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Smol election klaxon 🚨

This week: The Register of Electors is being revised—a sign that an election is coming. Meanwhile, Lee Hsien Yang has been ordered to pay damages to Shanmugam and Balakrishnan.

I’m not ignoring the Shanmugam-declared Drug Victims Remembrance Day—I’m working on something for it that’ll be out in Altering States soon. Most of you are also subscribed to that newsletter, but if you would like to be you can log in to your account on We, The Citizens and check your email preferences under “Account” in the navigation menu.


Prime Minister Lawrence Wong (got to get used to writing that now) has asked for the Register of Electors to be revised. Singaporeans who are 21 and above as of 1 June 2024 will be added to the roll as long as there’s nothing that disqualifies them from voting. The revision will be done by 31 July 2024. The register will be open for inspection in June—more details forthcoming.

This means, friends, that elections are likely on the horizon this year. But I’m only sounding the ‘smol election klaxon’ because this is only one step. The next sign to look out for will be the convening of the Electoral Boundaries Committee, and the report that they’ll release on our ever-changing constituencies. Let’s continue to keep our eyes peeled and I’ll sound larger election klaxons as time goes by. 👀


The High Court has struck out an application brought by 36 (self-represented) death row prisoners challenging the legal aid assistance scheme’s failure to provide them with legal representation for post-appeal cases. The Legal Assistance Scheme for Capital Offences, or LASCO, provides people facing capital charges with legal representation at the trial and appeal stage, but not if a death row prisoner wants to file an application post-appeal. The death row prisoners argued that this was unconstitutional under Article 9(1) ("No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty save in accordance with law.”) and Article 9(3) ("Where a person is arrested, he shall be informed as soon as may be of the grounds of his arrest and shall be allowed to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.”) of Singapore’s Constitution.

Justice Dedar Singh Gill disagreed. He said that while an appeal is accorded to accused persons as a right, post-appeal applications are a “discretionary process that is made available to avert possible miscarriages of justice in rare cases where there has been some development in terms of the law or the evidence”. He also said that the lack of free legal counsel under a legal aid scheme doesn’t deprive death row prisoners of access to justice or the courts, because they’re still free to hire their own lawyers.

Reading this news, these questions come to mind: If they don’t have lawyers, how the heck are prisoners on death row supposed to know that there “has been some development in terms of the law or the evidence”? And while it’s true that they can, in theory, engage their own lawyers, in my experience many, if not most, death row prisoners and their families would struggle to afford to pay a lawyers’ fees and all the associated legal costs. In this way, the lack of legal assistance at a post-appeal stage means that only those who can afford to pay—or are lucky enough to find pro bono counsel, something that has become less and less likely, given how high the threshold has been set to bring a post-appeal case—will be able to proceed with post-appeal cases even when there have been developments that could have a bearing on their case.

It’s not like this is a hypothetical scenario I’ve conjured up. In 2020, the Court of Appeal set aside Gobi Avedian’s death sentence—a sentence three out of the five judges had confirmed previously—after developments in case law. If M Ravi hadn’t caught this development and stepped forward to take on Gobi’s case pro bono, Gobi could have been executed. This is why legal representation is so important throughout the course of a case, which should really be up to the point of execution and not just at the end of the appeal. We hear a lot these days about “abuse of process” and “delay tactics” but these are capital cases. Once someone is hanged, there’s no going back. It shouldn’t surprise us that death row prisoners will want to file applications to the court, and might have multiple applications they want to bring when there are questions about their cases or their rights. What does it say about a system that expects people to just sit quietly and wait to die, simply because the regime has decided they should? Why do we act so shocked and outraged that people will do what they can (as they should!) to live?


The High Court has ordered Lee Hsien Yang to pay K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan $200,000 each in damages because of what he wrote on Facebook about them and the Ridout Road bungalows. On top of that, Lee’s also supposed to pay each man $51,000, plus disbursements, in costs.

The one-sided defamation suit came to its one-sided conclusion yesterday. Lee isn’t in Singapore and, even after the ministers’ side served him over Facebook Messenger, didn’t bother to get a lawyer to represent him in this case. So Shanmugam and Balakrishnan, represented by the very expensive and scary (and former PAP MP) Davinder Singh, proceeded, and won, without any participation from the party they were suing. Judge Goh Yihan writes in the written judgment that he did try to give Lee a fair shout by considering some arguments he could have made in response to Shanmugam and Balakrishnan’s suits—but also notes that he did “ultimately reject” these possible responses.

There were higher damages awarded because, the written judgment says, “it is well-established that the higher the claimant’s standing, the higher the damages that will be awarded” and Lee himself is also “well-known in Singapore”. The judge found that Lee had “acted with malice” which he said justified aggravated damages too. On social media, Lee pointed to some really mind-blowing costs, like $22,000 just on printing and paper? WTF?!

Now that’s over, obviously not a single person is bothered by the thought of ministers renting massive state-owned properties anymore. What a relief to have cleared this all up! 👏🏼 👏🏼 👏🏼

Telegram group!

Got some more…

🪩 NewJeansNim, a DJ from South Korea (no connection to the idol group New Jeans), is coming to Singapore and the Singapore Buddhist Federation is not happy about it because he performs wearing a monk’s robes and incorporates Buddhist mantras into his set. Discussions between the Buddhists and the club took place, and then the police stepped in. The cops reminded the venue that its public entertainment licence says they have to make sure their offerings aren’t offensive to any race or religion (among others). The club now says that DJ NewJeansNim’s set won’t contain any religious elements. But as this report on Al Jazeera English points out, there are different views about how offensive NewJeansNim’s performances really are, and it’s worth asking if it really serves us when the authorities clamp down in reaction to complaints and taking offence.

👮🏼‍♀️ The police showed off some new forensics capability recently, sharing a case where they tapped the infotainment system in a woman’s car to get data that helped them nab her for speeding. They’re planning to roll out the tool that allowed them to do this fully some point this year.

I walked through/past a protest in Taipei on Tuesday night and someone handed me this sign. It says "(If there's) no discussion, (then it's) not a democracy."

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