Friday, January 28, 2011

Advice to Singaporean asylum seekers

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am a US lawyer specializing in US Immigration Law, criminal law and general practice. Otherwise I am the Singapore Dissident.

Singapore's state controlled newspaper's online edition of Jan 29, 2011 has the story "Singaporean denied Australian refugee status". It states a Singaporean had applied for asylum in Australia because "he could not express his political views in Singapore and because he faced a jail term for being a national service (NS) reservist defaulter if he returned to Singapore". Except for this, Lee Kuan Yew's state controlled newspaper does not give anymore details.

Let me give those contemplating asylum some advice.

A "refugee" is someone in his native country (Singapore) who is granted refugee status by a foreign diplomatic post in Singapore or elsewhere. As an example today many Afghans are screened for claims of persecution by the UN High Commission for Refugees in New Delhi or Islamabad Pakistan and if approved, they are accepted by the United States and various other western countries in the world. Technically, a Singaporean could go to the Australian High Commission in his country and ask for refugee status on account of persecution by the Lee Kuan Yew government and if he has a meritorious claim, he can get it. In practice, unless there are ongoing wars and great calamity in the region, such requests are extremely unlikely to succeed.

An "asylum applicant" is a person who has left his native country and travelled to the West, in this case Australia, and there asks for asylum. In effect, the application is the same as if he was outside Australia, that is, he is asking for refugee status. In other words, an asylum applicant has to prove that he is a "refugee".

What do you have to prove to get refugee status? You have to show that you are unable or unwilling to return to Singapore because of persecution or a "well founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular group or political opinion". This requirement is the same in the USA as well as every other country that accepts refugees or asylum seekers.

In other words, you have to prove that you fear returning to Singapore because the Singapore government would persecute you or will not protect you from persecution. In Singapore's case, this is easy to prove since it is the government itself that persecutes it's own citizens on political grounds.

Who should be guilty of persecuting you? It has to be either the government of your country (Singapore) or a group which the government is unable or unwilling to control. Therefore you have to show that the Singapore government persecutes you by reason of your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular group or political opinion.

One important thing to remember is this. Refusal to do national service is not a ground for granting asylum.

In this particular Singapore case, it does not state the details except to say that he "could not express his political views". If this is all he suffered, I am not surprised that he did not succeed. In order to succeed in asylum, you not only have to show that you have a fear of persecution, generally, you also have to show that you were in fact persecuted for expressing your political beliefs.

In other words, the Singapore government has to deliberately target you for what you do or believe. Unless you are among the few who had actually done something in Singapore which Lee Kuan Yew did not like and were chosen for punishment, you are unlikely to get asylum anywhere. Merely claiming that you cannot express yourself freely, is not enough because you could take measures yourself to change the repressive system there. Think of it, since everyone in Singapore is unable to express his political opinion freely, surely the entire population of Singapore cannot be granted asylum in Australia.

Let me give you some examples. Dr. Chee Soon Juan who is the daily punching bag of Lee Kuan Yew for his political opposition would be granted asylum in almost every country in the world. That is guaranteed. I am sure he is not seeking asylum anywhere. I am using him merely to illustrate my point. Dr. Chee is a vocal implacable Lee Kuan Yew critic, proponent of democracy and freedom of speech which Lee knows, and for this he has been repeatedly jailed and bankrupted. Therefore he is being persecuted by the state for his political opinion, a classic guaranteed asylum success case.

On the other hand if I am an ordinary citizen of Singapore just as everyone else, nothing has happened to me yet, but I file a claim for asylum because I cannot express myself openly. This case fails because firstly it is hypothetical, and the direct nexus between fear and persecution by the state has not been shown.

If you properly prepare your case, Singapore would be one of the easiest countries from which to get asylum. Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew is known world over as a dictator who abuses the law to silence his critics. But then you first have to show that you are a critic who has been persecuted because of that.

I can tell of some in Singapore now who would definitely get asylum in the west. Other than Dr. Chee Soon Juan, John Tan and the 2 others who were sent to jail for wearing T Shirts with pictures of Kangaroos would definitely succeed. The "Marxist Conspirators" Lee Kuan Yew's label for the 22 civic minded citizens who were sent to jail would all get it of course. Recently the guy who was arrested for anti government graffiti would get it as well.

My advice is this. If you are a anti Lee Kuan Yew political activist, carrying out your political activities openly and were arrested, you would almost certainly get asylum. But if you merely articulated your personal fears when nothing actually happened to you; you will fail

To take another example, all Arabs living under Israeli occupied West Bank are persecuted. The West cannot possibly grant asylum to every one of them. On the other hand, there are a few Arab who have been active in their political work, who are in the sights of the Israeli government, and were arrested and persecuted. These people would be granted asylum.

Remember, I myself received asylum in the United States. The facts in my case were as follows. I was practicing law in Singapore and a member of the Workers Party with the late JB Jeyaretnam. In the 1980s I wrote a letter to the Attorney General then, Tan Boon Teik asking him to explain why he advised the President not to give Jeyaretnam a pardon when the Privy Council had exonerated him. Just for that I was suspended from practicing law for 2 years.

Also at that time, I had written a letter to the HDB on behalf of my client, Patrick DeSouza, a rag and bone man of Sungei Road, who was thrown out of his flat just because he fell into hard times. I accused them of being heartless, which was true. I had then, circulated this letter to all foreign embassies in Singapore to publicise my clients plight. For this action, disciplinary proceedings against me were commenced.

In another case, in 1991, as Workers Party election candidate for Bukit Merah, I had made a speech at a rally criticizing the manner of appointing Subordinate Court judges, a legitimate criticism. Not liking what I said, Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore convicted me of contempt of their courts. I was fined Singapore $8,000.00, and in default I would have been jailed for 2 months; and ordered to pay costs which amounted to Singpaore $13,000.00. Laura Lau, one of Lee Kuan Yew's minions at the Attorney General's Chambers wrote to me in the US asking me to pay or else. I refused to pay.

You can see a pattern here. I was exercising my right by peaceful means to oppose the Lee Kuan Yew government. For this I was being punished by the state. Therefore I qualified for aylum. Of course I am now an American citizen.

You need good legal advice and you must document a strong case showing you were targeted for persecution by the Lee Kuan Yew government and you in fact suffered persecution as a result of one of the enumerated grounds above. In addition you have to show a subjective fear of being returned to Singapore.

One thing that is troubling is this. How did the Singapore Straits Times come to know of his case? As far as I know, asylum applications are confidential and neither the court nor the government will reveal the details of either the grant or the denial of the asylum application to anyone including the country from which the applicant fled.

Neither are any details of the claim revealed to anyone. I am sure the Australian court or agency did not disclose this information, which makes me believe, that the one party state of Singapore in it's usual disgraceful ways must have obtained this information through it's usual dirty tactics. Shame on you Singapore for reporting this case. We all know why they did it of course; which is to discourage others from applying for asylum abroad.

Despite this setback in this case, I would hope that more would apply for asylum abroad with well documented and demonstrated cases. If you need my help, ask me. I can help you win, I can assure you that.

Good Luck. The dictator, Lee Kuan Yew is indeed having a hard time from every direction. The end cannot be too far. Ben Ali of Tunisia has fled and very soon Egypt's Mubarak will be on the run with his son Gamal Mubarak in tow. It will be Lee Kuan Yew's turn next, with his Prime Minister son in tow as well, and that will be a pleasant sight.

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

Your letters are welcome. We reserve the right to publish your letters. Please Email your letters to And if you like what I write, please tell your friends. You will be helping democracy by distributing this widely. This blog not only gives information, it dispels government propaganda put out by this dictatorial regime.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for a well informed aritcle, Gopalan. One questio to ask you is what about age? If I am in my 60s and wishing to go live in Australia, I make a lot of poltical noises and condeming Old Fart and his party until they threaten harass and intimidate me, will I get a granted asylum?

Unknown said...

Hi Mr Nair,
Sg PAP needs not send a spy to get details of this case.
The decisions of Refuge Review Tribunal are open to public here.

2. May i suggest you do some research before you write?

Anonymous said...

Singapore is what it is because of Singaporeans. They only know how to blame the government when they were the ones who believed, trusted and supported them ardently in the first place. They will whine, complain and badmouth the ruling party but at the end of the day , yes they are digits, ball-less man and spineless women who dare not even vote for opposition parties (assuming that the voting system is fair) as time and time again the opposition are not seen as credible and lacking the necessary experience (when will they ever get the experience then) This is uniquely Singapore, a group of spineless digits who badmouth , complain and whine about the government when they do not even have an milligram of guts to go for a change.

Gopalan Nair said...

To Mike,
Thank you for the info on the Australian web site. I have checked it. It shows the details of the case as well as the native country of the applicant but not his name. I am suprised Australia discloses even this information. The reason, which must be obvious, why governments should not reveal information about asylum applicants is to ensure that if they return to their native countries, they are not persecuted by their governments for having applied for asylum elsewhere.

In Australia's case, even though they don't disclose the name of the person, there may be a slim possibility of his being found out, by putting the pieces together.

But I do see that this website merely states bald general statements without going into details.

I do not practice law in Australia and am not aware of their functioning. I can assure you that such information is not disclosed by the US Asylum Office.

In other words a Singaporean could have applied for asylum in the US and been denied but Singapore would never have known about it.

I was myself granted asylum in US in 1995. Unless I myself had disclosed this fact, which I am proud to do, Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore would never have heard of it.

Depsite Australia publishing bare minimum facts of any Singaporen's asylum case, I urge Singaporeans to continue applying for asylum abroad. This is one way for you to succeed in achieving your aspiration to permanently leave Lee Kuan Yew's island. In any case, the bald general info about your case cannot connect you to it.

Good luck

agagooga said...

Err, scrawling graffiti I am sure is not grounds for asylum, since it is punishable everywhere (that I know of) - whether they actually catch you is a separate matter

Anyhow the ST did report a fuller story - it's just behind a paywall. Here's the article:

Gopalan Nair said...

To Agagooga,

Thanks. Yes you are right. Scrawling graffiti is punishable all over the world and by itself is certainly not a gound for asylum anywhere, but rather a ground for jail!

What I meant to say is this. The graffiti scrawled was a political slogan. So very likely that gentlemen was involved in other political activities in the past and was persecuted as a result. That is why I said he would probably be a good candidate for asylum.

Thanks again for pointing this error out. It is people such as you that keep this blog corrected and informative, becasue otherwise, as you can see, an error such as this would have completley misled asylum applicants with drastic consequences.

Thanks again Agagooga. I rely on readers like you to keep this blog accurate.

Gopalan Nair said...

To Anonymous, Jan 29, 0310,
No age limit. Merely making noises and suffering some threats on occassion is not enough.
If you joined Dr. Chee, publicly protested, was arrested, jailed, lost you job, and your family threatened, it is another story.Good luck. Work on it.

Anonymous said...

"One important thing to remember is this. Refusal to do national service is not a ground for granting asylum. "

Why not? The country is not at war or at risk of war? The totalitarian regime use that to control its people. Make them serve reservist which could cost them their jobs while offering their positions to "new immigrants". You will get persecuted if you refuse to serve. They had abused their power and the law. LKY is a supporter of the Tienanmen Massacre and would not hesitate to use the army, police and their reservist to kill people protesting for reform if the crowd and voice become big. How is NS and reservist not a form of persecution? You will be issued government letter to serve and when you do not, you could be charged. When you do, if you are command to shoot at your own countrymen, and you do not comply, you could be charged with insubordination. How are all these not persecution?

Anonymous said...

I wish to add that If the country is at war, I would not hesitate to take up arms, but not when I am being used as a tool for the totalitarian regime.
If someone is being called up as police ns and ordered to arrest protester like you and chee. If he does not comply, he would be charged with insubordination, shamed on state controlled media, relatives having hard time finding jobs etc...

Singapore National Services is the top persecution! Do you really think that those policemen who arrested you and chee really want to? Not all but there are bound to be someone who are too afraid or too disciplined to disobey the unjust law of PAP.

Anonymous said...

Dear Gopalan Nair...

Is it possible for those in the SAF to defect to the USA?

I honestly cannot stand my time in army, Every second feels like prison.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous: please do not stereotype all Singaporeans as complainers etc. the way you did. Also not everyone can afford to drop their families, elderlies at home, and go pursue their aspirations in life the way they would like to.