A big hello and thank you to new Milo Peng Funders, and also everyone who renewed their subscription recently! Milo Peng Funders keep this newsletter running, as well as supporting my other independent writing and civil society work, so please become one if you can. You can also tip me on my Ko-Fi page.
Whew, it's good to be back to writing a weekly wrap! I wish I could say I've been absolutely heroic and got a lot of work done last week when things were hectic, but actually all I managed to do was a standard amount of work before making myself sick from fatigue. #AdultingFail
Anyway, despite telling myself that I wouldn't take on any new commissions or work over this month while I try to finish everything that I already have on my hands, I got itchy fingers and spent all last weekend working on this long-form piece about the closure of Yale-NUS College.
Terry Xu starts crowdfunding $210,000
It feels like crowdfunding is turning into a national past-time. Terry Xu, the editor of The Online Citizen, has launched a crowdfunding campaign after the court ordered him to pay Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong $160,000 in general damages and $50,000 in aggravated damages in relation to two defamation lawsuits over a TOC article that referenced allegations that the younger Lee siblings had made about their kor kor. (Terry is jointly liable for the $160,000 in general damages with the Malaysia-based TOC writer who Lee also sued.) Furthermore, the court also granted an injunction that prevents Terry from distributing the defamatory statements that were made.
This is the third crowdfunding campaign this year that's raising money to pay damages to the prime minister. As Roy Ngerng points out:
As of Friday afternoon, Terry has raised over $76,500. Not bad for three days of crowdfunding. But we can expect the amount that needs to be raised to go up because the $210,000 doesn't include the legal costs that Terry's going to have to pay, and Lee Hsien Loong has a mighty expensive legal team. 💸 💸 💸
Chinese privilege isn't a thing, says one of Singapore's most powerful Chinese men
During the National Day Rally this past weekend, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong touched on the issue of race and racism. Unfortunately for us all, instead of engaging in any serious discussion of systemic racism, all we got was a continuation of the ongoing denial. Lee claimed that it was "entirely baseless" to say that there's Chinese privilege in Singapore, said that the government has been "impartial" in drafting laws and policies, and claimed that Chinese Singaporeans have "made some concessions for the greater good", such as by adopting English as the lingua franca so that minorites can feel more at ease.
It's all gross but I found that last point especially infuriating because it's not only a distortion of what happened, but it in itself is an example of how Chinese privilege functions in this country. The Chinese did not adopt English as the lingua franca of Singapore because we wanted to make a "concession"; the decision to adopt English as the official working language, and the main language of instruction, was made by the government due to economic considerations. The people didn't have a choice in this, and minority Singaporeans also had to put in effort to adopt English (it's not like it's their mother tongue, either!)
Behind the framing of English as a "concession" by the Chinese lies the assumption that Singapore should have been a Mandarin-speaking country (which is ludicrous considering that most of the immigrant Chinese to Singapore weren't even originally Mandarin speakers), but it was because of our generosity that we decided to accommodate other races. It's a story that centres Chinese Singaporeans as well-meaning protagonists who are naturally entitled to choose the language we all speak, and be deserving of gratitude for it. When have we ever heard of the Malay or Indian Singaporean communities being thanked for their "concession" to speak English rather than Malay or Tamil? The fact that the prime minister gets to broadcast this sort of narrative in his big annual speech is a specific display of both political power and Chinese privilege; both the ability to make the decisions and to dictate a framing that places Chinese Singaporeans in the most important position.
Other NDR updates, and the minimum wage that we can't call a minimum wage
Thankfully, there were some good things that came out of the National Day Rally, even if they might not be in the exact form that some of us might have wished.
After much to-do about the Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP), the government is finally going to give some teeth to measures combatting workplace discrimination by bringing in new laws to deal with discrimination on the basis of nationality, age, race, religion, gender, and disability. This isn't full anti-discrimination legislation, particularly since the government's attitude towards things like racism on the rental market is still along the lines of "please can't everyone play nicely", but I suppose it's a step forward.
Also announced during the rally: companies that hire foreigners are going to first have to pay Singaporean workers at least $1,400 a month. This "local qualifying salary" is basically a de facto minimum wage for many low-wage Singaporeans. Of course, it's not a real universal minimum wage, because it doesn't cover foreign workers, and a large number of workers will still not be covered. But after all the resistance and reluctance in the face of suggestions of a minimum wage from civil society and opposition politicians, we seem to be taking steps towards that eventuality in an incredibly convoluted and bureaucratic way.
From November onwards, Muslim nurses in public hospitals will be allowed to wear the tudung with their uniforms. FINALLY.
🇸🇬🇲🇲 Activism in Crisis is calling for signatories to a petition in solidarity with the anti-coup movement in Myanmar. They are demanding that Singapore vote against recognition of the military junta at the UN General Assembly in September, and also to cut ties with the dictatorship (among others). Read and sign the petition here.
🏮 Please join me in celebrating the Transformative Justice Collective's new logo! I love it so much. Also, if you'd like to support the work that we do, you can make a one-off donation, or commit to a monthly contribution.
👩🏻🎓 Students from various faculties in NUS have launched the #NoMoreTopDown campaign rejecting the announced mergers and demanding that the university adopt more consultative and participatory forms of decision-making and accountability. Read and sign their petition here.
A couple of weeks ago, I put the novel Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup up for adoption, sending the offer first to Milo Peng Funders. No one has called dibs, so I'm opening the request up to all subscribers of We, The Citizens! The first (Singapore-based) person to reply to this email and ask for this book will get it.
Thank you for reading! Feel free to forward this on to anyone you think might be interested. 🙏🏼 Once again, a reminder that becoming a Milo Peng Funder is an awesome thing to do! You can also make a one-off contribution via my Ko-Fi page.