A blogger stands up to the Singaporean government

Gopalan Nair is being charged for having "insulted" a judge on his blog. According to him, the case is a message from the government to its bloggers, more inclined to self-censorship than the traditional media. Read more...

Gopalan Nair, an American lawyer originally from Singapore, risks up to a year in prison and a €2500 fine for a post that questions the autonomy of the Singaporean judicial system. Here he explains the case from his point of view, and condemns the censorship of traditional press and the lack of democracy in the state. Gopalan will answer questions posted on his profile page (in English or in French).

"If the government is paying attention to me, it’s because they sense that things are changing"

Gopalan Nair was born and gained his law degree in Singapore. He now lives in the US.

I thought I'd only be staying in Singapore for a few weeks. I came to watch the case of dissident Chee Soon Juan, which I then wrote about on my blog. The police came for my arrest on 21 August, and then detained and interrogated me for six days.

They accused me of insulting the judge at the head of Juan's case, Belinda Ang, because I said she was "prostituting herself" and was "nothing more than an employee of Mr Lee Kuan Yew" [the former Singaporean prime minister, whose son is now in power]. I didn't use the term "to prostitute" in a sexual way but to demonstrate an abuse of power, which is exactly what I was talking about.

I recorded Chee Soon Juan's case [who's also the opposition leader], which I will try to make the judge following my case listen to. It's quite clear that the judge at that case didn't let the accused speak as all his objections were overruled. The case was not fair.

By accusing me, the state is trying to intimidate other bloggers. My case is being followed by the local papers, which try to discredit me. But if the government is paying attention to me, it's because they sense that things are changing. There are more and more young and educated people who are fed up [with the current system] and are braver than before. Despite the propaganda, many people stop me on the street every day to congratulate me on my fight.

Of course, it's hard for the people who live permanently in Singapore to openly criticise the powers that be. They do after all; have around 70% of the economy, directly or indirectly, in their hands. Many Singaporeans live in homes where the state is their landlord. So the majority are scared of talking about politics.

I left Singapore in order to be able to support my family. I'm an attorney, but as an activist of the opposition, I didn't win any cases and so had no clients. The government couldn't get to me in the States, so they took the opportunity of my visit to Singapore to catch me. I know I'm risking a year in prison, but I don't think they'll go that far, because I'm an American citizen and the US Embassy is watching my case very carefully."

"The public is engaging in chatter that the Singapore elite does not like"

Steven McDermott runs a blog that campaigns against censorship in Singapore and campaigns for the freedom of jailed dissidents.

Arguing that Gopalan Nair's court case is to encourage self-censorship is misguided. This is state censorship.

The widening gap between the promises of ‘opening up', ‘lighter touch' and the events surrounding the oppression of freedom of speech in Singapore is wide enough to see. The perception of the gap is so wide the Singapore government is trying to manage it with its usual method of vacuous consultations (The Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society, 2008). Even before the committee returns with their advice, the government continues to demand, through its influence in the national press and judiciary, that freedom of speech and other forms of political activity be curtailed in the pursuit of economic success. So what's new this time?

In past cases, for example mr.brown in 2006, the Singapore government argued that there was a significant distinction to be made between what was published in the Singapore national press and their ‘lighter touch' approach to publishing on the Internet. The distinction no longer exists.

Gopalan Nair has not published his articles in the national press - he published them on his blog. The warning is clear, what was once considered the idle ‘chatter' of the young and restless, unless seditious, is now taken seriously and may land you in court. How more ‘hard-headed' can it get?

This hard-headed approach is a reaction to the government's fear that Singaporeans, ex-Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans have harnessed new communication technology and are changing the dynamics of the relationship between the government and the public. Recent election events, when bloggers were elected to parliament, in neighbouring Malaysia has roused the old cadre of Singapore, who for too long felt immune to the ‘chatter' of the Kopitiams (coffee houses) and taxi drivers.

The ‘public' as defined by the interactions and postings of the Internet networks and communities, rather than by the state has undermined the Singapore government's reliance on ‘auto' or ‘self-regulation'. Tactics have shifted to supervision and intimidation. The Singapore state has lost its monopoly on deciding on how the public perceives itself and its relationship with state apparatus.

The public is engaging in chatter that the Singapore elite does not like. This is no longer the idle chatter of the young and restless. Attempts to manage it are futile. The apparatus of oppression, although hard-headed may prove to be more effective in the short term.

The fear for the Singapore government is that one day that chatter may erupt into a ‘roar'."

Comments

No Human Rights in Singapore

http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,,24365807-5005962,00.html

Gopalan Nair is jailed for 3 months ....!!!
He has done nothing wrong other than telling the truth about the Singapore dictatorship.

If it can happen to him, it can happen to us.

is it really an impartial

is it really an impartial truth? I think it's been exaggerated by a great deal. Besides, the source comes from a flatulent person with an over inflated sense of self importance.

undermining the authority of the judiciary in a public domain is very close contempt of court, which is a standard punishable offense. there are other factors to consider, than what he has encouraged any supporter to consider.

I wonder what the Leegime

I wonder what the Leegime has given you and your family in order to extract such vehement blind loyalty from you.

Any sane individual, indeed even the international bar association would be filled with contempt for the mockery of the constitution and rule of law that the PAP has done with this trial of Mr. Nair.

An invitation to bloggers

Dear Bloggers:

If you publish opinion articles on current affairs in your blogs, be they of social, economic, or political nature, you are most welcome to repost them in our current affairs forum "Singapore Kopitiam" for discussion and exposure.

We have daily visitors in the order of a few thousands. The daily number of pages viewed has exceeded 20,000. Any article reposted in Singapore Kopitiam will gain you instant exposure to a few thousands more readers. You can get instant feedback to your opinions and views expressed. You can also join the debate and clarify your thoughts.

Since Sammyboy.com's Alfresco Coffee Shop was unplugged on 6 August 2008, Singapore Kopitiam has stepped in to replace it and to provide a cyber kopitiam for netizens (both Singaporeans and ex-Singaporeans) to meet, exchange ideas/opinions, and discuss any thing and every thing under the sun. It does provide an important link to the blogosphere community where public opinions are shaped and refined.

There is no waiting period for you to register an online moniker and to start posting your articles. In the spirit of free speech, there is no censorship or moderation.

Why don't you give it a try today? You would be surprised how effective it can be to reach out to your next few thousands readers, as many bloggers already discovered!

Regards
Singapore Kopitiam
http://forums.delphiforums.com/sunkopitiam/messages/

Self-deluded

First of all, Chee Soon Juan is not the leader of the Singaporean opposition.

Veteran opposition leaders like Loh Thia Kiang and Chiam See Tong have successfully won in the Singapore General Election for the past 17 and 24 years respectively, and they represent political dissent in Singapore much more effectively because they don't have Chee's mega-ego where it's all about him first and the People later.

Anyone who has taken a taxi in Singapore would know that there is no fear among the heartlanders to talk about politics. Nair himself is out-of-touch with the average Singaporean and suffers self-delusion over whom he represents.

Low Thia Kiang and Chiam See

Low Thia Kiang and Chiam See Tong are but puppets of the ruling regime - put in place to give the impression that there is "democracy" in Singapore.

For you to hold them up as "leaders of the opposition" only shows you to be yet another PAP troll.

My foot

Dearie,

Whilst writing from your spanking new expansive landed property, courtesy of years of acquiescence to PAP reality, your views are indeed factual but nothing significant in reflecting the oppression felt by the general populance.

In trying to debunk what Gopalan has gone through, you mention the heatlanders and average Singaporeans, the very terms the self appointed elite is apt to use to differentiate themselves from the masses. In this sense, your motives are rather questionable in advancing the interests of all Singaporeans.

Is it big in newspapers in Singapore?

Is it big in the Singapore papers? Only as big as the government wants
to be. In a politically sensitive case like this, editors have no discretion how to write the story or how much attention to give to it.
They know they must follow the government line.

Thus, how much space the story has in the media is no indication of
how much public interest there is, and I think, there is very little
interest.

In my opinion, Nair was foolish to allow himself to be carried away by
his emotions when writing his blog about the Chee Soon Juan case. He
may have believed his US citizenship would protect him, but clearly,
the US embassy is doing nothing.

His case will be one of those that, in the long run, will mean nothing
to Singaporeans. It's not as if he set out to do serious political
work and then get arrested for it.He was just shooting from his mouth.

I wonder how much has the

I wonder how much has the state machinery benefitted you and your family to warrant such vehement loyalty from you.

Anyone who has a real sense of what many Singaporeans are suffering will not be able to spout such pronouncements without the slightest sense of shame. And by the way, do pick up a tip or two from communist China in trying to demolish others; they even had dramatic diatribes even against Confucius, the very model of 'Asian values'.

Close