Sylvia Lim questions if the Govt itself is mixing religion with politics, and cites examples of it!

Sylvia Lim raises hard questions to the Government on the controversial Religious Harmony Act

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WP chair, Ms Sylvia Lim’s Parliamentary Speech on the Maintenance of Religious Harmony (Amendment) Bill, touched on the topics raised by the Bill, as well as sought clarifications from the Minister on aspects and details in the Bill.

She first cites the Constitutional right of the freedom of religion, which includes the right to promote one’s beliefs. She says Singaporeans value the peaceful co-exsitence of multiple religions in Singapore, quoting a resident who said: “I believe what I believe not because you are wrong, but because my God is the right one for me.”

Sylvia Lim says ‘Singaporeans on the whole embody a spirit of moderation’, and that the WP believes the agenda setting of religious matters should be done by Singaporeans. While she acknowledges the risk of foreign actors negatively influencing us religiously, she asked for clarification whether the latest changes to the Bill infringes on the Constitution.

Domestic ‘political interference’ greater than ‘foreign interference’? 

On separation of religion and politics, Sylvia says “while the focus of today’s Bill is on foreign interference, we should be vigilant that Singapore’s own religious leaders do not polarise their congregations along party-political lines.”

On this, Sylvia shared some observations:

“There has been open support for the Bill expressed by religious leaders. Religious authority is being thrown being the Govt’s legislation, both publicy, and also to specific congregations. Is that mixing religious authority with politics?

“As far as I know, the Government has welcomed this open support. But if the religious leaders had instead gone the other way, that is, express concern, or opposition to the Bill, would the Government have put its foot down and issued an order requiring them to stop?

She also gave other examples:

“Is it appropriate for a religious leader to exhort his congregation during a general election to ‘vote for stability’, or is it right for religious leaders to be publicly seen walking into a nomination centre in party uniform, with a political party’s candidates on nomination day?

“It is already brewing on the ground, that some religious institutions are developing reputations for being supportive of certain political parties. Any decision by religious leaders to take an openly-partisan stance bears the risk of causing tension between followers who ascribe to the leader’s political allegiances, and those who do not.

“If unchecked, there is a possibility that over time, there would be a polarisation of society along political lines, caused not by foreign influences, but by Singapore’s own religious leaders.

“Such a prospect could fracture social cohesion and divide society,” she said.

Seeking clarification on ‘dubious clause’

Sylvia Lim lastly touched on Section 16(F) of the proposed Bill, which states that a restraining order issued by the Minister ‘has effect despite the provisions of any other written law in force.’

“The explanatory note..is not clear as to how a restraining order could be contrary to a written law. Without clarification, the section reads as if a restraining order may breach other laws, or be illegal in some manner. Could the ministry explain what this is all about, please?”

Closing words: Why now?

Sylvia Lim also raised how the Bill was controversial back then when it was first mooted in Parliament:

“The Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act was controversial at the time it was passed. The then-first Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Goh Chok Tong, told the House that the Cabinet had not been unanimous in deciding whether to legislate, and decided to mull over it and consult widely for several years.

“When the Bill was presented, he said and I quote: ‘In a sense, this Bill is a recognition of a retrogression or potential deterioration in religious harmony’, unquote.

“Sir, the Workers’ Party shares this concern of the Government and is prepared to work with the government on this aspect. Thank you.”

Watch her speech here:

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‘Your words are like walls on which truth is graffiti’ – Alfian Sa’at’s Singapore You Are Not My Country poem

The poem that Ong Ye Kung took out of context in Parliament.

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‘Your words are like walls on which truth is graffiti; This has become an island of walls.’ – a line from Alfian Sa’at’s Singapore You Are Not My Country poem.

Singapore You Are Not My Country (For Noora)
Alfian Sa’at (via Zuco’s Blog)

Singapore you are not my country.
Singapore you are not a country at all.
You are surprising Singapore, statistics-starved Singapore, soulful Singapore of tourist brochures in Japanese and hourglass kebayas.
You protest, but without picketing, without rioting, without Catherine Lim,
but through your loudspeaker media,
through the hypnotic eyeballs of your newscasters,
and that weather woman who I swear is working voodoo on my teevee screen.

Singapore, what are these lawsuits in my mailbox?
There are so many sheaves,
I should have tipped the postman.
Singapore, I assert, you are not a country at all.
Do not raise your voice against me,
I am not afraid of your anthem although the lyrics are still bleeding from the bark of my sapless heart.
Not because I sang them pigtailed pinnafored breakfasted chalkshoed in school
But because I used to watch telly till they ran out of shows.
Do not invite me to the podium and tell me to address you properly.
I am allergic to microphones and men in egosuits and pubicwigs.
And I am not a political martyr,
I am a patriot who has lost his country and virginity.
Do not wave a cane at me for vandalising your propaganda with technicolour harangues,
Red Nadim semen white Mahsuri menses the colourful language of my eloquent generation.
Your words are like walls on which truth is graffiti.
This has become an island of walls.
Asylum walls, factory walls, school walls, the walls of the midnight Istana.
If I am paranoid I have learnt it from you,
O my delicate orchid stalk Singapore,
Always thirsty for water,
spooked by armed archipelagoes,
always gasping for airspace,
always running to keep ahead,
running away from yourself.
Singapore why do you wail that way, demanding my IC?
Singapore stop yelling and calling me names.
How dare you call me a chauvinist,
an opposition party,
a liar,
a traitor,
a mendicant professor,
a Marxist homosexual communist
pornography banned literature chewing gum liberty smuggler? How can you say I do not believe in The Free Press autopsies flogging mudslinging bankruptcy
which are the five pillars of Justice?
And how can you call yourself a country,
you terrible hallucination of highways and cranes and condominiums ten minutes drive from the MRT?

Tell that to the battered housewife who thinks happiness lies at the end of a Toto Queue.
Tell that to the tourist guide whose fillings are pewter whose feelings are iron
whose courtesy is gold whose speech is silver
whose handshake is a lethal yank at the jackpot machine.
Tell that to my imam who thinks we are all going to hell.
Tell that to the chao ah beng who has seven stitches a broken collarbone and three dead comrades
but who will not hesitate from thrusting his tiger ribcage into another fight because the lanterns of his lungs have caught their own fire and there is no turning back.
Tell that to the yuppie who sits in meat-markets disguised as pubs, listening to Kenny G disguised as jazz on handphone disguised as conversation and loneliness disguised as a jukebox.
Tell that to all those exiles whose names are forgotten but who leave behind a bad taste in the thoughtful mouth,
reminding us that the flapping sunned linen shelters a whiff of chloroform.
Tell that to Town Council men who feed pigeons with crumbs of arsenic.
Tell that to Natra Hertogh a.k.a Maria who proved to us that blood spilled was thicker than water shed as she was caught pining under a stone angel in the nunnery for her husband.
Tell that to Ah Meng, who bore six hairy bastards for our nation.
Tell that to Lee Kuan Yew’s squint.
Tell that to Josef Ng, who shaves my infant head amidst a shower of one-cent coins, and both of us are pure again.
Tell that to my Warrant Officer who knew I was faking.
Tell that to the unemployed man who drinks cigarettes smokes tattoos watches peanuts unself-conscious of his gut belch debts and wife having an affair with the Salesman of Nervous Breakdowns.
Tell that to our Maya Angelou’s who are screeching like witches United Nations-style poems populated by Cheena Babi Bayee Tonchet Melayu Malas Keling Geragok Mat Salleh.
Tell that to the fakirs of civil obedience, whose headphones are pounding the hooving basslines of Damyata Damyata Damyata.
Tell that to the statue of Li Po at Marina Park.
Tell that to the performance artists who need licences like drivers and doctors and dogs when all they really need is just three percent of your love.
Tell that to the innocent faggot looking for kicks on a Sunday evening to end up sucking the bit-hard pistol-muzzle of the CID, ensnared no less by his weakness for pretty boys naked out of uniform.
Tell that to the caretaker of the grave of Radin Mas.
Tell that to Chee Soon Juan’s smirk.
Tell that to the pawns of The Upgrading Empire who penetrate their phalluses into heartlands to plant Lego cineplexes Tupperware playgrounds suicidal balconies carnal parks of cardboard and condoms and before we know it we are a colony once again.
Tell that to Malaysia whose Desaru is our spittoon whose TV2 is our amusement whose Bumiputras are our threat whose outrage is our greater outrage whose turtles are weeping blind in the roaring daylight of our cameras.
Tell that to the old poets who have seen this piece of land slip their metaphors each passing year from bumboats to debris to sanitation projects to drowning attempts to barbed neon water weeds on a river with no reflections a long way off from the sea.

O Singapore your fair shores your garlands your GNP.
You are not a country you are a construction from spare parts.
You are not a campaign you are last year’s posters.
You are not culture you are poems on the MRT.
You are not a song you are part swear word part lullaby.
You are not Paradise you are an island with pythons.

Singapore I am on trial.
These are the whites of my eyes and the reds of my wrists.
These are the deranged stars of my schizophrenia.
This is the milk latex gummy moon of my sedated smile.
I have lost a country to images, it is as simple as that.
Singapore you have a name on a map but no maps to your name.
This will not do; we must stand aside and let the Lion crash through a madness of cymbals back to that dark jungle heart when eyes were still embers waiting for a crownless Prince of Palembang.

Gerald Giam: Not that hard to understand what Faisal Manap was talking about

But you know the PAP, they deliberately pretend not to understand

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Following Faisal Manap’s debacle with our dear Law Minister K Shanmugam, as made viral by PAP online media, Mothership.sg, which shared segments of the exchange on its Facebook page, and other snippets and ‘selected’ details on its webpage version, fellow WP CEC Member Gerald Giam praised Manap for not “getting trapped into taking a binary position” set out by the honourable Minister in Parliament, much like how Thum Ping Tjin got ‘cornered’ into a six-hour ‘grilling’ ordeal in the Select Committee hearing on Fake News early last year.

“Faisal Manap wisely refused to get trapped into taking a binary position. “No” (then you are a religious extremist) or “Yes” (then you forever give up the right to mention your faith and your policy position in the same breath),” his Facebook post read.

“His answer was more nuanced, yet not that hard to understand: Religion should never be used for political ends but one’s faith cannot be divorced from all political matters, especially those with a clear moral dimension.

“A politician or religious leader should never use religion to whip up support for himself, his party or his religious group. But it will be antithetical to the constitutional right to religious freedom to prohibit anyone from allowing her faith to even partially inform her decisions, political or otherwise. Politicians must always act in the best interests of their constituents and citizens. Very often their faith can guide them in doing so.”

Shanmugam and company try to do a Thum Pingtjin on Faisal Manap on ‘religion and politics’

PAP bullying, again.

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“I do not wish to be engaged in such debate, because as I mentioned just now, it is clearly stated in my speech. I believe your clarification, Minister, is directed to my speech,” says Mr Manap after multiple challenges by Law and Home Affairs Minister Shanmugam, on whether the MP believes religion and politics ‘should be kept separate’.

Earlier, Faisal Manap argued that it is not possible for religion to be ‘kept out of politics’ as policy decisions need to be made, and political stances are made, based on some religious and community considerations.

Shanmugam then jumped on this “chance” to attack the WP MP on this, challenging him to ‘clarify’ his position on whether he thinks ‘religion and politics should be kept separate’, despite the member having not mentioned in his speech that he thinks they should not be.

This is an English question here, where “politics and religion should be kept separate” does not actually contradict with “religion cannot be kept out of politics”, where the former implies a clear distinction and impartiality given to politics regardless of one’s religious stance, whereas the latter refers to the fact that community sensitivities, including that of religion, needs to be considered, and is indeed considered by the Government as shown in history, when it makes various policy decisions.

According to Mothership.sg, Shanmugam the snake, tries to paint a picture of Manap as one who is “contradicting everything that we hold as central and important in Singapore.” He also questioned again and again what Manap’s stand was, with regards to “politics and religion should be kept separate” despite the member not having broached it.

To which, Mr Manap says: “Sir, I say that as a Muslim, Islam is a way of life, and it encompasses all aspects of life, and so I can’t separate the two entities of politics and religion. I hope I make it clear.”

Sham then took the stage: “So every aspect of life..would include politics, right? Isn’t that the natural conclusion?” before jumping on the PAP’s most-preferred bandwagon of absurdly bringing other countries’ out-of-context examples to slam Opposition and dissenters, adding: “So, if a religious leader, a Muslim religious leader, comes out and says, Islam covers all aspects of life, and therefore, Muslims must vote Muslims. I suppose that follows, doesn’t it?” Clearly using examples of such rhetoric as seen in the bad examples in Malaysia and Indonesia (luckily Malaysia managed to change government, successfully!)

Manap explained his vehement disagreement with that statement: “No, I disagree with that, because I did mention in my speech that (one) shouldn’t use religion for the benefit of politics. It’s clearly stated in my speech.”

Shanmugam doesn’t back down. He goes on to say, “policy formulation” should also be influenced by politics, a very ironic question considering how the Govt itself consults religious groups when building casinos, deciding on 377A, etc., as pointed out by Manap.

“I believe in terms of the policies that are actually related to religion, like currently what we are discussing about, even the Minister has to consult the religious groups, right? So there is an element of, especially in these policies, an element of intertwine between politics and religion, which cannot be separated,” Manap said.

When probed further, Manap lost his patience and told Shanmugam to refer to the Hansard for his points made in his speech, which Sham has clearly taken out of context and twisted its meaning.

 

Lee Hsien Loong to CNN: My people are happy with me

He also repeated stance against more Opposition seats in Parliament

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According to what was reported in state media Straits Times, when asked by CNN commentary anchor Fareed Zakaria that there are arguments that the ruling party in Singapore has too many unfair advantages, our dear Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong answered that “every seat is contested in the elections – it was the case in 2015, and almost every seat was contested in 2011,” conveniently leaving out to mention that previous elections were almost all complete walkovers for the PAP.

He also added: “The population so voted. If they were unhappy with me, I would not be sitting here so peacefully, smiling and talking to you. I would have other problems on my mind.”

The CNN anchor also earlier asked: “Can you have a real democracy where one party wins 80 per cent of the seats for 50, 60 or 70 years?”

To which Mr Lee said: “If that is how the population votes and that is the will of the people, why should that not be a real democracy?”

Part of the interview was aired on CNN on Sunday. A video of his responses on the future of Singapore’s democracy was posted on CNN’s website on Monday.

TNP’s report: here

Someone got it all wrong, we don’t want to be like HK, we want to be like Europe

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Tan Chuan-Jin has got it all wrong. (His post on linking the HK protests to the cancelled Yale-NUS programme on dissent has been taken down, but still can be read here)

On the backdrop of Yale-NUS controversially cancelling the “Dialogue and Dissent in Singapore” programme that was slated to be conducted by playwright Alfian Sa’at, he quipped on his FB: “Given what is happening in Hong Kong and elsewhere, do we believe that this is the way to go?”

He says Singapore shouldn’t be ‘like Hong Kong’ – which is now seeing mass protests and demonstrations on a daily basis?

But never have we wanted to be like HK – why should we want to live under a bogus ‘one country, two systems’ that treats/accords power unequally? (If we are not already living under a similar system here?)

We want to be like Europe instead.

Here’s what Europe offers:

Welfare state + Politicians ask to cut their own pay + High concern over environment and pollution + Strict copyright laws to protect and let enterprises prosper + Real Work-life balance where people can shut off business early + Retirement benefits + Unemployment benefits + No shame in failing, and second chances and third chances given when one falls down + safeguarding of privacy and human rights + no/very minimal death penalty and definitely no caning + humane prisons and legal punishment systems + free and fair elections + representative democracy and proportional representation in Parliament + high standard of living and care for citizens + non-discrimination based on race, religion or sexual orientation + freedom to voice out dissent and concerns at any time, on any topic, as long within realms of free speech and not hate speech + Freedom of the press + Freedom of speech + Freedom of assembly and demonstration without permit + protection of citizens from harm, and responsibility taken by people in power + Equal protection under the law + Free healthcare and education from birth to death + Transparency in governance, moneys and salaries of all politicians and SWFs + Freedom of information provisions + Independent judiciary and really neutral civil service and government institutions + Checks and balances on power.

I’m sure my dear Singaporean citizens want Europe, instead of Hong Kong.

Albert Tay

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Teachers shouldn’t get involved in politics?

‘Neutrality should end when it helps the oppressor. I only stand on the side of justice’

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We often hear pappies telling us, how as civil servants, and much more, as teachers and educators, we should be “neutral”, and not spread our “political beliefs and ideology” to our students and the young.

While I agree with a high degree of neutrality when it comes to classroom discussions, debates and political information, I think the one that is not being neutral is the government’s syllabus itself, and how many PAP-supporting teachers shove PAP-supporting mantras and scare-mongering down their students’ throats. We Opposition-supporting people are usually very nuanced and ‘balanced’ in our sharing of views.

Neutrality, in its real, true sense, should also involve the breaking down of ‘outright propaganda’ and giving students a take on ‘the other side’, something I am not sure is allowed in Singapore.

Anyway, back to my topic today, which is: should teachers be able to voice out their opinions on politics? If it is not in the classroom, and on one’s own feed, especially when one is not employed by the Government service, why not?

Teachers like to share, and teachers also see things clearly, sometimes a lot more so than normal people. Teachers of language and the arts, especially, have a deeper intepretation of society and politics. Why do you think so many of our Opposition politicians, heads even, had been teachers?

The next time you hear people say teachers should not get involved with politics, tell them this:

Low Thia Khiang, former secretary-general of the Workers’ Party, was a Secondary School Chinese teacher.

Sylvia Lim, current chair of Workers’ Party, was a polytechnic lecturer.

Dr Chee Soon Juan, current secretary-general of the SDP and former street protester, was a University lecturer at NUS.

And finally, Dr Paul Tambyah, current chairman of the SDP, is a professor of Medicine at the NUS.

Let that sink in for a while.

Contributed by: Albert Tay