photo is Peak Singapore: a bunch of Chinese people feeling good about being “all in this together” while South Asian migrant workers do the actual labour. 🤦🏻♀️
Executions and all we do not know
The High Court has dismissed an application by two death row inmates seeking that their executions (as far as I know, not yet scheduled) by stayed in the light of Lawyers For Liberty’s allegations about illegal practices in executions. In their application, they had also sought promises of immunity for LFL’s source, the idea being that there should be protection for whistleblowers that they can testify without fear. However, the judge found that “[t]here is simply no credible basis for leave, much less a prima facie case of reasonable suspicion.”
(Curiously, The Straits Times reported on this ruling, but didn’t refer to the actual ruling, quoting instead from a statement from the Attorney-General’s Chambers.)
As I’d previously written for Popula, there is a lot that we don’t know about the death penalty and how it’s applied in Singapore. So much of it just isn’t transparent or reported. The only official information we get directly related to the death penalty is a number buried in the Singapore Prison Service’s annual report of the number of people executed the previous year. We don’t know that much about how executions are carried out—who is the executioner, for instance, or if there are any executions that are botched—nor do we actually even know of imminent executions quite a lot of the time. If we had more transparency about the use and application of the death penalty, it would be much easier for Singaporeans to evaluate the credibility of allegations like LFL’s.
A minor detained without trial
A 17-year-old secondary school kid has been detained under the Internal Security Act for allegedly supporting ISIS, making him the youngest to be stuck behind bars without trial. I think it goes without saying that I feel like we shouldn’t be jailing minors without even giving them trials in open court.