Monday, November 21, 2005

Australia's unceasing drug flow

Australia's unceasing drug flow
Trick is to stop its citizens bringing drugs into our region and then protesting about tough punishment when they're caught. By Seah Chiang Nee.
Nov 20, 2005

Unless the trend is reversed, Canberra could one day become a major supplier of drug traffickers for Southeast Asia that even its mandatory death sentence could not stop.

In the same way that Pakistan or Saudi Arabia are considered to be a source to produce Islamic militants to the world.

And heavens forbid if that should happen, Australian leaders would then have a busy time running around persuading the region's governments to go easy on criminals.

More important is the potential friction between Canberra, which bars capital punishment and countries like Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand etc, which have tough lasw against drugs, including mandatory death for trafficking.

Two facts make it a potentially explosive issue if the two sides were to handle it wrongly.

1. Many Australians have little faith in the courts and the administration of justice in Southeast Asia, and

2. They passionately believe that Australians should not be 'humiliated" or punished by developing countries who may be corrupt or inefficient. There is a widespread denial mood, arguing the accused are somehow the victims of circumstances.

Besides, the Canberra government and the people do not regard drug taking or trafficking as seriously as the their counterparts in Southeast Asia.

Explaining Australia's concerns, one Australian wrote:

"A factor contributing to concern about the death penalty in ASEAN is the failure of ASEAN governments to release information about judicial executions carried out in their countries. In several of the countries executions have been carried out in secret. The lack of official statistics means that the true number of executions remains unknown. There is also very little public information about prisoners currently on death row in the majority of the countries."

Ultimately, the problem lies in the rising number of Australians who deal in drugs or use them in the region. They are available and cheap. Some resort to traffic them in Australia or Europe.

One of them, naturalised Australian Nguyen Tuong Van, was caught in Singapore, admitted to the crime and was sentenced to be hanged on Dec 2.

Earlier a group known as the 'Bali Nine' was charged (with three facing death sentence) in Indonesia while two other Australian drug traffickers are on death row in Vietnam.

Other recent cases:

* A Bali court found Australian model Michelle Leslie guilty of using ecstasy and sentenced her to three months jail, a period of custody she has already served.

* Another Australian lady Schapelle Corby is serving a 20-year jail term for drug smuggling.

* Australian mine worker, John Michael Kelly, 45, arrested in East Kalimantan in September for allegedly using methamphetamine could spend the next five years in jail.

* Australian nurse has been arrested after allegedly trying to carry 3.2kg of heroin across the Swiss-Italian border.

* Former school teacher Graham Clifford Payne, 20, Adelaide, was arrested in Medan in August with a pouch full of methaphetamines and could be jailed for 20 years.

* A Sydney man, 30 arrived in Italy from Venezuela reported with 10 km of high-quality cocaine hidden in false bottoms of his luggage. He was arrested while preparing to board a flight to Turkey and faces 20 years in prison

At the moment 11 Australians are languishing in Bali jails on drug charges, yet as an Australian blogger says they are still doing it. He adds:-

"Any Australian who gets arrested in another country on drug related charges now, after the goings on in Indonesia in the past year, would have to be pretty damned stupid, and totally blind to the world happening around them, more specifically, the perils of being a drug-trafficker or user. It's ridiculous for anybody to think that Australian travellers aren't being scrutinised or singled-out by Customs in other countries.."

In a letter to Jakarta Post, Indonesian Y.Saputra said he hoped "the Australian government should do more to prevent its citizens from trafficking drugs to Indonesia".

Other, he added, Australians would continue to remain in jail or face the death sentence.

It will be better for the Aussies to control their drug problems than to keeping quarrelling with their neighbours whenever their drug-traffickers or users are caught.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Singapore's New Generation

New generation
So tech-savvy and smart, yet so apathetic and dependent, an obstacle to building the future. By Seah Chiang Nee.
Nov 14, 2005

THE Singapore teenager can send messages via SMS with lightning speed, solve a Math problem faster than kids in most other countries - but is helpless without his maid.

He (or she) is well educated, computer and gadget savvy, travels more widely than his peers in other countries, but is naive about Internet predators or corruption or real poverty.

This MTV generation is also self-centred, materialistic, and probably knows the price of everything but the value of none, having grown up in an era of stability.

That means he will probably think nothing about spending S$4 on a latte, while his father, who supports him, spends only 70 cents on his teh tarik at the corner coffee shop.

The Singapore kid may know the name of the latest Japanese pop star but not his own Member of Parliament.

These instant-noodle children will likely change their mobile phone every two years or celebrate their high school graduation ceremony in a five-star hotel.

If the teenager here can be put in a stereotype box, these few paragraphs could best help do it.

In these youths, grandchildren of Singapore's baby-boomers, lie the country's future.

In the eyes of respected former civil servant Ngiam Tong Dow, the new generation has another flaw. "Many lack 'cultural DNA' due to educational neglect to teach history and literature," he said.

As a result, they're becoming too Westernised. "Without a sense of history, we will become a people lost in limbo."

Youths here are frequently placed under the social microscope in numerous studies to see what is wrong and how they can be improved.

Every society worries about whether its youths have the capabilities to build a better future. In the case of Singapore with no natural resources, the dependency on its youths is even greater.

The leaders and older citizens often fret that they may not have what it takes to achieve it.

After 40 years of independence, Singapore has raised youngsters who have powerful strengths and fundamental weaknesses.

In a New World in which countries compete on ideas as much as skills, Singaporean youths have a major shortcoming.

Some 40,000 youths were emerging annually from a school system that - until very recently - was based on grades, hard work and rote learning, rather than initiative and inventiveness.

The result is a workforce good in data knowledge but not very suitable for an economy that competes on entrepreneurship and ideas.

For years youths have shared a single objective: To acquire a degree that offers them the best job prospect, preferably a high-paying one in the government.

Singapore's brand of pragmatism doesn't always serve its people well. No want wants to venture out into the risky world of business when they can nestle securely in a secure job.

That puts them behind rivals like Hong Kong and Taiwan where becoming their own bosses is an ambition of many youths.

During the industrial era, Singapore prospered by producing obedient students and obedient workers.

Today, in the skills services that Singapore wants to develop, these qualities are far less crucial.

But the institutions are still producing risk-averse youths who shun taking the initiative.

Chief operating officers of foreign companies often complain that Singaporeans may have good grades but lack in enterprise and ideas. "They need hand-holding" is a frequent complaint, many content to wait for instructions rather than "make things happen".

A decade ago, the education system was intensively restructured from primary school to university in a rush to produce a new thinking and diverse workforce.

The schools have begun offering non-academic courses that range from music to the performing arts, from languages to sports. Many of them grade students for practical projects.

The polytechnics have also increased new studies to meet the changing economy, the latest being casino operations.

One weakness is harder to correct. Despite national service, the new generation is politically apathetic and has little interest in current affairs.

Critics attribute it to a top-down environment under an authoritarian government that controls many aspects of life. It's tough to get people to speak up or become creative.

A trait that doesn't augur well for a stronger future, youths today still prefer to leave things to the authorities for fear of invoking punishment if they make a mistake.

Singapore's youths are indeed self-centred, materialistic and risk-averse. But they are the products of the ruling party's social engineering process.

For many years, Singaporeans have been indoctrinated with the idea that good life is the copious consumption of goods and services and that education is the means to good life. This narrow-minded view of education has caused Singaporeans to learn almost nothing in school except to pass exams.

Our education system has also never encouraged creative and independent thinking. It produces only obedient and subsmissive subjects of state, like worker ants. Though non-thinking, worker ants are desirable to the ruling party because they are efficient and would never think of subverting the control of the state.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Rosa Parks, 92, Founding Symbol of Civil Rights Movement, Dies
New York Times
October 25, 2005

Rosa Parks, a black seamstress whose refusal to relinquish her seat to a white man on the city bus in Montgomery, Ala, almost 50 years ago grew into a mythic event that helped touch off the civil rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's, died yesterday at her home in Detroit. She was 92 years old.

Her death was confirmed by Dennis W. Archer, the former mayor of Detroit.

For her act of defiance, Mrs Parks was arrested, convicted of violating the segregation laws and fined $10, plus $4 in court fees. In response, blacks in Montgomery boycotted the buses for nearly 13 months while mounting a successful Supreme Court challenge to the Jim Crow law that enforced their second-class status on the public bus system.

The events that began on that bus in the winter of 1955 captivated the nation and transformed a 26-year-old preacher named Martin Luther King Jr into a major civil rights leader. It was Dr King, the new pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, who was drafted to head the Montgomery Improvement Association, the organization formed to direct the nascent civil rights struggle.

"Mrs Parks' arrest was the precipitating factor rather than the cause of the protest." Dr King wrote in his 1958 book, "Stride Towards Freedom. "The cause lay deep in the record of similar injustices."

Her act of civil disobedience, what seems a simple gesture of defiance so many years later, was in fact a dangerous, even reckless move in the 1950's Alabama. In refusing to move, she risked legal sanction and perhaps even physical harm, but she also set into motion somthing far beyond the control of the city authorities. Mrs Parks clarified for people far beyond Montgomery the cruelty and humiliation inherent in the laws and customs of segregation.

That moment in the Cleveland Avenue bus also turned a very private woman into a reluctant symbol and torchbearer in the quest for racial equality and of a movement that became increasingly organized and sophisticated in making demands and getting results.


On Montgomery buses, the first four rows were reserved for whites. The rear was for blacks, who made up more than 75 percent of the bus system's riders. Blacks could sit in the middle rows until those seats were needed by whites. Then the blacks had to move to seats in the rear, stand or, if there was no room, leave the bus. Even getting on the bus presented hurdles: If whites were already sitting in the front, blacks could board to pay the fare but then they had to disembark and re-enter through the rear door.

For years blacks had complained, and Mrs. Parks was no exception. "My resisting being mistreated on the bus did not begin with that particular arrest," she said. "I did a lot of walking in Montgomery."

After a confrontation in 1943, a driver named James Blake ejected Mrs. Parks from his bus. As fate would have it, he was driving the Cleveland Avenue bus on Dec. 1, 1955. He demanded that four blacks give up their seats in the middle section so a lone white man could sit. Three of them complied.

Recalling the incident for "Eyes on the Prize," a 1987 public television series on the civil rights movement, Mrs. Parks said: "When he saw me still sitting, he asked if I was going to stand up and I said, 'No, I'm not.' And he said, 'Well, if you don't stand up, I'm going to have to call the police and have you arrested.' I said, 'You may do that.' "

Her arrest was the answer to prayers for the Women's Political Council, which was set up in 1946 in response to the mistreatment of black bus riders, and for E. D. Nixon, a leading advocate of equality for blacks in Montgomery.


While Mr. Nixon met with lawyers and preachers to plan an assault on the Jim Crow laws, the women's council distributed 35,000 copies of a handbill that urged blacks to boycott the buses on Monday, Dec. 5, the day of Mrs. Parks's trial.

"Don't ride the buses to work, to town, to school, or anywhere on Monday," the leaflet said.


The boycott lasted 381 days, and in that period many blacks were harassed and arrested on flimsy excuses. Churches and houses, including those of Dr. King and Mr. Nixon, were dynamited.

Finally, on Nov. 13, 1956, in Browder v. Gayle, the Supreme Court outlawed segregation on buses. The court order arrived in Montgomery on Dec. 20; the boycott ended the next day. But the violence escalated: snipers fired into buses as well as Dr. King's home, and bombs were tossed into churches and into the homes of ministers.

I was wondering how come there wasn't any mention of Mrs Parks' death in the many blogs or political parties which clamour for civil rights. Though Mrs Parks was protesting against the cruel laws and customs of segregation, it was nonetheless a quest for civil rights for freedom, equality and dignity.

Mrs Parks was a courageous lady who refused to be treated as anything less than a full human being. She also carried out her act of civil disobedience all by herself and even persevered in the face of threat of being arrested.

As one of the very few people whose actions or conduct changed the face of a nation, Mrs Parks deserves to be remembered by us, esp those championing for civil rights.