Monday, February 6, 2012

Singapore. Bangladesi contruction workers force the government to accept peaceful protests

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Singapore state controlled newspaper the Straits Times of Feb 7, 2012 has the story "Wage dispute resolved after 200 workers stage protest in Tampines". It talks of an hitherto unimaginable peaceful protest of construction workers who had successfully demonstrated over their wage dispute. What is surprising in the Singaporean sense is that they were not only not arrested, they even got the wages they were demanding!

My taking the trouble to writing this would itself come as a surprise to those who are unaccustomed to Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore. After all what is the big deal about a few workers peacefully protesting over their grievance; surely it is something we see everyday. Wrong. It is not like that in Alice in Wonderland Singapore. There protests whether peaceful or otherwise are illegal, period. If you wish to protest, you have to have a permit, and the irony is, even if you applied you won't get one. In other words protests are simply no,no, in Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore, at least up till now.

If you understood Lee Kuan Yew for the sort of person he is, protests are not allowed because in a tiny crowded island like Singapore, a one man protest can turn into a thousand man protest in no time, and when that happens, he is afraid he might lose his pants. After all he pays himself millions through corruption, he gives personal favors to his family members through corrupt practices, he disallows normal democratic freedoms enjoyed by people around the world. In other words he is not a very popular figure in his own island. Fearing the worst, brought on by the insecurity he naturally feels, he criminalizes every form of protest.

But this latest protest about wages by these foreign workers may be forcing Lee Kuan Yew to realize that he can no longer strut around like that prize rooster, forcing him to accept the fact that foreigners unaccustomed to these silly laws will probably break them more often than not. And what is worse Singaporeans too may will be emboldened and follow suit. And that time is going to come sooner than you think.

We know that these workers were not arrested. We also know that they got their wages. And if these workers can protest without a permit, what is there to stop Singaporeans from protesting too? Should we not expect young Singaporeans yearning for a freer democratic Singapore to protest more important things such as the right to free speech, the right to assembly, the right to a free press, and the right to be free of tyrants and dictators such as Lee Kuan Yew. Can this not be a precursor to an Arab spring, no to a Singapore spring?

Can we not expect a young Singaporean to want to enjoy the same rights as a young Australian or a young German would have? Can we not expect them to be taking to the streets soon in peaceful protest for the litany of injustices that are upon them?

Remember under the law in Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore, the only place that you can protest without a permit is Speakers Corner in Hong Lim Square. These Bangladeshi heroes did not do it at Speakers Corner. Therefore they were required to have a permit which they did not.

So my call to young Singaporeans is again to do it now. Organize a peaceful protest at Raffles Place during lunchtime for the freedoms that you demand. And see if Lee Kuan Yew would arrest you, because if he did, then surely he would face even more embarrassment from what he is already facing now. One law for Bangladeshi workers and another for Singaporeans in their own country? It would look as if Singapore treats Bangladeshis more favourably than their own citizens. Let's see if, in this day and age, Lee Kuan Yew would dare.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at Law
Disbarred from practicing law in Lee's Singapore, imprisoned and refused entry to the island for criticizing Singapore's judiciary in this blog (see blogpost May 29, 2008 Singapore. Judge Belinda Ang's Kangaroo Court)
Actively practicing law in California and in good standing at the California Bar.
Member in good standing as a lawyer in England and Wales (Barrister).
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Anonymous said...

Good for you - keep speaking out.

I'm new to living in Singapore and

I'm shocked at Singaporeans willingness to be purchased by the Lee's.

He is no better than Suharto. He just had a smaller population that could be bought without being too big a drain on how own largesse.

The last of the SE Asian Tyrants.

Keep up the good fight.

Anonymous said...

There is only one explanation for the non-arrest for the Bangladesh men.

They are classified as foreign talent after all.

A few year later, they get their PR, and soon, citizenship.

This is how Lee Kuan Yew buys his votes at the expense of the locals.