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Hidup Rakyat! Hidup Pekerja!

This week: We had fun at the Labour Day rally! Also, the Mufti of Singapore speaks on LGBTQ+ issues.

I’m alive and here this week! I feel like the past couple of weekly wraps were written in fogs of exhaustion, anxiety or illness, but this week I’m doing okay. I’ve even been cooking up an idea for the first We, The Citizens secondary newsletter, and am pretty excited about it. I just have to write a few issues that I can line up, so I don’t launch it only to run out of steam immediately. 😅 Watch this space!

Did everyone have a good Labour Day?

How did you spend Monday? About 300 people showed up at Hong Lim Park in the afternoon for the Labour Day rally organised by Workers Make Possible. There were speeches, performances by bands, and civil society booths. It wasn’t at all an easy thing to organise — the team behind it had to deal with so many moving parts, and also had to cover extra costs because of stupid things like not being allowed to use the permanent stage in the park. The People’s Association had claimed that the stage was already booked and therefore not available, but on the day itself no one was using the stage at all. Rocky Howe detailed his efforts to seek permission to use the stage in this Facebook post.

Personally, I had an excellent time at the rally being the Transformative Justice Collective’s booth elf. I got to introduce people to our work, direct them to read our report on prison conditions in Singapore, and talk about how our work is closely connected to workers’ rights and inequality. If you came by that day, thank you!

Even my Skzoo plushies volunteered at the booth — I was asked a couple of time if they were our mascots (they’re not, they’re actually Stray Kids merch, but it would be nice if they could be real TJC mascots) and once if they were for sale (absolutely not; apart from my cats these plushies are my children). Someone also suggested that we should create an official TJC mascot, so now I feel like I need to talk to someone who knows how to make plushies or at least amigurumi or something…

Anyway, I don’t have many photos of the rally itself, but have an entire series of my plushies volunteering for duty:

The government had their own May Day Rally as usual, here Lawrence Wong, the deputy prime minister, claimed that BTO HDB flats are still affordable because prices have moved alongside rising incomes. From what I’ve seen, this claim has not gone down particularly well. Just look at this ratio on CNA’s Telegram channel:

The Mufti of Singapore on LGBTQ+ issues

Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, who became the Mufti of Singapore in 2020, spoke about LGBTQ+ issues in an interview with Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State for both the Ministry of Communications and Information and Ministry of Health, in a recent CNA documentary.

An excerpt from the interview:

"So some may think that you should welcome anyone who comes to the mosque, some others may think that, well, the mosque is not a place for homosexuals, for example. When someone comes to the mosque, what is the first question that we ask and you think of? I think the first question should be that this is a Muslim, who wants to go to the mosque, and get closer to God, have a closer relationship with his or her Creator.

As a Muslim, as a believer, whatever the sexual orientation, which, in most cases, would be a private matter for the individual, is something not for us to question, not for us to judge at the point in which someone comes to the mosque. Otherwise, you would need to ask, and it's, it's completely wrong practice. Everyone who comes to the mosque, on their private life, or other aspects of their, of their personal life. And I think that is not the right thing to do as Muslims, and as a religious institution.

So one of the sources of friction is really about understanding the religious position and attitude towards such individuals or segments within the community. And this is something we are working on as well. But the other important thing, insofar as the source of friction, I think, is really because for some people, this is a conflict that needs to be resolved with one winner at the end, whether it's mainstream Islam or the majority, and that's almost a kind of a zero-sum game mentality, which I think it's not the right attitude to adopt in dealing with this kind of complex challenges."

Got some more…

📰 Singapore ranks 129 in the World Press Freedom Index this year, a jump of 10 spots from last year.

🧑🏻‍⚖️ The sentences handed to Terry Xu, the chief editor of The Online Citizen, and Daniel De Costa, who contributed a letter to the website, have been reduced to fines rather than prison terms. They had originally been given three weeks’ in prison each, but a High court judge has now changed it to a $10,000 fine for Daniel and a $8,000 fine for Terry. The latter has already served the sentence before relocating to Taiwan, so there’ll be a further hearing to figure out what to do about this situation.

💉 The government is setting up a new committee to examine the issue of drug use among young Singaporeans. A recent study found that the mean age for first drug consumption in Singapore among citizens and residents is about 16 years old. (I’m not saying too much about this here because I’m hoping to dive into it a little more in the secondary newsletter I’m working on!)

🚜 Check out this interactive story on Kontinentalist about land reclamation in Singapore. They examine the history of the reclamation, as well as its scope and the benefits and costs. I love the way they make lots of information digestible and accessible.

Maruah is running an essay competition for young Singaporeans, defined as those born in or after 1990. (Boohoo I am official Old.) The topic is: “What does Mr Lee Kuan Yew mean to you and what is your vision for a post-Lee Kuan Yew Singapore?” There’ll be a total of six $1,000 prizes. Submit your entries by 11:59pm on 15 July 2023! More details here.

Checking in on the neighbours

🇱🇦 Anousa “Jack” Luangsuphom, a young political activist in Laos, was shot in a coffee shop in Vientiane on 29 April. Human Rights Watch had at first received information that he had died, but thankfully he’s survived and is receiving treatment in hospital.