A Protest Misfired
Yesterday, Seelan Palay and Chong Kai Xiong were arrested for protesting outside the Ministry of Manpower. It was the usual scene acted out, but this time instead of SDP Chee Soon Juan and SDP members being those arrested, it was his friends and familiar faces to the civil disobedience game show.
The storyline is getting stale actually. Whenever SDP and its affiliates make their move, the police would react by arresting them. From the Four Person CPF Protest to the Tak Boleh Tahan protest to yesterday’s MOM arrest, the police would swoop in regardless of the number of activists. Nevertheless, this MOM protest was slightly different under the surface.
The CPF and Tak Boleh Tahan protests were concerned with the plight of Singaporeans. But the MOM protest was instead a show of solidarity with the Burmese activists who are being shipped out of Singapore for their protests here against the Burmese junta in 2007. Herein lies the calculated tactical risk that might not reap the expected returns for the civil disobedience activists.
With unemployment, high cost of living, a senior civil servant showing that he is redundant by playing French chef for weeks, amongst other pressing worries brought about by the economic crisis, the two activists chose to protest the treatment of foreigners rather than their staple fare, to be a voice for Singaporeans.
Objectively, the civil disobedience faction shaped by SDP already does not seem to have a huge support base in comparison to the turn-out at Hong Lim Park whenever Tan Kin Lian takes the stand. This sort of misguided or rather badly timed support of Burmese civil disobedience activists only makes Seelan and company miss their mark even more when Singaporeans are xenophobic about foreigners from China, India, Burma or whereever who are working here and taking away jobs from heartlanders.
Two activists arrested for protesting at MOM
Tuesday January 13, 2009 Today
TWO Singaporean activists were arrested yesterday after they staged a protest :at the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) against the non-renewal of work permits of several Myanmar nationals.
In a statement, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said Mr Seelan Palay and Mr Chong Kai Xiong had entered the premises at around noon and “repeatedly defied orders” from MOM’s security personnel to leave. The duo was then arrested. Police are investigating them for criminal trespass; they have been released on bail.
The pair are no strangers to protests here. Both have taken part in protests organised by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and have had brushes with the law.
They have been arrested previously for protesting against rising consumer prices outside Parliament and also for protests linked to the 2006 International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings here.
In January last year, Mr Palay also held a fast outside the Malaysian High Commission here in support of five detained Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders, while Mr Chong has taken part in May Day and World Press Freedom Day protests.
Yesterday, the pair was protesting in support of two Myanmar nationals,Mr Moe Kyaw Thu andMr Win Kyaw, whose work permits have reportedly not been renewed.
The Myanmar pair were among a group of 40 who took part in a protest against their country’s ruling junta during the Asean Summit here in November 2007.
In response to media queries, the MHA said Myanmar nationals are welcomed to work, study or reside here. They “are also free to organise and express their political views” if pursued within Singapore’s laws.
But the MHA noted that “a handful” of Myanmar nationals here have “decided not to observe this basic obligation”, and have shown in their actions and attitude “a wilful disregard and contempt for the law and the Singapore authorities”.
“In fact, some of them who have acted in this manner, notwithstanding their having benefited from education subsidies and the hospitality of Singaporeans, even demand the right to stay in Singapore as if it is a matter of their personal entitlement,” said the MHA.
“They threaten to lobby political pressure through the media and agitate foreign public opinion against the authorities so as to compel them to concede to their demands. These persons are not welcomed in Singapore. They should leave Singapore once their existing passes expire.”
The Ministry reiterated that Singapore’s laws “apply equally to every person”. “No one is allowed to break the law with impunity regardless of how morally superior he thinks his cause is,” it added.