Sunday, April 27, 2008

Singapore. Burmese hold protest without permits while Singapore police helplessly look on

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On Sunday April 27, 2008, Reuters the news service carried the story "Myanmar nationals protest constitution in Singapore".

Once again, these brave Burmese nationals have rightly ignored a Singapore law which requires a permit for any public gathering of more than 5 people. On Sunday, not 5 but 1,000 Burmese protesters had gathered outside the office of their Embassy without the necessary permit, while the Singapore police helplessly watched, unable to do anything while their protest laws were spat at before their very eyes. Lee Kuan Yew had described Singapore as a first world country. I have not heard of another who were incapable of enforcing their laws which were being broken before their very eyes!

Mind you, this is not the first time the Burmese have done it. Only some months ago, Burmese in Singapore just as Burmese all over the world held protests at their embassies against the suppression of peaceful protesters in Burma by the military junta. Then too, they did not have permits and just as now; the Singapore police were unable to do anything against them then. Just as now, there were no arrests at all.

But this is not how the Singapore police deal with their own citizens in Singapore. Dr. Chee of the SDP and others of his party have been repeatedly arrested, charged and sent to prison for peacefully protesting. In their case, it is not that they did not apply for permits. Each time a peaceful protest was organized, they dutifully applied for permits as required by Singapore law, but each time, they were refused.

As you are already aware, the constitution of Singapore specifically gives the citizens the right of peaceful assembly. Therefore the separate statute that requires a permit for an assembly for 5 or more is clearly illegal and ultra vires the constitution. Therefor rightfully, the Singaporean protesters could have ignored the law as being illegal. But despite this, each time Dr. Chee and company dutifully apply for it, only to be denied each time. And each time they protest, peacefully without harming or hurting anyone, they are charged with criminal offenses, hauled to court and imprisoned.

You can see from this, that it is one set of laws for Burmese in Singapore who do not need permits to assemble in any numbers, let alone 5, but another set of laws for Singaporeans in their own country who are routinely sent to jail for doing just that!

This discriminatory use of the laws is unacceptable, illegal and violative of the Singapore constitution which mandates equal protection under the law.

Anyone watching all this must feel that if Singapore laws had any credibility, it was completely destroyed on Sunday April 27, 2008 when 1,000 Burmese braved Singapore's laws and deliberately broke them before the very eyes of the police who could do nothing but merely watch helplessly.

And any Singaporean watching this would be emboldened and empowered by the helplessness of these policemen; pick up courage to protest in numbers much greater than a 1,000 against the various injustices this government shamelessly mete out to them. Such as, the $3.7 million salaries per year of ministers while the poor starve; the inability of the government to stop the unbearable price rises for food and essentials; the indiscriminate import of foreign nationals to deliberately keep wages down for Singaporeans and the multitude of other injustices.

The police are helpless to enforce their own laws. Now is the time for you to drive home the message that you want something done about these injustices.

Gopalan Nair
39737 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite A1
Fremont, CA 94538, USA
Tel: 510 657 6107
Fax: 510 657 6914

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