This isn’t Singapore-related but I just need to say: omg Malaysia!
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INCOMING: TRUMP & KIM
Will they both get orchids? If they do, please someone get a shot of Trump under the Golden Shower Arches.
Smart Nation or surveillance state?
Law Minister K Shanmugam has pointed to China as the leader in the use of CCTV cameras, and presumably a model for Singapore to emulate. This comes after earlier news of plans to install cameras with facial recognition technology on lamp-posts, much to the interest of Chinese companies. The police are also getting more hi-tech support: customised mobile apps and patrolling robots with 360-video capability.
This is often reported in the mainstream media as examples of Singapore’s move towards being a Smart Nation. Less explored is the issue of surveillance and control. And anyone who thinks China is a good model to emulate needs to read about what’s going on in Xinjiang. As The Wall Street Journal puts it: “It is nearly impossible to move about the region without feeling the unrelenting gaze of the government.”
Related to the police, activist Teo Soh Lung (who’ll be mentioned again below) claims that the authorities will not be compensating her for damage done to property seized as part of their Cooling-Off Day investigations. She also pointed out that there were orange stickers on the hard drive of her CPU and her laptop: “It is clear to me that the police have duplicated the entire hard disks of my CPU, laptop and mobile phone.”
A 27-year-old Singaporean was detained without trial under the ISA last month for allegedly wanting to “undertake armed violence overseas”, including Syria.
Dave’s family calls for change
The late Dave Lee’s mother has called for an end to “tekan sessions” in the military: “If I have to sacrifice my only son to bring this message across, make sure it is one that brings forth solid changes to the seemingly perfect training systems.”
The family had previously spoken to the press at his wake; they were flanked by personnel from the Ministry of Defence and said little about online accounts accusing Dave’s officers of having behaved recklessly even after Dave had shown signs of exhaustion. His aunts have called upon witnesses to “tell the full truth” during the Committee of Inquiry into his death. There’s considerable public interest in this case, but it’s not clear if the findings will be made public.
I’m not sure this is how you build public confidence…
The AGC has filed an application with the High Court for an order of committal against Jolovan Wham for contempt of court (background in last issue). They’ve also filed a separate application against Singapore Democratic Party vice-chairman John Tan for a Facebook post in which he said that the AGC’s decision to charge Jolovan “only confirms what he said was true.”
One of the points made by the AGC when seeking leave (which was granted on 9 May) to apply for an order of committal (which they are now applying for) was that, under the Administration of Justice (Protection) Act, the threshold for the offence of scandalising the judiciary was lowered to anything that “poses a risk that public confidence in the administration of justice would be undermined.” Previously, there had to be a “real risk” that public confidence would be undermined. (You can read more about the legal implications here.) This was precisely one of the points that the Don’t Kena Contempt campaign—which Jolovan and I were a part of—made ahead of the passage of the bill.
Inequality and education
Channel News Asia has a really important piece by Teo You Yenn on inequality and education; investing in early childhood education to get kids able to read and write young isn’t the answer. Following President Halimah Yacob’s speech, The Straits Times asked academics (You Yenn again, and more!) to chip in their views on how to tackle inequality.
Independent journalism and fake news
The Community Action Network (CAN) and Function 8 commemorated World Press Freedom Day on 5 May with two back-to-back panels. The first was with Daniel Yap (publisher of the now defunct The Middle Ground), Braema Mathi (human rights activist and former mainstream media journalist) and myself, looking at independent journalism in Singapore. tl;dr: money, sustainability and solidarity are urgently needed, but in short supply. (Meanwhile in Malaysia Nurul Izzah says she’s going to keep pushing for press freedom.)
The second panel was with PJ Thum and Teo Soh Lung of Function 8, talking about the main thrust of their submissions to the Select Committee—the problem of governments spreading “fake news”. Neither got to address this issue at the open hearings (we all know what happened with PJ, and Function 8 was never called). It’s a really important question, though: will any legislation against “fake news” apply to the government, and how can citizens check and demand redress in the event of “fake news” coming from the powerful?
Related: Roy Ngerng and I worked on a round-up of media freedom in Singapore for the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA). (Their other regional round-ups are here.)
Jerome Lim highlights the area—currently lush secondary forest—that’s going to make way for a “Forest Town” with Smart Nation features. It’s that constant question that environmental and heritage groups often grapple with: what do we gain/lose when things are manufactured and manicured instead of organic?
Bye bye WAAPD
Facebook has removed “We Are Against Pinkdot in Singapore” for violating their community standards after they were reported for hate speech. I don’t know what the straw that broke the camel’s back was, but it did get me thinking about the conflict between needing social media platforms to actually enforce community standards, and giving private companies the power to be the arbiters of what or can’t be said. Not that I’m going to miss WAAPD now that it’s gone.
And now for a visual break
Oogachaga and SG Narratives have teamed up to launch the Our Story is Drug Free campaign. It sets out “to rewrite the queer narrative in Singapore against the use of recreational and addictive drugs.”
Events coming up
Learn about Kristang!
If you’re interested in Kristang, Kevin Martens Wong—who leads the Kodah Kristang grassroots effort to preserve the language in Singapore—is giving a talk on 15 May at the Malay Heritage Centre. Register here.
Women and leadership
The 19 May show of Julius Caesar will be followed by a Q&A panel on women and leadership (something we could do with more of in Singapore!) This is a one-night only thing, so if you’re planning to watch the play you can keep that in mind when booking your tickets.