My mum’s remaining cat—the older one died of old age in July—is not doing well and at the animal hospital this weekend. Over the past few weeks he’d gradually stopped eating completely and when we brought him to the hospital yesterday morning he’d dropped to a scary 1.95kg. We have no idea what is wrong at the moment, although grief/stress over having lost his cat senpai might be a factor. Please send lots of good vibes and thoughts to the poor baby, he’s a very good boy!
Violence and pain in Gaza
The Workers’ Party has issued a statement calling for “an immediate end to hostilities and the delivery of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip”. They ended their statement with:
“We call on Israel to reject the collective punishment of innocent civilians, cease all military operations in the Gaza Strip and to allow for the transit of humanitarian aid into Gaza forthwith. At the same time, we call for the immediate return of all Israeli hostages captured in Hamas’ military operation in Southern Israel on 7 Oct 2023. De-escalation by all parties must be followed by a withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories, followed by serious negotiations to achieve a lasting peace in the Holy Land; a peace that legitimises the existence of the state of Israel, and establishes a viable Palestinian state.”
President Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan sent condolence letters to their Palestinian counterparts. The Singapore government has donated $300,000 to humanitarian aid for Gaza.
As news of carnage and desperation continues to come out of Gaza, many Singaporeans have been trying to find ways to show solidarity and add our voices to international demands for an end to the bombardment and occupation. I know of one application made to hold a peace rally at Hong Lim Park this weekend; I’m not sure if there were others, but a police statement suggests that there were. The authorities say that they will not be approving any applications to hold events related to the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
“The peace and harmony between different races and religions in Singapore should not be taken for granted, and we must not let events happening externally affect the internal situation within Singapore,” read the SPF statement. “Given the sensitivity of the topic and the volatility of the situation overseas, there is a real risk that such events could give rise to public disorder.”
Time and again, the authorities show so little faith in Singaporeans and in our ability to engage in big and difficult but important conversations. This might be a period of heightened tensions, but clamping down on freedom of expression and assembly does very little to help us engage one another and learn to live with differences.
Since the rally has not been allowed to proceed, the organisers have started an online petition instead; it’s already been signed by over 20,000 people. You can add your name here. Note: do not respond to Change.org’s prompt to “chip in” money—that doesn’t go to humanitarian relief efforts, it just goes to Change.org to boost the petition!
Meanwhile, the 31st Israel Film Festival, organised by the Embassy of Israel in partnership with the Singapore Film Society, is happening this weekend. Among the films being screened is Golda, a biopic of former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, who was quoted in 1969 saying:
“There was no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state? It was either southern Syria before the First World War and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country from them. They did not exist.”
(I’m also going to link the Wikipedia page, with quotes from different commentaries on Meir’s comments, here. As you might expect, there have been different readings of, and responses to, what she said.)
To be clear, I don’t think that the authorities should shut the festival down. Let it continue, and let people be free to make their feelings known to the festival’s organisers and sponsors if they are inclined to do so. But now that public gatherings and demonstrations in solidarity with Gaza have been de facto criminalised via a blanket refusal to grant permits, the holding of the Israel Film Festival this weekend creates a serious skew in who gets to have public space and platform in Singapore.
Singapore has a great international reputation as a clean, corruption-free country. But we’re also often mentioned as a place for money laundering, and there are investigations and prosecutions ongoing for a massive case at the moment. Could there be more dirt under the shiny exterior of Singapore’s corporate world? The answer is probably yes—in fact, a corporate governance expert tells CNA that he has “no doubt at all” that corporate wrongdoing is more common than we might imagine—but we often have to rely on someone on the inside to blow the whistle before we find out.
Whistleblowers play an important role in exposing corruption (or other bad behaviour) and demanding accountability. Yet there is no universal whistleblower legislation in Singapore to offer protection against a wide range of potential repercussions. CNA has a story about how fraught and stressful whistleblowing can be and the state of whistleblower protections in Singapore.
That’s a lot of money
Unsurprisingly, Tharman Shanmugaratnam was the biggest spender during the presidential election campaign period. According to the candidate declarations, he spent $738,717—more than any past presidential candidate. He didn’t need to dig that sum out of his own pocket, though, because seven donors—including a board director at the Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC and the CEO of Singapore Exchange—gave him enough to cover it all.
Next in line was Ng Kok Song, who gave up on putting up posters and spent $280,800 out of $312,131 on online advertising, including guest spots on podcasts and talk shows. He apparently funded this out of his own savings.
Tan Kin Lian, underdog to the very end, spent $71,366—and only $20 of that was spent on online advertising. He’d received $41,800 in donations from 120 people.
On the radar
I started reading The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel exports the technology of occupation around the world, written by journalist Antony Loewenstein, yesterday morning. I feel like there’s a lot to learn, and Verso Books has made the ebook version free to download, so there was no reason not to start.
Thank you for reading! As always, feel free to forward this weekly wrap to anyone you like, and spread the word about this newsletter!