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The CECA debate heats up

PSP hasn't even filed their motion on CECA, but the drama is already on its way.

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Vaccination slots are now available to Singaporeans, permanent residents, and long-term pass holders above the age of 12. Almost 80% of Singaporeans aged 12–39 have either booked appointments to get vaccinated, or have already had their first dose. Good job, team!

But 24% of older Singaporeans haven't been vaccinated yet. To assuage concerns and dispel misinformation about vaccines, the government and various celebrities have produced videos in various languages. Please show them to your elders, they're available in Malay, Tamil, Mandarin (got a-jie Zoe Tay!), Hokkien, Teochew, and Cantonese.

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It's not even the actual debate yet 😩

As covered in last week's issue, the Progress Singapore Party has decided to take up K Shanmugam's challenge to have a debate on CECA. PSP has filed parliamentary questions seeking more information on the matter before they file a motion.

Ong Ye Kung, the current Minister for Health, has since announced that he (a former trade negotiator) and Minster for Manpower Tan See Leng will be making ministerial statements at the next sitting of Parliament. But he didn't stop there: he also accused PSP of making "false allegations" about CECA, and partly fuelling rise in anti-Indian sentiment in Singapore.

How very dare you, said PSP (not a verbatim quote). They stated that Ong's allegations were "baseless" and that he should withdraw his comment and apologies if he can't back it up.

We haven't even got to the debate yet, and this is already not going great. Its a multi-layered thing that's getting flattened for political point-scoring. Yes, there is racism present in criticism of CECA, and the acronym "CECA" itself has itself been turned into a derogatory term in some contexts. The anti-immigrant, anti-Indian sentiment in Singapore is toxic and horrible, and has been fed by some politicians (I'm especially looking at you, Peoples Voice). And yes, sometimes PSP members themselves have said things that are problematic.

But that doesn't invalidate all criticism of CECA, and the wider issues of immigration and jobs. There are Singaporeans who are very anxious about their jobs, and who feel that some of our policies aren't serving the people very well. We need to be able to balance engagement in these debates and drawing a line against racism and xenophobia. And my fear is that this is not going to happen if it turns into partisan mud-slinging with accusations flying here and there.

Got some more…

A Singaporean man accused the police of roughing him up even after he passed a breathalyser test. He said that he didn't want to go into a cell because he gets claustrophobic, but that the police manhandled him, and handcuffed him into a wheelchair. "One fella was using their elbow onto my neck … I really couldn’t breathe. They started to kick me, using unnecessary force. One guy — I don’t know who — stepped on my feet,” he said. In their response, the police said that they had to "apply necessary force" to move him into a padded cell because he was resisting their instructions, and that they "did not find any abuse or wrongdoing". (But why did he have to be locked up in a cell if they were already processing his release? 🧐)

In March, The Parrot Review reported that a Resident Assistant (RA) had been expelled from NUS after alleged sexual assault. They're now reporting that the university is investigating the "release of sensitive documents"—and that the investigator is a former police officer who did jail time after she was found to have forged the statement of a victim of alleged molestation. Her forged statement made it look like the victim hadn't minded being touched, therefore requiring no further action. After The Parrot Review pointed to this history, questioning if such a individual was a good choice for the university to hire as an investigator, their editor-in-chief was accused of harassing the investigator. She threatened to file a case against him under the Protection of Harassment Act, but it's not clear if she's done so or not.

🎞 This evening, the Transformative Justice Collective and the Freedom Film Festival are screening Ayahku, Dr. G, a short film about a man potentially facing the death penalty for using cannabis to treat his chronic illness. There'll be a great post-screening discussion. Get your tickets here!

💲 The fundraiser in solidarity with M Ravi is still ongoing! We've gone over the S$5,000 mark, but will need another S$5,000+ to help him pay off the fine and costs. Please contribute if you can!

📚 We're coming up to a year since the 2020 general elections. Ethos Books' has published Voting in a Time of Change: Singapore's 2020 General Election, which is full of insights and analysis about Singapore politics and what the election suggests. Get a copy here!

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