Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Speakers' Corner event on Malaysian polls goes ahead

KL envoy: Those who break S'pore law must face consequences
By Tessa Wong And Derrick Ho, The Straits Times, 13 May 2013

MALAYSIA'S High Commissioner to Singapore said yesterday that Malaysians who organise and join illegal protests here must face the consequences.

His remarks came on the same day that up to 200 people showed up at the Speakers' Corner to hear local migrant workers' advocate Jolovan Wham criticise Saturday's arrests of 21 Malaysians who staged a protest at Merlion Park.

Mr Wham called the arrests a "violation of basic fundamental freedoms, their basic civil rights".

The Merlion Park protest was against the outcome of Malaysia's recent general election, while yesterday's Speakers' Corner event, organised by Mr Wham, was billed as an act of solidarity with Malaysians calling for fair elections.

The one-hour event at Hong Lim Park saw just two speakers - Mr Wham and poet Alfian Sa'at. Both are Singaporean.

Mr Wham was earlier warned by the police that he would need a police permit if foreigners were to participate in the event yesterday, though Singapore citizens and permanent residents could do so.

Mr Wham began yesterday's event by repeating the police's warning, and said that foreigners on work permits or employment passes could not take part.

In his speech, Mr Wham said that Malaysians are among the many migrant workers in Singapore who form the backbone of the local economy, and both Singaporeans and migrants should have the right to freedom of expression.

He also read out a statement from 200 Malaysian social workers and counsellors working in Singapore, which among other things called for clean and fair electoral processes, a reformed social welfare system and a healthy two party system in Malaysia.

Mr Alfian apologised "on behalf of my government" that Singapore had "very repressive laws" on freedom of assembly.

He also said he was upset about recent remarks made in Malaysia which have "racialised the election results".

In remarks reported by Malaysian state news agency Bernama yesterday, Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore Md Hussin Nayan said that Malaysians who knowingly organise and participate in illegal activities should face the consequences.

Datuk Hussin added that Malaysians should learn to appreciate the positive aspects of life in their host country and return home to contribute to the national reconciliation process.

In a statement on Saturday, the Singapore police said foreigners have to abide by local laws, and should not import their domestic issues into Singapore and conduct activities that can disturb public order, as there can be groups with opposing views. Those who break the law will be dealt with seriously, it said.

The events come in the wake of a highly charged general election in Malaysia that was plagued with accusations of electoral fraud and irregularities. Malaysians living overseas have staged small demonstrations in cities such as Brisbane and Taipei.

Malaysians interviewed at the Speakers' Corner event yesterday had mixed reactions about Saturday's arrests.

"It is unfair they were arrested; they did not disrupt the peace," said Malaysian doctorate student Mr Tan L.O., 37.

But Malaysian businessman and Singapore permanent resident Chong Chin Chun, 43, felt the protesters should not have organised an illegal event.

He said: "They shouldn't have done it. How would you feel if your neighbours are fighting, and they use your living room to do it?"

Malaysian envoy ticks off Merlion Park protesters
By Neo Chai Chin, TODAY, 13 May 2013

The Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore has urged his countrymen working here to reflect on their situation before acting “illegally”, after 21 Malaysians were arrested here on Saturday for protesting at the Merlion Park.

The arrests came after nine Malaysians were warned for actively participating in an illegal gathering at the Merlion Park last Wednesday, and the police reiterated that foreigners have to abide by Singapore laws while working or living here.

Malaysian High Commissioner Md Hussin Nayan was reported by the Malaysian national news agency Bernama yesterday as saying that those who organised and participated in the illegal protest should face the consequences.

“Extremist and emotional reactions have no place in building a stable, prosperous and peaceful Malaysia,” he said.

A police spokesperson would only say yesterday that investigations for Saturday’s arrest are ongoing.

Meanwhile, a protest organised by some Singaporeans to show solidarity with Malaysians for free and fair elections went by yesterday evening at Hong Lim Park without incident.

The demonstration attracted more than 150 people, according to its organisers. Most in the crowd wore black and they were issued yellow candles for a vigil. The police had said that only Singaporeans and permanent residents are allowed to participate and organiser Jolovan Wham, a social activist, reminded the crowd that foreigners could not take part.

Mr Wham, the first of two speakers, said in his speech that migrant workers play an important role here. Both migrants and Singaporeans should have freedom of expression, speech and assembly, he added.

Mr Wham also read a joint statement by about 200 Malaysian social service professionals based here that called for social justice and equal opportunities in society, among other things.

The second speaker, playwright Alfian Sa’at, read out a monologue from his 2011 play about racial relations, Parah (wounded in Malay).

The monologue, in the voice of a Malaysian Chinese student, was about his trip to Guangdong in China and an affirmation that Malaysia was home.

The event ended with a participant suggesting the Singapore national anthem be sung.

This was followed by a rendition of the Malaysia national anthem by members of the crowd who knew the words.

21 Malaysians arrested for protest at Merlion Park
Rare police action comes after earlier warnings that such gatherings are illegal
By Amelia Tan, The Sunday Times, 12 May 2013

Twenty-one Malaysians were arrested yesterday for staging a protest at the Merlion Park against the outcome of last Sunday's Malaysian general election.

The rare police action followed earlier warnings that such gatherings are illegal, and after nine Malaysians were warned for participating in a similar protest last Wednesday.

In a statement last night, the police said that "while foreigners are allowed to work or live here, they have to abide by our laws".

"They should not import their domestic issues from their countries into Singapore and conduct activities which can disturb public order, as there can be groups with opposing views. Those who break the law will be seriously dealt with."

The group gathered at around 4.50pm yesterday. The Sunday Times understands they were mostly young people, many dressed in black, the protest colour of Malaysia's opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition.

Before the arrests, some of those in the group posed for pictures with the Merlion as the backdrop.

Last week, the police warned nine Malaysians for "actively participating" in an illegal gathering at Merlion Park on Wednesday, when about 100 people went to protest against the Malaysian election results.

A second protest had been planned for yesterday, but its organiser cancelled it after being advised to do so by the police.

Separately, the police also reminded migrant worker rights activist Jolovan Wham of his responsibilities as organiser of a Speakers' Corner demonstration today, also related to the Malaysian general election.

He has been told to take appropriate measures to ensure that the event complies with Singapore laws.

The police said they were informed that Mr Wham had posted on Facebook that he was organising the demonstration to show solidarity with Malaysians calling for fair elections and that "he had invited foreigners to observe the event".

Mr Wham was reminded that he will need a police permit if foreigners are going to participate in the demonstration he is holding today.

He could not be reached for comment last night.

Govt to revoke Malaysian protester's work pass
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 15 May 2013

THE Government will be revoking the work pass of a Malaysian who was arrested for participating in the May 8 and 11 illegal protests at Merlion Park.

Another two have had their visit passes cancelled, while 18 others will have their work passes reviewed after investigations are done, the police said in a statement last night.

The 21 Malaysians were arrested on Saturday at a protest against the outcome of the recent Malaysian general election, despite an earlier police warning not to do so. The police have since issued conditional warnings to all 21 and their employers will be informed.

The eight men and 13 women are between 21 and 40 years old and are currently out on bail, said a police spokesman earlier.

There was no information about their occupation or if any of them were students.

The latest action came after the police warned nine people for taking part in the first illegal gathering last Wednesday.

The newly elected MP for Kulai, Johor, Ms Teo Nie Ching, told The Straits Times yesterday that seven of them had contacted her for legal advice.

In the statement, the police said that "Singapore does not take sides in the politics of other countries, and will work with whoever forms the government there". It added: "Foreigners living or working in Singapore must abide by Singapore laws, and should not import the issues or politics of their countries of origin to Singapore.

"This is a longstanding principle which has helped maintain harmony and public order in Singapore, as well as good relations with other countries."

Warning on foreigners who break laws
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 29 May 2013

FOREIGNERS who break the law in Singapore should be prepared to face the consequences, said the Ministry of Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Ministry.

This includes having their visas or work passes revoked.

The two ministries were responding to media queries last night about the Malaysians who were demonstrating at Merlion Park on May 8 and 11, following the Malaysian general election earlier this month.

The two ministries said in a joint statement that the Government takes a strong stand against "the importation of foreign issues and politics into Singapore".

Twenty-one Malaysians who took part in the illegal gathering on May 11 to protest against the election results were arrested. The work pass of one of them was revoked, and the social passes of two others were cancelled. Police said they would review the work passes of the remaining 18.

"Some of the Malaysian offenders have since approached Malaysian Members of Parliament and their political parties to petition on their behalf against the measures imposed on them for breaking the law," said the ministries. "Their actions to involve foreign parties are attempts to seek special treatment and to further politicise what is essentially a domestic law and order issue in Singapore."

Last Thursday, four Malaysian opposition politicians gathered at the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur to seek "a second chance" for those who were arrested.

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