The heavens opened up and the rain tried to wash away the filth in and around the Istana. Radio sets crackled when we appeared on the foyer of Plaza Singapura, enroute to the presidential palace.
Plainclothes officers from the Tanglin Police Division were all over, trying their darnedest to blend in with the black and yellow of Café Cartel and leaves of the Istana Park across the road.
ASP Deep Singh of the St Martin’s Drive fame was seated not far away, directing the operation. His colleague ASP Rani, the I-am-warning-you specialist, was nowhere to be seen. He wasn’t far away though.
Another wing of the PAP was milling around us, complete with cameras and reporters’ notepads. It likes to call itself the “media” but Reporters Without Borders would beg to differ.
Earlier, one of the journalist look-alikes or bootlickers, as the late David Marshall called them, asked Dr Chee Soon Juan at the Burmese embassy, “Do you feel snubbed?”
She was referring to the Burmese officials refusing to accept the petition from us. There was a impish grin on her face that told us what the angle of her story would be. (See here).
The downpour turned into a drizzle one hour later and the SDP team decided to make our way to the Istana. A security personnel in civilian clothes greeted us and offered to take the petition.
“Is the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary around? We’d prefer to hand it to him,” we replied.
“He’s out for lunch and won’t be back till two.”
“That’s okay, we’ll wait,” we said and moved to the side of the Istana entrance and held up our placards: NO ARMS, NO DEALS WITH THE JUNTA. FREE BURMA.
“You’re not allowed to do that here,” our security officer told us.
That being the case, we decided to conduct our protest on the opposite side of the road. As we took up position and displayed the message, a few passers-by from across the road gave us the thumbs-up. A Caucasian lady later gave Ms Chee Siok Chin the V-for-victory sign.
The protesters were in place, the placards aloft, and people were passing and reading our message. And yet something was missing…what was it?
That’s it! ASP Rani.
So where was he? Right on cue, the mustachioed officer popped up from behind one of the bushes and strode up to administer his familiar admonition: “You are warned that you are committing an offence by being here. Under the Miscellaneous Offences Act Illegal Assembly and Processions Istana Order, more than two persons assembled in the gazetted area is an offence.”
That’s a new one. Anywhere else in Singapore, five or more persons gathered in a public place constitutes an unlawful assembly (PAP-related groups and expatriate women excepted). But outside the Istana, even Tonto is not welcome.
“So where is it around here that is not within the gazetted area?” Dr Chee enquired.
“I am warning you that by being here you are committing an offence. Leave immediately or you will be arrested!” Mr Rani ignored the query.
“Thank you. We heard you the first time.”
The ASP stomped away only to return with a petite uniformed lady officer to make the arrests.
The PAP has learned well from a previous occasion when more than 10 of the PAP’s finest in uniform hauled Dr Chee and Mr Ambalam away in 2002 for attempting to hold PAP (People Against Poverty) rally at the same location.
It was a PR disaster as the world caught one of the first glimpses of the police-state that Singapore really was. A lone policewoman softened the effect.
Perhaps Mr Lee Kuan Yew didn’t really quite mean it when he said he didn’t care what the world thought of what his regime did in Singapore.
As the protesters were bundled into the van, ASP Rani turned to SDP assistant teasurer Mr Jeffrey George who was standing at a distance videotaping the goings-on. A message came through the radio to arrest him as well.
What reason did the police have to arrest Mr George when there were several other photographers and videographers present?
But then again, since when did the police ever have to justify their actions when in came to cracking down on dissent?
In truth, it was the video-camera and its contents that the Government wanted. Now the SDP cannot YouTube the scene of Mr Secretary 1 of the Burmese embassy and the action outside the Istana.
More worryingly, the police can now delete the recordings of the day’s happenings on our camera.
In any event, the SDP protesters spent the afternoon in the lock-up. We were feeling energized and determined to overcoming the authoritarian rule in Singapore. We were already discussing our next step.
At 9:30 pm, we were released and told to report back in two weeks on 22 Oct 07 to be formally charged. We look forward to the appointment.
The behaviour of the Singapore Government must be exposed not just for its despotic rule, but also for its involvement with the Burmese generals.
So is the arrest and seizing of our video-camera going to stop us? Not by a long shot.
SDP’s Press Statement
This statement was supposed to be handed out yesterday. Unfortunately, the protesters were arrested before they could do so.
The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has repeatedly called for the PAP Government to answer questions about its dealings in Burma and with the military regime there.
In particular, Singaporeans have the right to know:
● Whether Temasek Holdings or any other Government-linked Company (GLCs) is selling, transshipping or making available in any way arms, ammunition and military equipment to the Burmese military rulers
● Whether any of the GLCs or other Singaporean companies continue to invest in businesses linked with Burmese druglords such as Lo Hsing Han and his son, Steven Law.
● How many Singaporean companies continue to operate commercial entities in Burma.
● What is being done to the money from Burma that is being laundered in Singapore.
Given the present crisis in Burma, it is unconscionable that the Singapore Government, while saying all the right words about the Burmese repression, continues to operate with a business-as-usual attitude.
We, as citizens of Singapore, have the right to demand answers from the Government which has to account to the people.
Presently, the Government of Singapore Corporation (GIC) uses $160 billion (US$100 billion) of the people’s money for investments while Temasek Holdings handles another $160 billion of public funds to do business.
Yet, these institutions operate in virtual secrecy and do not account to the Singaporean people. They are controlled by three individuals of the Lee family:
1. Lee Kuan Yew, Minister Mentor and Chairman of GIC
2. Lee Hsien Loong, Lee Kuan Yew’s son, Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Deputy Chairman of GIC
3. Ho Ching, wife of Lee Hsien Loong and chief of Temasek Holdings
For more information see:
Singapore’s Blood Money:
Burma-Singapore Axis: Globalising the heroin trade:
Of web, cash and cronies: