Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Refusal of Singapore Police to return cell phones of Tak Boleh Tahan protestors

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Singapore Democratic Party's website reported on April 18, 2008 the refusal of the police to return the cell phones of the Tak Boleh Tahan protesters of March 15, 2008 and their warning that if they were not returned immediately, an action will be filed in court to recover them.

The Singapore government find themselves in an impossible situation, which usually happens when governments act arbitrarily instead of in compliance with the law. This is a situation where the government is helpless; a situation where heads they lose and tails the protesters win.

In the first place, the Singapore police had no legal basis to take the cell phones. Although it is true that police have wide latitude to preserve evidence that may have any bearing on a case, in this situation, where the protest had nothing to do with telephones; the police had clearly no basis to take them.

Having unlawfully taken them, the correct thing to do would be to return them immediately. But the Singapore government, in their determination not to be seen as weak, find this difficult to do. On the other hand, if the court hearing the claim orders against their return, they lose again, since it would be clear that the court has decided unlawfully.

So at the end, the government loses either way. If they return the cell phones, they will appear weak and indecisive. On the other hand, if they do not, they will be seen as having acted unlawfully.

You see the same situation in Mr. Wong Kan Seng's case. It is quite clear that as minister in charge of prisons, the escape of Mas Selamat Kastari clearly places the blame squarely on him, as the responsible party. Therefore, the correct thing for him to do is to resign. But that would have made the government look weak in the face of the peoples demands for his resignation. So he refuses to resign. But by not resigning, the government suffers the same fate, since they are seen as an dictatorial administration totally indifferent to their responsibilities.

On a daily basis, this government is repeatedly telling the people that they do not care about the law; that they will do whatever they want. Recall the 4 man protest in front of CPF Building some years ago. Even though the protesters broke no law, since their number did not reach the threshold of 5 which would have required a permit, VK Rajah, a Singapore judge ordered, for want of any better reason, that protests were not allowed in Singapore, even though the constitution specifically allows it! An astonishing observation indeed!

This routine disregard of the law on a daily basis by this government continues to have far reaching deleterious consequences for them. It strengthens the belief in the average man that Singapore is no longer a country run by law. This unsavory fact spreads throughout the world causing other countries to worry that their contracts may not be protected under law; as a result of which trade suffers. Singaporeans worried about their future in a country that does not believe in law, emigrate, sending their children abroad for education with instructions not to return, thus aggravating the brain drain from the small island.

The lack of farsightedness in this government by their arbitrary unlawful actions give added credibility to the Singapore Democratic Party which continues to take this government to task on each injustice they perpetrate. In the end Singaporeans just as any other human around the world loses confidence in this government which can only accelerate its decline.

And that, happens to be very good news.

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

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