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In acting freely, we are becoming free

Ms Kirsten Han

“Not In My Name. Abolish The Death Penalty.”

“2nd Chances Means Not Killing Them.”

When we wore T-shirts bearing anti-death penalty slogans into police interrogation rooms, it was in recognition of the fact that we are being harassed for our anti-death penalty work, and an expression of our refusal to be cowed by such reprisals.

Neither of us expected to have those shirts seized off our backs for some ludicrous alleged “illegal procession”. Perhaps we should have. In recent times we see a growing pattern of harassment and intimidation, designed to wear down those who believe in a different and better future, and to spread fear among Singaporeans. What we experienced on Friday morning does not affect us alone; the implications ripple out of the interrogation rooms at Bedok Police Division and are felt by everyone watching.

From the overreach of legislation like POFMA and FICA, to thinly-veiled threats and vindictive statements by government functionaries, to the direct punishment of us and the communities we care deeply about: there is a growing chill in the atmosphere, a turning of the screw against people and groups who express views and positions that diverge from those in power.

On Friday, we were told that the T-shirts we wore and our walk across the street constituted an “illegal procession”, for which our shirts would have to be confiscated. On Monday, we found out via a news article that the authorities had just as suddenly decided it was not an offence after all. Such harassment is calculated to sow uncertainty in the hopes that we will be paralysed by our doubts and worries. Those in power want our time and energy spent on our fear, so that we may ultimately conclude that the safest course of action is silence and obedience.

We are now seeing a Singapore where a migrant worker is ejected from the country simply for embarrassing the government with his poetry about the discriminatory and exploitative conditions that workers face. Where the authorities use investigations into minor, non-violent events as pretexts to demand that we give up our privacy and hand over passwords to the accounts we use to work, play, and communicate. Where, when the state kills in our names, they also expect us to seek their permission before even a small number of us can gather outside the prison to express our grief and anger over such violence.

When we hear of the oppression hitting new heights of absurdity, it is easy to react in fear and despair. We do not seek to minimise the impact that such clampdowns can have. We do not pretend to be unaffected or unfazed by what we have experienced. We do not claim to be fearless or without concerns about the reprisals we face for our activism.

But instead of letting fear bind us, we can let our outrage over such oppression motivate us to not only stand our ground, but continue pushing for the changes we want to see. Instead of feeling helpless and powerless, we can recognise that such ridiculous abuses of power reveal the anxiety and insecurity of our oppressors. If they are trying to get to us like this, it can only mean we are getting to them.

As anti-death penalty activists, the work we do is marked by one cruelty after another. Even before a hanging, people on death row and their families are put through multiple indignities and difficulties. We see the despair and desperation of family members as it sinks in that no lawyer in the country is willing or able to help them, as they watch desperate attempts to save their loved one get dismissed and condemned as “abuse of process”. We bear witness to their grief, and the pain and trauma that follows them for the rest of their lives.

Despite all this, there is also great love, solidarity and power. Over the past few months, we have seen families come together to support one another. We have been buoyed by the strong turn-out at Hong Lim Park protests against the death penalty, and encouraged by the unprecedented momentum of the movement towards abolition in Singapore. We have drawn strength from everyone who has expressed care and support since Friday. Acts of oppression are aimed at breaking up communities and driving people apart; by choosing to come together instead, we are laying claim to our collective power.

We should not be required to seek permission to air our thoughts, gather with our communities, and mobilise for issues we care about. When the powerful try to take this away from us, our response should be to stand all the more firmly for our freedom.

We will continue to speak up on the issues we care about. We will continue to stand in solidarity with the communities we support, and to hold and create space for others in Singapore to step forward too. We continue to imagine a better, fairer, gentler Singapore in which people are treated with dignity and able to thrive. We hope you will join us.

 

Kirsten Han

 

* Ms Han is a journalist and activist. She blogs at https://www.kirstenhan.com/.

 

 

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READER COMMENTS BELOW

21 Responses to “In acting freely, we are becoming free”

  • China Freedom:

    Do you see the protests in China? People there have more freedom than us Sinkies. Pappy is very afraid of Sinkies.

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  • No way, over my death body!:

    Would abolishing death penalty lead to a better future?

    Without death penalty, would safety and well being of the law abiding citizens be compromised?

    Those who committed deliberate brutal murders still deserve to live the full course of life with everything provided by the law abiding citizens?

    No way, over my death body!

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  • Three Fingers Pointing Back:

    The ‘debates’ over many of the “issues” cited in the article are staged as a way to get attention and/or viewers. We’ve seen many times over what happens with a psychopathic/sociopath individual is allowed to freely spread their “alternative facts” – this does not mean censoring those with “unpopular” views – but it does mean avoiding giving wider platforms to those who rely upon demonstrably made up “facts”, lies, half truths, and appeals to racism, xenophobia, sexism is a good idea.

    Left to their own devices, people will tend to be selfish and shortsighted. If a person does not submit to the moral order of the universe — or the community — he/she may become self-destructive, a slave to his/her own passions.

    They would have us believe that even the Holocaust-denying cranks should be “listened to. After all, their feelings are important. The problem with the snowflakes is that they are unable to discern feelings and emotions from reason. I would dread to sit down with these ‘activists’ to understand their best arguments.

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  • Tar:

    If got death punishment not need wait 10 years.And can wait 10 years
    Might as well do another 10 years.

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  • xoxo:

    This is a delicate balance.
    Talking about *freedom* ,fairness.
    What about those innocent *humans* who got murdered by hard-core criminals who fear no imprisonment,even for life?
    What about the heartless drug-traffickers who push drugs ,many times in harsh ways ,onto innocent humans including young kids and force such victims into criminal acts or prostitution?
    If the DEATH PENALTY is abolished,how will we,as a PEOPLE,prevent more would-be criminals to inflict pain n sufferings onto otherwise *FREE* HUMANS???

    THIS IS NOT AN EASY OPTION,NEVER SO N WILL NOT BE.

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  • theforgottongeneration:

    Activism is good for any developing/developed country as it shows people cares for something. But it shouldn’t cross over to extreme activism, where the very minority is used to overshadow the general good. Example: 1 inmate may be executed “unfairly”, but should that overwrite a system that put 999 confirmed murderers away? Wouldn’t it be easier to review that 1 case of “unfair” execution and make further provisions, than to have 999 families feeling NO CLOSURE because the murderer of someone they loved is still smiling in prison?

    Another example: why allowed a few individuals from a high-infectious country to enter SG by assuming that if they passed thru Nepal, it is safe? Again, the self-centered need to cater to a very minority few led to the covid-Omicro wave into the 5.5m population in SG (causing how many deaths and infections?). Oh, but that one is NO BLAMING CULTURE by OYK and the ClownForce, hor?

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  • certain conviction of yours:

    //The problem with the snowflakes is that they are unable to discern feelings and emotions from reason. I would dread to sit down with these ‘activists’ to understand their best arguments.//

    aiyoh ?? they snowflakes meh ?? these ‘activists’ got to visit poo-lee stations ‘regularly’ lar ?? does one think one’s average snowflakes (weak and soft ???) could handle these ‘sudden regular’ trips to the stations and not break down meh ??

    just that they (activists or “snowflakes” ??) hold too strongly to their own conviction – just like what you may do to certain conviction of yours (with perhaps luck of the law on your side lar ???) ?? and the reason why pro-active people lobby / fight (with whatever means be it conventional or not-so-conventional approach ???) for policy / law to favor them and their own interests ??

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  • Protest is Common in China:

    China Freedom:
    Do you see the protests in China? People there have more freedom than us Sinkies. Pappy is very afraid of Sinkies.

    Frequency of protests erupting in China is much much higher than in any western country. However, not in large scale because protesters are quickly been suppressed by authority.

    People in China are unhappy over many things and you can see them coming out, holding signs and banners, shouting slogans in the streets. This is unlike Singapore where laws has been legislated to ban all these peaceful protests.

    It’s unhealthy for a society to have just a single voice. [Dr. Li Wenliang]

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  • Yellow Ribbon:

    Consider giving them a second chance. No one should be left behind.

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  • John Richards:

    I got an idea to help lessen the burden on the state. If a foreigner commits a crime which involves the death penalty and is found guilty, he should be repatriated to his country of origin. Let the authorities there exact punishment from him. Of course this means agreements must be signed between countries. He should then be barred from entering the country again.

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  • AristoCATs - Thin-skin ?:

    China Freedom:
    Do you see the protests in China? People there have more freedom than us Sinkies. Pappy is very afraid of Sinkies.

    -

    “How China stays stable despite 500 protests Every day”

    https://tinyurl.com/yzbd3mb9

    Yeah, surprise ?

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  • Soccerbetting2:

    Abolish the death penalty ???

    Response :What a joke to tell this to the greedy Lee Hsien Loong women wing controlled law government ? Like that how the law going to confiscate all the illegal drugs,all the drug money,all the hanged drug CPF after they are hanged,their jewellery,their money in their bank ,their property assets,…..to feed the greedy women wing their big fat salaries and their evil b**** women backside ?

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  • Three Fingers Pointing Back:

    certain conviction of yours:
    //The problem with the snowflakes is that they are unable to discern feelings and emotions from reason. I would dread to sit down with these ‘activists’ to understand their best arguments.//

    aiyoh ?? they snowflakes meh ?? these ‘activists’ got to visit poo-lee stations ‘regularly’ lar ?? does one think one’s average snowflakes (weak and soft ???) could handle these ‘sudden regular’ trips to the stations and not break down meh ??

    just that they (activists or “snowflakes” ??) hold too strongly to their own conviction – just like what you may do to certain conviction of yours (with perhaps luck of the law on your side lar ???) ?? and the reason why pro-active people lobby / fight (with whatever means be it conventional or not-so-conventional approach ???) for policy / law to favor them and their own interests ??

    “Snowflakes” is a misnomer. These are spoiled brats in love with the sudden power given them by the “western wolves” in sheep clothing.
    I’ve seen first hand how this type of thinking actually plays out. It’s used as a tool for hate-groups, to wield power, control the conversation and spread a distorted views of the world, one where it’s acceptable to sympathize with criminals, but not their victims.

    “Snowflakes” been exposed to and dealing with societal hatreds their whole lives since young due to a cloistered and entitled environment of their own. When become adults, insidiously try to rally those around them to embrace reactionary politics. No problem in confronting the law. Kind of reckless bravado mentality where boldness thrive in their numbers. Should not let these ideas to further spread and gain acceptance or legitimization.
    America is in utter chaos and shambles right now. Do Asians want to follow them? Must be blind.

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  • Singaporean R Free Rider:

    No way, over my death body!:
    Would abolishing death penalty lead to a better future?

    Without death penalty, would safety and well being of the law abiding citizens be compromised?

    Those who committed deliberate brutal murders still deserve to live the full course of life with everything provided by the law abiding citizens?

    No way, over my death body!

    Exactly … if you vote opposition, opposition will abolish death penalty and legalized same sex marriage poke backside LGBT.

    Vote PAP to upheld justice and morale.

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  • Singaporean R Free Rider:

    Three Fingers Pointing Back:
    The ‘debates’ over many of the “issues” cited in the article are staged as a way to get attention and/or viewers. We’ve seen many times over what happens with a psychopathic/sociopath individual is allowed to freely spread their “alternative facts” – this does not mean censoring those with “unpopular” views – but it does mean avoiding giving wider platforms to those who rely upon demonstrably made up “facts”, lies, half truths, and appeals to racism, xenophobia, sexism is a good idea.

    Left to their own devices, people will tend to be selfish and shortsighted. If a person does not submit to the moral order of the universe — or the community — he/she may become self-destructive, a slave to his/her own passions.

    They would have us believe that even the Holocaust-denying cranks should be “listened to. After all, their feelings are important. The problem with the snowflakes is that they are unable to discern feelings and emotions from reason. I would dread to sit down with these ‘activists’ to understand their best arguments.

    Well said.

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  • Singaporean R Free Rider:

    Protest is Common in China: Frequency of protests erupting in China is much much higher than in any western country. However, not in large scale because protesters are quickly been suppressed by authority.

    CCP is breaking up China…

    Just like U$A, Texas is also pushing for independence.

    The world will become a better place when both CCP China and Americunt is broken up.

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  • Temusik Patriot:

    A nation built on FEAR by the pDevil’s Advocate aptly named ConYou can never B eradicated until it is Destroyed by COURAGE to Displace a dynasty of Greed n Evil

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  • Zhenzidan:

    Singaporean R Free Rider: Exactly … if you vote opposition, opposition will abolish death penalty and legalized same sex marriage poke backside LGBT.

    Hahaha! Your dead godfather LKY has a grandson who is gay and married his boyfriend! I think you are jealous that they both don’t want to poke your backside right?

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  • Cancel the PAP:

    Let’s face it – who dare to say PAP has not handcuffed Singaporeans.

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  • Singaporean R Free Rider:

    Three Fingers Pointing Back: “Snowflakes” is a misnomer. These are spoiled brats in love with the sudden power given them by the “western wolves” in sheep clothing.

    Wolves are wolves, not only Western got wolves, Eastern got wolves too.

    There are wolves every where.

    Singapore should be very careful not to be make use of as canon fodder by wolves of any colour and region.

    Three Fingers Pointing Back:
    I’ve seen first hand how this type of thinking actually plays out. It’s used as a tool for hate-groups, to wield power, control the conversation and spread a distorted views of the world, one where it’s acceptable to sympathize with criminals, but not their victims.

    “Snowflakes” been exposed to and dealing with societal hatreds their whole lives since young due to a cloistered and entitled environment of their own. When become adults, insidiously try to rally those around them to embrace reactionary politics. No problem in confronting the law. Kind of reckless bravado mentality where boldness thrive in their numbers. Should not let these ideas to further spread and gain acceptance or legitimization.
    America is in utter chaos and shambles right now. Do Asians want to follow them? Must be blind.

    This I agreed.

    We Singaporeans must not be blind to be make used of by wolves of any colour and region.

    Don’t be like stopid Hong Kees.
    Don’t be like stopid Ukrainians.
    Don’t be like stopid KMT Chiang Kai Shek

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  • Singaporean R Free Rider:

    In acting freely, we are becoming free….
    ===============================================
    Pray tell how can we act freely ?

    Go into Cold Storage or Sheng Siong and take what we want without paying ?

    Go get your brain check…

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