Last week I was still feeling guilty about not being very productive and then early this week work exploded in my face. And then there was protest and arrests, so now we’re back in full-on mode.
Standing against transphobia
If you read the special issue on the protest against transphobia this past week, you’re pretty much caught up on how things are going. The police’s investigations are ongoing, and the protesters have been called in to give their second statements. There’s been hours of questioning over a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it protest. But everyone’s holding up; it remains to be seen what the authorities will decide to do at the end of the investigation.
There have been expressions of solidarity from various civil society groups, such as Pink Dot and SG Climate Rally. Regional groups, such as the ASEAN SOGIE Caucus, the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women, and FORUM-Asia, have also shown support.
Apart from the protest, the issue of transphobia itself is still receiving attention — as it should be. I missed this before, but there’s an email template available for those who want to write to their MPs to express concern about discrimination against trans youth in Singapore’s schools.
Notably, teachers, social workers, counsellors, and other social service professionals have signed a statement in support of transgender students in Singapore. There are over 300 signatories, although many have signed anonymously, given the climate in Singapore and how difficult it can be for teachers to speak out.
As education and social service professionals, we have witnessed and heard about similar situations faced by transgender students in Singapore schools. We apologise for any way in which we may have made transgender and other LGBTQ+ students feel unsafe or unwelcome at school.
We want to do better by our young people.
They’re still collecting signatures. If you’re a current/former education or social service professional, you can sign the statement here.
Management and control vs. Student privacy
A petition has been started objecting to the Ministry of Education wanting to install a Device Management Application (DMA) on learning devices (i.e. laptops) used by students. Some of these laptops are loaned from the school, but others are the students’ personal devices. The DMA will allow teachers to monitor students’ laptop use, and even remotely control these devices.
The government has said that the DMA does not track location (as if that was the only concern!) but it will capture things like web history. Schools and parents will also be able to restrict access to certain apps or websites.
This has prompted some discussion of student privacy: how much should young people be monitored? Is it a good idea to let teachers have so much control over students’ devices (and this is assuming that teachers even want this responsibility and workload)?
A 16-year-old detained under the ISA
Another piece of news relating to a young person that emerge this past week is the Ministry of Home Affairs’ announcement that a 16-year-old Protestant Christian was detained without trial in December (I wonder how the government decides on the timing of their announcements of such arrests) under the Internal Security Act after his plan to attack two mosques on the anniversary of the Christchurch terrorist attack was discovered.
The government appears to have quite a lot of detail about his plans, but aren’t going to give him an open trial. Instead, he will have a hearing under the Internal Security Act. K Shanmugam, Minister for Law and Home Affairs, said that giving him a court trial wouldn’t be suitable, because it could be argued that he hasn’t actually done anything criminal yet. He also said that a trial could inflame tensions by broadcasting the boy’s motives.
Also, click on the tweet below to read this thread on Islamophobia among right-wing Christians in Singapore:
Linking this to the topic above, some have suggested that this is precisely why schools should be able to monitor students’ web histories. But such widespread surveillance doesn’t mean that one becomes more effective at identifying and apprehending extremists with violent plots. US schools have been rolling out surveillance to try to catch school shooters, but there’s no real evidence it’s working.
Three teams of lawyers have gone before the Court of Appeal to argue against the constitutionality of Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men. Last year, the High Court had dismissed these constitutional challenges; now the lawyers have presented their cases to a five-judge bench at the apex court.
The court will rule at a later date on this appeal.
In a response to a letter calling for more transparency with regard to the Keppel O&M corruption scandal investigation — it’s been almost three years since the government said that the authorities were investigating, and there’s been no update — the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau claimed that the “corruption situation in Singapore is firmly under control”, even as it declined to disclose more information the Keppel O&M probe. So no answers there, then.
The principal consultant of the Infocomm Media Development Authority and the director of a private company have been charged for allegedly conspiring to cheat the IMDA and People’s Association of over $77,000.
Later this afternoon, I’ll be moderating a conversation with Alfian Sa’at and Faris Joraimi at the launch of the book Raffles Renounced: Towards a Merdeka History. I learn so much just listening to them — and also the book’s third editor, Sai Siew Min, and other contributors, such as Lysa Hong — so I’m really looking forward to it.
We’ll be at the Substation — an in-person event! FINALLY! — but you can also tune in on Facebook Live.
In the meantime, read this excerpt from Faris’ excellent chapter on the cult of Raffles.
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