Burma Petition Fever
At least 2 other petitions have emerged recently, one from the universities, and another from the Burmese community. It shows that our students are not apathetic and tuned in to global events which have an impact on Singapore’s foreign image, and that some in the Burmese community realise that distancing from SDP is politically wise.
Our government lately mentioned that petitions are legal unlike street protests. The main reason why the government says this is because petitions are just signatures and comments on paper, and do not have the visual impact of a street protest. That is why the governments prefer petitions to protests, and it is not because they encourage dissent per se. Strangely, regardless if there are 1,000,000 signatures in a petition, it is deemed a lesser problem than 10 people on the streets protesting an issue.
On a separate note, why can’t public protests be held in Singapore? If the government is so nervous about public safety and street protests, why can’t they implement indoor protests for “security” and minimum traffic disruption reasons like those introduced during the IMF meeting last year?
Friday October 5, 2007
AS THE arrests of monks and activists continue in Myanmar, over 900 people from the three local universities joined forces to support a student-led campaign for peace yesterday. Candlelight vigils were held at two campuses.
Local and foreign students and faculty members, including playwright and law academic Eleanor Wong, signed two petitions at the National University of Singapore (NUS), the Nanyang Technological University and the Singapore Management University (SMU).
One petition called for the Myanmar junta to engage key players for national peace and reconciliation. The other urged the Asean (Association of South-east Asian Nations) secretariat to keep up its pressure on the junta as well as focus on the humanitarian crisis in the impoverished country.
The two petitions will be presented to the relevant authorities next week after the signatures are collated, student organiser Choo Zheng Xi told Today.
In addition, information packages about the campaign which included red ribbons and armbands were distributed.
To applause from the 50-strong audience at an NUS forum, 22-year-old law student Leow Zi Xiang asked bluntly: “As a Singaporean, instead of asking how we can influence China and India to keep up pressure on Myanmar, why don’t we talk about how we can influence our government to end its ties with the Myanmar government?”
Myanmar’s official data reports Singapore as its second-largest investor with over $1.57 billion, mostly in the services sector.
In response, Mr Choo said that the primary focus of student activity at the moment is to express sorrow and to raise awareness about the “very real human tragedy” unfolding in Myanmar.
Now was not the time to urge the government to scrutinise its policies, the 21-year-old law student said.
Assistant Professor Michael Ewing-Chow, who presented a paper on Myanmar at the forum, argued that the junta “can still function” based on its relationships with China and India its neighbours and emerging superpowers even if Singapore were to cut its ties.
Singapore “will have an effect, but not as major an effect as China and India”, he said. But this “does not devolve Singapore from the responsibility to have some effect” an area that is worth a closer look, the academic said.
History has shown that the poor suffer most from sanctions, while engagement without strings “merely enriches the wrong-doers”. What people can do is to petition for “smart” sanctions to be imposed against the junta, targeting certain assets and individuals.
Asst Prof Ewing-Chow also stressed the need to develop institutions such as a United Nations-supported forum to rope in key players and forge a solution.
Some members in the audience from Myanmar broke down when the name of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was raised.
“We love her. We respect her. Our future is in her hands. We don’t know how long we have to wait. We must find a solution to my country,” one forum panellist from Myanmar cried. Ms Suu Kyi, whose party won the elections called in 1990 but never held power, has been under house arrest for nearly 12 of the last 18 years.
Venerable Si Fa Rong, a Buddhist monk, told Today prayer sessions for peace in Myanmar were planned for next week, following a statement by the 2,000-strong Buddhist Fellowship Singapore protesting the junta’s violent crackdown.
“We greatly admire the monks and nuns who led the peaceful protest in Myanmar. They showed courage and concern for the people of Myanmar. Had (they) not initiated the protest the world would have remained silent and oblivious to the plight of the people,” the statement said.
A spokesperson said that, after seeing the images of violence against monks and nuns in the media, “we thought it’s time that a Buddhist organisation in Singapore spoke up”.
“The majority of people in Myanmar are Buddhists, and when the monks, nuns and people are brutally dealt with and their communications shut down, it’s only appropriate that the wider Buddhist community speak up for them,” she added.
Myanmar people should reject Dr Chee’s cause
ST Forum, 4 October 2007
I AM a Singapore citizen born in Myanmar. I am deeply saddened by the outbreak of violence in Myanmar which had led to the death of innocent people.
I assure Singaporeans that although the Myanmar people working and living in Singapore are affected by the situation back home, they would not do anything which could result in a law-and-order problem here. Hence, I am upset that Dr Chee Soon Juan, an opposition politician of the Singapore Democratic Party, exploited the situation in Myanmar by collecting signatures for a petition from innocent people who did not know that the petition was also directed at the Singapore Government.
Dr Chee’s action is unlawful and the Myanmar people in Singapore should not support his cause as the Prime Minister of Singapore had been doing his share in helping to resolve the problem in Myanmar.
I strongly urge the Myanmar people to use legal means to express concern for their countrymen by signing the petition book at Dandaryi, on the fourth level of Peninsula Plaza.
M. M. Aung