What are/aren't rights in Singapore?

Issue 82

Kirsten Han

This issue is reaching you on Sunday instead of Saturday due to a couple of reasons: I got home late on Friday and was back out early on Saturday for work, and also I decided that I’d hold off until after the protest against the ban of e-scooters at Hong Lim Park on Saturday evening, so that can be included this week.

Earlier this week, I wrote down some thoughts on journalism, politics, and neutrality, in response to questions asked in the Chinese Storyteller newsletter. If you’re a Milo Peng Funder, this would already have been emailed to you.


Opposing the PMD ban

Given the focus of last week’s issue, I was pretty eager to go to the event today. I thought I’d be able to speak to a number of food delivery riders and get started on digging deeper into the issue. Sadly, it didn’t quite turn out this way.I arrived shortly after 5pm and hung around for about 1.5 hours. During that time, the speakers were Goh Meng Seng of the People’s Power Party, former presidential hopeful Tan Kin Lian, the emcee, and… Goh Meng Seng again? A lot of sympathy for the riders were expressed, as well as criticism of the PAP government, as to be expected.

I did meet some people who were food delivery riders, but they said that they’d just showed up to take a look and have a bit of a listen to the speeches, and were keen to emphasise that they weren’t part of the event, or associated to any of the speakers and organisers.

It’s good to have an event that allows people to stand in solidarity with the workers, but I wish that we could have heard more from the actual workers themselves, and let them take the lead in how they’d like to address this issue. That said, it’s good to see students make a statement in solidarity.

I’m still looking into this and will be trying to interview gig economy workers moving forward—if you know anyone who would like to talk, hit reply and let me know!


Rest In Peace

On Friday morning, 36-year-old Abd Helmi Ab Halim was hanged for trafficking 16g of heroin, just 1g over the threshold that attracts the death penalty. Malaysia’s Law Minister Liew Vui Keong had issued a statement calling on Singapore to show mercy, but Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs said that we have the sovereign right to carry out executions.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve lost count of how many executions have taken place this year. I think there’s been at least three, including Helmi, but given how difficult it’s been to get information there could easily have been more.

Challenging 377A… again

All three challenges to the constitutionality of Section 377A have been heard. The Attorney-General’s Chambers have also made their submissions. As TODAYonline reported:

…as the Singapore Constitution currently stands, there is no “free-standing” right to sexual freedom or privacy, so it cannot be said that it is absurd and arbitrary to deprive homosexuals of their chosen form of sexual conduct, they added.

Also, concepts like privacy, human dignity and identity cannot be conferred the status of constitutional rights as they remain formless here versus “concrete rights” such as religion, free speech and freedom of movement, which are upheld with qualifications, within the context of larger interests such as public order and security, the state lawyers said.

Civil liberties and politics

While on the topic of rights, Singapore’s overly restrictive laws on public assembly strike again: Yan Jun, who was previously jailed for other illegal assemblies, has been arrested again for staging a solo protest at Raffles Place.

Alex Yeung, a Hong Kong restaurant owner, has also been deported and banned from Singapore after he was investigated for organising an illegal assembly that invited people to share their view on the situation in Hong Kong.

In both cases, it’s not clear that there was actually any danger of public disorder or harm to anyone. People should have the right to freedom of assembly to express themselves in this way, and it’s ridiculous that they would be arrested or kicked out of the country simply for doing such things.

But this, after all, is Singapore, right? And, as the PAP government is keen to remind us, we need to make sure we aren’t like Hong Kong. (I won’t say more about this because I’ve written a piece on this subject that I’ll share in a future issue once it’s been published.)


Register to vote!

A reminder from a fellow #wethecitizens reader, Shu Ning:

With the next general election coming up… some time… please remember to make sure that you’re registered to vote! It’s usually automatic, but if you’re living overseas, you need to make sure you’re registered as an overseas voter. (You have to do this within two days of the writ of election being issued, so it’s better to just get it all sorted out ahead of time.) And if you got struck off ‘cos you didn’t vote in the last election, make sure you’re restored to the Register of Electors.


We’re holding a democracy classroom on inequality this week! Space is limited, so remember to chope your seat.

We’ve published the results of Citizens’ Agenda according to constituency—check it out! We’ll also be looking for volunteers to approach their current MPs to ask for their positions on these issues: if you’re interested, please contact PJ at pingtjin.thum@newnaratif.com

When it comes to food, what is authenticity and heritage? Max Loh considers this question in this gorgeously illustrated comic.

Last but not least, this really important piece about carbon emissions in Singapore is a must-read. And please share it widely, too!