PAP tightens grip further

November 26, 2003
Singapore Democrats

This post is at least a year old. Some of the links in this post may no longer work correctly.

The latest series of PAP decrees and actions should leave no one in doubt about the future of democracy in Singapore. From the nonsensical amendment of the Computer Misuse Act to the threats against the pilots’ union and to the latest denial of a permit to the TWC2 to hold a public gathering, the Government shows no sign of letting up on its near-totalitarian control over Singaporeans.

The Democrats have issued a statement on the amendment to the Computer Misuse Act and has also now decried the Government’s bullying of the Singapore Airline Pilots’ Association (see media release in the next section).

The SDP wishes to congratulate Ms Dana Lam for her attempt to organise the White Ribbon Campaign in Singapore. Below is an interview of Ms Lam which TheOptical posted:

Breaking Men’s Silence to End Men’s Violence (RSI, Connections with Yvonne Gomez, 20 Nov 2003)

The White Ribbon Campaign is an international effort by men, to break mens silence to end mens violence.

Celebrated on the 25th of November, the campaign will be launched for the first time in Singapore this year.

The Working Committee 2 (TWC2) is made up of volunteers to improve the conditions of foreign domestic workers and their employers.

Foreign domestic workers in Singapore are a vulnerable group here, and there are occasions of physical abuse and sexual assault.

But its not just foreign domestic workers that make up the statistics for violence against women in Singapore.

The extent of such violence here is that, every day, at least three women are molested, and every three days, a woman is raped.

Recently, I caught up with Dana Lam, from TWC2, which is organising the White Ribbon Campaign in Singapore.

DL: The White Ribbon campaign started out in Canada, about 12 years ago by a psychologist professor named Michael Kaufman. He led a group of men in initiating the campaign, and in something like six weeks of preparation time, which is also what we had in Singapore, he managed to round up 100,000 men all over Canada, to wear the white ribbon on the 25th of November, it being International Day Against Violence Against Women.

So the objective of that campaign to show men standing up against mens violence against women. In our terms, its a really progressive campaign, in the sense that, first of all, it was a man who initiated it. So its men recognising their own role in stopping violence. Its also men recognising their role as perpetrators of violence. Coming back to Michael Kaufmans campaign, its really, really, enlightened, isnt it, for me to be able to say, yes, I have a part in this and Im going to tell other men to stop doing this. So the significance of the white ribbon is that you put it on as a personal pledge, never to commit, condone, or keep silent about violence against women.

This campaign is twelve years old, and its been taken up by more than 60 countries around the world. Michael Kaufman, Im told, has visited Singapore several times in the past. The TWC2 group that is launching the campaign, is chaired by Braema Mathi, who was at that time, a news journalist. And she was, from day one, very impressed with the campaign, and she saw the value of the campaign and wanted something like it to happen in Singapore. But it had not been possible to find a group of men, who would say yes, we will take it up. Thats why, were doing it now.

YG: So coming back to the White Ribbon campaign, what are some achievements of this campaign so far, worldwide?

DL: I would say that the whole popularity of it speaks a lot, and as I said, over 60 countries doing it every year. We are launching the campaign in Singapore this year, and we hope that other organisations will take it up. We have a tie-up with the New Man magazine, so in the December issue, which comes out a couple of days before November 25th, the magazine is carrying the white ribbon. A campaign like that is only successful when its widely known and when people understand the message.

YG: What do you think is actually missing in the existing public awareness campaigns for violence against women?

DL: I think the way in which our society deals with womens issues, and violence against women is one womens issue, has always been a bit erratic. It becomes seasonal, all the time.

On International Womens Day in March, they will dish out something. Organisations will frantically try to get the statistics together, just like the 25th of November. From my experience, as the past President of AWARE, the press will run to you for statistics on the eve, if not on the day itself. And you churn out the statistics.

What is missing is, one, the political will to recognise that we have to look at these womens issues seriously. Two, its like the original campaign, which was men recognising that they have a role to play in violence against women, on a more wider basis. I think we need men and women to recognise that womens positions have been compromised. Womens opportunities have been compromised, over our entire history. Its a system that weve inherited. And if were really going to move forward as a society, lets look at it. And if that mental shift happens, then I think other things will happen.

For example, I think we desperately need gender studies across the board. Now its available, I think, as modules, offered in obscure departments at the universities, and it really depends on whether you have an enthusiastic teacher or not, who would push the modules. But its not in the primary schools or secondary schools curriculum, except perhaps its discussed contentiously, for the General Paper or something. Unfortunately, the discussions of gender, have not been helpful. It is not helpful to keep on harping on the old formula of women bashing men, like should men peel their prawns, should men open doors for women etc.

Its more helpful to really study what makes us think what a man should be like, what makes us think a woman should be like, and how does this work now, in our everyday needs. The White Ribbon campaign in Canada is actually an educational organisation. So its not just a distribution of white ribbons on November 25th. The whole year long, Michael Kaufman and the organisation, goes around conducting workshops and classes on masculinity to boys at school, to boys at institutions and to men outside in groups. I think that thats what would help in Singapore. Of course womens groups have focused on educating themselves on women. But I think you cant educate yourself on how women are constructed and so on, without also looking at how men are constructed. Both men and women have to be prepared to look at these two constructions, and analyse it with an open mind, and objectively measure it against what is really happening in their real lives.

YG: What can we expect at this campaign launch on the 25th of November. I understand its going to take place at the Esplanade?

DL: The Esplanade event has been cancelled unfortunately, because we didnt get the permit. The rest of the events go on. The basic message to people is that we would like you to wear a white ribbon, on or around November 25th, and youre welcome to make your own white ribbon, to hold white ribbon making parties with your friends and colleagues and pass the ribbons around. If you dont have time for that, there are certain places you can collect a white ribbon from.

You can go to any of the 20 national library branches. You can buy a copy of New Man magazine, which will come with a white ribbon. You can go to the Necessary Stage play, called Oh Man, which is going on at the Marine Parade Community Building. At the moment, itll run till the 22nd of November, every night and you can get a ribbon from there as well. You will also get a ribbon from the Kinara Restaurant at Boat Quay. The Kinara is also offering a 20% discount off your meal, if you go there on the 25th, wearing a white ribbon. TIBS Taxis are also going around distributing ribbons and the taxi drivers will be wearing them. the Muslim Converts Association is going to distribute ribbons at their Aidil Fitri prayers on the morning of Hari Raya Puasa, on the 25th itself. And the Singapore Indian Association (SINDA) is holding a forum called Violence and You Saying No. This will be held in English and will be held at SINDA, from 4-6pm on Saturday the 22nd. Its also free.

The other thing is that groups of us. Were going to do a walkabout with the Nominated Member of Parliament, Braema Mathi. Groups of us will be going down to Little India on Saturday at 10pm, to distribute ribbons in that area, and to also engage establishments to carry the ribbon as the Kinara has done.

A Note from Editor of TheOptical: 3 different proposals were given to the Police by the TWC2 to hold outdoor events and it was all rejected. The Police have said it’s due to considerations of “law and order”. This has been the constant reason given when groups and/or individuals have applied for such events. I wonder if the permit would have been granted if the ruling party and/or it’s “affiliates” had applied for it. It most likely would have been granted.

Thus this is the message the ruling party through the authorities seem to be sending out to NGOs and/or Individuals (those not connected to the ruling party in anyway), Opposition Parties, etc: Don’t bother applying for permits for events to be held outdoors so that your message/s could be disemminated to the public because you’re not going to get it and we’re not about to give it. We’re in control and don’t you forget it! That’s why we confine you to Speakers’ Corner and indoors so that most ordinary citizens will not be able to see or hear you. Oh, one other thing: Forget about the media too ‘cos they are pretty much under our control.