In an editorial published on his news site, States Times Review, Alex Tan who once stood under the Reform Party banner in the 2011 General Elections, revealed how he was hauled to the Cantonment Police Complex by police officers who said ‘they do not need a warrant’. It had to do with his involvement with The Real Singapore, a now-defunct news blog. The ordeal reminded him of how he was punished by the SAF during NS just for compiling a list of past servicemen deaths from military training.
“Back in 2008, I wrote a blog compiling the deaths of NSFs who died during training. I was called up for a similar “assisting investigation” by the SAF military police then, and I was called up one day, handcuffed and marched into the Commanding Officer’s office with my “offence” read to me. The CO first commented “Alex I didn’t even know you have a blog!”. I was then given the “kind advice” by my CO that I could get a “lesser sentence” if I don’t claim trial, and so I did. It was a very vague description: “general disobedience”, no mention of the blog. I was eventually jailed for 5 days in the Detention Barracks.”
He subsequently made the decision to flee from Singapore:
“The police investigation “assistance” felt like deja vu to me. Thanks to the SAF for jailing me in 2008, I learned that the police cannot be trusted and there can never be a fair trial in Singapore. I know the Singapore government has a track record of framing the innocent and I am their next target. It does not matter whether if I was innocent, the government wanted me and the other TRS editors jailed. Immediately on the same day, I bought a flight to Brisbane Australia and took flight in less than a week.”
The writer, who nows lives in Australia and publishes his cannot-be-seen-in-sg-mainstream-media news posts entirely ‘in accordance with Australian law’, also said setting up States Times Review was a ‘big decision’:
“It was a big decision to set up States Times Review. The time and resources spent aside, the biggest consequence is that I will never get to return to Singapore. I will never get to see my hometown again, my friends, schools, places I frequent and family members. Everything I knew and learned would only be memories from then on. It was a huge sacrifice, and even to-date, I still wonder if it was worth it. I had never been to Australia before, it was a culture shock initially but I began to like it.”
He also reveals what he likes about Australia, and how he feels valued there:
“The best part I love about Australia? Employment. I love working here, because I really feel valued as an employee here and not like an economic digit in Singapore. I used to average 60 hours work week in Singapore, and the amount of spare time I have here is just ideal. In Australia, there is an open culture of speaking up and this is a big plus for a person like myself, who previously had offended many managers for being too blunt. The work-life balance here is perfect for managing States Times Review while on a full-time job.”
He also talked about his views on the Singapore government’s attempts at disrupting his site (through DDoS attacks) and shutting it down:
“In the past 3 years, the Singapore government had made several attempts to shut down States Times Review. But like a mouse well out of a cat’s reach, I am well-protected by the fact that the website and it’s content is perfectly legal under the Australian legislation.”
“Last year, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam declared STR as a “fake news” website. What an honour actually. I certainly would not want praises from villains like K Shanmugam or Lee Hsien Loong. Thanks to Minister K Shanmugam, STR’s credibility was boosted and monthly readership actually soared some 25% higher since then, which probably say much about K Shanmugam’s very own credibility.
In fact, the “fake news” campaign launched by the government to censor the internet actually backfired on them. Straits Times and several other mainstream publications actually see lower readership, and some like The New Paper and Today even had to terminate circulation. As it turned out, these liars should really not be throwing stones in a glass house.”
He thinks, though, that the site will eventually be shut down by the PAP:
“I know what they are up to next: site address ban. STR would be treated like a jihadist site and then completely banned.
STR had a good 3 years run. I am pragmatic enough to understand that this site would be shut down eventually, somehow some time in the near future. Until then, I would do my best to provide independent news coverage for Singaporeans.”
Read more about Alex’s story on STR: 3 years of fighting fake news.