Monday, May 6, 2013

Singapore the probable outcome of arrested cartoonist Leslie Chew and graffiti artist Mohamad Khalid Mohamad

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The intolerant no-nonsense Lee Kuan Yew government of Singapore in their usual practice of intimidating and arresting critics to protect their long standing rule had last week arrested a cartoonist Leslie Chew for a drawing they did not like.

The drawing had depicted a government minister praising Chinese, Indian and Caucasian immigrants for stellar contributions to the city state. One observer had asked why no mention of Malays who make up a tiny part of the Singapore population to which another shouted "racial discrimination".

The government justifies his arrest claiming it is racially incendiary.

Anyone who understands the common law which Singapore itself admits to be the foundation of their legal system knows that this argument is simply nonsense. Firstly, the Constitution, which the government shamelessly violates on every score, guarantees the freedom of expression. Surely Chew's drawing clearly comes within that right.

Second any law that proscribes incitement to racial hatred should require a real showing that racial intolerance was indeed created by the offending drawing and in fact there has been racial violence directly consequent on Chew's drawing.

In this case, the government has not been able to show either the happening of either of these instances in this case. In the end, what we are left with is a harmless drawing by Chew which reflects the reality of Singapore today, where Malays are indeed racially discriminated not just by Chinese Singaporeans who form the majority, in employment, services and every other sphere and equally so by the government.

Chew was not mentioning anything that every Singaporean did not already know, that Singapore Malays are actually discriminated by the Singapore Chinese and their racially ethnic Chinese government.

As for the Malay Mohamad Khalid Mohamad, who had written the words "Democracy" across a downtown shoreline monument, of course it is illegal to vandalize property. No doubt he is guilty under the law. No one would have objected to his receiving a reasonable punishment for his crime.

But the problem in this case is the punishment does not fit the crime. Under Lee Kuan Yew's laws of Singapore, he has retained in the statute books an old British colonial law that permit beatings (caning), a very brutal punishment where the offender is stripped of his trousers, and beaten with a cane until he bleeds from his behind.

A little reflection of this brutality of punishment which appears macabre and grossly disproportionate for such as minor infraction should become clear. In the turn of the century British colonial Singapore was fighting a communist insurgency at the same time as the revolution in China was fermenting. The British did not want people drawing the words "Democracy", "Liberation"  or “Communism” across walls to encourage a revolution; thus the extreme form of punishment. In any case, we are talking of the world in 1930s and 1940s, when the world was far less civilized than what it is now.

However it is 2013 today and Lee Kuan Yew is no longer fighting a Communist insurgency and clearly such punishments are clearly not warranted for this or for that matter any offence. But the very insecure Lee Kuan Yew and his government who are terrified of what his own people would do to him and his rule, keep this irrelevant and unnecessary rule on the books, simply to silence anyone who may threaten their rule. For instance, he does not want anyone to go about writing on walls “Down with the Lee family”.

I reckon, in both these cases, the Lee government wants to avoid a full frontal confrontation with either of them. If they both stood their ground and decided to plead not guilty and went on a full drawn out trial, it will once again draw widespread attention worldwide as one more instance of a ruthless intolerant one party police state cracking down of two harmless citizens who were merely exercising their freedom of speech. Singapore already has a bad reputation as nothing more than a fascist one party police state after decades of abusing the law to silence dissent. They don’t want to add to it.

On the other hand, if both decided to plead guilty to any charges, the government would claim they are vindicated and the criminals had confessed to their guilt. This is of course the outcome the government prefers.

This is what I think is likely to happen. Leslie Chew and Khalid Mohamad are still in Singapore because they are either unwilling or incapable of leaving this one party island police state. It may be for a multitude of reasons, perhaps their families are there, perhaps they are unwilling to venture into new lands, we do not know what. 

So if they have not already left, it is unlikely they would leave. Under pressure from the government, which they shamelessly do by threatening not only these two harmless innocent individuals but also their families, vey probably they both will decide to do what Lee Kuan Yew wants them to do. 

Since the government's target is not so much these two individuals but the entire Singapore population which they want to keep in check, they would have succeeded once again to send their smoke signals to all and sundry that both these individuals had in fact voluntarily confessed to their sins and have shown contrition and repentance and turned a new leaf in good behavior.

In return, in their generous magnanimity, like the Roman Emperor who decides to pardon a common criminal, the Government have decided not to charge Leslie Chew with sedition, as they have threatened but instead on an insignificant infraction and a small fine which he had promptly paid.

As for Khalid Mohamad, he too would probably confess as required of him and in return they would drop the vandalism charge and replace it instead with some similar insignificant infraction which carries a small fine, which he would have paid, minus the beatings (canings).

But most importantly, the government would once again appear both glorious and victorious as the one government which can do no wrong and which has never lost a case they had brought against any citizen. Hail Cesar, Hail Lee Kuan Yew.

As for Chew's attorney, as expected of Singapore’s legal profession, he is not going to be of any help, least of all to his client. Singapore’s entire legal profession consists of what one can call reluctant lawyers. No lawyer in Lee's Singapore has ever dared to take on the one party police state in their blatant violation of every single right enshrined in their Constitution; and lived to tell the tale. What Chew's attorney is concerned more is making sure that he will be able to practice law there tomorrow, lest one word from Big Brother Lee Kuan Yew would be the end of his career.

What we are seeing is some sort of a make believe with the government charging these two persons with harsh laws and harsh outcomes only for their victims and their lawyers to submit, resulting in the end, the crystal clear message sent to the voiceless and helpless Singaporeans to stay in line, while at the same time, these two are let off on their own recognizance for good behavior.

What you are witnessing is a Chinese opera, Singapore style.  

As for me writing this from Fremont, California, I am completely safe. They had already arrested me in Singapore in 2008 for writing a blog post while there on a visit, sent me to jail, deported me from the island and subsequently disbarred me from practicing law there.

Not that it matters because the State Bar of California has totally ignored their actions as nothing but that of an insecure police state, which is why I am actively practicing the law here. As for my calling their government nothing but a fascist dictatorship and their courts nothing but a bunch of Kangaroos, they can do nothing to me, because here we take our our Constitution seriously.

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


Irene Puah Siew Hoon said...

In Singapore, we do not have "common law". We have "Lee's law".

Anonymous said...

Hello, I like your blog.Its enlightening.I envy you.Now you can say what you want but I still cannot without end up in a cell.I agree with your blog and your thoughts.

Keep it coming please.
"Minority malay" :)

Gopalan Nair said...

to Anonymous who said,

"Hello, I like your blog.Its enlightening.I envy you.Now you can say what you want but I still cannot without end up in a cell.I agree with your blog and your thoughts."

The choice of course is yours. If you want to live your life as a slave of Lee Kuan Yew in his island, you can stay. Otherwise you can leave. Noone has tied you down to tiny Singapore Island made up of ethnic Chinese who rule you.