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Singapore’s anti-racism efforts assessed at the United Nations

Kirsten Han
Kirsten Han
4 min read

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Singapore evaluated on its anti-racism efforts

Singapore was before the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) this past week getting its record with race, discrimination, and anti-racism efforts reviewed. You can find the reports — not just from the state, but also from civil society organisations — here.

I didn't watch the livestreams of the sessions (which you can catch up on here and here, but be warned they're over three hours each), but followed along with the live-tweets from the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), which you'll find below. ⬇

A range of important issues — including the death penalty and imprisonment, migrant workers and labour exploitation, as well as discrimination at work and in schools — were covered. These sessions are important because they put these issues on record at the United Nations, and while the power of such a committee might be limited, it still directs attention and puts pressure on Singapore to abide by the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) that our state has signed and ratified.


Much ado about an article

Rest of World published a feature article on Singapore's fixation on technology and the aspiration to be a "Smart Nation". It looks at the variety of tech that has been rolled out in Singapore, from both the government and citizen initiatives, but also sounds the alarm about questions of surveillance and privacy.

Not everyone who was interviewed for the piece is happy about it. In a public Facebook post, Gaurav Keerthi of Better.sg — who is also the deputy chief executive of the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore — said that he wouldn't have agreed to the interview if he knew this was how the article was going to turn out, and also blasted the journalist Peter Guest (who, full disclosure, interviewed me for pieces he wrote for other publications, and also edited the work I've published with Rest of World) as "dishonest".

I don't have any stake in this particular beef because it's between Gaurav/Peter/Rest of World, but I thought I'd take this opportunity to say, in a more general sense:

Dear people! You are free to reject media requests or interviews if you don't want to do them — you don't owe journalists your time, your opinions, your experiences, your emotions, or your story! (Unless you're a public official, then you should be giving space for the press to question and report on you, because it's one way for you to be accountable to the public.) But once you've actually done an interview, you don't get to dictate the angle that the journalist might eventually take with their story. This is how an independent press works! If you're saying that your quotes were fabricated, or published so out of context as to completely misrepresent what you said or who you are, that's one thing, but otherwise... You can disagree with or loudly express dislike for the final article, and that's your right, but it doesn't automatically mean that the journalist or publication were dishonest or unethical, because they do not owe you the right to vet/edit/give approval for pieces prior to publication!

(On the flip side, I do think that journalists have an ethical responsibility to look out for marginalised, vulnerable people who have less power, and make sure that our work does not perpetuate further oppression and injustice, or bring about repercussions that cause more harm. But often people who complain about coverage are not in these positions of vulnerability.)

This is why, despite being a journalist myself and understanding the need for soundbites and quotes, I often advise people who are in states of distress or vulnerability — such as the families of prisoners on death row — to screen journalists/publications, and think carefully about what they're comfortable/not comfortable with before agreeing to answer questions. Because there's (generally) no backsies once you've done them!


Got some more…

👨🏻‍⚖️ The High Court has dismissed an application for leave to commence contempt of court proceedings against K Shanmugam, Minister for Law and Home Affairs. The application had been brought by 17 Malay death row inmates who have filed a suit alleging direct and indirect discrimination on the part of the Attorney-General's Chambers in the handling of capital cases. Although the case was still before the courts, Shanmugam had said during the FICA debate in Parliament that it was "scurrilous".

🧑🏻‍⚖️ Kala Manickam is suing the Progress Singapore Party; she claims she was wrongfully terminated from the party. She wants back $10,000 that she said she contributed to election expenses.


Here, have a baby panda:

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A Singaporean independent journalist, activist, and cat slave.