SDP’s New Members

Besides Danny the Pedobear as its latest hilarious member mascot, SDP rolled out two other fellows. Dr Vincent Wijeysingha looks like SDP’s best catch so far and he is the only one to watch.

The other new member is James Gomez and he is not new to controversy. He was the former Workers’ Party member who flew in just before the elections and then flew out again soon after the 2006 elections. So much for a stake in Singapore and grassroot involvement. Certainly, everyone can remember the hoohah he created over his accusation that the Elections Department misplaced his candidature forms deliberately. It turned out that he did not hand them in at all and tried to make his mistake into an election issue favourable to him.

I am glad James Gomez parted ways with Workers’ Party as the SDP is more suited for politicians like him. James Gomez membership with WP was allowed to expire and that could be a possible face-saving way of letting James go without hurting the entire opposition camp by giving the image of dissent within the ranks.

Notwithstanding Dr Wijeysingha as an asset to the SDP since the opposition seldom attracts academics, what will James Gomez do this time to further cripple SDP’s image and already low chance of getting a seat in parliament, is something for us to watch.

Opposition SDP unveils two new members
By Shaffiq Alkhatib | Posted: 14 November 2010 0007 hrs

SINGAPORE: The opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) unveiled two new ordinary members at a rally at the Speakers’ Corner at Hong Lim Park on Saturday.

When asked if they will contest the next General Elections, they said it was still too early to tell.

One of them is 45-year-old Dr James Gomez, who was a Workers’ Party candidate in the 2006 General Election.

Dr Gomez, a Deputy Associate Dean at Australia’s Monash University, said he officially became a SDP member on Saturday.

The other new member is Dr Vincent Wijeysingha, executive director of non-governmental organisation, Transient Workers Count Too.

The 40-year-old is the son of former Raffles Institution principal Eugene Wijeysingha.

Dr Vincent Wijeysingha joined the SDP in August.

The party also launched its alternative economic programme called “It’s About You”.

Among others, the initiative supports the introduction of minimum wage for workers.

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Shadrake vs the Court

Contempt of court, freedom of speech or defamation of the judiciary? The courts decided that the first issue is the proper one while critics of the death penalty, activists and their ilk would naturally say the latter two. There is supposedly no maximum sentence fine or jail sentence loaded with contempt of court charges. AGC wants at least 12 weeks. This is the same sentence meted out to Gopalan Nair after he taunted the courts and everyone. The former Singaporean’s case was obviously provocation and defiance compared to Shadrake but both are getting the same sentence? Anyway, the court wants to send a signal that it has little tolerance for people who come here to try and shame the judiciary and all foreigners would get 3 months at least for their cheek.

Shadrake would be sentenced next week, and we can be sure that there would be an appeal citing Shadrake’s age and health condition. Whether Shadrake’s lawyer Ravi is up to the task of cutting down jail time or fine is uncertain as he does not seem totally well recently.

AGC calls for jail of at least 12 weeks for Shadrake
Author ‘repeated and compounded offence’ in interview with British paper published last Sunday
05:55 AM Nov 10, 2010
by Leong Wee Keat

SINGAPORE – The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) yesterday called for a jail term of at least 12 weeks for British author Alan Shadrake (picture), while his lawyer made an apology offer on his behalf.

Shadrake was convicted of contempt of court last week and was due to be sentenced yesterday.

Justice Quentin Loh adjourned the session after he noted that the submissions from the AGC and defence lawyer M Ravi were “quite far apart”.

The judge added he needed to consider the points raised, including the AGC’s assertion that Shadrake, 76, had “repeated and compounded” his offence in an interview published last Sunday in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper.

Highlighting several passages in the article, Deputy Senior State Counsel Hema Subramaniam, who is representing the AGC, said the interview was a sign of Shadrake’s continued defiance.

In the article, Shadrake admits one minor inaccuracy in his book but insists the rest of the material is “devastatingly accurate”.

Shadrake had been convicted on 11 passages in his 219-page book Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock on the grounds they were made “without any rational basis” and, therefore, did not constitute fair criticism.

Ms Subramaniam, describing Shadrake’s case as “without precedent”, called for the jail sentence.

Mr Ravi, however, argued that the fact that the authorities did not ban Shadrake’s books was “a total contradiction” of the ongoing legal proceedings and a “mockery of the intelligence” of the average Singaporean.

He also pointed out that Shadrake’s passages in the book related to a particular type of case and on matters of public interest, rather than to the Singapore legal system as a whole.

“It is not his intention to undermine the Judiciary,” said Mr Ravi.

Urging the judge to give Shadrake a warning instead of a jail term, Mr Ravi added that his client would “certainly apologise if he had offended the sensitivities of the Judiciary”.

Ms Subramaniam dismissed the apology offer as “half-hearted”, “insufficient” and “insincere”.

She added that Shadrake should have retracted the offending passages without any qualification and offered to delete them from his book.

Contempt of court is punishable by imprisonment or a fine or both, with no maximum limit set on either.

Justice Loh is expected to sentence Shadrake next Tuesday.