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The CPF Protest and Bad Manners

From a real protest in Hong Kong, the CPF protest a few days ago is a bad comedy in comparison. There is finally closure of sorts. Roy Ngerng offered an apology fo disrupting the YMCA event at Hong Lim Park on Saturday. No sound from shrieking Han Hui Hui, the other chief culprit. Maybe she was not so contrite as Roy because Roy is the one that needs long term unwavering public support in his legal wrangle with the PM.

The facts are clear. The CPF protesters were louts and gatecrashed into the YMCA charity event. They were uncooperative in sharing the park, blamed other parties and desperate for attention, seeing confrontation as a tactic to make the their quite tiresome CPF protest newsworthy. The PAP and the media were very quick to see a mistake by a  clumsy foe and pounced on Roy and Hui Hui’s bad judgement and manners. However, the PAP arguably harped a bit too much on an obvious shoot in the foot by the CPF protesters. The PAP’s gloating and mock indignation was also bad manners, but on a lesser scale.

Roy Ngerng issues apology over carnival disruption: Teo Ser Luck
AsiaOneMonday, Sep 29, 2014

SINGAPORE – In his most recent Facebook status updated about three hours ago, Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck has confirmed that Roy Ngerng issued an apology for disrupting a weekend charity carnival at Hong Lim Park.

On Facebook, Mr Teo said: “Since Roy Ngerng offered the apology, it’s a step forward. I think he should especially for the children.

“The protesters were going after me but it affected the children and the event. For this I feel sorry and would apologise to YMCA and the children for this inconvenience caused because of my presence,” added Mr Teo.
Mr Teo was the guest-of-honour at YMCA’s Proms @ the Park carnival, which was held last Saturday afternoon.
Mr Ngerng and another blogger, Ms Han Hui Hui, had organised a protest on CPF issues at the park, coinciding with the charity carnival at the same venue.

According to The Straits Times, Mr Ngerng, 33, and Ms Han, 22 had led several hundred people on a march through the YMCA event, and allegedly heckling special-needs children who were on stage.

The protesters, some of whom were waving the Singapore flag, were chanting “Vote them out, PAP” and “Return our CPF”, just as the children were about to perform a dance item.

Videos of the encounter have been circulating on social media and drew criticism from netizens.

Ending off with a smiley on his recent status, Mr Teo said: “It’s supposed to be a happy event. We will all learn something from here.”
stephluo@sph.com.sg

Hong Kong and Suffrage, Little Change Pre and Post 1997

Large scale peaceful protests are not uncommon in Hong Kong. The firing of tear gas, however, is unusual and is a jolt to the Hong Kong electorate. Whether that would enrage and embolden the protesters more, or make them meek, I think the former. The involvement of students in the protest poses awkwardness for Beijing. They cannot be seen as too rough in handling the students as most of the youth there are in it more for the edgy carnival atmosphere and rebellious experience, with a sprinkling of political eagerness. While 1989 was a long time ago and a whole different world, the image of defiant students protesting is something Beijing wants to avoid in the narrative of the Hong Kong protest.

The romanticism of the need for protests is that Beijing would restrict democracy which is not far from the truth, given the pro-China bias in the way the chief executive election is held. However, was Hong Kong under British rule really democratic?

The post of the Governor of Hong Kong until 1997 was never elected by the Hong Kong public. There was no universal suffrage then either  under British rule. To play Devil’s Advocate, at least now the Hong Kong public has a choice of which pro-China Chief Executive they want.

 

Hong Kong surprises itself with the exuberance and spontaneity of protests
Sight of police wearing helmets and respirators unfamiliar and chilling to many, even before teargas was deployed
Tania Branigan in Hong Kong
The Guardian, Monday 29 September 2014

 

“Did you ever think you would see anything like this in Hong Kong? I never thought I would see anything like this in Hong Kong,” a resident marvelled as we rounded the corner of the flyover and saw for the first time just how many people had flowed into the roads around the government offices at Admiralty.

Hong Kong is no stranger to large-scale protests pushing back against Beijing: huge numbers took to the streets over controversial security laws in 2003 and plans for compulsory “patriotic education” two years ago – on both occasions prompting backdowns, though few expect a similar outcome this time.

Nor was Sunday night exactly chaotic, despite the bursts of teargas from police and the impromptu protests that sprang up at fresh locations. There were first-aid stations, litter-collection points and frequent bursts of applause: for people delivering water, or police helping an unconscious protester. The crowds swarmed around small numbers of officers repeatedly, trying to stop them moving in, but held their hands in the air to indicate they intended no malice. Upturned umbrellas blossomed across sections of the crowds to ward off pepper spray and more teargas.

In many ways it was a very Hong Kong protest, down to the protesters who politely explained that they would not be present the next day as they needed to go to work.

But the resident saw something unique in the exuberance and spontaneity of the peaceful crowd – preempting plans to launch the civil-disobedience movement on Wednesday, a national holiday – combined with the tough tactics of the police. It is the first time officers have fired teargas in Hong Kong for almost a decade.

Whether Sunday’s events will do anything to shift the views of the many people here who think of Occupy Central as inconvenient or ill-judged remains to be seen. Many protesters acknowledged that large sections of the region’s population remain politically conservative and more focused on maintaining economic stability than fighting for rights.

“You never see Hong Kong people grouping together; they always want to work and earn money,” said Melissa Lam, a 27-year-old sales assistant.

She had never protested before, but the police reaction to the students made her feel she had to act.

“I was watching TV while I ate dinner and when I saw what the police did I almost cried. My family said: You don’t have to go there – you can’t do anything in front of China; you can’t change anything … But I think I had to come. There’s no excuse. If you don’t stand up today there’s no tomorrow,” she said.

In theory the protests are about whether the universal suffrage promised to Hong Kong will be delivered or not. Beijing says that one person, one vote for the next chief executive, marks a step forward; its critics say the restrictions on candidates are so tight as to make that meaningless.

In reality, most here seem to see the protests as being about whether the region can retain its independently minded identity: about defending its rights and culture, rather than advancing them.

“We want to protect the democracy of Hong Kong,” said Templi Wong, 17.

Fifty-year-old businessman Lawrence Ku added: “Hong Kong’s freedoms have been getting less and less since the handover. We just want to have the freedom like before.”

Ku said he also feared that an influx of mainland migrants meant that soon “Hong Kong won’t be Hong Kong”, reflecting a widespread and growing sentiment.

The protesters are determined to maintain the rights and liberties unimaginable to their counterparts on the mainland. There was alarm that 17-year-old student leader Joshua Wong was held for more than 40 hours without charge – but a high court judge ordered his unconditional release on Sunday, telling police that the Scholarism leader had been held for an “unreasonably” long time. He urged the police to treat two other student leaders fairly; Lester Shum and Alex Chow were reportedly released not long afterwards.

Officers unfurled signs warning that they would fire teargas before doing so. Officials stressed that riot officers, though equipped with rubber bullets, had not used them.

But the sight of police wearing helmets and respirators was unfamiliar and chilling in itself to many, even before the canisters were deployed.

Hong Kong has often shown its spirit most forcefully when it feels under pressure from Beijing: now it is doing so again. Yet this time it faces an increasingly assertive leadership on the mainland which, thanks to China’s economic growth, no longer needs to be as careful of the financial centre as it once was. The real battle is not over the 2017 election as much as the region’s long term expectations and aspirations.

Singapore Companies Hacked and Humiliated

Hacking is getting more and more into our sight. In 2012, one example was a Singapore sweet shop website hacked  by Malaysians. last week, KBox was hacked into and more than 300,000 member details leaked. An infamous milestone in the Singapore context. In that week, an M1 online form was hacked and some personal accounts were also compromised. Last year, Messiah aka James Raj Arokiasamy stole Standard Chartered customers’ statement details besides hacking into the AMK Town Council website. Singapore Arts Museum personnel data was also stolen by others and published for all to gawk at and abuse last year. Hackers go for the easy hack, public and private bodies who don’t bother to keep their data confidential and protected from online attacks. The hacker plague is not limited to Singapore while it has become more and more common lately in the little red dot. This year, Home Depot, a huge US chain, was also hit and credit card details of members stolen.

Hackers are vandals and thieves regardless if they hit public or private organisations, regardless if they have some pretentious socio-political messages or upfront about their criminal intentions. Companies are not blameless if they allow themselves to be hacked especially if data leaked puts its customers at physical or financial risk. The thinking is that governments are the only ones who should keep our personnel information under lock and key. Not so, indeed as we give up our NRIC, address, email and contact numbers easily when we fill up forms for online shopping, various memberships etc, some standards of securing data should be held by companies.

 

K Box leak a wake-up call for businesses
Irene Tham
The Straits Times
Monday, Sep 22, 2014
CONSUMERS often part with personal information to get members-only perks. But the parting can be painful – when personal data is leaked and made public, as in the case of over 300,000 members of karaoke bar chain K Box.

Their names, addresses and mobile phone and identity card numbers were posted on several websites on Tuesday, purportedly by hackers protesting against upcoming toll fee hikes at Woodlands Checkpoint.

It is not known if the leak was an inside job or the result of system hacking.

But the incident is a wake- up call: Businesses either pay now to secure the personal data collected, or they may end up paying a lot more later.

“There is a high price to pay for treating the protection of consumers’ data lightly,” said Consumers Association of Singapore executive director Seah Seng Choon.

Not only will there be a loss of reputation, but negligent businesses also face a fine of up to $1 million under a newly enforced law. Even if hackers had stolen customers’ personal data, companies must take “reasonable security measures”.

The obligation is spelt out – though measures are not – in the Personal Data Protection Act, fully enforced on July 2.

Precise industry measures will take time, said lawyer Gilbert Leong, a partner at Rodyk & Davidson.

“What is reasonable or expected of a bank would most likely not be reasonable or expected of a wine store, for instance.”

So the industry will be watching as the Personal Data Protection Commission investigates the K Box leak, the biggest reported breach of personal data here.

Another case of a smaller scale being investigated by the commission involves the details of 12 customers of telco M1, which were exposed on Monday on an online form for pre-orders for the new iPhone.

The two cases might have happened under different circumstances, but it is worrying when personal data falls into the wrong hands.

What happened to technology blogger Alfred Siew, 40, could happen to anyone. On Tuesday, he got a call from someone using a private number claiming to be a loan shark.

“He read out my name and NRIC number… and threatened to harm my family unless I paid up. It was unnerving,” said Mr Siew, unable to recall if he had ever misplaced his identity card.

Police could not help. He was told instead to file a magistrate’s complaint, which may involve legal fees to prosecute the case.

Meanwhile, the K Box breach prompted some businesses to pull up their socks.

“Organisations are now more easily persuaded to take the law seriously,” said media and technology lawyer Bryan Tan, a partner at Pinsent Masons MPillay.

But more can be done.

Businesses may want to take a leaf out of IT retail chain Challenger’s book.

It keeps the names, identity card and phone numbers, as well as e-mail addresses of its more than 500,000 members in a server locked in a room, accessed by staff only via fingerprint scanning.

Cashiers can call up members’ data when members redeem points, but cashiers need to scan their fingerprints on sale terminals.

Challenger chief operating officer Ben Tan said: “This is so that we have an audit trail if there is a leak.”

itham@sph.com.sg

To Singapore, With Love, And Disappointment

Disappointment at the Singapore government and its censorship. I have not watched Tan Pin Pin’s latest film but I want to watch it if it comes out in Youtube. Despite accolades from film festivals which tells us what kind of audience the film appeals to, I had no interest in it since her films like Singapore Gaga are not engaging for me. That changed when the film was banned from public screening, but allowed for private screening. Sounds absurd but we cannot fullly fathom how bureaucrats think and that they still don’t realise that banning a film makes it even more appealing, like a forbidden fruit.

I remember Martyn See’s earlier films which were banned, like Singapore Rebel, which was about Dr Chee Soon Juan. The film was entertaining and biased in favour of SDP, which the film was upfront about. Any reasonable audience would see that message and take it with a pinch of salt, or a huge fist of salt if one supported the PAP, WP, NSP etc.

At least the censors did not ask for the film to be pulped, like certain children’s books in the national libraries. That earlier censorship story and changing access to the controversial books has lessons on this one. Add a MDA disclaimer to Tan Pin Pin’s film, or give it a R(A) rating to exclude non-mature viewers. A ban just shows that censorship is thriving still in Singapore.

 

 
Film banned: Real threat or just wounded pride
Mariam Mokhtar | September 12

A ban on a film is usually counter-productive. Borrowing a phrase from Heineken, a ban on a film has the effect of reaching the parts other films cannot reach. Singapore is a country which people around the world look up to. That is why the move to ban director, Tan Pin Pin’s award-winning film, “To Singapore, With Love”, proves that the government of Singapore is desperate, vindictive and afraid. Ironically, Singapore has ambition to be an Asian film and cultural hub.

Desperation makes people take desperate measures. In a world made smaller by Internet and social media, the banned film will now be viewed by more people than if the government had approved it for screening. The ban has inadvertently given the film a boost and generated much publicity, across the globe.

As the government of Singapore (and other autocratic nations) will discover, a ban makes people curious. Ordinary Singaporeans are like other human beings. They will want to know what it is that they have been stopped from seeing. They will become interested and want their curiosity sated.

When books are banned, a pdf version almost always pops up in cyberspace. When a film is banned, most people will attempt to find a copy of the film, to see it and judge for themselves, why the film failed to receive government approval.

The documentary “To Singapore, With Love” gives us a glimpse into the lives of nine Singaporeans, some of whom left the island in the early 1960s. One has since died, but many have not returned, simply because they would be refused entry to Singapore or like one political pundit said, “They can return…and be escorted straight to prison.”

The book “Escape from the Lion’s Paw”, sparked filmmaker Tan’s quest to find out more about the Singaporean dissidents, and to film their lives in exile.

The statement released by the Singapore Media Development Authority (MDA) said that the film was judged to “undermine national security because legitimate actions of the security agencies to protect the national security and stability of Singapore are presented in a distorted way as acts that victimised innocent individuals”.

Although some of the older exiles in the film had joined the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) in the 1950s and 1960s, the Singapore government appears to have overlooked the 1989 Hatyai Peace Agreement, between the Malaysian government and the CPM. These former communists, who are in their 70s and 80s, are living in Thailand and are not living rough in the jungles of the peninsula, attempting to overthrow any government.
So, it is highly likely that the ban is targeted at the second group of individuals, the former student activists who went into exile in the late 1970s. This is the group which the government of Singapore really fears.

These former student activists, who were rounded up in the mid-1970s, were highlighting humanitarian and social issues, workers’ rights and the government’s neglect of certain communities. These student activists escaped being incarcerated, under Singapore’s draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) by lying low, then escaping into exile. They were later stripped of their citizenship.

The failure to capture these activists has embarrassed the Singapore government. Forty years later, the government is still sore with them. That is why the men and women have been branded “communists” or “communist sympathisers”.

These former student activists have remained vocal, with their bold criticisms of the Singapore government. The authorities are afraid that their actions will embolden ordinary Singaporeans and students to stand up for their rights and demand their various freedoms. The authorities are afraid of criticism and an open culture of free speech. These former activists have neither reformed, nor mellowed with age. These voices from the past may be the catalyst for change.

Singaporeans are just as repressed as their Malaysian counterparts. Although both countries share a common history, and perhaps, a common destiny, it may be easier to restore a true democracy in Singapore, as Malaysia is hampered by the emotional baggage comprising race, religion and royalty.

Next week, “To Singapore, With Love”, is scheduled to be screened in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, during the Freedom Film Festival, and should attract scores of Singaporeans.
Perhaps, the Singaporean government will kick up a fuss, and Najib Tun Razak, who is also flexing his autocratic muscles, by clamping down on dissenters, with his sedition dragnet, will tell his Singaporean counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong, “You help me, I help you” and forbid the screening in Johor Bahru, under some national security pretext.

Despite its development, its stature in the financial world, its first class education system and its success as an international port, deep down, the people who run the Singapore government are as insecure as the man in a sampan, who can see a storm approaching on the horizon.

Sedition in Malaysia

Perkasa, a Malay supremacist party and ardent supporter of UMNO, supports the Sedition Act. No surprise, just as no surprise that Suaram is on the other end of the court. The National Harmony Act is supposed to be more precise in dealing with race and religious hate crime, and would replace the Sedition Act. The joke on the Sedition Act or its successor is that if there is any party that should be slapped with the Sedition Act, it should be Perkasa. Right wing politics is getting popular again even in Western democracies in Europe, so Perkasa’s rise is not an anomaly given UMNO’s reaction on Chinese voters’ supposed betrayal after the last Malaysian elections.  Malaysia successfully tried this old wine in new bottle move before when it repealed the Internal Security Act as a populist measure, and replaced it with the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012. Najib will repeat the trick. That is actually the best balance if the National Harmony Act is not all encompassing to indiscriminately net regime critics in multi-ethnic Malaysia.

Malaysia’s Sedition Debate
As the government continues to wield the colonial-era legislation, opposition is mounting.

It came as a surprise when Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced in 2012 that he was intending to repeal the Sedition Act, a piece of legislation left over from British colonial rule. People were hopeful, thinking that the abolition of such draconian laws could bring more civil liberties for Malaysians.

Fast-forward two years and hope now seems to be in short supply. Although Najib has again reiterated his intention to repeal the law, the Sedition Act is far from gone. The government has said that it aims to present the National Harmony Act Bill – a piece of replacement legislation to counter religious or racial hatred – to Parliament in 2015.

In the meantime, people are still being charged and investigated for sedition. Four opposition politicians and a law lecturer have been taken to court under the Sedition Act in the past month alone. A student was investigated under the Act for allegedly having “liked” an “I Love Israel” Facebook page, a Malaysiakini journalist was arrested for her interview with an executive councillor in Penang and a former student activist jailed for 10 months for a speech he had given.

A law introduced by the British colonial powers in 1948 to combat Communists, the Sedition Act outlaws any action that would “excite disaffection” against any ruler, government or the administration of justice in Malaysia. The maximum penalty for breaching this law is three years’ imprisonment, a RM5,000 (approx. USD1,573) fine, or both.

N Surendran, vice-president of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and one of the lawyers for the beleaguered opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, was charged with sedition on August 18 for his criticism of a court judgment relating to Anwar’s case. He later faced another sedition charge for saying that the sodomy charges against Anwar were politically motivated.

“It’s a sedition blitz. This is clearly an attempt to stifle dissent,” he told AFP.

“The reason why the Sedition Act is still in place is because it is so easy to use against dissidents,” said Syahredzan Johan, the chair of the National Young Lawyers Committee within the Malaysian Bar Council. “The Act is drafted very wide, so any form of dissent can be drafted in. It has a low threshold: there’s no need to prove intention or that anyone was incited. All you need is to prove that those things were published or uttered and you’ve got your conviction.”

Others also believe that there is an element of opposition within UMNO – part of the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition – itself towards Najib’s attempt at being a “reformer.”

“The Najib government is using the easiest tool remaining, now that the [Internal Security Act] has been changed,” Bridget Welsh, Senior Research Associate at the Center for East Asia Democratic Studies of National Taiwan University, wrote in an email to The Diplomat. “It also is part of an effort to taint the opposition as ‘betraying’ the country and potentially removing key leaders from positions. It reflects jockeying for positions and prestige within UMNO.”

Human rights advocates are also concerned about the Act’s impact on freedom of expression in Malaysia. “With so many people under the investigation, arrest and charges of the Sedition Act, and the conviction of student activist Safwan Anang, the Sedition Act is going to have a very serious a chilling effects on freedom of expression of the ordinary Malaysians,” wrote human rights organization SUARAM in response to questions from The Diplomat.

With citizens deterred from criticizing the government or state officials, critics worry that politicians and high-ranking officials would no longer be held to account by the people they serve, and allowed to behave with more and more impunity.

The Malaysian Bar Council will not be sitting idle. On September 4 the National Young Lawyers Committee (NYLC) launched #MansuhAktaHasutan (#AbolishSeditionAct in English), a year-long campaign to gather grassroots support across Malaysia for the repeal of the Sedition Act.

Although the backlash against the Sedition Act has already gained some momentum, Syahredzan says it’s still necessary to take a year to reach out to more people and conduct public education campaigns on the Sedition Act.

“For us to demand repeal now… I don’t think any significant change is going to happen. You need political will, and political will will only come when the government thinks there is a significant number of Malaysians who don’t want the Act,” he said.

To get this significant number, #MansuhAktaHasutan campaigners are prioritizing a push to gain broad-based support across the country. Political campaigns in Malaysia have often been criticized as being too heavily based in the capital of Kuala Lumpur, neglecting more rural areas where political education may be lacking and public opinion very different from that in the urban center. Such KL-centric campaigns, Syahredzan says, allow the government to claim that activists are not reflecting the wider public sentiment, and to dismiss protests.

The NYLC will not be the only ones looking at public education. More than a hundred NGOs, including SUARAM, have come together to launch the Abolish Sedition Act Movement. They plan to launch a nationwide roadshow – accompanied with a parallel social media campaign – that will raise awareness about the Sedition Act and the need for repeal.

“What is important is that we need to gain that critical mass of people who are going to say that they don’t want to support the Sedition Act any longer. This is crucial,” Syahredzan said. “After one year we can tell the government that we’ve gone and done this campaign, we’ve gathered the support and we can show them with the signatures we’ve collected.”

He continues to say that the NYLC will not shy away from collaborations with political parties. “I’m quite certain that we cannot effectively have this campaign without cooperating with political parties. The Malaysian Bar has a limited reach outside of the urban centers. We are open to working with anyone! Even if there is a person in Barisan Nasional who is against the Sedition Act and wants to work with us, we are open and willing to work with them.”

While SUARAM does not believe that any other piece of legislation would be necessary to replace the Sedition Act, Syahredzan had actually been involved in drafting one of the three replacement bills as part of the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC).

“That bill put the threshold of criminalizing free speech at a much higher threshold. You need to prove that there is an intention to actually incite racial hatred. There must be an element of harm, or actual incitement to physical harm, injuries to persons or damage to property. The replacement bill doesn’t criminalize any criticism of the government or court judgments and so on and so forth,” he said.

The three bills were met with harsh criticism. Detractors said that the bills were against Islam, and would undermine the position of Malay Muslims in the country. Others slammed the NUCC for not carrying out more public engagement. Still others had problems with a clause that prohibited discrimination based on gender.

In fact, there are some groups who don’t want to see the Sedition Act to go at all. The National Unity Front – a group formed by Malay rights group Perkasa and 54 other Malay organizations – have launched a pro-Sedition Act campaign in response to #MansuhAktaHasutan.

Syahredzan is unsure of what will become of the bills. “The government shelved the bills. They said it would only be presented to Parliament sometime next year. I don’t know if these bills will see the light of day.”

That may yet change if activists from #MansuhAktaHasutan and the Abolish Sedition Act Movement are successful in their push to mobilize grassroots support. As public education campaigns begin to roll out across the length and breadth of Malaysia, the prime minister might find it harder and harder to break his promises.

Kirsten Han is a writer, videographer and photographer. Originally from Singapore, she has worked on documentary projects around Asia and written for publications including Waging Nonviolence, Asian Correspondent and The Huffington Post.

ISIS Propaganda in Singapore

A Singapore company Albenyahya Enterprise started selling ISIS flags but stopped after they received flak. From pictures on social media on that shop, apart from the black flags that ISIS used for its jihad colours, there was one man with camo pants and camo scarf wrapped around his face like a balaclava, with black flag in the background. He also imitated the jihad camaraderie with one index finger pointing up, like a number one finger gesture, to reflect Islam’s monotheism according to some explanations. Supporters of the shop owner Syed Mohammad Faisal BenYahya described that the flags are innocuous. Yes the Islamic declaration of monotheism is innocuous. However, seen in context, one such black flag is used by ISIS despite prevarications by apologists. With the black flag and its connotations of total war, ISIS propaganda has gain some ground here among the ignorant at best or belligerent at worst, little doubt about that.

Firm selling Islamic State-like flags denies terrorist links

SINGAPORE — The owner of a company here that had sold flags resembling those of the Islamic State (IS) yesterday denied having any links to the militant group and has filed a police report against those accusing the firm of having an extremist bent.

Albenyahya Enterprise — which is registered in Singapore and Malaysia and aims to cater to the needs of the Muslim community in the region — had sold the flags online.

A post on the company’s Instagram three weeks ago indicated that the flags were then in stock and were sold for S$17 each.

Its owner, Mr Syed Mohammad Faisal BenYahya, told TODAY that the police report was filed on Tuesday, but declined to comment on the sale of the flags.

“We are currently not selling the flags anymore, it was just a one-off thing due to customer requests,” he said in a phone interview yesterday.

Responding to TODAY’s queries, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) cited an article by two scholars, Mr Mustazah Bahari and Mr Muhammad Haniff Hassan, which stated that the use of black flags by radical groups, including IS militants, “is simply an act of manipulation of popular myths and folklores among Muslims to support their political agenda”.

In its statement, MUIS reiterated that the IS’ actions have tarnished the Islamic faith and image of Muslims in general, adding: “We have communicated this through our Friday sermons previously.”

In an earlier post on the Albenyahya Enterprise’s Facebook page — before the page was taken down around 2pm yesterday — Mr Faisal had called the allegations of extremist links “baseless accusations” and sought customers’ understanding on the matter.

His post said: “It has come to my attention that an unfortunate post on a website has accused and/or linked my business (and by extension, myself) as ‘supporters’ of terrorism.

“Upon legal advice, to protect my name, my family and my business, I have made a police report with regards to this incident.”

A Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) spokesperson yesterday confirmed that a police report “related to the purported sale of IS flags in Singapore” had been made and reminded Singaporeans to play a part in preventing their family and friends from becoming radicalised and unknowingly drawn into the violence.

“The IS has enlisted foreign fighters, including those from our region, to fight alongside the group and this has raised the threat of terrorism to Singapore. The authorities are monitoring the situation closely,” the spokesperson said.

In July, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean told Parliament that a handful of Singapore citizens, including two families, had gone to participate in the Syrian conflict.

Mr Teo also said that several others, who had intended to travel to Syria or other conflict zones to engage in jihadist violence, were detained under the Internal Security Act and there were also those who were under investigation for expressing interest in joining the fight.

Sedition Act in Malaysia

The Sedition Act is a colonial leftover. Singapore has it, so does Malaysia. Malaysia has, according to accusations, used the Act on the opposition. Some have called the Act the new ISA, heralding Ops Lallang 2. Malaysia’s human rights watch dog Suhakam reminded the government to keep to its word to repeal the 1948 Act as promised. Najib probably would to claw back support later like when it repealed the ISA. But not now, certainly not before regime critics like the UM law lecturer are dealt with first.

 

DARK DAYS AHEAD FOR M’SIA: Return to hardline rule signals Najib’s political desperation
Written by Charles Santiago

So now, legal experts can’t have a legal opinion. Now that I have written it in one sentence, it looks really weird. More so as a law lecturer, Dr Azmi Sharom, is charged for sedition for providing his legal opinion.

In a newspaper interview, Azmi drew parallels between the Perak constitutional crisis and the current mess in Selangor.

He said the former Perak Sultan had gone against his own constitutional ruling by accepting the petition outside the House, a move which saw the fall of a democratically elected Pakatan Rakyat government.

In his own words, Azmi said the ruler took part in a secret meeting. This is a conjecture which should be allowed in a democracy and academic inquiry.

But let’s look at the wider picture- last month a slew of Opposition politicians were nabbed under sedition either for upsetting the royalty or calling a spade a spade!

Clearly these arrests signal a crackdown on dissenting views. It’s a high-handed attempt to muzzle critical, alternative thinking.

Dark days loom for Malaysia

Prime Minister Najib Razak pledged to scrap the Sedition Act as a part of his political reform to allow for greater freedom of expression in the country.

But going back on his words, Najib is now using the decades-old colonial Act to gag critics, stifle criticisms against the government, keep a lid on political dissent and rob people of their inherent rights, just to cling on to power.

Najib’s administration has played along with this selective outrage at the Opposition politicians and Azmi while those close to the ruling government are yet to face the music for damning remarks, which will further erode the social fabric of the society.

This extraordinary double standard caricatures the lack of tolerance for legitimate questions about the ruling government and Najib’s ruthless style of governance.

The continued use of the Sedition Act will only serve to further weaken and dismantle the foundations of human rights in Malaysia.

All is not lost. Najib and his government can embark on a reputation cleansing exercise by dropping all sedition charges and instead engaging with Opposition politicians, academics and human rights workers in open discussions.

Malaysia’s Independence Day was marred by these arrests that were violations of fundamental democratic principles.

Let’s at least try and make Malaysia Day, which falls on September 16, a catalyst for change.

Charles Santiago is Member of Parliament, Klang

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