Over the last few days, Singapore witnessed the most exciting elections that has taken place in the country since 1959, the year that the PAP swept to power : The AWARE AGM2009 and the upcoming EGM. To quote the pastor of COOS, you have to be in a coma to not notice what has been going on.
In the briefest summary, Dr Thio Su Mien led a group of women, many of whom attend the church COOS on a crusade to take over the leadership, direction and management of AWARE. She claims the reason for the take over is AWARE’s liberal stance on homosexuality. She claims that AWARE teaches young girls about sex, and encourages them to be lesbians.
In the past weeks, we have witnessed Josie Lau – the appointed president, and her New Exco team FIRE Braema Mathi (Chair of Cedaw) and Schutz Lee (Manager of AWARE), push Claire Nazir ( the elected president ) , Constance Singham (immediate past president) and executive Joanna D’Cruz to resignation , made Caris Lim (Old Guard Exco member) walk out in tears and kept Chew I-Jin(Old Guard Exco member) out of the press conference. Subcomm heads are replaced. The staff has reported difficulties working with the New Exco — who go to the office every single day, to demand all the documents, which they scrutinize down to the last detail. They’ve also changed the locks to AWARE, where a lot of confidential client and research information is kept.
Many people have asked the question : If you disagreed with AWARE’s philosophy, why couldn’t you just set up another organization promoting your own philosophy? The only reason why you’ll take over an organization would be to silence it and stop the work it was doing. Many people believe this work they want to stop and silence is AWARE’s promotion of an inclusive and non-discriminatory society.
However, I am very puzzled. And this is why:
Mar 28 : AGM 09.
Apr 10 : ST reporter Wong Kim Hoh breaks the news, with a highly speculative piece, about the take over. I am shocked, and refuse to believe it. I say so in my Apr 11 blog post.
Apr 15: Josie Lau is appointed president.
Apr 16: Braema is terminated, with effect from the 28 Mar, the AGM.
“Kindly note that your term of office as chairman of the CEDAW
Committee has ceased at the date of the AGM on the 28 March 2009.
Kindly submit all the work in progess by Friday 17 April 2009 without fail.”
Up until then, the CSE team has not heard a word from the New Exco. I am a CSE trainer. Nobody else hears a word from the New Exco either, where CSE is concerned. There are whispers of the New Exco looking into the CSE material, but nothing OFFICIAL is said, unlike what they did with Cedaw. Because of the speculation that is going around online and offline about the fundamentalist stance of the New Exco, and their ties to the COOS church, the CSE team prepares a defense nevertheless. However, they continue to remain silent on CSE, until Apr 24.
Apr 24: They change the AWARE locks, they confess to the plot, Dr Thio Su Mien turns up.
CSE and Homosexuality is cited as the primary reason for their crusade.
It puzzles me that Dr Thio chose to interpret our CSE as promoting lesbianism — since her New Exco had been scrutinizing our material, surely she can’t be that stupid! She’s a lawyer!
It puzzles me that no one has even confronted CSE for nearly one month, not a single official word was mentioned , nor were we given warning.
And then CSE became THE reason at the Apr 24 press conference.
If it was just an ideological difference, why couldn’t they say earlier?
If it was an ideological difference, why did they have to scrutinize so many documents?
CSE was no secret — the material is freely available to the New Exco, and it has contents that only needs 3 hours to cover in a secondary school class! There were no fine prints – all the philosophy was written on my blog even!
And if it was just about replacing ideology, why the need to lie, and lie so badly too? (http://www.sgpolitics.net/?p=2784)
Even more puzzling, if it was CSE and the anti-homosexuality-discrimination they were trying to silence, why did they have to fire Braema, and demand all the Cedaw material immediately?
Why was it CEDAW that was under so much fire from the New Exco?
Why did they want to silence CEDAW as well?
What exactly was CEDAW?
“The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is a United Nations convention which seeks to end gender discrimination… In signing onto CEDAW, governments commit to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women. Every four years, signatories are required to send a report to the UN CEDAW Committee describing the measures they have taken to comply with the convention. …In order to get a comprehensive picture of the status of women in each country, the United Nations requests that local NGOs like AWARE submit CEDAW Shadow Reports, offering additional insight into the lives of women. In May 2007 AWARE submitted its second Shadow Report. It received excellent reviews from the United Nations CEDAW committee in New York.”
Braema was fired as the Chair of Cedaw – the AWARE Committee preparing and submitting this report.
AWARE’s last Shadow Reported submitted to the UN , 2007
Singapore’s State CEDAW reports to the UN, 2004 and 2007: http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/refworld/rwmain?page=publisher&publisher=CEDAW&skip=0&querysi=singapore&searchin=title&display=10&sort=date )
If you flip through the 2007 Shadow Report Aware submitted to the UN, you will realise that we touch on 2 potentially contentious areas.
In 10.6 – Sexuality Education, which mentions briefly ( 5 lines out of 143 pages) that homosexuality is criminal here.
And then there is this:
ARTICLE 6 TRAFFICKING AND EXPLOITATION OF PROSTITUTION OF WOMEN
In Singapore, groups like TWC2, HOME are claiming that under the definitions of some countries, but not Singapore’s, trafficking is a significant problem here. TOC has done some very good reports over the last year also, on the situation with transient construction workers. Construction is a huge industry in Singapore, and so plays an important economic role. Any changes is the labour laws are likely to affect many construction firms and projects here. However, the Cedaw report did not touch on construction —- it focused mainly on the women, in prostitution and domestic work.
I ran a google search with the terms “human trafficking Singapore”
Here’s only a small portion of what I found, and I picked only those dated after the 2007 Cedaw reports — ie the 2008 and 09 stuff.
ANNUAL TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS REPORT 2008
(Improvement of Singapore’s “Tier 2″ placement)
Singapore rejects US assessment of its record on human trafficking
Posted: 22 July 2008
CSE and pornography (Commercial Sexual Exploitation – CSE) continue to be major
demand-side factors across the region, burgeoning (often unfettered) commercial sexual
exploitation in destination countries providing ample incentive to traffickers to meet
Singapore is a destination country for young women for sexual exploitation from
Malaysia, China, Thailand, South Asia, and the Philippines. It is also likely a ‘circuit’
country for young women trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation from Central
Asia and Russia
US Department of state
You are in:
Singapore is a destination country for human trafficking. http://www.humantrafficking.org/countries/singapore
S’porean woman accused of human trafficking http://news.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/Singapore/Story/A1Story20081219-109136.html
Sun, Dec 21, 2008 The New Paper
Emerging hotspots in human trafficking
Joe Fernandez | Apr 15, 09 3:21pm “The problem is that countries like Singapore have legalised prostitution. They do not see that anyone can be forced into prostitution. So, they are claiming there is no trafficking of sex slaves. Of course, we are challenging that claim,” Tenaganita director Irene Fernandez told the meet.
Human Rights Issues > Human Trafficking
Directory > Society and Culture > Issues and Causes > Human Rights > Modern Slavery > Human Trafficking
Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery
Republic of Singapore
NGO: Sabah among 3 human trafficking hotspots
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Pinay hooker in Singapore: Sex machine, punching bag
by Mar Empaynado from People’s Tonight Jul 28, 2008 at 06:05 PM
Women trafficked to Singapore lured into prostitution
Sep 1, 2008 SINGAPORE (AFP)
The Brothel in Singapore: Karin’s True Story of Slavery
by Amanda Kloer Published April 01, 2009 @ 04:08PM PST
India asks Singapore to curb trafficking racket
Oct 10, 2008
Trafficking of Filipinas in Singapore ‘unabated’–embassy :US to help curb transnational crime
By Veronica Uy INQUIRER.net First Posted 14:22:00 04/28/2008
Trafficking of Filipinas in Singapore at all-time high: report
Singapore – Human trafficking of Filipinas in Singapore has increased alarmingly to an all-time high to 212 cases in 2007, an annual report from the Philippine Embassy in Singapore said on Monday.
Human trafficking: The numbers don’t add up
Philippine Embassy says it’s on the rise here, but police reports show otherwise
TODAY Tuesday • February 5, 2008
Malaysia vows action on Myanmar human trafficking
By JULIA ZAPPEI,Associated Press Writer AP – Saturday, April 25
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Malaysia’s prime minister on Friday vowed to investigate a scathing report by U.S. lawmakers saying thousands of Myanmar refugees were handed over to human traffickers and ended up working in Thai brothels