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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Civil Disobedience on the Blog

June 6, 2008
The man and his blog posts
By Zakir Hussain

GOPALAN Nair gave up his Singapore citizenship and became an American citizen in 2005. What he did not give up were attacks on Singapore laws and institutions in a blog titled Singapore Dissident.

In entries dating back to 2006, hardly a month goes by without a call for civil disobedience - breaking the law in the hope of changing it without resorting to violence.

'The system has to be forced to change... through telling the Government that their laws are morally repugnant and we will not obey them,' he wrote in December that year.

Praising Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan and his supporters for staging protests, Nair urged them to 'not let up' in their challenges to the authorities.

A month later, he called on Singaporeans to break laws he felt were unjust, like needing a permit to protest, as they would otherwise 'die as slaves'.

When Myanmar citizens here protested against their government's crackdown on protesters last year, he urged Singaporeans to take a leaf from them.

Last December, he called on Malays and Indians here 'to learn something' from protests by Indians in Malaysia against discrimination, and demonstrate outside Parliament against the Housing Board's ethnic integration policy he saw as 'discriminatory'.

Nair also called on the two elected opposition MPs - Mr Low Thia Khiang and Mr Chiam See Tong - to realise that simply bringing issues up in Parliament was fruitless. They should join Chee in civil disobedience to help the people, he wrote.

Neither men responded to his comments.

Another call he has made is one for parents to ask their children not to recite the national pledge in school, saying it was 'a shameless lie'.

In the same vein, last July he urged Singaporeans in the San Francisco Bay area not to attend National Day celebrations organised by the consulate there, arguing that this would give 'legitimacy to the Lee dictatorship in Singapore'.

He has also tried to disrupt several activities involving Singaporeans in California.

At a January 2005 event organised by the Bay Area chapter of Singapore Expats in America, a social group, he wanted to ask about Chee Soon Juan and human rights in Singapore.

According to a Singaporean who was there, Nair, when told this was not the appropriate forum to discuss the issue, then asked for a show of hands from the audience if they were keen to hear out the discussion. When he got no reply, he 'walked out in a huff'.

Last April, he posted a call for Singaporeans to boycott an upcoming meeting with then Minister of State for Education Lui Tuck Yew in San Francisco.

The boycott was to protest against a rise in ministerial and civil service pay, which he said 'amounts to embezzlement'.

Nair has not confined his criticism to ruling party politicians and the state. In a post last October, he called Hougang MP Low Thia Khiang 'a letdown to the cause of democracy'.

In another post that month, WP chairman Sylvia Lim was slammed as a 'shameless woman' for saying Singapore was capable of dealing with rule of law issues on its own and did not need outside interference.

zakirh@sph.com.sg

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