Friday, December 23, 2016

The detention of Singaporean Amos Yee at Chicago Airport

Update 12/28/2016. I have been getting readers who write asking for advice on asylum and national service. If you want advice please write to my Email or call me at (510) 491 8525 California time. Also note, I do not provide free legal advice. Please do not send anonymous comments. They will not be published.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am Gopalan Nair, a Singaporean, now US Citizen and practicing attorney in Fremont (San Francisco) specializing in Immigration law. I can be contacted at my telephone number (510) 491 8525. I have more than 20 years of expertise in my specialty. I am also a dissident against the Singaporean regime which has repeatedly harassed and persecuted me for my political beliefs when I was living in that island. I was also jailed in 2008 when I returned for a short visit for writing a blog criticizing a Singapore judge Belinda Ang Saw Ean for shamelessly abusing the law to punish one of the regime's foremost political opponents Chee Soon Juan. As a result of my imprisonment in the island, and for continuing my criticism, my lawyer license in Singapore was rescinded, and I was disbarred in that island from practicing law there. This did not have any effect on my practicing law in California and United States as the State Bar of California decided that I was not guilty of any improper conduct as the action against me was clearly politically  motivated.

I am also a Barrister on the Rolls in England.

I came to the United States in December 1991 and applied for asylum. I was granted asylum in 1995, and became a United States citizen in 2004.

A short background on Amos Yee. He is a young man about 18 years old blogger and U Tube video producer who has been criticizing the former Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew as a dictator. I agree with his observation. He has also criticized Islam. He produced a video caricature on U tube showing the late Prime Minister having sex with the former British Prime Minister of England Margaret Thatcher whom he considers equally objectionable. For this he was jailed and subsequently jailed for his on going criticism in that island.

What I am about to say is what transpired with Amos Yee contacting me seeking asylum advice in the United States. I do not consider my revelations here a breach of professional lawyer client confidentiality since he was never my client and the public are entitled to know these facts.

Several months ago Amos Yee contacted me by Email asking me how he could obtain asylum in the United States.

A point of correction in terminology. The several news reports about him refer to him asking for "political asylum" in the United States. This is incorrect. The correct terminology is "asylum". Not "political asylum". This is because under the United Nation Convention on refugees of which the US is a signatory, asylum can be obtained for persecution by a state by reason of "race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular group or political opinion". Therefore it is not just on political grounds that a person would be granted asylum.

I advised Amos Yee that he should somehow try to get to a third country such as Malaysia and apply at the US Embassy there. The problem of course is the ability to leave the island since I was told his passport was impounded by the authorities. I suggested that somehow he should try to smuggle himself out of the island if he could but there was no more discussion on that.

He then asked the procedure for applying asylum in the US. I was not confident he could get a passport since the last he contacted me, his passport remained impounded by the Singapore authorities. I told him that if he could somehow arrive at a port of entry in the United States, he should state that he wants to visit the United States (not ask for asylum at the airport). This is because if an arriving alien arrives at a port of entry in the US and is in possession of a valid travel document, has a return ticket and sufficient funds, he will be allowed entry into the US as a visitor for up to 6 months.

After entry the visitor has 1 year within which to apply for asylum in the US. This is a far better method  of applying for asylum since the arriving passenger is released into the United States and he can take his time to file a proper asylum application  from the comfort of his home.

Also someone who enters on a visitor visa has 2 bites at the apple. He applies firstly to the Asylum Office a branch of the Immigration Service. If his claim is not granted, then it goes to the Immigration Judge, whereas a person is detained and released at the airport, goes straight to the Immigration Judge.

On the other hand there are those who arrive with false documents and would therefore not be allowed entry into the US and would be turned around on the first flight out. In such cases the passenger if he wants to live in the United States would have no choice but to articulate an asylum claim at the airport.

The moment the arriving passenger articulates a fear of returning to his country, the US border agency immediately and automatically goes through a procedure known as "expedited removal proceedings". Under this process the passenger at the airport is taken into secondary inspection and held in custody ordinarily up to 48 hours in a detention facility. During this time an "Asylum Officer" from the Department of Homeland Security visits and interviews the passenger in what is called  a "Credible Fear Interview". Although it is intended to see if the fear of return is real, the threshold of review is very low, meaning as along as one has given a reasonable reason for fear of return, the man is usually released either under bond (bail) or with electronic surveillance such as an ankle bracelet or some other means. In other cases he is released on his own recognizance and given a date to appear in Immigration Court. In the meantime he applies for Asylum.

Amos Yee was wrongly advised to claim asylum at the airport. Since he appears to have a valid Singapore passport ( I am assuming) , he should have simply not mentioned anything about asylum at the airport in which case he would have been allowed to enter the country and not be detained. He could subsequently within 1 year comfortably file his asylum.

However if he had arrived with a false passport, then what he did was right as he would have had no choice, since he would have been returned immediately to Singapore on the next flight, had he not raised an asylum claim.

Amos Yee had asked me to represent him "pro bono" or free of charge. In my opinion, he did not appear to be lacking in funds since he himself had stated in social media that he was making a lot of money through his videos. Secondly he has his parents who live with him and are fully able to pay for his expenses. I quoted him my normal asylum fee of US$3500.00 but he refused. After that I did not have further communication with him.

Recently a US based Singaporean activist Melissa Chen contacted me. She said she was trying to help Amos Yee and had arranged some lawyers to help him free of charge. She was contacting me probably from Chicago. She asked me if I could arrange accommodation for him free of charge. I told her that I cannot and even if I could I will not. After all he is well able to pay for his accommodation under his circumstances and shouldn't be asking things free.

I have done many cases free for financially deserving clients. In my opinion he is not one of them.

Lastly all reports refer to him as being "arrested". This is incorrect. Amos Yee was not "arrested". The US Border agency had merely been following routine procedures at the airport when they detained him after he had articulated a desire for asylum. This is a normal procedure for anyone articulating an asylum claim to Immigration authorities at an airport. As I said, if I was representing him, I would have advised him not to claim asylum at the airport but to claim it subsequently after he has entered the US as a visitor. In that event he would not have been detained.

Also the news reports state that he arrived on a visitor's visa. This is incorrect. If he was using a Singapore passport, Singapore  island is a Visa Waiver Country. No visa is required for 90 day visit. That is provided he arrived on his own passport and not a forgery.

Finally I had advised him that where I am, at San Francisco, is the best location in all of the US for asylum claims. The success rate is much higher than any other part of the US given its reputation as a "sanctuary city". I had told him that. Obviously he has not taken heed of that in applying in Chicago.

But even in Chicago, I think he will succeed in his asylum claim. The Singapore government has clearly been persecuting him.

Finally a note of personal observation. I found him to be an unduly arrogant young man. He appears to think too highly of himself, a case of misplaced importance. This sort of arrogance will not do him any good in any country, let alone the United States. With an attitude such as this he would find it hard to make any progress in the US, especially someone like him whom no one knows here. I know he has never worked for a living and has been all along supported by and living with his parents. It will come as a rude shock to him in the US with this sort of attitude. Anyone who ever made it in the US had always started with humble beginnings. I think this is going to be hard for him.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at Law
Fremont (San Francisco) USA
Tel: 510 491 8525

Monday, December 19, 2016

In Singapore, to succeed, support the Lee family and their ruling party

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In Singapore island, one thing that everyone knows is this. If you wish to succeed, you have to actively support the Lee family and their ruling party, the PAP which has been continuously in power the last 50 years. Anyone with ideas of his own is persecuted by not getting good jobs, not being promoted in their careers and failing in life.

But supporting the Lees and their ruling party is difficult for anyone capable of thinking. The Singapore government is a one party authoritarian police state. There are no individual human rights, no freedom of speech, expression or assembly. There is no free press since the entire media is government controlled. There is no rule of law as judges are mere minions of the establishment who rubber stamp the government's orders.

To enable the citizens to show their support to their government and their ruling party, the state has created an organization called the Peoples Association. It is directly run and controlled by the state. It is an umbrella organization under which there are numerous sub organizations such as Citizen's Consultative Committees and a dozen other organizations. Citizens who wish to succeed in life make it a point to join these organizations and actively volunteer in their activities. The state monitors these organizations and their members to see who they are and how loyal they are. It is from these organizations that senior government officials are selected and anyone can hope to aspire to high office if they are lucky in being recognized. And even if they are not selected, for special treatment, the state will make sure that they are protected in their jobs and when promotion time comes, they are the ones to benefit.

As a result of such a system, the state and the ruling party, the Peoples Action Party are one and the same. The state is the party and the party is the state. Just as in Nazi Germany, the Nazi Party is the State and the State is the Nazi Party. Or in Communist countries, the Communist Party is the state and the state is the Communist Party. In China today, if you wish to succeed, you better be seen as a Communist Party supporter or in Stalin's Russia, you better be a Soviet Communist.

This sort of thought process in Singapore makes almost everyone a hypocrite. Every single member who volunteers at these government grassroots organizations personally disdains the ruling party. The leaders are seen by everyone as simply corrupt by paying themselves literally millions of dollars which they conveniently call a salary. No one can question them. They are also aware that citizens of Australia and the West are lucky to be living in free democratic societies which they are denied. They are unhappy with their lives but because you need to support the rulers to advance, even to simply survive, they engage in this play acting to please their masters.

This sort of culture is exactly why societies like Russia failed. You had Russians praising Stalin when they personally knew that he was killing millions of their citizens. But in order to succeed or even survive in Stalin's Russia, you had to join the bandwagon or else.

Singaporeans today are facing their worst economic downturn in history. Every single sector of economy is failing. And in a tiny island with a tiny population such as Singapore, simply joining the bandwagon is the worst recipe one can imagine. For small islands like Singapore with a tiny population, you need to have every single citizen to be an independent thinker, with creativity and new ideas to drive the economy in new directions. What you need in any society is change. And change can only come about if individuals are allowed to formulate ideas of their own and exploit them. This is not possible in Singapore.

Anyone who openly suggests that Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister, who is the son of his father the previous Prime Minster is corrupt is going to face fire. He will instantly be sued bankrupted and jailed. Anyone who openly propagates freedom and democracy is punished. This way the society does not develop any differently. Lee Hsien long, the son of Lee Kuan Yew is there to stay, whether you like it or not. Their party the Peoples Action Party will rule over you forever whether you like it or not. There will be no freedoms whether you like it or not. You will do as you are told whether you like it or not.

One can see why the Soviet Union, East Germany and other communist regimes collapsed. It is because you have entire populations simply joining the bandwagon where new ideas are simply impossible.

Singapore's economy has many similar characteristics  from that of the Soviet Union. It is a centrally planned economy. The government had decided on certain sectors for economic activity, such as the oil and gas industry, commodities trading, bio technology, tourism and casinos. Unfortunately for them, every single one of these industries is failing due to external competition. Since the citizens are incapable of thinking on their own, they are simply waiting for the state to decide for them what economic activity is going to replace these failed ones for their jobs and their survival.

The government, we are told has now created various committees and sub committees to study the situation and come up with new ideas to grow the failing economy; just as in the Soviet Union they came up with plans every 5 years. But the citizens have no part to play in this. Their brains are incapable of doing anything on their own. Their main principle activity is to impress their rulers by their hard work in the Singapore People's Association a branch of the ruling Peoples Action Party.

Singaporeans are therefore incapable of any creativity or independent thinking since these things are frowned upon. The tried and tested means to success is the lifelong goal to keep your mouth shut and join the bandwagon by volunteering at the government's Peoples Association to impress Lee Hisen Loong, the son of Lee Kuan Yew and his peoples Action Party. Hopefully the powers above will take notice and you never know, you may be even selected to serve the Prime Minister himself. Just as an erstwhile Romanian would have thought, you could even be selected to be the right hand man on Nicolai Ceausescu if you played the cards right.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at Law
Fremont (San Francisco) USA
Tel: 510 491 8525

Monday, December 5, 2016

As tiny Singapore island slides headlong into economic collpase, what it needs is some democracy, some kindness and compassion

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The economic bad news has been on the wall for a long time now. This tiny island's economy is heading to a total collapse. Every single economic sector of activity looks hopeless. The oil rig manufacture and supply is dead for obvious reasons. The days of fossil fuels are over, so the oil refining sector is dead. Pharmaceutical sector is dead. They are manufacturing it in cheaper countries. Casinos are dead. The Chinese don't have money to spare. Banking is collapsing because the idea of offshore banks supporting money launderers is failing.

Unless and until the rulers of Singapore realize that they need Singaporeans as their partners, and not their enemies, it is simply not going to work. What you have in Singapore is unadulterated merciless capitalism. You work for multi national companies and if you lose your job, you are destitute. There is no real safety net to speak of. This creates an atmosphere of fear, constant fear of losing one's job. This results in a sort of mental paralysis, lack of productivity and creativity since no one dares to venture into new enterprises for fear that you may fail and end up destitute.

And then you have a leadership that is seen by the average Singaporean as simply corrupt. The leaders pay themselves millions regardless of how anyone else lives. If you complain you are liable to be sued for defamation of character and hauled before their Kangaroo courts and made destitute.

The island has no basic freedoms. No freedom of speech, expression, assembly or freedom of the press. The citizens are required to simply obey and do as they are told.

And those who criticize, are treated very harshly. They are a very vindictive government. Many Singaporeans who have criticized the government have been driven into exile and either cannot return or are afraid to return. I was imprisoned in Singapore in 2008 for criticizing a judge Belinda Ang Saw Ean who unashamedly abused the law to punish an opposition politician Chee Soon Juan. Today he is completely marginalized. He was thrown out of his job and has no means of livelihood. I had to leave Singapore in 1991 because it was impossible for me to earn a living for criticizing the government. Today even though I am an American citizen, I fear returning to the island for fear of being imprisoned again on trumped up charges. There is no rule of law in the island. This sort of thing does not happen in any other country except in totalitarian dictatorships.

This sort of life results in deep dissatisfaction and unhappiness. The state is not seen as the partner of the citizens, but rather as their enemy about which there is nothing they can do.

If it has worked so far, it is only because in the 60s and 70s, there was no Internet. There was no instant news throughout the world. Today Singaporeans look at other countries where people live normal fruitful lives and ask why they have to live the way they do.

One country to take an example from is Finland. It is similarly sized in population of 5 million but has a much larger area. It is cold and a difficult country to live in. Yet they do exceptionally well despite their harsh climate.

1. It has real freedom, freedom of speech and every other freedom. It is truly a democratic society. Finns appreciate this and respect their government.

2. It has very generous unemployment benefits. This means that unlike Singaporeans they don't have to live in fear every minute of losing their job and becoming destitute. This enables Finns to experiment with new ventures and new enterprises. This promotes creativity and hence greater productivity.

3. They have free health care for all.

4. They have free education up to and through university. It does not matter what you study, it is free.

5. They have generous child care benefits. Mothers who have a child are given 3 months at full pay and another 7 months at 70% pay. You can if you want take more time off without pay. This encourages mothers to have children since they know that they don't have to be separated from a new born baby or lose their job if they took leave.

6. Child care centers are all over the country to cater for every Finnish child. And this too is free.

7. Finnish education system has been repeatedly declared the best in the world. Teachers are the most respected of professions and they are given great leeway on how or what they teach. Fin students constantly come up tops in mathematics and science in world ranking.

Understandably with this sort of welfare state, Finns are taxed higher than in Singapore, something which they willingly accept. This is because for the tax they pay, they get security in their lives and an opportunity to excel.

Finns despite their harsh climate are happy to live in their country. Unlike Singapore island which has one of the world's highest brain drain figures, Finns do not leave Finland.

The reader will be able to see why Finland is such a successful country. Their birth rate is much higher than in Singapore and some of the world's greatest companies are from Finland.

Unless and until Singapore realizes that they have to create a climate where their citizens can respect and trust their government, the economic decline will continue for the simple reason that the people dislike and distrust their government. The only question is whether the slide to economic collapse will be a gradual one or a sudden precipitous  one.

In spite of all this, I am certain of one thing. These corrupt millionaire rulers of Singapore island are not going to make any changes. It is going to be the same. And if that is so, no one can help Singapore.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at Law
A Singaporean in Exile
Fremont (San Francisco) USA
Tel: 510 491 8525