Sunday, December 2, 2012

Singaporeans should show solidarity for arrested Chinese bus drivers

Ladies and Gentlemen,

All Singapore's state controlled newspapers including the Straits Times have been giving full coverage to the recent arrest of 5 Chinese national migrant worker bus drivers for staging a strike against their Singapore Island state controlled bus company SMRT for equal pay and living conditions.

They were among a group of 200 of their countrymen, working in the low pay job of bus drivers in the island city state when they were threatened and intimidated by the state police of impending arrest, torture and long terms of imprisonment, after which about 100 of them gave in out of fear and the possibility of deportation.

As a result about 2 days later another 50 or so gave up under the constant threat of being arrested, beaten and even shot at by armed riot police with guns and truncheons leaving only about 50 left.

Yesterday 26 of them were promptly deported to their homes in China while 5 of them have been charged with criminal offences which will render them liable to jail up to a year and substantial fines.

Every single day for the last 5 days, the island’s state controlled newspapers, TV and other media have been showing pictures of them in handcuffs being led off by armed police, at other times within police vehicles and at other times being led into police vehicles with large numbers of uniformed and armed policemen in helmets, rifles and riot gear on hand.

The government is clearly trying to portray these men as common criminals when all they had done was to stage a protest, something which happens all over the civilized world. This sort of behavior by this one party state’s police thugs is cowardly, unfair and counter productive.

If they thought that the few minuscule remaining native born Singaporeans, no more than 2.5 million in the island, are going to be intimidated by this, they have something else coming. I can assure you this is only going to further antagonize right thinking Singaporeans who are going to feel a sense of revulsion and outrage to this sort of bullying.

This is will further increase the large numbers already emigrating for settlement abroad and it will work towards further lowering the already minuscule birth rate in the island. The Lee Ruling Family has amply contributed towards the near total extinction of native born Singaporeans in their own island.  Just like I, Gopalan Nair, who has left for the US, thousands and thousands will leave for the US, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere, wanting to have nothing more to do with Lee Kuan Yew’s tiny island city. There will soon come a time when he has no one else left to bully, except foreign migrant workers.

Please see the following reports from the island's state controlled newspaper:

The cause of these heroic workers who have dared to stand up against this totalitarian one party police state run by the Lee Kuan Yew family, made up of the father and his son is just and honorable. Singapore citizen bus drivers and Malaysian nationals who do the same work for the same number of hours are paid more than Chinese nationals. Their strike was only to ask for equal treatment at par with the Singaporeans and Malaysians.

The argument for arresting them by this bullying dictatorship was that the bus drivers had failed to first give notice of their intended strike before they carried it out. The government says because bus driving involves an important national interest, such a requirement of notice is necessary.

But this government argument flatly fails. It would have been all right in a democracy with the rule of law. But Lee Kuan Yew's tiny Singapore Island is not a democracy. It is a one party totalitarian police state. Its judges are not independent, and giving notice in such circumstances would only mean their repatriation on the next plane home the next minute, as we have already seen with the 29 drivers.

Since the process laid down in law provides no real remedy for the workers, such a requirement is unjust, void and without effect. The workers are absolved from complying with the rule in these circumstances.

We have heard a great deal of support for the drivers from concerned Singaporeans in the Internet. We should thank them for it. But may I remind them that simply voicing your outrage incognito on the Internet is not enough. This is a time that other Singaporeans should openly come out in support of these men. Singaporeans should show their solidarity, stand shoulder to shoulder, with these heroic Chinese national bus drivers in the island. I ask ever single Singaporean who feels a sense of revulsion, injustice and a burning desire to tell this repressive government that it can no longer rely on intimidation and bullying to get its way; to come out openly and state it.  

Singaporeans should organize peaceful protests and demonstrations outside the Central Police Station with placards demanding their immediate release. They should do the same outside the Subordinate Courts where they are being charged with these Kangaroo court charges.

I particularly call upon the Singapore Democratic Party and Dr. Chee Soon Juan to organize similar protests in support of them.

Men such as these and any other person who is abused in this way by these tiny tin pot dictators should know that Singaporeans have a heart and will stand by them in solidarity in their time of need. Such a feeling would go a great way in giving a sense of hope and will drive home the knowledge that their efforts have not been in vain, that they are not alone, and that caring concerned Singaporeans among their midst will stand with them in their times of sacrifice and suffering.

In 2008 when I was arrested in Singapore during a short visit there, by this government for writing a blog critical of the judge Belinda Ang Saw Ean, members and supporters of the Dr. Chee's Singapore Democratic Party stood vigil outside the Central Police Station jail where I was being held. This act of kindness went a long way in telling me that I was not alone and that others did care. I hope Dr. Chee will do the same this time for these men.

Please do not abandon them in their time of need. They should not be allowed to think that their actions were useless.

Gopalan Nair
A Singaporean by birth in exile
Attorney at Law
Fremont, California, USA
Tel: 510 491 4375

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