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WTF sort of family quarrel has Balakrishnan witnessed?

This week: Vivian Balakrishnan likens genocide in Gaza to a "family quarrel", SDP gets a really petty POFMA, and volunteers do a deep dive into migrant accommodation.

I'm hoping to get a lot of reading done this weekend and maybe do a Circle of Tsundoku secondhand book giveaway soon...


When will Singapore recognise the state of Palestine? In May, Singapore voted in favour of a UN resolution to admit Palestine as a member, so it’s unsurprising that there are now questions about whether we’ll recognise Palestine as a state. According to Vivian Balakrishnan, the foreign affairs minister, Singapore is prepared, in principle, to do so, but there are conditions that have to be fulfilled first: Palestine has to categorically reject terrorism and accept Israel’s right to exist. He also talked about the various ways Singapore has “supported the right of the Palestinian people to a homeland”, such as offering capacity-building support to the Palestinian Authority:

We also provide fully funded scholarships for Palestinian officials to pursue postgraduate studies in in our local universities. Three Palestinian officials have already been awarded scholarships this year, in accountancy, international political economy, and info-communications security. We hope that these training opportunities will help Palestinian Authority officials better serve the Palestinian people, as well as equip them with necessary skills when it comes to the eventual reconstruction of Gaza.

Less mentioned was whether Singapore has any plan to pressure Israel to stop their indiscriminate bombing and killing, as well as seizure of land. It was reported this past week that the Israeli government is expanding settlement in the occupied West Bank. So when the foreign affairs minister asks the question “is there an effective Palestinian government or leadership who represents all Palestinians which has effective control over, at a minimum, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and has the mandate and the authority to negotiate with the Israelis on behalf of Palestinians?” I can’t help but question Singapore’s (lack of) reaction to Israeli state action that makes it impossible for the Palestinians to meet these conditions. What does it say about us that we pat ourselves on the back for training Palestinians for the “eventual reconstruction of Gaza” when we’re still maintaining military/defence relations with the state engaged in destroying Gaza in the first place—even to the point of allowing them to come to our country to flog their death-dealing wares?

Then it gets even more outrageous. Balakrishnan’s response to a supplementary question from WP’s Gerald Giam included this (emphasis mine):

Another worthwhile reminder for all of us in Singapore is that this is fundamentally not our quarrel. This is a family quarrel, in another family. The worst thing you can do in a family quarrel is to get involved unnecessarily or with ulterior motives or to perform for an external audience. So let's remain calm. Let's remain united. Let's remain constructive and helpful, and hope, even in this time of deep darkness, that peace will be given a chance in Palestine. And that our Israeli friends and their Palestinian brothers can live in peace with each other.

I don’t know what the people living on Ridout Road are like, for the minister to look at genocide and think it analogous to a family squabble. When my family fights, we only shout and send shitty texts. I guess the other half really does live differently. Thoughts and prayers.

The analogy is so stupid it’s aggravating. Would the minister call the war between Ukraine and Russia a “family quarrel”? And even if we went along with this ludicrous “family quarrel” analogy: if someone entered the family home and started stabbing the parents, strangling the children, trashing the house and setting fire to the kitchen and we’re seeing all this before our eyes, is it not our moral responsibility to act?


Sometimes there’s a POFMA so petty it does the job of undermining itself. The Singapore Democratic Party issued a statement—mentioned in last week’s wrap—condemning the decision to charge Camira, Kokila and Sobi “for organising a procession to the Istana in support of the Palestinian people in the ongoing Gaza war”. K Shanmugam, the minister for home affairs and law, POFMAed the statement:

The three women were charged for an offence under Section 15(1) of the Public Order Act 2009 (“POA”), for organising a procession in a prohibited area designated under Section 12 of the POA and the Public Order (Prohibited Areas) Order (i.e. in the vicinity of the Istana). The SDP’s posts falsely suggested that the three women were instead charged for organising support for the Palestinian people.

Although the SDP complied with the Correction Direction, they also published a response:

Mr Shanmugam points out that it has charged the three women under the Public Order Act. He is making a distinction without a difference; for all we care, he can charge them under the “Keep PAP In Power Forever Act” and it would make not a jot of difference.

The point of the media statement the party issued on 27 June 2024 was that the action taken against the three individuals was not in keeping with the spirit of Article 14 and, given the peaceful and constructive nature of the procession, prosecution was unwarranted.

The SDP aren’t the only ones who’ve been POFMAed recently. Kenneth Jeyaretnam, by now a POFMA veteran, has been given yet another Correction Direction, this time by Chee Hong Tat, Minister for Transport and Second Minister for Finance. This one’s in relation to a Facebook post about policies related to land prices, endowment and trust funds. (All this has been duly entered into WTC’s POFMA Tracker spreadsheet.)

Jeyaretnam is also being investigated by the police and the POFMA Office for possible offences under POFMA and also maybe contempt of court. But he isn’t in Singapore at the moment, so he hasn’t been questioned yet.


Here With You Social Services, a group that works with migrant workers, has launched a migrant accommodation project in conjunction with Soap Cycling Singapore and Migrant Workers Singapore. As they observe: “The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus led to heightened scrutiny over dormitory conditions with promises of improvements to be implemented. However, residents of dormitories rarely have their voices heard.”

The research project looks at living conditions in dormitories for migrant workers, and the men’s experiences of being confined to these spaces during Covid. They then engaged in focus group discussions and interviews to talk about how to improve these conditions, developing design concepts and making recommendations. You can read their full report here.

On the radar

🏳️‍🌈 Pink Dot took place last week, despite the humidity and the muddiness of Hong Lim Park. Politicians from various parties were there, which is nice for them, I guess, but shouldn’t be impressive in and of itself.

🧑🏻‍⚖️ The Post-Appeal Applications in Capital Cases Act is now in effect. This makes it even more difficult for prisoners in terms of access to justice. The Transformative Justice Collective previously produced an explainer.

🔨 Not much leadership change at the Workers’ Party after their party conference. Pritam Singh is still leader and Sylvia Lim still chairwoman.. But I’m glad to see Lee Li Lian back in the central executive committee.

Volunteering at TJC's booth at Pink Dot!

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