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Dormitories/prisons and *that* family feud

Kirsten Han
Kirsten Han
5 min read
Dormitories/prisons and *that* family feud

If you’re reading this via email (if you’re not, please subscribe!) you’ll have noticed that We, The Citizens has a banner! I sent a work-in-progress version out by accident last week (very on brand for me), but this week I’m officially introducing the new art for this newsletter!

We have a new banner, a new logo (so cute!) and even little portraits of me for the byline. ❤️❤️❤️ I find it all incredibly exciting.

All this new gorgeousness was done by Singaporean illustrator and cartoonist Joy Ho — check out their work here!

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When dormitories become prisons

About one in six dormitory residents contracted COVID-19, but experts say the actual infection rate could be much higher. Dormitories have been ‘cleared’ of COVID-19 and the men will be gradually returning to work. But that’s not the end of their imprisonment: their movements will still be strictly regulated. The authorities say new COVID-19 cases have also been identified within dorms that have already been cleared, so they need to remain vigilant. In one case, they found a new COVID-19 case and that led to… 800 workers being quarantined. What does that tell us about the workers living in close quarters?

Workers’ Party MP Gerald Giam highlighted a case of 40 migrant workers set to be moved from the dormitories to temporary living quarters on the construction site of a school that they’re building. According to his post, these workers “will be required to remain on-site until the project is completed in 3rd quarter 2021”, and a reply in the comments seems to suggest that they aren’t allowed to leave the site even on days off!

I find it hard to believe that they’re really going to be locked up on a construction site with no respite under Q3 2021 — because, despite all the crap I’ve seen and reported on, I somehow still have scraps of hope — so it’s more likely to be a case of “the restrictions will be loosened, we just don’t know when yet”. It’s still horrifying, though. No one else in Singapore is treated like this.

The Lee family saga continues

Li Shengwu is paying the $15,000 fine imposed upon him for contempt of court — he says it doesn’t mean he’s admitting guilt (he stopped participating in the case back in January) but he’s paying the fine to “buy some peace and quiet”.

The Court of Three Judges, the highest body to deliberate on disciplinary cases regarding lawyers, has heard and reserved judgment in the case brought against Lee Suet Fern, wife of Lee Hsien Yang and sister-in-law of Lee Hsien Loong. (If Lee Suet Fern loses this appeal, she might be fined, suspended, or even disbarred.)

In February this year, a disciplinary tribunal found that Lee Suet Fern had breached rules and acted inappropriately as a lawyer, alleging that she had prepared Lee Kuan Yew’s will and placed herself in a position of conflict. They said that what she’d done was serious enough to disbar her. (It’s worth noting here that the case was referred by the Attorney-General’s Chambers in 2019 — years after Lee Kuan Yew’s death. The current Attorney-General is Lucien Wong, who was actually Lee Hsien Loong’s personal lawyer at the time of his father’s death. No parties made any complaint about this matter then, even when the will was granted probate, so many of us are just seeing this as a continuation of fightin’ siblings.)

Lee Suet Fern’s lawyers say that the disciplinary tribunal — which had branded both Lee Suet Fern and Lee Hsien Yang as “deceitful” — had “cherry-picked” evidence to suit its conclusions. The articles linked above also have this great quote from Walter Woon on the idea that Lee Suet Fern could have told the late Lee Kuan Yew to seek independent legal advice rather than talk to her: “This would have implied he did not know what he wanted. He would have exploded, the sound of the explosion would have been heard all the way to the Istana.”

💥💥💥

For those who really like poring over court documents, here are Lee Suet Fern’s skeletal arguments, submissions, and a chronology (courtesy of Lee Hsien Yang, who published links to them on his Facebook page).

Please don’t threaten people

A 30-year-old man has been charged with inciting violence and on top of two charges under the Protection from Harassment Act after he allegedly posted on Instagram stories that threatened harm against a judge that had dismissed constitutional challenges to Section 377A.

It’s absolutely understandable to be angry about the courts decided that S377A is constitutional, but please don’t threaten harm against others. Also don’t drive your car into people, even if you’re unhappy at police officers.

Adopt an animal

The Singapore zoo was closed during the circuit breaker, but they still had all the animals to care for, so there were lots of costs to cover. They’re now extending the “animal adoption” sponsorship programme they had for companies to individuals, so you can make donations and “adopt” an animal like Ronnie the rex rabbit or Matahari the Malayan sun bear. Check it out here — the adoption packages range from $200 to $1,500.

You can also book virtual sessions with the animals and their carers — $50–$80 for a one-minute personalised message, $100 for a 20-minute session, or $250 for a 30-minute session.

One more thing…

I really enjoyed reading this piece on US Gamer about freedom of expression, games, and Singapore. I’m by no means a gamer, but was happy to share my experience playing Animal Crossing.


wares mutual aid

I get that it can be a little overwhelming to look at all the needs on the wares mutual aid spreadsheet, so what I think I’ll do is pick out three every week (I’m doing this kind of at random, since it’s hard to rank whose case is more urgent!) to highlight:

First, I’d like to draw people’s attention to Shane (Row 206). Shane has had to struggle with medical expenses and family debts, and there have been concerns about his mental health, given the stress that he’s under at this time. We’ve managed to get enough together to cover the costs of his wife’s surgery, but there are other outstanding debts that need to be covered. You can contribute via PayNow to Shane at 86739238.

Khatijah Ahamed (Row 190) is a cancer patient who has been put on no-pay leave at work. They need assistance for transport costs to go for treatment, as well as help with groceries. According to the spreadsheet at time of writing, they’ve raised $625 of the $800 that they need. You can contact them at 83955528 to find out how to contribute.

According to the spreadsheet, Rajah (Row 187) hasn’t raised any of the $1,500 they need to pay bills and debts. They’re having trouble finding work during this pandemic. You can contact them at 85747524 to find out how to contribute.

NOTE: Please only contact them if you want to make a contribution, so they won’t be inundated with calls and messages!

With the exception of Shane, I haven’t been in touch with individuals in the spreadsheet, so I don’t have more information than what’s already there. I’m highlighting these three in the hopes that they’ll be able to get help during this tough time — I’ll highlight another three next week.


And to end off, let’s have a little patriotic singalong video from Benjamin Kheng and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (including my now officially-retired-from-the-orchestra dad):


If you found this newsletter helpful, please help me get the word out by sharing it!

The Milo Peng Funders of this newsletter keep me writing independently about Singapore via this newsletter, but that’s not all — their funds also allow me to cut down the time that I have to spend pitching and writing as a freelancer, so that I can devote more of my time to working on a book that I hope to get done this year for publication next year. Thank you everyone for your support! 🙏🏼

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