Friday, November 2, 2007

Talk by Sylvia Lim

At 7:30pm we had our first of three talks by Singapore informants: one each to represents the fields of politics, science and art. Our guest speaker was Workers' Party Chairman Sylvia Lim.

How did we get hold of her? Turns out that she and KS were in NUS Law together; they published the Law Review and worried about legal aid and poverty and capital punishment and the authenticity of the curls in Keng Sen's hair.

Sorry, ISD, she didn't say anything defamatory. Most of the evening was her giving simple background data to the foreign artists: our GRC system, our shortage of effective checks and balances to the executive branch, the fact that the constitution has been amended 27 times since 1975 (which means nearly one amendment per year), racial rhetoric and 377A.

Interesting dialogues:

* Mark noted that back in Italy prisoners can sometimes wait up to 13 to 15 years for trial - so it's not detention without trial, but it's still pretty fucked up for human rights. Sylvia said this'd never happen in Singapore 'cos we're so efficient.

* Kaffe mentioned how after 9/11, powers of arrest and surveillance in the UK have increased dramatically. Sylvia noted that in Singapore, the police have always had those rights - and now all those Western nations that used to criticise our human records are suddenly quiet, 'cos they've realised powers of detention without trial are pretty useful when you're trying to root out terrorists.

"The scary thing is, most Singaporeans buy into this crisis discourse, the need to be safe, the fear of mass deaths. Even I buy into it."

* Naeem said,

“In Bangladesh the intelligentsia is obsessed with Singapore. You know we just had a civil war, with the army coming in. The Chief of Army, the Head of Education, the global head of the Kosovo mission - people say he could be the Lee Kuan Yew of Bangladesh. How did Singapore get where it is today? The explanation is that they don’t bother with this messy, ugly democracy."

* Caden (on the relentless search for humane capital punishment in the USA):

“If we could only find a nice way to kill someone. I’m sure we will.”

* Caden (on 377A, the law against male homosexual sex in Singapore):

“They said that in America as well. We won’t prosecute, it’s just symbolic of how much we hate you.”

Going to Pulau Ubin tomorrow. Madness, utter madness.

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