Thursday, October 04, 2007

Links Between Singapore and Burma

I've long known about the connection between Burma and Singapore before the recent increased media coverage on the plight of the Burmese under the military junta's rule that has brought the issue back into focus. The knowledge of the drug links between Singapore and Burma was first raised by Dr. Chee Soon Juan, highlighting the government's association with Steven Law, the son of the drug kingpin Lo Hsing Han. He was just a lone voice among the wilderness then, and there were hardly anybody who noticed or even bothered.

Not at least until the recent spate of atrocities committed by the military against the protesters for democracy. There has since been a number of reports that has resurfaced, linking Singapore's nefarious associations with the junta, through online sources from The Online Citizen, and foreign news agencies, like Sydney Morning Herald and The Age[1].

Singapore is known for being particularly litigatious when it comes to questioning the integrity of the government, often resulting in punitive lawsuits against individuals or even news agencies, whenever there are any remarks that even whiff anywhere near slanderous towards their political leaders.

But we are greeted with silence, when presented with these allegations that our country has been providing with infrastructure for spying on their citizens, providing military hardware for the junta to commit these atrocities, yet it was hardly given any investigative coverage upon, let alone to be open enough to be disputed or challenged in the political arena. To me, this amounts to a tacit admission, that the sources of these allegations are likely to be true.

This is also stark proof of the poor journalistic freedom in Singapore. If there is truly freedom for investigative journalism, such articles will have been on the front pages of our papers, and not though the Internet by the efforts of active citizen journalism[2]. It is the function of the free press 'in keeping them honest'[3], without which, is probably the reason why these clandestine transactions with Burma are left unchecked in the first place.

Our country is not as innocent from blame as we would like to have. Our police force behaves as if it is the natural extension of the Burmese junta, in deploying the same intimidation tactics against anybody who supports the cause of peaceful democratic protests. Ironically in a way, we are seeing a reflection of Burma through the actions of our own country. To quote lalaland9:
"I am totally ashamed when I saw how the police were stopping people from entering St Martin's Drive (where the Burmese embassy is situated), demanding their NRIC number and intimidating them to leave."
From the limitations of a free assembly by the people[4], like the Odex protest incident, where 8 youths were met with an excessive force of 4 anti-riot trucks, to the restriction of personal freedoms in expressing our moral views by preventing us from wearing shirts that supports the Burma cause, they are all gross violations of our rights as citizens of Singapore. When we cast ourselves in that light, how much better are we Singaporeans when compared to the Burmese?

Internationally, besides famous for being straight-laced and inflexible people, we are now slapped with an additional tag of being 'without a heart', as mercenaries, people who are swayed only by financial gains. If that is the impression the Burmese and the rest of the world have about us, it would only mean that there is something really wrong with our society. If so, then it is probably high time we examine and reflect upon our own actions.

If the government is complicit in aiding the military junta, the facts and details has to be made known to the public. On a personal capacity, there is little we can do, legally. As I have mentioned in the past, I believe that actions can and should be directed at the parliamentary process, that we should press the elected minsters to question and address these issues in parliament. It is only appropriate that we, as voting members of this country, let our constituency MPs know of our concerns about these purported links with the military junta.

While I am neither optimistic, nor counting on the responses (if even any at all) of the PAP constituents in regards to this issue, I do hope that other MPs, be it the opposition or NMPs, take up the cudgels, in at least motioning for a parliamentary inquiry to take place, or to table in these questions, questions that needs to be asked.

It is time we all know the facts, and learn how deep the rabbit hole truly goes.

[1] The Australian coverage from the two papers are apt, given that they circulate both in Sydney and Melbourne. They form the largest collective group of Singaporeans outside Singapore. Source: Straits Times, Sep 30, 2007, Home away from home For Singaporeans overseas - "[T]he OSU, which is under the Prime Minister's Office, began with Sydney and Melbourne as Australia has the largest concentration of overseas Singaporeans - some 40,000 reside there."

[2] I must commend on 'The Online Citizen's coverage of this issue in a factual, objective manner, as well as the other news that the mainstream press have been refusing to cover. The site is honesty starting to act like a contender to as an alternative journalistic outlet. Keep up the good work guys!

[3] The phrase is pinched from CNN's segment 'keeping them honest', where their investigative journalism helps to keep the government and politicians in check.

[4] IANAL, but as far as I know, the freedom of free assembly is enshrined in the Constitution. It is totally absurd, unconstitutional that a statue of limitation an assembly of more than 5 people can be legal, given that it runs against the spirit accorded by our rights that's defined by the Constitution.

This article is written in support of The Free Burma movement.

Free Burma!


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