09 December 2008

Muddy Singapore swallows China workers, part 2

The saga continues. Two more workers had to spend a night in a police lock-up while nobody seems to know what's happened to the first two, arrested last week. And why didn't the Ministry of Manpower prosecute the employer for not paying wages and overtime on time? Full essay.

08 December 2008

Community effort no substitute for government inaction on MSM HIV

As the incidence of HIV climbs among men who have sex with men (MSM), it would be a misplaced question to ask "What is the gay community doing about it?" while accepting fatalistically the conservatism and inaction of the government. Some clear thinking is badly needed, or there'll be no progress. Full essay.

06 December 2008

Educating DBS

DBS bank proudly announced a Christmas promotion benefitting an anti-gay Christian group. Boycott calls rang out. Full essay.

05 December 2008

Muddy Singapore swallows China workers

Here's a specific case of six workers from China who've become extremely unhappy about the Singapore government. Their wages have not been paid for 3 months, but instead of helping them with their case, various government departments have abetted their employer's attempts to cheat, rob and kidnap them. Full essay.

29 November 2008

Politics airport-style

This week, headline news was made when Thai protesters arrayed against the elected government seized and occupied Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports, cutting the capital off from international air links. What is fight all about? Full essay.

28 November 2008

The government wants active citizens so that they can harass them

Remember the campaign a few years back calling for "active citizens"? Here's a story about the troubles we go through, harassed by the governmental apparatus every step of the way when one attempts to organise a forum and film showcase. Full essay.

24 November 2008

Conversation stoppers

In Malaysia, islamists warn off critics of the recent fatwa against "tomboys". In Singapore our government zealously files contempt of court charges against the Wall Street Journal Asia and three activists, in separate cases. Strange bedfellows? Full essay.

18 November 2008

One party good, two parties bad, says PM Lee. Again.

Lee Hsien Loong said incoming President Obama will be attempting to undo the fruits of George Bush's labours, it's the nature of a two-party system that there will be this chopping and changing. Singapore cannot afford such an adversarial two-party system, he said. Not for the first time. Full essay.

17 November 2008

Screwed by the impotent

DBS Bank is retrenching 900 employees following a poor third quarter performance. Lim Swee Say, cabinet minister and trade union czar, blasted it for not consulting the union beforehand. But why should DBS Bank do so? Full essay.

15 November 2008

Tea leaves from California's Proposition 8

What can Singaporeans learn from the failed campaign against Proposition 8? In my view, attention needs to be paid to opinion formation among ethnic minorities, and to developing an effective response to irrational fears that children will turn gay. Full essay.

14 November 2008

Scary ride down the economic roller coaster

The financial crisis has turned into an economic one. Singapore's GDP growth may be negative in 2009; lay-offs begin, and still no one knows where the bottom is. Full essay.

09 November 2008

Bali bombers and the death penalty

Having moral convictions is easy. Holding them fast against the reality that people are capable of doing abominably evil deeds is a lot more difficult. Full essay.

08 November 2008

Man killed for exposing himself

Suhaimi Sulong propositioned 2 young men in Orchard Towers for oral sex and exposed himself to a third. These 3, with 3 more friends, attacked him, beating him to death. Originally charged with manslaughter, the charges were later reduced. Was the prosecutor showing undue leniency? Full essay.

06 November 2008

Obama: change we can expect

Americans have elected a new leader, who will take office next January. A quick essay sharing my reading of this man, after watching him for almost a year as he campaigned for the presidency. Full essay.

02 November 2008

Indulgence towards anti-gay hate speech

A run-of-the-mill news story in the Straits Times attracts anti-gay rants. Why are these allowed to stand when similar hate speech touching on race and religion are not? asked a reader. Full essay.

31 October 2008

Bus commuters caught in terminology jam

The Straits Times reported that commuters disputed the Public Transport Council's finding that "buses were late on only 25 occasions and too crowded only 28 times" during a six-month period. Indeed it is too good to be true. Full essay.

30 October 2008

From Alexandra Hospital to Washington: The currency of race

Faced with racism, what do we do? What should we do? On November 4th, in the US presidential election, the biggest blow yet may be struck against this social cancer. Full essay.

27 October 2008

Fatwas, sermons and religious meddling

Malaysian clerics issue a fatwa against butch-dressing and lesbian sex; India's Additional Solicitor-General is chastised by a court for quoting the Bible as evidence; California's Catholic Church instructs its congregants to vote against gay marriage. Full essay.

26 October 2008

A troika of news from an economic tailspin

Las Vegas Sands goes hat in hand to banks, looking for funds; the world looks for new reserve currencies in place of the US dollar; while at home, a shop is looking for buyers for its "goods". Full essay.

24 October 2008

Cantonese Sydney

Unlike my usual solo travelling, I was in Sydney with friends. Albeit that the company was unrepresentative of Australians as a whole, going out with them showed me a side of Sydney that I might never have encountered myself - one with an amazing amount of Cantonese being spoken. Full essay.

Three walks in Sydney

A photo essay from three walks I took along the ocean and harbour shores of Sydney Australia. They offered great views and varying moods. Photo essay.

10 October 2008

Academic freedom and the Rascals Prize

Academic freedom has to be fought for. A spark has been lit in Singapore, with a protest on Hong Lim Green. Apart from political OB markers, gay subjects are often taboo in academia too, but the last 5 years or so have seen students exploring this field and lecturers encouraging them to do so. Time for a prize to honour the best work. Full essay.

08 October 2008

With recession coming, what social safety nets have we in place?

As a flat tax, the GST has created social inequity. The obvious response should be for the state to set up arrangements to redistribute income and provide social safety nets. Has it done so? Full essay.

05 October 2008

J B Jeyaretnam: The iconography begins

PAP leaders and the Straits Times have been disgraceful in the way they responded to the death of opposition leader J B Jeyaretnam. The Straits Times called him "irrelevant". Was he? Will he be? How long before memory and significance fades? Full essay.

02 October 2008

Blogtv's "Am I gay?" episode

After nine years, Channel NewsAsia revisits the topic of homosexuality in sex education programs. A considerable improvement over their first attempt, but like so many CNA programs, rather rushed and light-weight. Full essay.

30 September 2008

J B Jeyaretnam passes on

Opposition politician J B Jeyaretnam passed away in the early hours of 30 September 2008. A lawyer who sprang into prominence by winning the Anson constituency by-election in 1981, thus breaking the People's Action Party's monopoly of all seats in parliament, he paid for that act of insolence (at least in the eyes of the PAP) by being targetted and soon sued for defamation. He was bankrupted as a result of having to pay enormous sums as damages.

Yet, he never gave up the fight. Again and again, he threw himself against the steamroller of an authoritarian state. Despite paying dearly for his pugnacity and idealism, he became a beacon of hope for any Singaporean who believed in liberty and democracy. We were awed by his courage and tenacity, and we must surely be grateful that he kept, at times almost single-handedly, the flame alive.

29 September 2008

More people on this island, but poorer

Singapore's total population grew a stupendous 5.5 percent between June 2007 and June 2008, but the economy is flagging. The new demographic report gives many interesting details, enabling a different way of looking at our racial composition. Full essay.

27 September 2008

Viewer advisories and the laugh test

Singapore censorship policies requires broadcasters to issue viewer advisories before they air offensive content. But what constitutes "offensive"? (This essay is not work safe.) Full essay.

25 September 2008

Is engaging the mainstream media pointless? Part 1

I was quoted in the newspapers in three different places today. Were they accurate representations of my views? An example for evaluating if the media is fair. Full essay.

23 September 2008

River light-up may not wear well

Coinciding with the inaugural F1 Grand Prix race in Singapore, the first phase of the lighting makeover of the Singapore River was switched on, on 20 September 2008. At the same time, this year's Singapore River Festival was launched. Both use the same concept -- of flashing rainbow lights. How does an otherwise historic district look now with such a tacky scheme? Photo essay.

20 September 2008

Burmese patriots "undesirable", says Singapore government

Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng explained in Parliament that some Burmese who had organised "unlawful" outdoor protests were "rightly decided" to be "undesirable" elements. But how right is that? How "lawful" is the law? Full essay.

18 September 2008

Facing down a grave security threat: politics

Cycling events by political parties are not allowed, said the government, unless it is organised by a charity foundation, such as the PAP's own. Gopalan Nair is sentenced to three months' jail for insulting judge. Singapore prides itself in being tough, so that we enjoy a safe and peaceful society. Full essay.

17 September 2008

Occluded by the Merrill Lynch headlines, an Indonesian riddle

A brief history of Temasek Holdings' fling with Merrill Lynch, the thermonuclear end to which seized such attention that a Jakarta court ruling almost went unnoticed. Full essay.

16 September 2008

At Malaysia's Freedom Film Fest 2008

This grassroots-organised event featured a weekend of short films on various human rights issues. In the discussions that followed, Islam featured strongly. Full essay.

12 September 2008

The Mr & Mrs Tan gambit

I had a thought-provoking conversation with a senior journalist about how far the government would go in adopting the likely AIMS' proposals. The issue of internet regulation begs much bigger questions about what we expect from law, and the insecurities of our ministers. Full essay.

11 September 2008

150,000 Singaporeans live abroad

Sometimes you find nuggets of information when you trawl through the Parliamentary Reports. But why not have a Freedom of Information Act, so we can ask directly? Full essay.

09 September 2008

Between cowardice and the rule of law

Attorney-General Walter Woon once again reiterates that no one is above the law. What will he do with section 377A, our anti-gay law, that the government has said will not be "proactively enforced"? And what lessons does the Dred Scott case of1857 hold for us? Full essay.

05 September 2008

The panic of the anointed

The bulk of Christian clergymen are apprehensive about interfaith dialogue, a newspaper report said. Nearly half feared their religious convictions would be undermined by such contact. What would these guys have thought about meeting island natives with tinkling penises? Full essay.

In Jurong GRC, more wanted a by-election than not

Helping out with a street survey is an eye-opening experience. Here are a few observations I made about Singaporeans' view of their political rights and their understanding of democratic mechanisms. Full essay.

04 September 2008

My brilliant solution for Singapore's demographic future

Guest writer Pan Hong-En had an Eureka moment. Here he describes, tongue-in-cheek, what he believes can be a solution to our baby shortage woes. Guest essay.

Mitcham's edited Gold

An Australian diver makes Olympic history, but the story doesn't quite make it into news. Too inconvenient perhaps? Guest essay by Tim.

AIMS' proposals progressive but can be improved

A government-commissioned panel issued a consultation paper last week with respect to internet regulation in Singapore. The group of 13 bloggers which had submitted our own proposals to the government in April this year held a press conference giving our response to the consultation paper. Full essay.

26 August 2008

The first fruits of civil disobedience

The newly relaxed rules on podcasting, vodcasting, political films and demonstrations at Hong Lim Park are not a gift from the government, but a victory won through civil disobedience. Full essay.

25 August 2008

Family benefits? Gay men and women need not apply

Where do gay men and women figure in this childbearing frenzy? Guest writer Isaac Powell pose this and other questions at the heterosexism of the latest measures. Guest essay.

24 August 2008

Babies wanted, but only in traditional families, the traditional way

Newly announced tax exemptions, baby bonuses and extended maternity leave all reveal a reluctance to think out of the box. Is conservative morality so important that we'd rather not try our best for more babies? Full essay.

23 August 2008

Feeling a little silly in a football tabloid

The New Paper asked me for a 400-word article on the theme, "If I were the prime minister". Would any of the tabloid's football fans bother with a political piece?. I gave it a go, but still felt like fish out of water. Full essay.

Singapore shows Burmese dissidents the door

Stealthily, the Singapore government is deporting the activists who have been organising against the military junta. From a moral perspective, it's totally wrong. From a long term realpolitick perspective, it's utterly stupid. Full essay.

19 August 2008

Demonstrations to be allowed in Hong Lim playpen

Prime Minister Lee Hisen Loong announced 3 new liberalisations in his National Day Rally speech. They were couched in so many ifs and buts, do they amount to anything more than mere tokenism? Full essay.

Side-stepping the death penalty

Three men were caught with 18.4 grams of heroin. Under the law, they would face the mandatory death penalty. However, the prosecutor told the court that they were being charged with possessing 14.99 grams. Was he playing fast and loose with facts? Full essay.

17 August 2008

Sodomy law makes you look foolish

Home Minister Wong Kan Seng tries to explain the government's position on the Chan Mun Chiong case. Meanwhile more developments in Malaysia (the Anwar case) and India. Full essay.

13 August 2008

Cirque de Singapour

We're investing in sports and arts education, but we should also think about providing multiple career paths for the graduates before they leave for greener shores. Here's an idea: invest in a dance/acrobatic theatre. It's crazy, some will say. But seriously, why not? Full essay.

Lording over all the Rios

For transgenders, private citizens can be their worst nightmares, behaving like vigilantes and petty tyrants, making life a misery for them. Rio Moreno's story. Full essay.

10 August 2008

Give me dogs over religionists anytime

The anti-abortion campaigners are now saying that women who undergo abortion may suffer mental health effects, using this argument to support their call for a "relook" at the laws. A call made out of "love", you understand. Full essay.

09 August 2008

Straits Times redesigned, parts 1 and 2

Singapore's leading English daily, the Straits Times, relaunched a revamped version 8 August. The redesign of the print version looks successful. The online versions, however, still look messy. Part 1 and Part 2.

07 August 2008

Boys should dance

Equality is an elusive thing when we start off with different body shapes. At the Olympics, we will celebrate inequality, but in daily life, we have to find ways to compensate for it. Full essay.

05 August 2008

The state should pay for maternity leave and provide childcare

Anticipating the theme of this year's National Day Rally, the government is likely to announce more measures to boost the birthrate, but they will likely be parsimonious half-measures. Full essay.

04 August 2008

Malaysian politics can make you stupid

One month ago, Mohd Saiful accused Malaysian opposition politician Anwar Ibrahim of engaging in sodomy with him. The police and media treat it as sexual assault. Now they're arguing over medical reports, pus and blood, or the absence of such. Did anyone notice the slippery slope from sodomy to sexaul assault to rape? Full essay.

03 August 2008

More changes to electoral system in the offing?

Goh Chok Tong said in a recent speech, "the status quo cannot last forever." A week later, the Straits Times had a two-page spread about Group Representation Constituencies and how they have changed over the years. Full essay.

01 August 2008

Punitive approach not the best, says drug policy advocate

Ethan Nadelmann pointed out how Singapore is now a far outlier in our approach to drug abuse. Many countries, even in Asia, have moved to a harm reduction strategy because the latter delivers better social and public health results. Full essay.

31 July 2008

Those other ones affected by homosexuality

Suicide. Murder. Rage and despair. Families of gay people have very few resources to help them cope. They don't know whom to turn to or where to begin. Full essay.

29 July 2008

Escalator and other paralyses

Singaporeans stand still rather than walk on travellators. Nor do they clear trays from self service restaurants. We also have a low birth rate. Might there be something in common with all these? Full essay.

27 July 2008

Of airports, nudity and an insult to men

Changi is a good airport, at least as compared with 2 other major air hubs I know. Changi's Terminal 3, officially opened last week, has the first of the millimetre-wave scanners which creates anatomically faithful images of passengers. Full essay.

26 July 2008

Singapore's religious rightwing trains its sights on abortion

So far, our Christian fundamentalists have focussed on spreading hate towards gay people, but in a recent article in the Straits Times, law lecturer Tan Seow Hon opened a campaign against abortion. Undeniable parallels with the political campaigns of the religious right of the US, seeking to impose their moral absolutism on everybody else. Full essay.

16 July 2008

Stolen star shines an unflattering light

Cabinet minister Vivian Balakrishnan told a roomful of students that the YouTube age of politics is here. Without sound, music and moving images, nobody will watch, he said. He may be right: we're all watching the 2008 National Day music video. But why, really? Full essay.

12 July 2008

Does the Attorney-General know what's in the law books?

Attorney-General Walter Woon says men who sexually abuse underaged males will be prosecuted under Section 377A. What's wrong with that? Full essay.

Where's the line between serving the state and serving the party?

Attorney-General Walter Woon's difficulties in explaining away his remark about human rights 'fanatics' shows how compromised one can be when serving the state, in a case where one political party so dominates it. Full essay.

10 July 2008

Sodomy, corruption and Malaysia's Penal Code

New sodomy allegations against Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim shows how sodomy laws when used for political purposes corrupt politics. It also makes it harder for a society to deal intelligently with the question of homosexuality. Full essay.

09 July 2008

Regulate, not ban, the sale of human organs

The current law that criminalises the sale of human organs creates moral unease when it is used to prosecute the already desperate. Time for a policy rethink. Full essay.

05 July 2008

Thursday morning at the Novotel

You never know who else is staying in the same hotel as you, and who you'll meet at breakfast. This morning, in walks a man dressed differently from everybody else. Musings on identity and symbolism. Full essay.

23 June 2008

Orchard Road: boom, bust, stuck and shut

There is a lot of construction activity along Orchard Road, our main shopping street. We're good at building huge new shopping malls, but creating a premier shopping district takes much more than that. We're not so good at tackling the other issues. Full essay.

22 June 2008

Key concerns about internet deregulation emerge at forum

Much of the discussion during the Seminar on Internet Regulatory Reform concerned how we should handle racially and religiously offensive speech, how community moderation would work and the ban on political films. Full essay.

18 June 2008

In the heartlands

Photos from where most of us really live: the hawker centre, the neighbourhood shops, the playgrounds. Nothing at all like how our tourism pictures portray Singapore. Photo essay.

16 June 2008

Why only 'practical NGOs' and for economic reasons?

The government boasts that Singapore is attracting more non-profits and non-governmental organisations to locate in Singapore. Speaks of economic spin-offs, confident that there'll be no risk of activism. Vinita Ramani finds such an attitude appalling. Guest essay.

15 June 2008

Did unbridled capitalism leave people vulnerable to oil and food price rises?

Globally, we have enjoyed half a century of unparalleled economic growth though some countries did better than others. Yet today we have protests breaking out across the world over oil and food price rises, because for hundreds of millions, the pain is real. Why are people still so vulnerable? Full essay.

13 June 2008

Norway legalises gay marriage

By a parliamentary vote, Norway becomes the 6th country in the world to achieve marriage equality. Its new law also provides for equality in parental rights. Meanwhile same-sex weddings in California will start on 16 June 2008. Full essay.

Rainbow rising in the Western sky

The British government has instructed all its diplomatic missions to monitor and support gay equality abroad. How the Straits Times deals with news stories about gay pride parades. Full essay.

Gopalan Nair's quickie press conference

After Gopalan Nair was charged, for the second time, with insulting a judge, he held a press conference. An inside look into what happens at a press conference. How much of that will be in tomorrow's news? Full essay.

09 June 2008

Pity that Youthquake 2 didn't make it to the Richter scale

The turnout for the Workers' Party's Youth wing's forum on transportation was poor, a sign of the Singapore public's political apathy, even among young citizens. However, this forum series is an important program for the party and they must persevere. Full essay.

08 June 2008

The Singapore Democratic Party: method or madness?

It's common to hear people say the SDP's tactics put them off. They are futile anyway; they can never win, for who will vote for them? But electoral victory is not what the SDP is about. Full essay.

07 June 2008

We duds at the pinnacle of evolution

With so many examples of unintelligent work around us, why do some of us think that humans are smart? Just spend some time in our public transport system, and the evidence is there to see. Full essay.

US Catholic group spends franctically to oppose gay marriage

A Catholic organisation in the United States spent about three-quarters of a million US Dollars to buy advertising space in major dailies to condemn homosexuality and same-sex marriage. What happened to feeding the poor, nursing the sick and disaster relief? Think what good all the money could have done. External essay on Fridae.com

05 June 2008

Whose misbehaviour diminishes us all?

Political theatre in Singapore courts as leaders and supporters of the Singapore Democratic Party are charged for various offences. Some unflattering similarities with Thailand and Zimbabwe. Full essay.

04 June 2008

Attorney-General says "human rights now a religion" with fanatics

Singapore's Attorney-General disses attempts to use the courts as a route to determining questions of human rights, calling those dissenters who draw attention to human rights abuses hypocrites and fanatics. Also suggests that it's absurd to consider same-sex marriage a human rights issue. Full essay.

03 June 2008

A family's invisibles

Guest writer Zeal's grandmother passed away. Who mourned her passing? Who's she who sobbed so uncontrollably? Guest essay.

01 June 2008

Necessary conditions for economic growth and the varnished truth

An international commission's report about how poor countries can achieve economic growth was reported by the Straits Times in a way that trumpeted the Singapore government's line about "good governance", non-necessity for democracy and high salaries for officials. Full essay.

30 May 2008

The second Burmese conversation

Six months after I met with a group of Burmese to explore their feelings about the snuffed-out monks' protests last September and October, much has happened in their country, not least Cyclone Nargis and the generals' preoccupation with a referendum. What were their feelings now? Full essay.

The displacement of reason

On 15 May 2008, I spoke at a Catholic forum titled, "What's wrong with homosexual acts? Viewpoints from psychology and societal implications". You shouldn't be surprised at the theme. Religious forums tend to be like that - not so much an open-ended enquiry to search for answers, but an exercise in shoring up the faith. Here, for the record, is the (long) full text of the talk. Complete text.

27 May 2008

Seminar on Internet regulatory reform

Organised by the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University

"The job of a citizen is to keep his mouth open" -- Gunter Grass

Are Singaporeans satisfied with the state of internet regulation as existing? If not, what changes do we wish to see and how can a bottom-up desire for reform translate into policy review?

Can Singapore afford the political and social costs of free speech? Is there a contradiction between wanting freedom for political speech and controls over social speech?

Is technology really in the driver’s seat? Are governments powerless in the face of a global internet?

  • Guest speaker: Mr Arun Mahizhnan, Dep. Dir. Institute of Policy Studies
  • Presentations by members of the Bloggers’ Group for Internet Deregulation
  • Chaired by Asst Prof Cherian George, Wee Kim Wee School, NTU

Date: Saturday, 21 June 2008
Time: 2:00 - 5:00 pm
Venue: URA Centre, Maxell Rd, Function Hall, Level 5 (See map below)
Admission: Free
Media: Open to reporting

To register, please send an empty email to irr-singapore-subscribe@googlegroups.com

You will get an email response asking you to confirm your subscription to the Googlegroup. Please do so; this will allow us to compile a registration list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by sending an email to irr-singapore-unsubscribe@googlegroups.com . In any case, you will not get mail from the Googlegroup unless there are urgent notices regarding the seminar.

26 May 2008

From Azerbaijan with camp

The wonders of singing competitions: Eurovision 2008 and American Idol Season 7. Full essay.

24 May 2008

Where are we now with stem cell research?

Private funding has dried up. The whole project is now virtually all government-funded, with great dollops of cash. Payback is at best decades away. Here's another long-term investment with public money, but also one with not much accountability. Full essay.

23 May 2008

We're prepared to listen, says government

Vivian Balakrishnan says the government is open to contrarian views... but follows that with a list of ifs and buts. Meanwhile, other news reports reinforce the common view of a heavy-handed government. Full essay.

Cuba holds anti-homophobia event

The communist government in Havana backs a campaign for gay equality despite the lingering influences from Catholicism. In Singapore however, a Catholic forum saw a rather frenzied attempt to prove homosexuality an illness. Full essay.

22 May 2008

The unnatural afterlife of the Section 377A debate

In August last year, Prof Douglas Sanders was banned from giving a public lecture in Singapore about anti-gay laws throughout former British colonies. This week, he is here, giving the exact same talk at the National University of Singapore. Full essay.

20 May 2008

Long term investments or long shots?

Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, the GIC, invests for the very long term, but the news in the short term can be quite unnerving. On Citigroup and the Old Lane hedge fund, and on Shincorp. Full essay.

18 May 2008

Burma should be suspended from Asean

With such callous disregard for the humantarian crisis following cyclone Nargis, are the Burmese generals committing a crime against humanity? Since Asean has no influence on them anyway, we should signal our moral outrage and suspend them from the organisation. Full essay.

16 May 2008

Gay marriage victory in California Supreme Court

The California Supreme Court has ruled that it is unconstitutional to deny marriage to gay and lesbian couples. The state thus becomes the second in the US to offer same-sex marriage after Massachusetts. Full essay.

12 May 2008

Stop demolishing, start integrating

Tan Mingjuan calls for a rethink of urban planning policies in Singapore. What kind of city do we - and the new talent we hope to attract - want to live in? Guest essay.

11 May 2008

Hong Kong broadcasting regulator's decision overturned by court

While our Media Development Authority runs amok imposing fine after fine on TV stations for the slightest trace of homosexuality, in Hong Kong, when their broadcasting regulator tried to do the same, they were slapped by the court. Full essay.

09 May 2008

Here's proof: Section 377A being enforced

A man has just been charged under Section 377A, our anti-gay law. This, barely months after the prime minister suggested that gay citizens have nothing to fear from the law. Full essay.

08 May 2008

In the eye of the cyclone stands immobile the junta

Two kinds of shocking news are coming out of Burma: the scale of the disaster in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, and the slowness and resistance of the military regime to outside help. Full essay.

IDAHO - International Day Against Homophobia, 17 May 2008

MICA acknowledges the internet proposals submitted

K Bhavani, the Press Secretary for Lee Boon Yang, the Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts, sent an email in reply to the group of bloggers who had submitted a set of proposals for internet deregulation, on 5 May 2008. She said:

Dear Mr Au

My Minister would like to thank you and your blogger friends for the effort in putting up the proposals for Internet deregulation which you had emailed to him on 20 April 2008.

MICA is well aware of the fact that Internet and new media technology have evolved by leaps and bounds since we introduced our light-touch approach in 1996. Back then, MICA had recognised the potential growth and impact of the Internet, and the tremendous opportunities and benefits that it will bring to all of us. We were also wary of its negative aspects. Hence, our response to the Internet was to take a balanced light-touch approach. Our intent with this light-touch approach was to foster the growth of the Internet and to enable us to exploit its vast potential while safeguarding our society from its undesirable aspects. That 79% of our households subscribe to broadband and many Singaporeans especially the younger citizens own a blog or participate in some form of new media clearly show that the light-touch approach had not been without merit.

To keep up with the fast-evolving new media landscape, we have been reviewing our light-touch approach and are considering how we could take a lighter touch approach. We have appointed the Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society (AIMS) in April last year to study the new media and how best to refine our regulatory framework.

We will consider the views expressed in your proposal and other feedback in our review.

Yours sincerely

Press Secretary
to the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts

06 May 2008

The pigeons are among us already

What is the point of having rules and penalties governing internet speech relating to race, religion and sex, when the technology is borderless? In any case, why SHOULD there be all these rules? The case for more free speech. Full essay.

04 May 2008

Guilty until proven innocent: the case of William Ding

Characterising the prosecution's case as "fraught with serious internal inconsistencies and irreconcilable material contradictions" an appeal judge acquitted William Ding of molesting 2 teenagers. But why was such a weak case even launched, dragging on for 3 years? Full essay.

03 May 2008

Packable politics and its press

On command, the issue of the alleged terrorist's escape was packed away from the mainstream media. This ability of a government to manipulate headlines leads to great risks for the country. Consider, for example, the question of Singapore's 11 billion Swiss Franc investment in UBS.... Full essay.

01 May 2008

HIV hits new high. Solution: punish

Singapore's HIV rates are high compared to neighbouring countries with similar standards of living. Even as infection rates climb, the government has no new ideas. Full essay.

29 April 2008

China and (inter)nationalism

More protests and scuffling as the Olympic torch is run in Seoul. Yet another issue is brought to the fore. China's view of the international order is out of date. Full essay.

27 April 2008

Watch it! Part 2

Part 1 discussed some TV commercials that used the gay angle in offensive ways. Here in Part 2 are examples of advertisements that are much better. Full essay.

26 April 2008

Rice price as capitalism's vice

The current problem with high food prices is not just a supply and demand problem, but also a symptom of the ills of global capitalism without sufficient social conscience. Full essay.

25 April 2008

Upholding our 'fine city' reputation

A TV station is fined S$15,000 for "promoting" homosexuality because a reality show had a gay couple in it, while in Japan, public broadcaster NHK breaks its taboo. Full essay.

22 April 2008

The great hunt: more management failures than guards' lapses

Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng gave a detailed and well-prepared account to Parliament of Mas Selamat Kastari's escape from detention... until the questions came. Full essay.

21 April 2008

Bloggers submit proposals to government

Further to an open call issued on Yawning Bread and The Online Citizen late last year, a group of bloggers came together in December 2007 with the aim of submitting proposals to the government on the deregulation of the internet.

The 20-page submission was sent to the Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts on 21 April 2008. Click on the graphic to download.

It calls for sweeping changes to the regulatory system, in order to bring Singapore in line with international norms and fundamental principles of free speech. What regulation that remains and are justifiable should be through clear laws rather than administrative discretion. It should also be realistic with regard to the borderlessness of the technology.

19 April 2008

Prosecute or nothing

What's rotten about the regulation of speech in Singapore is not just a question of this rule or that rule, but the entire way it is done. The process, or the system, is the bigger problem. Full essay.

17 April 2008

Watch it! Part 1

It is rare for commercial advertising to depict gay (and racial) minorities, and when they do, it tends to be a poorly thought out job. Full essay.

15 April 2008

Political activism, cyber or otherwise

A private forum was organised last week featuring a Malaysian opposition activist and the founder of online newspaper Malaysiakini. Some thoughts following that event. Full essay.

12 April 2008

Lee Hsien Loong calls on world to kowtow to China

The protests around the Olympic torch relay are counter-productive, he says. People should be sensitive to the nationalistic pride felt by the Chinese. Full essay.

11 April 2008

Ban-happy Singapore

A cable TV operator is fined S$10,000 for airing a scene in which 2 women kiss. More about 3 of the 4 films banned from the Singapore Film Festival. Full essay.

06 April 2008

The mathematics of elections 2

Data from the last 4 general elections support my thesis that GRCs have a homogenising effect on electoral outcomes, effectively disenfranchising many voters. Full essay.

05 April 2008

Why the Films Act should be trashed

This piece of sweeping legislation makes criminals of all of us, yet in practical terms is pointless in the digital age. Full essay.

04 April 2008

The children we leave behind

So many children in this world are hurt needlessly, traceable to unthinking habits of thought on our part. So many more would have loving homes if we'd only get our moral dogma out of the way. Full essay.

02 April 2008

Cinema: Lion City

This 1960 production was the first Chinese-language film ever made in Singapore. The streets, the clothes that the characters wore, their concerns... they're so strange. Full essay.

30 March 2008

Hotel Singapore now officially gay-friendly

Kerry Sieh, a gay American, was convinced enough by Lee Kuan Yew's words to take up a new job in Singapore. Full essay.

24 March 2008

Improving the Internal Security Act

This law gives the government wide discretionary powers to detain people without trial. We can either abolish it or create a mechanism for oversight. Full essay.

19 March 2008

What to do with the Tibetan question?

Monks and lay people planned a series of marches in and around Tibet this month. These were promptly met by security forces in China and India. China is, as usual, cracking down brutally. Time for a closer examination of the issue. Full essay.

17 March 2008

Cinema: Slam and Bangkok Love Story

Two films as different as night and day, one agile and unceasing, the other rather flatfooted. And quite loses the plot. One worth watching, the other not. Full essay.

14 March 2008

The mathematics of elections

Suppose a vote shift happened in Singapore at the next election similar to what happened recently in Malaysia, what will the resulting parliament look like in terms of political party representation? The mathematics of it explained. Full essay.

13 March 2008

Street work ain't for us

It's interesting to see migrants do entrepreneurial things that Singaporeans don't do. What does it say about us? Full essay.

10 March 2008

Any lessons from the Malaysian general election for us?

The ruling Barisan Nasional's loss was greater than anyone expected. The key issues in Malaysia in the run-up to their 8 March election seemed to be unhappiness among the Chinese and Indian minorities. Is this pertinent to Singapore's domestic politics? Full essay.

09 March 2008

The great hunt: bunker chaos

Here's an alternative explanation for why information about Mas Selamat Kasteri's escape came out in ribs and drabs. Full essay.

07 March 2008

Sex is all around, get over it

A Lim Soo Hoon complains that a shop handed her son a condom and sold him a kamasutra chocolate. A Bennie Cheok complains that a TV show had a same-sex couple living with a son. Meanwhile, strippers make it big. Full essay.

04 March 2008

The great hunt limps along

It's six days since Mas Selamat Kasturi escaped from Whitley Road Detention Centre. The longer he stays undiscovered, the more likely he is getting help and someone is concealing him. Full essay.

03 March 2008

Be meek and be dispossessed

Service quality is rarely good in Singapore. But bad service and bad behaviour persist partly because we ourselves don't speak up. Full essay.

29 February 2008

Of airports and demonstrations

In airport surveys, Singapore comes out near the top. In press freedom, near the bottom. Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng says the question of allowing demonstrations at Hong Lim Park is being reviewed. Full essay.

From my mailbox 1

More on the (secret) survey on reasons for emigrating. Mediacorp TV censors gay speech (again). Why censorship matters. Full essay.

28 February 2008

Slam the odds

Jonathan Lim and Christian Lee wanted to chase their dream - to make a feature film in China - and found themselves facing obstacle after obstacle. Full essay.

25 February 2008

Daydreams of a way station

How is Singapore going to become one of the great capital cities of the world when we keep losing talent? Full essay.

21 February 2008

Media silence and the cultivators of hate

An inexplicable, senseless killing hogs the news for days. Another horrific killing is hardly mentioned. Why? Full essay.

18 February 2008

Safety on trial

Do Singaporeans care enough about public safety? Why have we not provided paths for bicycles, separate from pedestrians? Full essay.

14 February 2008

It's my gay uncle who takes me to school every day

Gays are out to destroy the "traditional family", the religious nuts claim. They can't be too happy then, with the science that is emerging. Full essay.

12 February 2008

Inflation has hurt poor more than rich

Everybody in Singapore has seen significant price increases, but poorer households see more of it, according to statistics. In promising to do something about price trends in the upcoming budget, the government should bear this in mind. Full essay.

09 February 2008

Berlin's Erotik Museum

Berlin lives up to its liberal reputation with a sex museum. Two floors of precious art pieces from around the world. Photo essay.

06 February 2008

Keeping schools safe from religion

A headmaster tried to make his canteen all-halal, violating a fundamental principle of a secular state. Full essay.

January potpourri

My Kissing photos, banned in Singapore, are on show in Melbourne. Plus more news bites. Full essay.

04 February 2008

Leaving Singapore for pinker shores

Jason was happy to be posted to Singapore, but after just one year, he quit. Here's one MBA and PhD holder in the biotech line that Singapore couldn't convince to stay. Why? Guest essay.

Are the planned bus and rail improvements enough?

The Transport Minister recently announced new plans and changes to the public transport system. While the direction is sound, don't expect things to improve greatly. Full essay.

02 February 2008

A reason to complain

The Complaints Choir was refused a licence to perform in whole. Is this another example of "ceremonial censorship", with all its implications for the rule of law? Full essay.

01 February 2008

Inside and outside the human zoo

How do you feel about gawking at hill tribes dressed in their "exotic" costumes? Do people who perform their roles always do so unwillingly? Full essay.

06 January 2008

Coming and going and coming back to haunt us again

How many of you remember the novel Peculiar Chris? After 15 years, the author has published another book. Full essay.

04 January 2008

The healthcare funding gap

Is there a healthcare safety net or not? We have all these various schemes from Medisave to Medifund, but do they provide comprehensive coverage? Full essay.

03 January 2008

Seelan Palay's 5-day fast

He's fasting 5 days to draw attention to the 5 men detained by the Malaysian government without trial. Yet another young Singaporean rekindling the spirit of outdoor protest. Full essay.