Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Between Poverty and the Sun

"Poverty, first of all, was never a misfortune for me: it was radiant with sunlight. Even my revolts were lit up by the sun. These revolts were almost always, I think I can say this in all honesty, revolts on everyone’s behalf, aimed at lifting up everybody’s life into the light. Quite possibly my heart was not naturally disposed to this kind of love. But circumstances helped me. To correct my natural indifference, I was placed half-way between poverty and the sun. Poverty prevented me from thinking that all is well under the sun and in history; the sun taught me that history is not everything. Change life, yes, but not the world which I worshipped as my God. It is thus, no doubt, that I embarked upon my present difficult career, stepping innocently on to a tightrope along which I now move painfully forward, unsure of ever reaching the end. In other words, I became an artist, if it is true to say that there is no art without refusal or consent."

– Albert Camus, from the preface to Betwixt and Between

Monday, February 8, 2016

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Singapore exile, Tan Wah Piow writes to AGC asking for convictions in 1975 quashed

The Online Citizen, 30 January 2016

Singapore exile, Tan Wah Piow has sent a letter to the Attorney-General Chambers (AGC) office asking for the convictions in 1975 against him and another two individuals to be quashed in view of the conviction against former NTUC secretary-general and People’s Action Party Member of Parliament, Phey Yew Kok on 22 January.
In his letter, Tan explained to the AGC that the new, compelling and unequivocal evidence which has recently emerged in his 42-year-old case and has since made the conviction against the three unsafe.
Tan Wah Piow, Ng Wah Leng and Yap Kim Hong were accused of being a member of an unlawful assembly, committing criminal trespass and the offence of rioting on or about 30 October 1974 at about 11 am at the office of the Singapore Pioneer Industries Employees’ Union (PIEU) and charged under Section 147 of the Penal Code.
The three accused were tried at the First District Court before Judge Mr T S Sinnathuray and finally convicted after a 47-day trial which started on the 10th December 1974.
During the trial, the prosecutors presented a case of how the three accused, together with five others invaded the PIEU office and rioted, causing damage to union property while the defence argued that the riot was a fabrication by Phey, the then General Secretary of PIEU with political reasons behind the frame-up.
At the end of the trial, the court found the three accused guilty of their charges, sentencing Tan to a year’s imprisonment, while the other two were both sentenced to a month’s imprisonment.
Tan wrote that he and the other two defendants had maintained their innocence throughout the whole trial, on the basis that the entire riot was staged by trade union officials at the instigation of Phey and that none of three were present at the alleged riot.
New evidence emerges after 42 years
The former NTUC chairman, Phey Yew Kok was eventually convicted of embezzlement of trade union funds and fabrication of evidence after being on the run for over 30 years aboard. Tan wrote that Phey’s conviction is of direct relevance to the 1974 ‘Riot’ case because his criminality dated back to 1973 before he and his PIEU staff testified against Tan and the other two in court.
Tan highlighted Presiding Judge Jennifer Marie’s remarks on Phey during his sentencing: “The facts reveal that Phey, like a serial criminal, systematically and with deliberation over a period of six years, perpetrated these offences. He had no qualms in trying to evade detection and had the temerity to instigate his staff to fabricate false evidence.
He went on to point how this revelation impinges on the credibility of Phey as a prosecution witness in the 1974 trial. Tan wrote, “This is because the trial judge, TS Sinnathuray, arrived at a guilty verdict based on the evidence of someone we now know to be a crook and a thief, and who had the capacity to exert his criminal influence over his staff.”
He noted that if Judge TS Sinnathuray was aware of Phey’s propensity to influence trade union staff to pursue his criminal enterprise, the weight that the judge would put on the veracity of the prosecution evidence must be very different.
“Likewise, the outcome of the verdict would have inevitably been different.” wrote Tan.
Tan added in his letter, “If the fact that Phey Yew Kok was plundering the trade union coffers since 1973 was known to the judge at the time of the trial in 1974, it would be reasonable to suggest that any judge looking at the matter fairly and reasonably would have found the defence credible to Phey’s criminal enterprise.”
Constitutional duty to ensure any miscarriages of the justice be rectified
AGC has since acknowledged that it has received the letter from Tan on 29 January.
Tan said, “The Attorney General in independent of the Government. He is the custodian of the rule of law, and it is within the remit of his power, as well as his constitutional duty to ensure that any miscarriages of the justice must be rectified.
The technicality of how to quash a conviction is a matter for him to initiate without having to consult the government as he is supposed to be independent.
As a last resort, he can advise the government to quash the conviction by way on Act of Parliament. If they refuse, he would have to consider his position.”
Far-reaching impact of 1974 conviction
Should the AGC quash the convictions, the impact of doing so, would not be just limited to redressing the name of the three convicted but also far-reaching on other issues.
Allegations against Tan in 1987
Tan was touted by the government as the leader of the Marxist conspiracy during the Operation Spectrum in 1987. His alleged leadership role in the conspiracy was supported primarily via the conviction of allegations against him in court.
So if Tan’s conviction is quashed, this would likely spur the need for a whole re-look at the arrests made under the Internal Security Act during the 80’s and raise questions of whether statements made by alleged conspiracists on telecasted programmes were, in fact, forced confessions.
Read Tan’s letter to AGC in full here.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Passing of Francis Seow

Thank you Mr. Francis for all your contributions towards justice and democracy in Singapore. Your work and spirit have surely inspired me.

Former Solicitor-General, Francis Seow dies at the age of 88

The Online Citizen, 21 January 2016
The news of Mr Seow passing was first announced by Dr Chee Soon Juan, Secretary-General of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) on his Facebook page. He wrote, “I always enjoyed his wit when we met. He also wrote the Foreword to my book, The Power of Courage. My deepest condolences to the Seow family.”
It has been verified with family members of Mr Seow that he has died in Boston, USA, where he had been living in exile.
Seow’s life as a political dissent has been harsh and his eventual exile from Singapore was the ultimate price for voicing against the administration.
Seow had joined the Singapore Legal Service in 1956 and rose through the ranks to become the Solicitor-General in 1969, a position he held until 1971. During his career, he was appointed senior counsel to a Commission of Inquiry in the Secondary IV examination boycott by Chinese students in 1963 prior to Singapore’s entry into Malaysia. For his work, Seow was awarded the Public Administration (Gold) Medal. He eventually left the public service and entered into private law practice in 1972.
Seow was later suspended from law practice for 12 months by Wee Chong Jin, Singapore’s first Chief Justice, for breaching an undertaking given on behalf of his junior law partner to the Attorney-General, Tan Boon Teik, while in private practice. Nonetheless, he was later elected as a member of the Council of the Law Society in 1976 and eventually became its President in 1986.
In May 1986, Seow as the then-president of Law Society issued a press statement criticising the government’s amendment to the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act (NPPA).
In response to this, Singapore leaders accused Seow of using the Law society as a political vehicle.
Three months later, in August, the government announced that it would tighten the legislation governing the law society, forcing Seow to step down as president from the implemented changes passed under the Legal Profession (Amendment) Act. The government also deprived the Law Society to comment on any legislation unless asked by the government under Section 38 (1).
Straits Times newspaper dated 21 May 1986
Just before the election in 1988, Seow was also detained under the Internal Security Act for 72 days, when he was accused of having received funds from the United States to promote democracy in Singapore.
He alleged that he was subjected to torture during his detention. According to his accounts, he was imprisoned in a small windowless cell, for his entire period of detention with only a raised concrete platform topped with a wooden plank for a bed. During his interrogations, he was forced to remain standing, on one occasion, for sixteen hours.
election_1988  Seow was released just before the General Election 1988 where he joined Workers’ Party to form a team to contest Eunos GRC against the People’s Action Party. The WP team garnered 49.1 per cent of the vote despite the negative publicity surrounding him.
Straits Times - 19 August 1988
Straits Times – 19 August 1988
During the election, Seow was further charged for tax evasion. Later, while awaiting trial for alleged tax evasion, he left for the United States for health treatment and disregarded numerous court summons to return to stand trial.
Subsequently, he was convicted in absentia. While living in exile, Seow spoke at events organised by Singaporean student societies in universities outside of Singapore.
On 16 October 2007, Amnesty International issued a public statement mentioning Seow as one of two prominent Singaporean lawyers who were penalised for exercising their right to express their opinions. Amnesty International called him a “prisoner of conscience.”
video conf
Forum by SDP in 2011
On 8 October 2011, Mr Seow publicly addressed a forum by SDP via teleconferencing. The event was later investigated by the police for any violation of laws.