6 July 2015
Date: 5th July 2015
Thank you for coming to this event. Thank you to Community Action Network (CAN) for organising this event.
My discussion will be in four parts: – I will share a story; I will then share views on us, as a society; then it will be on Amos Yee; before ending off on what the government may do. This is not an easy piece to speak on and there is an ongoing trial. I will try my best.
I would like to begin by first telling a story. It is a story of Mr Alan Turing. A very bright Londoner who spent most of his time at University of Manchester. He was a pioneering computer scientist, mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, mathematical biologist, and marathon and ultra distance runner. I, shamefully, never heard of Turing till last year when I was on a Commonwealth Leader’s Programme and we visited the University. Turing was a genius. During World War II he decoded Nazi messages, helping the British to be one-step ahead in the War against the Nazis. His genius inspired many at the University. But he had one ‘flaw’ (as it was seen then) – he was a homosexual. When he was found out in 1952 the government ordered that he be injected with female estrogen, a move towards chemical castration. He turned into a bloated man, lost his athletic frame, and also descended into “grief and madness”. Before his 42nd birthday he killed himself by eating an apple he had dipped in cyanide.
Today the University has a sculpture in his honour and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has apologised for the trauma and the torture that the government had inflicted on Mr Turing. I was very impressed that the government had realised the errors of its ways and apologised. A rare occurrence here, you might say. But I was also struck deeply by how this Mr Turing, a genius, a contributor to society, had to suffer, much, just because he was a homosexual; just because society saw homosexuality as demonic and made it, non-normal. I was struck by the story, the sculpture and the regret. Read the rest of this entry »
1 July 2015
MARUAH, a Human Rights Non-Governmental Organisation, objects to government leaders using the Defamation Law to institute defamation lawsuits against its critics, regardless of whether the offending statement is defamatory or not.
We make these remarks as the court assesses the damages that Mr Roy Ngerng has to pay for the remarks made against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. In May 2014 Mr Ngerng, a blogger, was sued by Mr Lee Hsien Loong, whom we assume is acting in his private capacity and not as the Prime Minister. Mr Lee’s lawyers demanded that Mr Ngerng remove the article in question, issue an apology on his blog, and offer compensation to Mr Lee. Mr Ngerng acceded to all the demands, including removing four other articles, and made an offer of S$5,000 as compensation to Mr Lee. Mr Lee’s lawyers, however, dismissed the amount as ‘derisory’, and commenced legal action on 30 May 2014. In January 2015, Mr Ngerng was ordered by the court to pay $29,000 to Mr Lee. Today (1 July 2015) the courts will decide on the damages that Mr Ngerng has to pay to Mr Lee Hsien Loong. Read the rest of this entry »
23 June 2015
MARUAH has submitted 2 reports to the United Nations, as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.
The 1st report, a joint submission involving several NGOs, highlights concerns and recommendations covering all areas, including political-security, economic, and socio-cultural domains.
The 2nd report, a MARUAH submission, focuses on electoral systems, death penalty, and preventive detention without trial.
The reports can be accessed below.
Singapore will undergo it’s 2nd UPR session in Jan/Feb 2016. More details on the UPR process can be found at the link below.
5 June 2015
During the recent Shangri La Dialogue, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned the Rohingya crisis and how it “…requires a response at the source, and not just at sea. It also requires countries to act decisively against the traffickers and put a stop to this organised racket.”
MARUAH agrees with Prime Minister Lee and urges our ASEAN nations to find a long-term solution to the displacement of the Rohingyas. This is especially urgent, in light of the recent discovery of mass graves in Malaysia and Thailand. This is in addition to the suffering we see on the boats at sea.
As mentioned earlier, the Rohingyas, according to many historical accounts, have been part of the Burmese landscape from as far back as the 15th Century. They are a part of ASEAN and cannot be evicted from the collective consciousness and community of ASEAN.
Myanmar/Burma cannot continue to deny their existence by making them stateless or by not wanting to discuss on matters related to the Rohingyas if the ‘R’ word is used. It is time for Myanmar/Burma to show compassion and respect for a people who have been in their midst for a long time. It is also time for ASEAN to act collectively and ask for measures from Myanmar/Burma and support the efforts of the country as it tries to resolve the Rohingya issue.
MARUAH believes one of the significant steps ASEAN states can take to protect the rights of the Rohingyas and other refugees is to sign the 1951 Refugee Convention, which says the rights of refugee have to be upheld “without discrimination as to race, religion or country of origin.”
At this junction in ASEAN’s growth as a community, it is imperative that we begin implementing long-term solutions to transnational problems.
We cannot allow the degradation of any ASEAN individual or group’s dignity.
30 April 2015
Today – 30 April 2015 – as Amos Yee made his way to court, a stranger went up to him and struck him across the face.
MARUAH strongly condemns this act of violence and intimidation. This is not the way a mature and civilised society deals with opinions and opinion-makers. Prior to this confrontation, there had already been threats of violence made against Amos Yee. This recent incident suggests that such threats and actions dehumanise a person and validate acts of victimisation against him. We may disagree with the views, the approach and the stances taken by Amos Yee. But it does not give us the right to inflict violence on him. Read the rest of this entry »
23 April 2015
23rd April 2015
Books, be they physical or digital, are irreplaceable gateways to information. In light of the expanding discourse on the freedom of expression, it is crucial that we examine who holds the key to these gateways. On this World Book and Copyright Day, we should begin examining the issue of accessibility of books across different subject matters.
Singaporeans are fortunate to have modern libraries, fitted with up-to-date facilities. It is easy to search for books from the kiosks at the libraries and to use the rooms in the libraries for various events.
We are happy to note that the National Library Board (NLB), in partnership with other organisations, has established various programmes to promote reading. However, as last year’s debacle over the removal of three children’s books with homosexual themes from the library shows, the distribution of books is not a level playing field. Read the rest of this entry »
7 April 2015
MARUAH is concerned over the recent arrests in 2 separate incidents, Mr Amos Yee’s YouTube video, and 2 men holding placards outside the Istana.
The 1st incident involved a Youtube video and an obscene picture on a blog. Amos Yee has been arrested, charged, and released on bail. The charges relate to the Penal Code Section 298, Penal Code Section 292(1)(a), and the Protection from Harassment Act, Section 4(1)(b). We note that Section 298 of the Penal Code was amended in 2007 to provide another legislative option to deal with offenders, in lieu of the Sedition Act, an action that we commend.
The 2nd incident involved 2 persons, holding placards outside the Istana. They were arrested under the Public Order Act, Section 16(1)(a).
MARUAH is concerned that they point to severe infringements on freedom of expression, and freedom of peaceful assembly. Human rights do not exist in a vacuum. People function within a society, interacting with each other and will have views on people, issues and the State. Read the rest of this entry »