Scapegoating, the climate crisis, and the potential to excel in life

Issue 74

There are nice weeks in Singapore and not-nice weeks in Singapore. I think I can describe the past week—especially the latter half—as one of the very not-nice weeks.


Playing with fire in the name of “foreign interference”

The PAP has been talking about new laws to deal with foreign interference for quite some time now, but given the recent emphasis on events dealing with the topic (as well as coverage in the mainstream press—The Straits Times on Thursday devoted two full pages, plus the above-the-fold front page story, to a conference on foreign interference and countermeasures, they seem to be priming the ground. Which means we should expect to see a bill sometime soon.

If you’ve read the special issue, you’ll know that I’ve become one of the scapegoats in this latest display of McCarthyism. Here’s another example from a pro-PAP Facebook page:

This is worryingly inflammatory language, aimed at turning Singaporeans against another citizen, despite the lack of actual evidence that I’ve done anything to foment unrest or destabilise society. It’s depressing to see the parallels with the UK, where MPs are calling out Boris Johnson and his government for their willingness to use language insinuating (or outright stating) that their opponents have betrayed the nation.

As a balm to all this hysteria, read this op-ed, which argues that the manipulation of individuals in critical positions is a “more common and insidious forms of foreign influence” than trying large-scale efforts to disrupt society. And that’s why we need “greater transparency from the state and those holding high office.”

The climate crisis and Singapore

About 2,000 Singaporeans gathered last weekend at the SG Climate Rally to call for systematic action to address climate change. There were a variety of speeches that you can catch up on:

Ahead of the rally, Ajay Nair wrote for The Octant (Yale-NUS’ student paper) about how the organisers came together to take action, and to call for bolder moves to tackle the climate crisis. But “emotion must be tempered with reason”, others say.

In the meantime, Singaporeans had to grapple with the haze over the past week (leading to me buying, for the first time in my life, a face mask with a filter, only for the worst of the haze to clear up right after), and the Haze Elimination Action Team has put out a bit of guidance about taking up lawsuits. Three Indonesian firms with offices in Singapore have been linked to the haze.

“tHe PoTenTiaL tO ExCeL iN LiFe~~~”

People are pissed off about a judge ruling to sentence a molester to just probation instead of a jail term, because she felt that his offences were “minor” and that he has the “potential to excel in life”. He’d molested a woman on an MRT train, then followed her off the train to touch her again. In his probation report, he admitted to having committed similar acts since he enrolled in the National University of Singapore. As of Friday evening, over 20,000 people have signed a petition against his sentence. The Law Minister has also said that the Attorney-General’s Chambers intends to appeal the sentence.

Got some more

The Straits Times has started some pre-election coverage, although it’s blocked behind the paywall.

The Court of Appeal has dismissed Leong Sze Hian’s appeal against a High Court judge’s ruling to strike out his counterclaim against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Lee is suing him for defamation because Leong had shared an article (later debunked), claiming that Lee was a target of 1MDB investigations.

Subhas and Preetipls spoke to VICE about the whole brownface saga and the parody rap video that got them in trouble.


About the neighbours

New Naratif recently published the second and final part of Road To Raqqa, our special miniseries tracing the journey of Febri, who, in his early 20s, decided to travel from Indonesian to Raqqa to reunite with his family in ISIS-held Syria. But after realising that joining ISIS and living in Raqqa wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, he and his family made their way back to Indonesia again. A remarkable story that you can listen to here: Part One, Part Two