Thursday, October 13, 2011

Singapore. A life without rights

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is very strange for an observer to note Chee Soon Juan, a Singapore dissident and Lee Kuan Yew's foremost critic always defends himself in court in his numerous political cases.

It is not what you think. He does this, not because he thinks he is a brilliant barrack room lawyer who can outdo any of those thrown at him by Lee, but because, believe it or not, no lawyer in the entire country will represent him.

And this fact speaks reams and reams of the extent to which Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore has descended into a complete island of fear.

It is fear that grips the entire citizenry preventing them from saying anything the government does not like.

And it is fear that prevents every single lawyer from doing what they were trained to do, as they do all over the world, which is defending rights.

Any doubt about the extent of this fear that blankets the entire country should be evident from this fact. Subhas Anandan has been crowned the title, the best criminal lawyer in Singapore by the Lee Kuan Yew government and their state controlled press.

In a country where your guilt or innocence is decided not so much by what you had done but by who you are, this man's success comes more from behind the scene deals he makes, as the government lawyer with a Class A seal of approval.

Sometime ago, when he was asked whether he would defend government critics, he candidly remarked "Give me murderers, cheats and crooks of all dimensions anytime. But please don't give me political dissidents". Simply put, if he defends a political dissident, Lee will end his career. And because he practices law in Singapore, he refuses to defend any government critic.

A Singaporean lives without rights not just in political cases. He lives so in every aspect of his life.

Administrative law is what touches the daily lives of every citizen anywhere in the world.

And this failure by the Singapore government to protect rights deprives any citizen of any security whatsoever. You are simply living at the mercy of Lee and his friends in government. This is, despite the glass skyscrapers which skirt the shoreline, the worst third world country you can imagine.

Lets take some examples. A Malay Singaporean goes to the HDB, the Singapore housing agency which owns almost all residential property where citizens live. He might choose a desirable apartment with a view to rent (every apartment is rented on 100 year leases. No one owns residential property expect for the 1% super rich).

As he is not Chinese or because someone else with government connections had wanted it, his request is flatly denied. In any other country, there is an grievance procedure to ensure this sort of bias and injustice does not occur. But in Singapore there is none. This Malay can complain as much as he wants, but to no avail. He simply has to accept it.

A Malay student does very well in his exams and applies for a government scholarship. Despite his excellent grades, he is is refused and some other Chinese immigrant student is given it. No reasons are given in their letter to him except a simple non committal sentence such as "We have carefully considered you application but it is denied, thank you". There is nothing the Malay student can do but to grit his teeth in anger and just go away. There is no grievance procedure in place, no appeals procedure, no nothing.

A Malay man wants to apply for one of those ubiquitous hawker licences to sell tea and coffee. Unbeknownst to him, some other Chinese man which connections to Lee Kuan Yew's ruling People's Action Party had also applied for the same licence. Predicted result, Malay denied, Singapore Chinese man with PAP connections granted.

A Malay taxi driver was found overcharging a customer. The Singapore Taxi authority calls him up and tells him he is suspended from driving for 3 months, which means no income for the entire period.

In addition, a fine of $1,000.00. Just a month ago a Chinese taxi driver who regularly volunteers his time at the Toa Payoh Resident's Committee, a branch of Lee's Peoples Action Party was also caught overcharging, except in his case the amount was much more. Yes, you guessed the outcome. Chinese errant taxi driver gets off with just a warning.

And your political inclination affects your destiny far more than anything else. If any political dissident, which happens to be only a handful in Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore, were to be guilty of the slightest infraction, you can be sure that he would face very very harsh punishment while the Lee Kuan Yew supporter walks Scot free.

It is this sort of blatant injustice that cuts across the entire island that makes life in Singapore very unattractive. There is simply no checks and balance against this sort of thing.

First, you have no independent press or investigative journalism which would speak against this, since if Singapore had a free press, the island's problem of repression would be solved with one stroke.

Second, you don't have an independent judiciary as a check against these abuses, since the judiciary is simply a rubber stamp for anything that the government wants. Third the legal profession has been effectively cowed as can be seen in my last post, "Singapore lawyers quietly accept their lives under Lee Kuan Yew" of Oct 12, 2011.

To put it simply, it is an alright country to live if you want to stay there for a bit and earn a few dollars and go home when you have had enough.

But it is not a country that you would want to call home.

It is not a country to live in with rights, because you haven't any.

As long as you are quite happy to move along when the police tell you in the police state; to accept the denial of your application even though it is clearly meritorious; to accept your employment termination simply to replace you with a ethnic Chinese with lesser qualifications; to accept your denial of your job application even though you are the most highly qualified applicant and to plead guilty to any crime which Lee and his friends decide to attribute to you, then you can be happy, momentarily.

Otherwise go somewhere else, and not to Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore. Or if you are a native Singaporean, emigrate.

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

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Anonymous said...

That's meritocracy for you in Singapore. Read:

Anonymous said...

Take a look at this real event in China:

Anonymous said...

Dictators are dropping like flies.


I hope Lee Kuan Yew stays around to see the results of the 2016 election, when the 40% will increase in numbers and kick out his son and many of his ilk.

Anonymous said...

Untreated mental patients running loose in Singapore