Thursday, November 20, 2008

Burma continues crackdown while the world looks the other way

Hi friends,

Burma’s military dictatorship has finally shown its hand.

After cracking down and arresting thousands of protestors involved in the 2007 “Saffron revolution”, it is now locking them up – some of them for as long as 65 years .

The junta knows that the West, who is its worst critic, is now focused on its own problems brought on by the Financial tsunami and does not have Burma on its radar screen now.

Most of the East – especially India and China, are their partners as the latter two covets its oil and gas.

Asia ex-China & India such as ASEAN are toothless or are actually complicit with these junta leaders and are guilty of looking the other way.

Singaporeans on the whole, including bloggers like me, are not innocent either.

The news of yet another arrest or a jail term does not even elicit a raised eye brow from us.

Perhaps we are numb and just cannot believe how any government can be so cruel to its own people.

We fail to realise that this is self-preservation at its worst!

The junta knows that if the truth ever came out and the rightful rulers took its place, they will be put behind bars or even be at the end of very short ropes.

Singapore, even as we continue with our own little struggle, let us not forget our ASEAN brethren fighting a life and death struggle a very short flight away.


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Myanmar activist follows dad, grandfather to jail

AP - Thursday, November 20

YANGON, Myanmar - A court in military-ruled Myanmar sentenced a student activist to 6 1/2 years in jail on Wednesday, a week after his father received a 65-year prison term for his own political activities and a decade after his grandfather died in custody.

Colleagues said Di Nyein Lin was one of three student activists sentenced by a court in a suburb of Yangon for various offenses, including causing public alarm and insulting religion. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

In an intensive crackdown on the country's pro-democracy movement, at least 70 activists have received prison sentences in the past two weeks, many after being held for more than a year before being tried.

The courts' actions _ which would keep many of the activists in jail long past a general election set by the ruling junta for 2010 _ have received worldwide condemnation.

Di Nyein Lin's father, Zaw Zaw Min, was one of 23 members of the 88 Generation Students group who were each given 65-year sentences last week. Many members of the group were at the forefront of a 1988 pro-democracy uprising that was smashed by the military.

Di Nyein Lin's grandfather, Saw Win, was a member of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, and died in prison about 10 years ago.

Di Nyein Lin is a leader of the outlawed All Burma Federation of Students Union, to which several of the 88 Generation Students' members belonged in 1988.

Most of the 88 Generation members were arrested on Aug. 21, 2007, for protesting a fuel-price hike. Others were arrested after the government violently suppressed rallies in September of that year that followed the fuel protests and were led by Buddhist monks.

They were sentenced under various charges, including a law calling for a prison term of up to 20 years for anyone who demonstrates, makes speeches or writes statements undermining government stability, and for having links to illegal groups and violating restrictions on foreign currency, video and electronic communications.

The other student activists sentenced Wednesday were Kyaw Swa Htay, who received a five-year sentence, and Kyaw Hsan, sentenced to four years in jail.

Amnesty International and other human rights groups say the junta holds more than 2,100 political prisoners, up sharply from nearly 1,200 in June 2007 _ before last year's pro-democracy demonstrations.

The prisoners include Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, as she has been on and off since 1989.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

PAP politics- still stuck in a spoilt repeating groove

Dear friends,

The political leadership has decided to take out its old gramophone records, blow off the dust and play it for all to hear.

However, for the more discernable, the crackles and hisses are all too apparent as the analogue technology is so obviously out of date and anachronistic in the digital age.

Like a broken record stuck in a repeating groove, these messages are played out (again and again):

Singapore cannot accept a non-Chinese PM”

For younger Singaporeans this could be a new and novel experience.

But for the rest of us, this is just more of the same.

Coincidentally, one of my letters published in 2006 on the online ST forum page dealt with this matter and as it is just as relevant now, I will just attach it below.

Entitled “Beware the pitfalls of a one-party Parliament” it was written in the context of the previous General Election which was held soon after that.

Gilbert Goh has also sent in a forum letter about this here.


Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan

Beware the pitfalls of a one-party Parliament

April 4, 2006

Online Forum page of The Straits Times

As the general election looms, I am heartened to note that there is an apparent increase in the variety of opinions being represented in our print media.

This is in stark contrast to the not-so-distant past when so-called "dissident" discussions were confined to coffee shops and office tea-rooms.

An old theme has also resurfaced. This is that it might not necessarily be bad if the PAP had a clean sweep. Implicit in this thought is that the Non-constituency MPs and Nominated MPs have made the opposition MP's election redundant.

Attractive as this argument may seem, there are serious flaws. The main one is that a monopoly would be detrimental to all in the long run. Any economics student will tell you that a monopoly is a "market failure" as demand and supply are not invoked and the consumer pays more than he should. Most of us will no doubt remember how much more goods and services cost before market liberalisation.

The short term benefits of speedier passage of legislation and less need for meddlesome scrutiny in Parliament will be negated by complacency and its effects in the long term.

The latter would inevitably creep in as few MPs would be willing to think out of the box for innovative solutions which go against conventional wisdom.

If the cabinet or senior party leaders espouse a certain cause, would any PAP MP be foolhardy enough to object strongly to it?

After a clean sweep in the elections, it is not inconceivable to imagine Parliament becoming like a tidy jig-saw puzzle with every piece snugly in place but immovable.

Whoever tries to move and advocate change will be labelled a maverick who rocks the boat unnecessarily and a spoiler out to win glory for himself. He will be reminded that we are already the envy of the world. What is there to improve? Group think will become the norm.

The effect on the people will be no less drastic. Cynicism will again rear its ugly head and despondency turn into apathy and self-interest. The more affected will vote with their feet and succumb to the brain drain benefitting only the developed economies.

The opposition parties will revert to taking non-constructive pot-shots from time to time as they are unable to attract able, idealistic men and women who by now know the score and feel that the rules of the game are not playable.

We can only hope that the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy will be entrenched here and that the playing field continues to be levelled.

Only the cut and thrust of politics will ensure that the best gets to represent the people. Unsuitable and undesirable people will be found out and the more deserving ones be chosen to replace them. The people will then be the ultimate winner. That is what counts.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Thursday, November 06, 2008

America dares to dream - we prefer half-truths

Hi Friends,

I was just as skeptical as the next guy that Barrack Obama could actually do it.

Despite polls that showed him miles ahead, there was always the niggling feeling that race would be such an overriding factor and that somehow, when the white voter ( who forms the majority) faced the ballot paper alone behind the curtain, his deep-seated prejudices would resurface and the 44th POTUS (President of the US) would be white and not black.

However, America has confirmed to me that it is truly a Land of Opportunity- a country where dreams do come true.

America is by no means a perfect nation- the poor sometimes cannot afford basic healthcare whilst the rich live in their own world of yachts and private jets.

Critics will continue to say that its politics is too divisive and that it takes too long and requires too much money to find her elected leaders; but Obama’s election shows to the world the real meaning of democracy.

In the Land of the Free, anyone can be at the pinnacle. So long as he (or she) is able to infect others with his ideas and enthusiasm. Able to galvanize ordinary folks and convince them that change is not to be feared but is inevitable and to be grasped by the horns.

I am happy for America but have mixed feelings about my Singapore.

We are told (and many believe) that Singapore is not ready to accept a minority-race Prime Minister. That deep inside each one of us dwells a racist who cannot see beyond the colour of the skin.

We are told (and many believe) that Singapore is not ready for change. That the status quo is best. That deep inside each of us dwells an apathetic and contented citizen too lazy to consider better ways of doing things and to break out from our comfort zones.

But the late David Saul Marshall, a Jew, was Singapore’s first Chief Minister.

And Barrack Obama, an African-American who had the audacity to dream and hope, has become the next President of the United States.
Whilst we continue to believe half-truths.

Dr.Huang Shoou Chyuan