28 September 2005

Another Annoying Article By The Straits Times

As my regular readers know, I have a rather poor opinion of the local press. In particular, the Straits Times regularly annoys me for a wide variety of reasons. If you simply go through my blog, you'll see many past instances where I have patiently exposed their errors, shallow thinking and poor judgment.

Today, your Straits Times Annoying Article of the Day is an article by Carl Skadian, who is so senior a journalist that he really ought to know better. Carl is unhappy with the three seditious bloggers, and so is Mr Wang (see my earlier posts), but here Carl has commited the gross error of massive over-generalisation. He writes as if the vast majority of bloggers are also wildly racist, and anti-this-religion and anti-that-religion.

Of course, this is simply untrue, and if Carl had done just a little more homework for his article, he would have known better. This is rather ironic, because Carl writes in his article today that:
    "... checking facts seems to be the last thing on bloggers' minds unlike, say, mainstream publications which, for the most part, do their darnedest to make sure what they publish is accurate.
Well, I don't think that Carl has done his darnednest to make sure that his own article is accurate, and if he HAS done his darnednest, well, it then goes to show that he does not really know how to use the Internet. For he had simply surfed around a little in the Singapore blogosphere, he would have found that while huge crowds of bloggers are discussing the sedition cases with great interest, not a single soul is saying that what those three individuals wrote was right. All the discussion merely centres around HOW those three individuals ought to be dealt with.

Let's take a look at Car's article in greater detail:

    Porn? No, blogs bug me more
    With inaccurate and inflammatory postings on the Internet, how do we keep kids from believing everything they read?
    ST Life!, By Carl Skadian

    THE past few weeks have thrown up another worry about children and the Internet, as if parents don't have enough on their hands.

    I'm talking about blogs.

    As a journalist, I'm naturally wary of blogs already, mainly because bloggers are wont to throw accuracy out the window.

    That's because checking facts seems to be the last thing on bloggers' minds unlike, say, mainstream publications which, for the most part, do their darnedest to make sure what they publish is accurate.

    For bloggers, saying what they feel like saying seems to be de rigueur, consequences be damned.
So there's his broadbrush. Instantly all bloggers are transformed into little monsters preying on the vulnerable minds of your helpless children. Monsters, monsters everywhere, and it seems that according to Carl Skadian that means all bloggers. In one fell swoop, he tars all bloggers with the same brush, including:

    Dr Randy Kluver, Postmodern Areopagus, a blogger and the Executive Director of the Singapore Internet Research Centre, and an Associate Professor in the School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University.

    Cherian George, Singapore: New Media Politics & The Law, and Air-Conditioned Nation, a blogger and assistant professor at the School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University; adjunct senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies; and ex-Straits Times journalist for 10 years.

    Tan Kin Lian, Tan Kin Lian's Blog, a blogger and CEO of NTUC Income, Singapore's largest local insurance company.

    Penny Low, My NDP, a blogger, and Member of Parliament, People's Action Party.

    Gilbert Koh, Reader's Eye, a blogger, ex-Deputy Public Prosecutor, a well-known local poet and the winner of the National Arts Council-Singapore Press Holdings Golden Point Award 2005.

    Alfian Saat, Alfian's Secret, a blogger and an award-winning poet, short-story writer and playwright, and Singapore's Young Artist of the Year in 2001.

    Loy Hui Chieh, Singapore Angle, a blogger and a National University of Singapore senior tutor with the Arts & Social Sciences Faculty.

    Thum Ping Tjin, Channel Fred, ex-national swimmer, Olympian, Harvard alumni and the first Singaporean to swim across the English Channel.

    Lee Kin Mun and Benjamin Lee, very well-known bloggers and also newspaper columnists for the SPH-owned TODAY newspaper. Better known as Mr Brown and Mr Miyagi respectively.

... among many others. Congratulations, all of you are now more disreputable than porn stars.

Okay, fine, Mr Carl Skadian. If you want to believe that professors, ex-ST journalists, PAP MPs, award-winning poets and playwrights and artists, Deputy Public Prosecutors, Chief Executive Officers, philosophy academics, Singapore's sports heroes and SPH newspaper columnists can all infect and pollute and destroy your children's minds, go ahead. You know your own children best. Perhaps there is really something very .... UNUSUAL ... about them.
    As I said, blogging, to me, is the biggest danger out there. It's also given me more work to do when it comes to my children.

    Now, I have to find a way to keep my kids from believing what they read when they come across such blogs.
Better warn them about newspapers too, Carl. Especially those right here in Singapore.

27 September 2005

Free Speech & Blogging

Sept 27, 2005
Schools act against students for 'flaming' teachers on blogs

By Sandra Davie and Liaw Wy-Cin
FREE speech may be the buzzword on the Internet - but libel is unacceptable everywhere.

The message has been sent out loud and clear, with five junior college students being punished for posting offensive remarks about two teachers and a vice-principal online.

The students, all girls, were made to remove the remarks from their Internet diaries, or blogs, and suspended for three days last month. Their parents were also informed.

The case is not an isolated one. Of the 31 secondary schools and junior colleges contacted, 18 said they were seeing more such incidents as the number of bloggers surges.

To Mr Wang, the case of the Naughty Student Bloggers is, in several ways, even more interesting than (gasp!) the case of the Seditious Bloggers. You see, in Mr Wang's mind, the Seditious Bloggers clearly crossed the line, as far as the content of their messages was concerned. Here, though, the young students' remarks, while no doubt annoying or hurtful to certain individuals, were not threatening and furthermore, in some instances, may well represent a justifiable opinion.

Mr Wang would be interested to know whether these schools ever take into account the idea that students ought to be allowed to have opinions. I can imagine that some students will cross the line, but imagine, for instance, a case where a student writes something like this:

"I cannot stand that Mrs Tan. She cannot even speak clearly in class. She's always mumbling to herself. And you can tell from the way she marks our essays that she's just not interested in her job. She never bothers to give any proper comments on our homework. I think that she is the worst teacher in the school. She's a real idiot."

Mr Wang can well imagine that there could be many teachers in Singapore who are like the above fictitious Mrs Tan. Furthermore Mr Wang believes that honest, brutal criticism may be the best way to make such students improve themselves. In addition, Mr Wang does not believe that teachers should expect respect from students, simply by virtue of their status as teachers. If you're not a self-respecting teacher, then you shouldn't expect students to respect you.

The question, however, is whether the school would tolerate students who blog like that. Knowing what I know about the culture of Singapore schools, I somewhat doubt it. This is unfortunate. I think that there is a larger issue here. Are we successfully training young Singaporeans to think independently, to form their own opinions, to challenge authority, if necessary? Or are we still repeating past mistakes - creating yet another generation of mindless robots, designed only to score well in standardised exams.

Naturally, the Straits Times, being what it is, never touches on all these issues which Mr Wang has just mentioned. Instead the ST article veers into all sorts of minor distractions, irrelevances and inaccuracies. Let's take a look.

Seven secondary schools and two JCs have asked bloggers who
criticise or insult their teachers online - 'flaming' in Internet jargon - to remove the offending remarks.

Inaccuracy Spotted: To criticise is not to flame. One can criticise without flaming. One can even flame without being critical. Ah, subtleties which elude ST journalists.
One such remark referred to a secondary school teacher as a 'prude' for disciplining a student for wearing a too-short skirt. 'Frustrated old spinster. Can't stand to see attractive girls,' the blog read.

Tanglin Secondary science and PE teacher Tham Kin Loong said: 'I've had vulgarities hurled against me, my parents and my whole family in some students' blogs.'

The 33-year-old added: 'Most of them do not realise the legal implications of what they are writing in such a public domain.'

If teachers wish to prosecute, they may have legal grounds to do so.
Not really. Only the Deputy Public Prosecutors can prosecute and I think most of them would laugh, if they were asked to prosecute such trivial matters as the Naughty Student Bloggers. "Sorry, I'm too busy with my murder cases," I can imagine the DPP saying.
Singapore Teachers' Union general secretary Swithun Lowe said the union is ready to back any teacher who wants to take legal action. It has offered legal help to a few members, but they did 'not want to affect the prospects of their young students'.

Lawyers say students can be sued for defamation, even if a teacher is not named. 'As long as someone is able to identify the teacher, and it is an untrue statement that affects his reputation or livelihood, then the student is liable,' said Ms Doris Chia of Harry Elias and Partners.

An injunction can be taken to get the student to remove the blog and issue an apology, she added.
What Ms Doris Chia didn't mention are the disadvantages of litigation. To me, you would be an extremely idiotic teacher to sue in a situation like this (so idiotic that you deserve students to be blogging nasty remarks about you).

Imagine, for example, that a student wrote this about you - "Frustrated old spinster. Can't stand to see attractive girls". You could forget about it, and in a few weeks, so would everyone else. Or you could kick up a big fuss, and sue, and attact more attention, and with a little luck, your case and your face may even appear in the newspapers, and everyone will say, "Oh, that's the one. She DOES look like a frustrated old spinster, doesn't she?"

(Clarification: Mr Wang is using the remark "frustrated old spinster" for illustrative purposes only. His above paragraph is not directed at any specific person).

It is also pretty idiotic to talk about legal suits by teachers against students. This is a school, for goodness sakes. What will the teachers do next? Apply for gag orders from the court, against students who talk too much in class? Make police reports against students who litter? Sue students for negligence if they are careless in their homework?
But none of the schools contacted by The Straits Times has banned blogging. Rather, many English and General Paper teachers encourage it to improve students' language and writing skills.
ST Dumb Comment spotted: How could the school possibly succeed in banning blogging? Even the Government of China and the Government of Iran can't do it.
The recent cases of two young men and a teen charged with making seditious and inflammatory remarks about Muslims on the Net have led to teachers discussing the dos and don'ts of blogging with students.

ST Irrelevant Nonsense Spotted: What has the anti-Muslim remarks have got to do with students remarks about individual teachers they don't like? Nothing.

23 September 2005

Man Convicted For Cheating Himself

I thought this was a really rather clever trick. Also, although his act was technically a criminal offence, I find it difficult to think of it as morally wrong. He was only stealing his OWN money, after all. That could be a crime only in a place like Singapore.

Sept 23, 2005
Man fined for pulling scam to siphon off CPF money

By Khushwant Singh
COMPANY director Eric Tan, 45, hit on a plan to get his hands on Central Provident Fund money that was off-limits.

He bought shares with his own money on the stock market and sold them to himself at higher prices - with money from his CPF account. He also sold shares from his CPF account back to himself at lower prices. And he pocketed the difference.

The round-tripping scam enabled Tan to siphon off $6,855 from his CPF account - funds he was allowed to withdraw only when he reached 55.

However, he was caught and fined $7,000 after he pleaded guilty to 11 charges of contravening the CPF Act by selling and buying 88,000 Dayen Environmental shares and 40,000 Megachem shares.
There's another part of the article which I found noteworthy:
Tan's lawyer, Mr Lawrence Goh, pleaded for a light sentence, saying Tan regrets his foolish act and realises it was 'very stupid'.

The money Tan took was used for his daily expenses as he was in financial difficulties then.
This reminds me of all those people in recent times who were retrenched and unemployed and struggling to get by from day to day. Their children could not afford to go to school or to have proper meals. Meanwhile their CPF accounts bulged with huge amounts of their OWN money that the government would not allow them to touch.

Only in a country like Singapore.

Eric decides he can't wait till he's 55.

Sue, Sue, Sue for Defamation

It must be a fashionable thing these days.

Sept 23, 2005
Ex-presidential hopeful Kuan sues MP for defamation
By Zakir Hussain

FORMER presidential hopeful Andrew Kuan is suing Member of Parliament Inderjit Singh for defamation. Mr Kuan, 52, is accusing Mr Singh of defaming him in a statement on his employment record and work performance at semiconductor company United Test & Assembly Centre Singapore.

The company had engaged Mr Kuan as a consultant for several months in mid-1998. It was founded by Mr Singh who was its president until 2001.

Mr Kuan claimed Mr Singh's remarks, which were reported in newspapers on Aug 13 and 14, were meant to be understood that he was not competent and was therefore summarily fired from his position. He also alleged the remarks implied that he was not reliable.

Their added sting, he added in his High Court suit, was that they were made at a time when he had applied for a certificate of eligibility to stand in the presidential election.

The lawsuit was filed 10 days ago, on Sept 13, against Mr Singh, 45, who is an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC and Deputy Government Whip. The Whip, assisted by Mr Singh, maintains discipline in the People's Action Party (PAP).

On Sep 16, Mr Singh made known his intention to defend himself against the suit. His lawyers, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh and Mr Adrian Tan of Drew & Napier, have until Oct 7 to file a defence.
This "Mr Adrian Tan", by the way, is the Adrian Tan of The Teenage Textbook / Workbook fame, and a personal friend of Mr Wang. Oh, but as far as Mr Wang knows, Adrian Tan doesn't read this blog.
Mr Kuan, the chief executive officer and managing director of executive search firm Blue Arrow International, filed his suit unrepresented by
a lawyer.
Gaaah! Mr Kuan, you must be joking. You cannot do a case like this without a lawyer! Your layman brain will be addled beyond repair by the Rules of Court. That is, if you even know where to find a copy.
He alleged that the statements made by Mr Singh, who occupies positions of trust and responsibility in the Government, were intended to and would have been taken seriously by members of the public, and would thereby influence the public to be 'unduly and unjustifiably prejudiced' against him.

He is claiming damages and legal costs from Mr Singh.

Mr Kuan, who had been group chief financial officer of JTC Corporation from 2001 until last year, has served five terms as a town councillor and finance committee chairman of the Pasir Ris and Pasir Ris-Punggol town councils. He was a member of the PAP for about 10 years.

On Aug 11, two days before certificates of eligibility to stand in the presidential election were issued, JTC Corporation also commented on Mr Kuan.

The statutory board said Mr Kuan was asked to leave as it was not satisfied with his performance.

22 September 2005

More on the Seditious Bloggers

Not that much happened yesterday. I reproduce brief excerpts of the ST article:
Sept 22, 2005
Court hearing looms for charged bloggers

TWO young men charged with making seditious and inflammatory remarks about Muslims on the Internet will find out next week when they have to face a judge.


At the Subordinate Courts yesterday, the pre-trial conference was set for next Tuesday, when a date for the hearing will be decided.


Lim's lawyer, Ms Helen Chia, told reporters that she would try to get the charges reduced.
This means that Ms Helen Chia will write what is known as a "letter of representation" to the Attorney-General's Chambers. In this letter, Ms Helen Chia will write nice, sympathetic things about her clients. Common examples of what is often mentioned in such letters are the accused person's regret and remorse; his fine work record and studies; his voluntary services to society; the number of people in his family who depend on his financial support; how he has promised never to commit such offences ever again, etc.

Next, Ms Helen Chia will propose that in light of all the above circumstances, the DPP should amend the sedition charge to a lesser one.

This is the interesting part. Firstly, there is no obvious "lesser charge" to the sedition act. What do I mean by this? Some other types of offences come in different grades - for example, in the Penal Code, there is "voluntarily causing hurt"; and "voluntarily causing grievous hurt". So if a person has committed VCGH but his lawyer can point to sufficiently mitigating circumstances, the DPP may well reduce the charge to VCH, which attracts a lesser sentence.

For the Sedition Act, however, there is no obvious "lesser" charge. There isn't even any obvious "greater" charge. As far as I can see, there is really no other obviously appropriate law in Singapore, which more correctly reflects the key aspects of the dastardly deed than the Sedition Act.

So it will take some creativity and a lot of persuasive skill for Ms Helen Chia to convince the DPP that there is any possible lesser charge to proceed on. Let's take a look at some possible candidates:

1. Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act: Proceeding under this Act will fail to capture the racial aspects of the present case. Anyway, as I also previously mentioned, the MRHA is like the Internal Security Act in that it has nothing to do with the DPP and the courts. It is the Minister who holds the key powers under the MRHA.

2. Section 298, Penal Code. "Whoever, with deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person, or makes any gesture in the sight of that person, or places any object in the sight of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both."

Again this reflects the religious aspects of the offence, but fails to reflect the racial aspects of the offence. The provision is also very old and not quite tailored to cope with situations where the offensive words are in written form. It is more about spoken words - see the phrase "... utters any words ...". The offence probably cannot be proven under this provision, unless the judge is prepared to take a very liberal interpretation. And the DPP probably would not want to take that risk.

3. Section 505(b), possibly (c), of the Penal Code. 505. "Whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report —


(b) with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public, or to any section of the public, whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquillity; or

(c) with intent to incite, or which is likely to incite, any class or community of persons to commit any offence against any other class or community of persons,

shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to 2 years, or with fine, or with both.

Exception to Section 505.
It does not amount to an offence within the meaning of this section, when the person making, publishing or circulating any such statement, rumour or report has reasonable grounds for believing that such statement, rumour or report is true and makes, publishes or circulates it without any such intent as aforesaid."

This is quite similar to the sedition offence in some ways and is the best bet for a "reduced" charge. However, I think that certain aspects of the wording may make this offence more difficult to prove in law. Also I wonder whether there is any real benefit for the accused. This is because I do not really expect the accused persons, if convicted, would receive sentences anywhere close to 2 years imprisonment. Thus it doesn't really matter, in terms of the actual punishment received, whether the proceedings are under section 505 of the Penal Code, or the Sedition Act.

If anyone can think of any other alternative provisions under which the DPP may proceed against the accused persons, let me know ...

21 September 2005

Singapore Rebel - The Investigation Continues

Political film-maker Martyn See is feeling depressed. Well, can you blame him? Now the police is not only investigating him, but apparently also his friends and acquaintances. Martyn writes:
"The police has intensified investigations against me by calling up blogger Jacob George whose number is listed on my mobile. The walls are closing in. Not only am I unable to speak freely on my own phone, the police is now closing in on individuals who are totally unconnected with the making of 'Singapore Rebel.'
Jacob George is the guy who blogs over at Omeka Na Huria. What does Jacob George have to say about this? In Jacob's own words:
About 12.15pm yesterday, I received a call from an ASP Chan of the Singapore Police Force. He requested an interview with me with regards to the ongoing investigations into the documentary, Singapore Rebel, by Martyn See.

I asked the ASP why he wanted to talk to me. He replied that he's talking to some of Martyn's friends and acquaintances as part of the investigations. He mentioned that I've been in contact with Martyn via SMS.

When the ASP called, I asked him how he got my mobile number. He just replied "through our investigations". I asked him a few times but he gave the same reply. Not many people have my mobile number. Those who do would've told me if they had been approached for my number. Nobody did.

We will probably meet next week.

Like I've written so many times before, it's not as if the documentary was a training video for the JI terrorist group!!

This unnecessary investigation is being taken to ridiculous levels.
Mr Wang would like to say two things about this latest development to any Stupid Police Officer Who Could Be Reading Mr Wang's Blog Right Now.

Firstly, DON'T CALL ME. Mr Wang has never met, spoken to, or sent SMSes or emails to, or received SMSs or emails from, to Martyn See or Jacob George; and Mr Wang does not have their numbers in his mobile, and Mr Wang is pretty sure that they don't have his number in their mobiles. Mr Wang is just a kaypoh blogger who likes to talk about political filmmakers in Singapore for the fun of it.

Secondly, please bear in mind that Martyn See is blogging about every stage of your investigations. This is a highly sensitive case. All kinds of media organisations, international and local, are closely following Martyn See's blog for updates. So Mr Wang advises you to take extra care in how you conduct your investigations. If you do any silly things like Haul Anyone and Everyone Who Is Found in Martyn See's Handphone Down to the Police Station For Interviews, Martyn will blog about it and the whole world will read his blog and think the Singapore police is really acting silly.

Of course I am not saying that it is silly of you to interview Jacob George (wah piang, you think Mr Wang wants to be sued for defamation meh?). You may have good reasons for wanting to interview Jacob George. Or you may not. Mr Wang expresses no view on the matter. Just bear in mind that your investigations are being closely watched. You wouldn't want to act in any way that might adversely affect the good reputation of the Singapore police, would you? If things blow up, that's not good for your performance appraisal either. Don't forget, "political sensitivity" is one of the official appraisal criteria.

News of any silliness on your part can travel very quickly on the Internet, you know. That's how the blogosphere works. A hyperlink here, a hyperlink there, and the whole world knows. To see for yourself, just go to Google BlogSearch, type in "Singapore Rebel" and check out the results.

Come On, Everyone. SHINE.

Today's Straits Times has plenty of news about which schools are ranked top for what in Singapore. None of this really interests Mr Wang very much except for a minor point very briefly mentioned in the following article:
Sept 21, 2005
RISE of heartland schools
Neighbourhood schools' awards reflect improvement, help draw students
By Jane Ng

RIVERSIDE Secondary has begun to tailor its teaching to fit the needs of students - and it's paying off.

The neighbourhood school has moved into the top band in the School Achievement Tables for Normal stream, up from Band 4, and it chalked up yet another award for academic value-added.

To cater to students of different abilities and learning styles, Riverside has engaged a psychologist to profile each student to determine how he or she learns best.

Students are then grouped according to their learning style - for instance, some are more adapted to visual learning, others to audio. Teachers then tailor their lessons to suit each group's learning needs.
What caught Mr Wang's eye was the part about Riverside engaging a psychologist to profile each student's individual learning style. However, as the psychological profiling was not the real focus of the article, the article said little else and went on to talk about other things.

Mr Wang is quite interested in the topic of individual performance and capability. He believes that all of us are talented in one way or another, and nearly all of us have the potential to be far greater than we currently are. The difference between a star performer and a mediocre person is merely that the star performer has made more progress in developing and using his inherent talents.

We are all talented in different ways. Each of us has our individual strengths. Unfortunately, society is often rather poor at identifying an individual's strengths, and helping him to develop and use those strengths. Thus this is a task we have to do for ourselves. Each of us owes ourselves a duty to try to understand ourselves at a deeper level who we are, to understand who we can be, and to work each day towards becoming that greater person.

Now you understand why Mr Wang is always so interested in personality tests etc. He wants to know himself better, so that he can work towards being a Greater Person. And you should too. The meaning of life is to work each day towards being a slightly Greater Person. Here is one of my favourite quotes. It has a Christian-ish feel to it, but I think it can be appreciated even if you're not a Christian (Mr Wang himself is not):
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

- Marianne Williamson
The inherent message in the above quote is one that Mr Wang deeply believes in. Many years ago, I gave English Language and Literature tuition to a boy. His English was very poor. He tried hard but he didn't do well. One day, he despairingly said something to the effect that he was probably just born too stupid and he would never do well at anything. I was furious. I felt like slapping his face. I contented myself by shouting at him a few times. I don't mind students who do badly, as long as they've tried their best, but of all things, I hate to hear people putting themselves down and saying things like, "I am stupid, I am useless." These are lies. Lies. LIES.

I don't mean to say that everyone can be good at English Language or Literature. Nor do I mean to say that you can be good at anything, as long as you try hard. No. That's not it. But I think people should not put themselves down. If you're really no good at something, it may merely mean that you are not meant to be good at that particular thing. There will be other things that you can be good at. You are not useless. You are not stupid. You are a human being, a creation of God (by whatever name you call him) and God doesn't make junk. You just have to get to know yourself better and find out what you were meant to be good at.

I'm very pleased to hear that Riverside Secondary engaged a psychologist to profile each of their students. To me, this shows that Riverside Secondary teachers and principal understand that each student is a unique individual. Each student has his own strengths and his own learning styles. No child is stupid. Stupid is a bad word that should be forcibly scrubbed out of teachers' mouths. Each child just has a unique way of learning. The closer you get to identifying that way, and to helping the child identify that way for himself, the more the child's potential can be developed and the more the child can grow as a human being and as an individual.

And I wish Riverside Secondary all the very best, in helping its students to become Greater Persons.


Multiple Intelligences. How we are all smart in different ways.

Learning Styles. How we learn in different ways.

In Our Schools. Poet Gilbert Koh describes the evil of not acknowledging our young people as unique individuals.

Understand who you are, and how you can grow. Click here to see Mr Wang's Personal Growth Recommendations, based on his own Enneagram personality type. You can also do your own Enneagram profile and get your own set of personal growth recommendations.

An old post about the learning adventures of Little Wang.

20 September 2005

You Will Be Shocked By What Mr Wang Found!

I don't know if this is a joke or what. Or whether there is somebody deliberately trying to provoke the Singapore authorities, following the recent cases of the seditious bloggers.

I have just discovered a new blog. It looks as if the blogger, "True Singaporean", is deliberately testing his luck by blogging about everything he should not be blogging about.

In the first section of his blog, he has uploaded copies of SAF military maps revealing details of our military training areas in areas like Pasir Laba and Pulau Tekong. He's even drawn circles and arrows to highlight certain parts of the maps, and written comments (I think he's depicting the military troop movement in these areas).

In the second section, he has uploaded copies of SAF policies relating to non-Chinese SAF servicemen (they look fairly harmless and non-contentious to me, but still you shouldn't be uploading SAF documents on the Internet!). He has added all kinds of malicious and offensive comments about non-Chinese servicemen (but I really don't see how his comments are connected to the SAF policies). He seems to have been a BMT instructor at some point in time, and he writes quite sadistically about how he enjoys inflicting extra harsh physical punishment on the non-Chinese recruits.

In the third section, True Singaporean has uploaded a whole load of expletives-laden messages about Malays and Muslims. Deputy Public Minister Jayakumar gets it in a particularly bad way (this blogger can't seem to get his facts right - as far as I know, Jayakumar isn't even Muslim). Scary part is that True Singaporean even seems to know where Jayakumar lives - there's a photo of his house.

And there's the infamous roasted pig head photo again - I bet he copied it from the other blogger who got charged under the Sedition Act.

Click here to see. I'm calling the police!

19 September 2005

The Elections Are Coming!

Here's a long ST article on PM Lee Hsien Loong doing his job as MP, in the heart of the heartlanders' territory. No real news, no policy changes, just a looooooong article about PM Lee listening to the woes of the common man. This is a clear sign that elections are on their way. Get your election goodies wishlist ready, everyone.

Political Job Hazard.

18 September 2005

All in Good Time

Someone complained on his blog that there's just no transparency and that the government is hiding the details of the sedition cases from the Singapore public. However, the trial has not even begin yet. So I commented on hios blog as follows:

Actually, full details of the cases will be revealed in open court when the time comes for the accused to take his plea (ie either plead guilty or claim trial).

The law mandates this. Any member of the public can walk into court and witness the proceedings for himself. You can too. The media can report as much of the case as they feel like.

Even if the accused chooses to plead guilty, the DPP is required to submit a Statement of Facts (which he will read out in court) stating all the facts of the case. As the content of the messages is directly related to the elements of the charge, he will also have to read out what the accused said on his blog.

After the proceeding, DPPs normally are quite happy to give a copy of the Statement of Facts to any journalist who asks for it. Also, any member of the public can get the records of the criminal proceedings at any time by going to the Crime Registry at the Sub Courts and paying the admin fees.

For actual trials, the dates of hearing of all cases are typically posted on the notice boards around the Subordinate Courts, and typically you can find the dates available online at the Sub Courts website too.
See also my earlier post about the criminal process.

99.9% of criminal proceedings are conducted in open court. It is a basic principle of law in Singapore. Any member of the public is free to walk and witness them (and seats are provided). This is how journalists get their stories about court cases - they simply walk in and sit down and listen and take notes.

Very occasionally, part of a criminal case may be "in camera" - which is the legal way to say that they are closed, for special reasons, from the public.

For example, I once handled a case involving forged bank notes. I had an expert witness, a scientist, explain the process of how counterfeit notes are manufactured, and how they can be detected. For this part of the trial only, I asked the public to be barred, and the judge agreed.

The reason is that we do not want the knowledge of how to make counterfeit notes to become public. We also do not want counterfeiters to know about the kind of methods and technologies which the authorities use to detect counterfeit notes.

In other kinds of cases, for example, where a child has been raped or molested, the judge may order that the journalist refrain from publishing the child's name or photo. Apart from these kinds of cases, criminal cases in Singapore are completely open to the public.

Be Careful What You Wish For.

Straits Times:- The Government is reviewing the Sedition Act to see if it needs to be strengthened or renewed.

Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng, who is also the Home Affairs Minister, said the Government had to take anyone who tries to stir racial, religious hatred against one another very seriously.

Mr Wong said: "The MHA would be reviewing, together with the Law Ministry and the Attorney-Chambers on the various legislations that we have, that will deal with situations where racial, religious hatred will be incited, where invocation of acts of terror, for example, can be said in the net or anywhere."

He said the penalty in the Sedition Act might have been outdated, as it was last reviewed many years ago. - CNA
Mr Wang can read the government's mind. Here is what Mr Wang predicts - we will see, in subsequent months, whether Mr Wang is right or wrong:

--> More specific legislation will develop, defining hate speech in greater detail. For example, the legislation may say something like this, ".... any message whose main or primary purpose or intention is to provoke or insult any particular race or religion in Singapore and which is written with malicious intent ...". This means that accidentally racist remarks, and the odd racist joke will pass unscathed, but the likes of the Third Holocaust blog will not.

--> Quite possibly, the legislation will develop some wording to say that you shouldn't insult religious symbols or beliefs (this legislative idea will be directly inspired by the doctored picture of the roasted pig's head with the halal symbol).

--> The legislative punishment for hate speech will go up sharply (I told you before - a maximum sentence of 3 years imprisonment and $5,000 fine is not particularly scary, compared to many other offences).

--> An especially harsh penalty will be developed for those whose hate speech advocates physical violence of any sort against any particular race or religion, and the law will say something like, "... and it shall be no defence for the accused to show that he did not in fact intend to commit such violent acts."

--> The law will probably establish a statutory defence for accused persons. It will say something like "... no offence shall be committed under this section if the accused can demonstrate that the purpose of his message was to discuss race and/or religious issues and that he had no intention of insulting any race or religion or provoking or inciting any hatred ..." etc etc.

"Ban hate speech? Zat ees ridiculous!"

17 September 2005

Alter Ego

When PM Lee isn't busy trying to score political points with the masses, he actually sounds a lot like Mr Wang. Scary.
Sept 17, 2005
Online or off, if it fans hatred, Govt will act
By Aaron Low

IT DOES not matter whether inflammatory racist remarks are made online or offline - it is still against the law to stir up distrust and enmity between the races.

And the Government will act against anyone who threatens racial and religious harmony, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday.

Race, language and religion remain sensitive issues in Singapore, and a younger generation must grow up learning the 'eternal truths' about Singapore's multiracial and multi-religious society, he said.


'Whether you do it on the Internet, whether you do it in the newspapers, whether you go and say it in public or even in the Speakers' Corner, it doesn't matter where you say it; this is a message which is not acceptable,' said Mr Lee.

For the full report, read The Sunday Times.

"Even I have changed my name. Or haven't you noticed?"

Racist No. 3

As regular readers of this blog know, Mr Wang loves to pummel ST journalists when they spew misconceived opinions and views and reports out to the world.

Today, however, Mr Wang's fun is denied. The ST Deputy Political Editor, Paul Jacob, has a rather sensible article on the matter of the Seditious Bloggers. Mr Wang can nitpick a little here and there, but basically he thinks that Paul has got the right Big Picture.
Sept 17, 2005
Online activism? Root out those spewing intolerance
By Paul Jacob

THERE are some things, many actually, that are more important than freedom of speech.

One that we ought to uphold, especially with the mix of races and religions here, is that people should have a right to be protected from invective because of the beliefs they hold.


Why did it require the authorities here to step in and initiate action against men who ranted about Islam and Muslims online?

Why weren't active civic-minded Singaporeans online prompted to pummel and bombard them? Why not the moderators of the sites which host these chats or blogs? Why not those within the Muslim community itself?

Where was the consciousness and outrage of other individuals and a society which is supposed to promote and cherish racial harmony.

Now, instead of being aghast at our own late action to stand up against them, we are debating the merits and wisdom of the authorities stepping in and hauling them off to court.

What's also receiving attention is the use of the Sedition Act which, among other things, warns against those who raise discontent or disaffection among citizens or residents here, and those who promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes here.

There's also speculation that's been generated online: that the case is an effort to curtail debate in cyberspace which, because of its vastness, is where the authorities have the most difficulty patrolling or imposing control.

Others suggest the action is really a move by the authorities to send an indirect message about the limits of political and other discourse that have taken root in cyberspace.

I would have expected more soul-searching.

Have we, collectively as a society, grown immune to, or become so accepting of, coarse and contemptible behaviour?

Have we grown tolerant of such goings-on because we believe that people who use the Internet to promote hate and intolerance are a minority and that their messages would make little headway?

Or it is because we trust that someone else will step in and put an end to it?

The authorities do step in. But there are still many people out there at it. That they can prowl the Internet, undeterred and unchallenged, is cause for concern.


If there is a cause for which online activism is needed, it is in chasing down, challenging and rooting out those who continue to promote their intolerance.


There are thought to be more than one million active Internet users in Singapore, and the maths would suggest there are more people with the ability to do good and police the system than there are those who preach intolerance, ridicule and call others' beliefs into question.

So rather than question why it is that the authorities had to act, or the merits of which is the more appropriate law to use, or whether this is a prelude to a political clampdown, the Internet's cause will be better served if active users weigh in and do their own clamping down.

What these guys have done, as some have already suggested, is to give bloggers and chatrooms a bad name. And if the community does not want to have big brother watching, then it's best that it does the watching itself.

As a consequence of us bloggers being bloggers, there is some natural tendency on our part to view these sedition cases as a potential threat to ourselves. We may tend to see these sedition cases as the government taking action against bloggers, rather than the government taking action against racists.

Both views are correct in their own way, but I think that the latter view brings us closer to the heart of this matter. As a very active blogger myself, I am personally quite unperturbed by these sedition cases. I do not see anything in these cases which make me feel that I should, for my own safety, curtail my own blogging activities. I simply do not see anything similar between what I write, and what those three seditious bloggers have written.

If I belonged to a racial or religious minority group in Singapore, I might even rejoice. The next time I come across a blog or website insulting my race or religion, I might just pick up the telephone and call the police. And I know now that there is at least some chance that they will look into my complaint.

(Mr Wang also has a strong feeling that this is how most investigations into future sedition cases in future will be initiated).

In all honesty, I find it very difficult to see these sedition cases as real threats to the principle of freedom of expression in Singapore. I saw a very real threat in the Acidflask case; I saw real threats in the Martyn See case; I saw real threats in the banning of Shanmugam Murugesu's face. I do not see any real threat in these sedition cases.

The distinctions lie in the nature of the messages that were being spread. In Singapore, I think that the real (and longstanding) concern surrounding the freedom of expression is that the overwhelmingly dominant ruling party may use its powers to suppress the expression of critical or alternative views. These are views of people who want to point out what they see as an existing wrong in the system, or who think that they can show a different, better way to do things. We may not necessarily agree with their views, but their freedom to express such views is nevertheless something we should fight for (or at least be concerned about).

To me, however, racist messages advocating violence just do not fit the bill. I have no intention of fighting for people's freedom to spout messages clearly intentioned to be offensive towards particular races or religions.

I am happy that the government is coming down on the seditious racists. I am also aware that many bloggers will raise the subjectivity element - how does one tell where the line is to be drawn? Mr Wang will leave you with the following tidbits for thought:

1. If your posts are similar to those of the seditious racists, then you are in danger of getting yourself in trouble. Are your posts anywhere close?

2. If a clear line cannot be drawn, are you saying that it is preferable for violent racists to be completely free to run amok and spew their hate messages absolutely as they please?

3. Ask yourself honestly - how would you feel about this matter if you were a member of a racial or religious minority?

The Third Sedition Case

This morning's Straits Times has more news on the latest blogger to be charged (my preceding post was the "Latest News" version released late last night).

Sept 17, 2005
Third person accused of racist comments on Net
By Chong Chee Kin

YET another blogger was hauled to court yesterday for posting allegedly racist remarks online - the third person charged under the Sedition Act this week.

Seventeen-year-old private school student Gan Huai Shi is accused of promoting ill will and hostility among different races through comments on his blog.

In two unrelated cases on Monday, Nicholas Lim Yew, 25, and Benjamin Koh Song Huat, 27, were charged with similar offences.

Gan faces seven charges under the Sedition Act for offences he was said to have committed between April 4 and July 16.

He allegedly made four inflammatory comments about Malays and Muslims on the Internet within days of starting his blog.

In one entry on April 4, he allegedly made it clear that he was 'extremely racist'.

The next day, in two entries within four hours, he was said to have posted anti-Malay remarks. On April 6, he was allegedly at it again.

From May to July 16, he is accused of making racist comments once a month on his blog, spouting his hatred for the Malay community.

In one posting, he also allegedly wrote of his violent tendencies in an entry he described as having 'explicit and candid content'. He allegedly wrote how much he wanted to 'assassinate some important person with a sniper rifle'.

Gan, represented by lawyer Edmond Pereira, was released on bail of $15,000 and is due back in court next Tuesday. He could end up in jail for up to three years on each of the charges.

16 September 2005

The Plot Thickens

Racists, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Sept 16, 2005
Third blogger to be charged with sedition

YET another blogger was hauled to court on Friday for posting allegedly racist remarks online - the third person charged under the Sedition Act this week.

Seventeen-year-old private school student Gan Huai Shi is accused of promoting ill will and hostility among different races through comments on his blog.


UPDATE: See next post for full details.

Fear Not! Mr Wang Shows The Way

The newest serious blogger in town is worried that he may overstep some invisible line in our uptight little nation and land himself in trouble for expressing his views. Here's an excerpt of what he wrote:
I have been doing online research what are the legal permissible topics. I know they cannot be “political” or “religious” unless they are registered with the authorities. I also know that I should say nothing against public interest, public order, national security and public morality. It should not be in bad taste or indecent, and should not disturb our racial and religious harmony.

So these are the legal rules. Like many other legal rules, they are worded generally and it is up to the courts to interpret the precise content of the rules. Furthermore, the other common rules like the defamation rules (supplemented by the defamation act), acts like the Singapore Broadcasting Act, the Internal Security Act, the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act might apply in various circumstances.

I am no racist, and religious harmony is good with me. I surely hope I shall not run foul of the Internal Security Act. Defamation laws, in Singapore, are well, strict (note acidflask), and I wonder how it applies to me.

I am also fearful that my blog might become considered a political blog, when I have no intention that it might be so? For example, should I interpose say, Music Reviews, with the other social-legal commentary on Singapore latest events, to save my own skin? For example, when I used to read Sintercom, the idea that it was a political never came to my head. It was definitely civil, I thought. Like the way I thought Think Centre is. Civil. Political – no. Civil. Yes. And neither promotes racial or religious hate speech.

And I do not intend my blog to be political.

But its not my opinion that counts, right? So that’s the problem.
This reminds Mr Wang of the time when a student, doing research for a school project about media and Internet issues in Singapore, emailed Mr Wang to inquire whether the Singapore Broadcasting Authority had ever asked Mr Wang to officially register this blog as a political website.

This was Mr Wang's interesting reply. Somewhere in it, the newest serious blogger in town might find a useful tip or two.

14 September 2005

Mr Wang Is Still Not Satisfied

So here's more about the seditious bloggers.

One of Mr Wang's faithful readers, Singapore Classics, agreed wholeheartedly that hate speech is bad, bad, bad. But he went to ask whether this badness really necessitated the use of the strong arm of the law at all. "Why resort to the law?", he said.

Conceivably, Mr Wang could answer the question with a mini-essay on how freedom of speech is never absolute and always has to come with limits etc. But then you readers already know all that, don't you? So Mr Wang will offer you a different kind of answer. Which gives you an idea of how this case probably proceeded.

1. Someone made a police report about these bloggers.

2. When the police receive a report, they have to investigate. That's their job.

3. When they finish investigating, they have to tell the prosecution. That's their job.

4. When the prosecution is told, it has to decide whether a crime has been committed (a pure legal exercise). That's their job.

5. If the prosecution decides that a crime has been committed, it has to decide what to do next (Drop completely? Ask police to issue warning? Proceed to charge? If so, what kind of charge?). That's their job.

In the present case, the relevant DPP (or DPPs) decided to proceed to charge.

Singapore Classics asked, "Why resort to the law?". The answer is that the DPP is first and foremost a legal creature. His powers reside within the criminal legal justice system. The matter has come to him, he needs to deal with it (that's his job), and he only has the powers to deal with it in the criminal legal justice way.

The DPP isn't the SBA, or a religious leader, or an ISP, or Blogger, or the forum webhost, or the Presidential Council on Minority Rights. Those institutions would have their own ways of dealing with the situation.

The DPP has only the DPP ways of dealing with the situation. And the DPP ways of dealing with this situation are either to charge, or not to charge.

DPPs themselves are a bunch of people with differing views. Given the same case, one DPP may decide to proceed; another DPP may not. Individual views and opinions do play a role. There ARE mechanisms within the Attorney-General's Chambers which seek to prevent individual DPPs' peculiar idiosyncrasies from playing an unduly large role. But by and large, individual DPPs' views and opinions do play a significant role.

In this case, the file most likely would have come to AGC together with 50 other files. All in a routine day's work. The files would have been randomly assigned to DPPs. The sedition case file came to a particular DPP, who studied it and then decided to proceed.

In unusual cases (this sedition case perhaps qualifies, because of the rarity), the decision may be examined at higher levels. It may, for example, be escalated to senior management, or all the way to the Attorney-General/Public Prosecutor himself. However, even the AG/PP himself is just a legal institution. Ultimately he has no non-legal type of measures to utilise. In the end, he either has to proceed to charge, or not. He can't say, "Let's forget about the criminal aspects and just order the bloggers to attend compulsory National Education class for three months." The AG/PP has no such powers.

Right now, the DPP knows everything about the case. He has the police file. He has full details of the investigation results. He knows exactly what those bloggers have written. He probably even knows what is residing in the bloggers' hard disks (most likely, the police would have seized the computers during the investigation). Knowing all this, the DPP decided to proceed.

It may or may not be the best decision (we wouldn't know, and in the end it may be quite subjective anyway). But the DPP did have all the facts he needed to help him in his decision-making process (whereas we simply don't know the facts - yet).

So let's wait and see.

13 September 2005

Seditious, Seditious

It is midnight as Mr Wang begins typing this. He really should be in bed. Or working on his book project. But here he is, composing yet another post on the Case of the Seditious Bloggers.

Mr Wang is feeling ... a bit frustrated. He has just poked around the blogosphere. He gets the impression that many bloggers out there simply do not understand the situation. So Mr Wang feels duty-bound to forgo his sleep again, and help to cast some light into the Collective Darkness of the Blogospheric Superconscious. Well, God bless Mr Wang's noble heart.

Where to begin? First, the name of the statute - the Sedition Act. Woah, soooooo scary. Don't be silly, children. The name in itself tells you nothing. What matters is the substance of the law in it. The word sedition has all kinds of nasty connotations but if you really want to know whether the law is scary, you have to look at the actual provisions.

Under the Sedition Act, first-time offenders can be fined up to S$5,000, or jailed up to three years, or both. As maximum sentences go, this is not particularly scary. The maximum sentence here is roughly the same as that for simple theft (the least serious form of theft), which is punishable with up to three year's imprisonment and fine (no limit specified).

Also note that in practice, maximum sentences are rarely imposed. For example, although the maximum sentence for simple theft is three years and a fine, the reality is that first-time thieves usually get a fine and no jail time at all (if they do get a jail term, it is typically for a day or two).

Maximum sentences are reserved for the most severe kind of cases that you would be able to imagine, for each type of offence. Most of the time, maximum sentences are just theoretical, something that SPH journalists always bother to tell you about, but which hardly happen in real life.

Also Mr Wang wishes to point out that it is not as if the Sedition Act suppresses all speech about race and religion. Mr Wang does not think that any blogger who wishes to engage in serious, sincere debate and discussion about social issues has any real reason to fear the Sedition Act. The Act itself says:
"Any act, speech, words, publication or other thing shall not be deemed to be seditious by reason only that it has a tendency:

(a) to show that the Government has been misled or mistaken in any of its measures;

(b) to point out errors or defects in the Government or the Constitution as by law established or in legislation or in the administration of justice with a view to the remedying of such errors or defects; [or]

(c) to persuade the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore to attempt to procure by lawful means the alteration of any matter in Singapore

if such act, speech, words, publication or other thing has not otherwise in fact a seditious tendency."

Mr Wang is aware, of course, that bloggers may respond, "But Mr Wang, all this is pretty subjective, isn't it? Who is to say what constitutes serious, sincere discussion, and who is to say when such discussion will cross over into sedition?"

Well, of course there is an element of subjectivity. But are you unnecessarily frightening yourself? Do the facts of the present case, as we currently know them to be, warrant alarm on your own part? We already know that the two bloggers had advocated ethnic cleansing. One posted a doctored picture clearly designed to insult the Muslim religion. This is really extreme. Were YOU planning to go that far, in your "serious, sincere" discussion?

If so, then be afraid. Be very afraid. And when you too are charged under the Sedition Act, Mr Wang will clap his hands in glee. You deserve it.

On a separate note, Randy Kluver, NTU's well-known Internet expert, wonders why the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act was not used instead. I am too lazy to poke around and refresh my memory of how the MRHA works. But from what I can recall, I think it is much more preferable to proceed under the Sedition Act.

If I recall correctly, the MHRA has provisions whereby the Minister can directly order action to be taken against the offending persons. As in the Internal Security Act, the MHRA excludes the courts (and the prosecution) from the process. From a civil rights perspective, this is not ideal. It is far better to have the bloggers charged under the Sedition Act, and brought to trial in open court. There is more fairness and transparency.

Also, the MHRA deals with religion, not race. Whereas the bloggers' posts were offensive not just on religious grounds, but also on racial grounds. Thus the MHRA is just not completely right to deal with these bloggers. Whereas the Sedition Act, designed to deal with the promotion of hostility between "different races or classes of the population of Singapore", comes a lot closer to the heart of the matter.


Useful Link

As usual for hot topics, if you want to know who's saying what about this topic in blogosphere, all you need to do is visit Singapore Angle.

TODAY on the Seditious Bloggers

For your reading pleasure - TODAY's report on the sedition case is reproduced below.

Mr Wang just wishes to point out to his readers is that this stage of criminal proceedings (the accused persons being charged) is quite procedural. The judge will not go into the details of the case yet, and neither will the prosecution.

So it is not as if the authorities are hiding the details of the alleged offence from the public. It is simply that the time has not come for all the details to be made public. That time will come later.

At the present stage, the key idea is that the prosecution, by formally charging the accused in court, is telling the accused clearly what he is being charged for. This is in fairness to the accused. The accused will then be given time (usually a few weeks) to engage a lawyer and decide whether he will plead guilty, or defend himself in court.

The so-called "charge" is just a one-paragraph document providing brief but specific particulars of the offence that the prosecution thinks that the accused has committed. And there is only so much information that can be crammed into one paragraph.

Full details of the case (for example, complete details of what the accused person wrote in his blog or the forum) will only emerge in court at the time the accused pleads guilty or, if he chooses to go to trial, at the time of the trial itself. In either scenario, the proceedings will be conducted in open court, which means that any member of the public can walk in and witness the proceedings.

Aren't you bloggers so lucky that Mr Wang is around to explain all these things to you? Three cheers to Mr Wang!

Net closes in on blogs of hate

Two charged over online racist rants; other Netizens may watch their words

Tuesday • September 13, 2005

Ansley Ng

BLOGGERS have become used to letting off steam, while invective in Internet forums is nothing new. Yesterday, however, the online community received a little reminder that real laws still apply in the virtual world as two men were charged in court for taking their racist outpourings too far.

Benjamin Koh Song Huat, 27, and Nicholas Lim Yew, 25, were arrested and charged under the Sedition Act.

Investigations into the case, which has created a buzz among bloggers, began after someone called the police hotline at 3am on June 19 to complain that Koh's blog on www.upsaid.com "discussed topics that would disrupt racial harmony".

Inquiries into that complaint led the police to postings on an online pet forum, www.doggiesite.com, where Lim, a marketing executive, apparently made his own brand of racist remarks. The two men are believed to know each other.

Koh faces three charges while Lim faces two for remarks made between June 12 and June 17 this year. If convicted, they could be fined up to $5,000 per charge or jailed up to three years, or both.

According to court documents, Lim's forum message began with: "The masses are idiots. 'Nuff said". He went on to make disparaging remarks about Muslims.

Then, turning his attention to the Chinese and Indians, he wrote that listening to the complaints of "Chinese and Indians ... was no less irritating".

Koh was more pointed. Peppering his blog entry with vulgarities, he directed his tirade at Malays and Muslims. His blog had a picture of a roasted pig's head with "a Halal look-alike logo", according to court documents.

The two men, who attempted to evade the media as they left the court, are out on bail of $10,000 each. They will return to court on Sept 21.

Meanwhile, the case is likely to have a temporary "chilling effect" on the Internet community, said lawyers and media academics.

"Everyone will definitely become more careful about what they say," lawyer Siew Kum Hong, himself a former blogger, told Today. "Blogging is no different from other forms of speech in everyday life."

The same rules that apply to newspaper writers and at the Speakers' Corner also apply to bloggers, he said.

"Whether they create a riot or not, the very act of saying those words or publishing them becomes an offence." Someone who was overheard making racist remarks might also be charged under the Act, he added.

"But they (the police) won't set aside resources to deal with that sort of situation, unless there are special circumstances, or if it was a high-impact case involving public Internet postings," said Mr Siew.

Agreeing, Dr Ang Peng Hwa, director of the Singapore Internet Research Centre at Nanyang Technological University, said someone could "technically" be charged if a racist remark was overhead and reported to the authorities.

"(But) only when the audience size is large enough will the impact of the statement be meaningful," said Dr Ang.

"Many bloggers do not know the law, unlike trained journalists. People assume there is a cloak of secrecy. But you can still track people down.

"There are a lot of remarks out there (on the Internet) that are defamatory, inflammatory racist remarks.

"These are not taken seriously in many parts of the world," said Dr Ang. "They are seen as rants and people usually ignore them.

"Singapore is an unusual case."

While Lim used a "measured tone" in his remarks, Koh's sounded like the "rantings of a madman", Dr Ang noted.

"It has never been a right to defame people, and never a right to make racial remarks. People will be upset."

Blogger Lee Kin Mun, better known as mrbrown, told Today: "A vast majority of bloggers here don't go into race or religion ... we have other things to write about.

"Besides, there are other ways of discussing race or religion that will not get you into trouble with the law."

12 September 2005

Two Bloggers Charged under Sedition Act Over Racist Remarks

Goodness. This is rare. I don't think I ever came across a single case under the Sedition Act when I was working as a Deputy Public Prosecutor. I don't even recall ever looking into the Sedition Act.

Does anyone know which blogs and which web forum are being referred to in the Channel NewsAsia article below? And what was the nature of the racist remarks? How do they compare to the racist remarks made by you-know-which PSC scholar in his own blog?

For the first time in Singapore, two bloggers have been charged under the Sedition Act with making racist remarks. Twenty-five-year-old Nicholas Lim Yew faces two charges and 27-year-old Benjamin Koh Song Huat faces three.

A subordinate court was told that both their blogs had racist content, which sparked off a heated discussion online.

The charges read that Lim had, on 16 and 17 June 2005, posted racist remarks on a web forum. Koh was alleged to have done the same on 12, 15 and 17 June on another website.

In doing so, they are alleged to have committed an act which had a seditious tendency. This is defined as promoting feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races of the population of Singapore.

Both men are out on bail of S$10,000 each. The case is expected be heard again on September 21.

A person is deemed to have committed an offence under the Sedition Act if he performs any act which has a seditious tendency, or conspires with any person to do so. It is also an offence to utter any seditious words or to print, publish, sell, distribute, reproduce or import any seditious publication.

First time offenders can be fined up to S$5,000, or jailed up to three years, or both. For subsequent offences, they can be jailed up to five years and have their seditious publications forfeited and destroyed. - CNA /ct/ls


This event has also been noted on Blog Timeline.SG, which tracks the history of the Singapore blogosphere. (I am a dutiful member of the blog, hence I help to publicise and promote it).

Why Do Opposition Politicians Adore Mr Wang So?

Mr Wang discovers that he has been listed on Workers' Party member James Gomez's website. Please note that Mr Wang is not in fact affiliated with the Workers' Party in any way.

"Basically I just have no originality. The Singapore Democratic Party linked you first, so I felt that I just had to follow suit." - James Gomez.

11 September 2005

Embracing Chinese Culture

My rather unremarkable previous post, Mr Wang Speaks Mandarin, attracted a remarkable number of interesting comments, surprising myself. Obviously some readers feel strongly about the issue, one way or the other, which is rather ironic because the blogger himself, Mr Wang, is the Indifferent Chinese Singaporean who doesn't.

For the purposes of further discussion, I'm inviting readers to share their thoughts on what exactly it means to be a Young Chinese Singaporean Who Embraces Chinese Culture. So please comment.

Should he enjoy Chinese class in school? Must he be able to speak fluent Cantonese to his Cantonese parents? Must he be well-versed in the plot of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms? Should he cheer loudly when Beijing hosts the next Olympics? If he fails his Mandarin AO levels disastrously, is he someone whom self-respecting Chinese Singaporeans should disapprove of? If he prefers U2 to Jackie Cheung, is there something wrong with him? Should his personal values be steeped in the ideas of filial piety and respect for elders, rather than, say, in outspokenness and independence? Should he be well-acquainted with Chinese history? Does he share a common bond with Taiwanese people, HongKongers and PRC Chinese?

09 September 2005

Global Voices Online

Mr Wang is mentioned on Global Voices Online again!

This time, the person citing Mr Wang is Jose Manuel Tesero, an ex-Asiaweek journalist now studying law at Harvard. Well, it is nice to know that Mr Wang's blog appeals not just to Singaporeans, but also to people like Filipino Jose and Malaysian Jeff Ooi.

Jose was interested in Mr Wang's interview with gay poet Cyril Wong and also in Xenoboy's thoughts on the matter.


"Hey, did you know that I write books too? Click here to see my book on Amazon!" - Jose Manuel Tesero.

08 September 2005

Mr Wang Says, "Huh?"

Sept 8, 2005
Action for Aids' probe dispels sex claims
Group's 106 volunteers deny any improper conduct with patients they were counselling

By Lee Hui Chieh

ALLEGATIONS that volunteers from Action for Aids (AFA) had been sexually intimate with people they were counselling have been found to be baseless, an investigation by the Aids awareness group has concluded.

The group's 106 active volunteers denied having sexual relations or engaging in improper conduct with the people they were counselling.

All the volunteers also denied having heard of other volunteers engaging in such behaviour, and most said they would inform their programme coordinator or AFA's executive committee if they found out about anyone doing so.

Ninety of the volunteers were interviewed face to face over five days, for about 30 minutes each.

Another 16 volunteers who could not make it to the interviews were asked to fill up questionnaires.

The interviews were done by two doctors from the National Skin Centre who are not AFA members - Dr Tan Hiok Hee, who heads its department of sexually transmitted infection control, and Dr Priya Sen, an associate consultant.

In their report, the investigators said: 'The volunteers are intensively trained and appear to maintain extremely high professional standards in their capacity as volunteers. They adhere strictly to the AFA volunteer code of conduct and it would seem that any allegations of AFA volunteers having physical or sexually intimate relations with clients were unfounded.'

For example, all the volunteers said that following AFA's rules, they would not give out their personal contact numbers to those they were helping, and do not lock doors during one-to-one counselling sessions.

The probe was sparked by a report in The New Paper on July 10, which said that five of AFA's volunteers had contracted the virus after becoming volunteers, and that there was concern that 'young male volunteers are coming forward because they see the MSM outreach programme as another avenue for them to meet other gay men'.


For the Health Ministry, however, the matter now appears to be closed.

In a statement yesterday, the ministry said it 'noted that the investigations did not uncover any unethical conduct, and that AFA is strengthening their internal control by instituting a written code of conduct'.
So yet another silly episode in Singapore's war on AIDS comes to an end. But Mr Wang still says, "Huh?"

"Huh?" was Mr Wang's first reaction when he read the original report some time ago about this whole matter. Mr Wang's view was that even if the New Paper had got its facts completely right, there was absolutely nothing wrong with what AFA was doing.

You see, when a HIV-positive person has sex with a non-HIV-positive person, that's very high-risk sex. That's very dangerous. That's something which society should try very, very hard to prevent.

However, when a HIV-positive person has sex with another HIV-positive person, that's zero-risk sex. Both are already infected. Therefore there is no added risk of AIDS if they have sex with each other. Thus if a HIV-positive AFA volunteer has sex with another HIV-positive person, there is no cause for concern.

It is actually a good idea for HIV-positive persons to have sex with each other. The window period between getting the AIDS virus and developing full-blown AIDS is very long. It could be as long as five to 10 years. That's a very long time to expect an relatively healthy adult to completely abstain from sex. Most people are not designed for monkhood.

And complete abstinence is also unnecessary if there is nothing he can pass to his lover which his lover hasn't already got. Even a condom wouldn't be necessary (assuming that neither has other types of sexually transmitted diseases). If two HIV-positive persons become each other's sexual partner, it becomes much more possible for them to avoid seeking sex elsewhere and possibly endangering non-HIV-positive people.
"It's okay, dear. I have it too!"

Also I see nothing wrong with HIV-positive counsellors counselling other HIV-positive people. If anything, these counsellors will be better able to understand and empathise with the personal issues which the HIV-positive persons face. And surely there is nothing very unusual about this? I'm sure that if you go check up on, say, cancer support groups, you will find that some of the counsellors are also cancer patients or ex-cancer patients.

So what is the big deal, please?


Update! See comments section for a brief discussion on HIV superinfection, something which Mr Wang didn't know about earlier. See, you learn something every day.

07 September 2005

Blog of the Week!

Oooh .... Mr Wang has been so busy. So busy that he only just noticed that the Straits Times had mentioned him yesterday as one of its two "Blogs of the Week". See below for the article.

Well, Mr Wang would much rather be mentioned as "Blog of the Week" for his commentary on Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally or his critique on the Presidential Non-Elections. But never mind.

On an overall basis, Mr Wang feels satisfied with how this whole matter about privacy and Tomorrow's linking policy has turned out. Four out of 10 Tomorrow editors, namely Agagooga, Shianux, James Seng and Mr Miyagi, commented on Mr Wang's views right here on this blog. (Admittedly, Mr Miyagi's comment had no real substance - but are you surprised).

"I'm still in the dark, Mr Wang. Please enlighten me."
- Mr Miyagi.

Mr Wang may or may not have succeeded in changing all or any of the Tomorrow editors' minds. But at least Mr Wang has made them more aware of alternative perspectives on this matter. Even if Tomorrow does not officially revise its linking policy, Mr Wang is sure that the next time round, the editors will pause to think for at least Three Additional Seconds before they invade someone else's privacy.

Sept 6, 2005
Blogs of the week
Reactions to linking to blogs

The Singapore blogosphere was recently hit by a wave of discussions over popular aggregate blogsite, Tomorrow.sg's linking policy. There are those who feel that a little discretion is needed, and that permission should be asked before a blog is linked. But another argument is that blogs are public in nature and that if you do not want what you write to be published, then don't blog. The discussion has split the blogosphere into two, but hey, whoever said a little intellectual discourse is bad? MELISSA LWEE checks out what bloggers are saying.


Did Mr Wang Say So?


"At one level, Mr Wang agrees with Tomorrow's position, for the reasons that Agagooga has stated. Mr Wang himself regularly links to other bloggers' posts without seeking their permission. Although 'Did Mr Wang Say So?' is on a much smaller scale than Tomorrow, the same principles ought to apply. On the other hand, Mr Wang uses his brain when choosing his hyperlinks. And Mr Wang considers it inappropriate for Tomorrow to take an overly cavalier approach to this task. It is one thing to say, 'Oh, YOU put your personal story on the Internet yourself, don't blame US for publicising it.'

This kind of excuse, while not entirely invalid, is a poor excuse for the Tomorrow editors to display bad editorial taste, to make bad editorial choices and to be lousy human beings.Tomorrow (or any other blog) is perfectly free to act as a screaming tabloid if it wants to. It doesn't necessarily follow that it is a good thing for Tomorrow (or any other blog) to act as a screaming tabloid. And the fact that people didn't stick 'Respect My Privacy' banners or buttons all over their own blogs doesn't mean that a Tomorrow editor can't exercise some good judgment on his own accord to do what's right.'

06 September 2005

Short Takes

Mr Wang would like to comment more about Yap Keng Ho's police report against Channel News Asia. Time, however, does not permit. Similarly, Mr Wang would like to write about the White Elephants of Buangkok. Again time is not on his side. For the latter story, Mr Wang will simply refer you to Singapore Ink's commentary.

"Shh ....! The police are after me.
I'm a really endangered species now."


Jeff Ooi of Screenshots must be a fan of poet/blogger Gilbert Koh. Mr Wang notes that on 16 August, Jeff told the world about Gilbert's poetry blog on Global Voices Online; and then on 1 September 2005, one day after Gilbert won the Golden Point Award 2005 for Poetry, Jeff Ooi announced Gilbert's win on Global Voices Online again.

Or perhaps Jeff just knows how to spot an award-winning poet when he sees one.

"Over there! Hiding behind the rocks! The one
with the metaphysical metaphor and alliterative assonance!"

Oh, and Mr Wang made it to someone's Blog Day 2005 list! Thank you, Kevin.

05 September 2005

The Pleasure Principle

Did Mr Wang ever mention that he likes poetry? The Singapore Writers Festival is currently on, and one particular poetry event has caught Mr Wang's eye. No, he didn't attend it, but he read about it at the festival's official blog. "The Pleasure Principle" was a poetry reading featuring Cyril Wong and was unusual (in Singapore) for its explicit gay theme.

First, a little about Cyril's background. He is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Unmarked Treasure. He was a featured poet at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Hong Kong International Literary Festival and the Queensland Poetry Festival and his poetry has been adapted to dance, drama, film and music in interdisciplinary projects that have been presented in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Australia, Germany and France. Cyril is also Singapore's Young Artist of the Year for Literature (for 2005).

Cyril is gay, and writes about it openly in his poetry. That makes him somewhat controversial (in Singapore, and to some people, at least). Mr Wang exchanged emails with Cyril over the weekend, and with Cyril's permission, reproduces excerpts here.

On whether Mr Wang can blog about him:
"Yes, sure you can feature me. I am very openly gay. And I think it is possibly immoral to even hide the fact when I am not exactly living in a place like Iran, where I would get killed for something like this. So with regard to being seen as gay very publicly, I do not mind at all. In fact, I kind of encourage myself to be as open as possible – it's my one-man ideological war."
About the Pleasure Principle:
"1 Sep at Pan Pacific Hotel, 10pm, The Pleasure Principle. I was the only featured poet for one and a half hours. Very tiring, but people liked me, so that was great. There were about thirty people who came, which was good for such an odd hour, and anyway it was a very intimate affair with me on a four-poster bed and loads of champagne and strawberries." [Mr Wang's note: Photo available at the official SWF blog].
How has the gay theme in Cyril's works affected his literary career?
"I started being incidentally explicit about the homosexual theme from the start, and NAC has written a letter to my publisher saying certain poems were to be taken out from my first manuscript. I was able to squeeze in more poems with the gay theme later on when I became more established. My publisher is the most intelligent, literary and open-minded publisher in this country, so he did not even bat an eyelid when he registered the gay themes in my work. But I still feel that it remains generally difficult to get my gay poems printed, unless I am very implicit about it. This does not bother me, however, as my 'gayer' poems get heard a lot in overseas festivals, performances and journals."
Is Cyril pushing a public agenda, or just being himself? What does he think about recent gay issues in Singapore?
"I am really first and foremost expressing myself as an individual. The gay agenda is just a bonus. It doesn't worry me if the agenda is successful or not. I care more about myself than about whether the world will be a better place if I were a semi-activist.

About gay issues, IndigNation, the Health Minister, Nation Party, or Yi Sheng's book project [on gays], well, I am glad things are happening, that's all. At least there are still gay men fighting this ideological war in one way or the other, and that's good. Most gay men are just plain complacent. The health minister...well, he makes no real difference really. Like one of the people behind Fridae said, if we cannot do Nation party here, we do in Phuket lor. Big deal."
Mr Wang asked Cyril to say something non-gay-related about poetry in Singapore:
"About non-gay things…you make it sound like it is such a conscious and deliberate thing, being gay. It’s a part of everything I do, in the same way one cannot help but be influenced by the fact that one is Indian or Chinese, Christian or atheistic…it’s part of the whole mental makeup. I have plenty of poems that do not have two men kissing or having sex, if that is what one means by non-gay poetry. This reminds me of how Thumboo tends to be misunderstood as just a political poet, when he is really very personal and even confessional in his poetry too."
On Singapore writers:
"There is a lack of urgency or edginess in local writings in general. When you read a lot of local poetry, for example, you tend to feel like nothing was at stake in putting the words to paper. Of course, there are exceptions. A lot of these exceptions do not win awards or get published. For these exceptions, I urge the poets to get out of Singapore."
About the recent Golden Point Awards:
"If you want to win the GPA, I do believe that the poetry to submit needs to be a little banal, because the judges are usually a little banal. Of course, Alfian Sa’at’s winning poems were the exception, but also they hinted at a lot of local/social issues, which is one of the key ingredients to winning the GPA. [Mr Wang's note: Alfian Saat won the GPA in 2001]

The kind of personal poetry that I admire deals with the self to the extent that anybody can relate to what is being expressed in the poem. For competitions, you will have to add more layers to the poem, layers that would surely make the poem look more ambitious but which may undermine the singular emotionality and vulnerability in the speaker’s voice. It’s like the difference between listening to Mariah Carey and listening to Stina Nordenstam. The former is full of vocal fireworks and bravado while the latter sings so intimately and quietly it is almost a whisper. A lot of people like to listen to Mariah Carey. I much prefer Stina Nordenstam."
Cyril is a classically trained singer and has been experimenting with combinations of music and poetry:
"I am very proud that I have been singing a lot recently. Chong Li-Chuan, a sound-artist, is working on certain melodies that I sung using text from my poetry. We hope to do a little album together. I am also performing LOVE SONGS at the Hong Kong Fringe Club in Feb next year. I will be covering popular songs and giving them a personal history that they did not possess before. I did this concert at The Substation in June this year and I was very proud of it. I even made some people cry, which was important. More at http://cyrilwong.com/lovesongs.htm."
Cyril Wong performed at the recent memorial concert for Shanmugam Murugesu, the man whose death sentence provoked much public soul-searching this year over the rights and wrongs of capital punishment:
"About Shanmugam's memorial concert, I sang for it for two reasons – I do not believe in capital punishment, and I hate the idea that you cannot speak in such events without needing to provide the police with your IC number. So I went up and sang a Chinese lullaby, a strategy to offer a very momentary reprieve in the midst of all that grief, all the political and personal frustrations, but also it is a gentle fuck-you to the ones who do not believe in free-speech."

With Cyril's permission, Mr Wang has reproduced one of the explicitly gay poems (The Neighbour) that Cyril read during the Pleasure Principle event. Mr Wang has kept this poem off his current main page so as to avoid alarming, offending or upsetting his more conservative readers. Please do not click here if you do not want to read Cyril's poem.