Open letter to Singapore ministers – Why are we silent on Gaza?

By Noor Mastura

Dear Leaders of Singapore,

I was born in Singapore in 1990 – the year of great beginnings and start ups in Singapore.

A country that prides in its diversity where race and religion is concerned. A country that has upheld and strove for racial harmony and multiculturalism in every sense of the word. A country that rose from the ground since it gained complete independence in 1965 to a world class nation that is comparable to super powers. A country where people use to joke about not being able to see on the map but holds one of the highest GDPs in the world.

For the past 24 years I’ve lived in this country, I have felt grateful, blessed & safe. Except, right at this point, as a patriotic citizen of Singapore, I feel dispirited.

Clear skies in our beautiful country- Singapore

As of July 16th 2014, the time I wrote this, 214 Palestinians have died with over 2000 wounded. These are unarmed civilians, most of whom, targeted by Israel at their own homes, places of worship, schools, hospitals etc. It has been 8 days of intense firings and bombings which has murdered so many innocent women and children – the youngest being a 9 month old baby. The city goes dark even at night- except when the missiles strike- as the technicians in charge of vital infrastructures such as water and electricity are afraid to move to repair damages caused by the bombs. This obviously has consequences on hospitals which heavily depend on electricity especially right now.

Unlike Israel, which holds its position as the world’s best military and most advance in defence technology with iron domes over their famed iron walls – Gaza is a tiny, over populated third world STRIP with every entrance and exit blocked with nowhere to run for cover. Israel has occupied Palestine for the longest time, rejected the United Nation’s partition plans, erased over 400 Palestinian villages and counting & forced the people of Palestine to live as second class citizens in their own country under military rule.

The everyday skies in Gaza. (And we thought the haze was bad)

What does this have to do with Singapore?

48 years before I was born, – the Japanese military occupied Singapore. What destroyed me was reading the ‘Sook Ching Massacre’ that took place on our land. ‘Sook Ching’ in traditional Mandarin means ‘to purge through cleansing’ – it was a systematic hostile extermination by the Japanese of our Chinese people in Singapore. This massacre was not the conduct of a few evil people but rather the entire Japanese defence army was consistent with the line of horrific actions applied. Over 400 Singaporean Chinese were shot by the firing squad at Punggol Beach. 300 more bullet ridden corpse washed up at the shores of Sentosa. But that’s not all.

According to Mr Lee Kwan Yew, our then Prime Minister and current Minister Mentor, in an interview with National Geographic, “I was a Chinese male, tall and the Japanese were going for people like me because Singapore had been the centre for the collection of ethnic Chinese donations to Chongqing to fight the Japanese. So they were out to punish us. They slaughtered 70,000 – perhaps as high as 90,000 but verifiable numbers would be about 70,000. But for a stroke of fortune, I would have been one of them.”

90,000 innocent Singaporean civilians who were ruthlessly killed on their own shores by the army of a country that occupied us and forced us to live under their military rule & we had nowhere to run.

japanese army
Innocent lives taken by the Japanese Army. -Sook Ching Massacre 1942

palestine dead bodies
Innocent lives taken by the Israeli Defence Army in Gaza Conflict 2014. – More than 165 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s ongoing assault of the Gaza Strip [Reuters]

All that said, how exactly am I affected as a Singaporean under your leadership?

As a proud citizen of this country, I have always valued how our country remains unaffected by international issues which plaques other countries and affect the relationships of their citizens with each other, such as islamophobia in USA & Europe & ethnic cleansing in Africa, Burma & Bosnia. Of course there are hints of racism in our usually racially harmonious society but since the 1964 racial riots, we have made tremendous progress in strengthening trust between our ethnic groups. It is our National Pledge. Our laws charge those who dare incite hate speech or make disparaging remarks against any race or religion under the Sedition Act. My best friends since Secondary 1 is a Chinese Buddhist and an Indian Christian. This is normal for most Singaporean youths. We cant imagine it otherwise.

Our values to and for humanity has been instilled in us since primary school across the nation. Since young, we were taught to stand up for what is right, for justice, for equality especially against bullies and…to say no to drugs. We were also pushed to strive for the best, to be number 1 in everything we do, to achieve as many A’s as we can, as many gold medals as we can. To be top in academics, sports, arts – you name it. Why not, when our country top the ranks in every possible index you can think of – best airport, highest GDP, most busiest port, best city to live in Asia, safest city, cleanest city, least corrupted, best education.. etc and even one of the top few countries with the best military.

The people and leaders of our country are looked up upon and respected everywhere in the world. So please tell us dear Ministers, how can we be so great in almost every aspect a country should be but keep silent where a huge humanitarian crisis is ongoing? In the times where other countries have faced natural disasters and needed aid, Singapore has sent their civil defence, medics, monetary aid and made passionate pledges out loud and clear for the world to hear. That’s the Singapore we know. Why the silence now? Do we keep quiet out of fear? From who? Does the fear and insecurity of weakening bilateral relations win over innocent lives and blood spilled in vain? If there were Singaporeans in Palestine stuck in the crossfire will our leaders step up to bring them home? Does it have to go that far, for our own to be hurt for us to speak up against injustice? As your countrymen, we cannot facilitate a peaceful protest or campaign because your laws don’t allow us to and we respect that because we convince ourselves that our leaders will be the voice of our people. Except there is no voice. Just silence. Where are the strong statements that should come from our cabinet ministers the same way they stand up when Singapore was oppressed?

There are comparable similarities between us and Gaza but the HUGE difference is this. We became free from the horror of our lands. We became free of the Military occupation. Our people no longer had to fear deaths when they walk the streets. Our leaders were free to decide the path we will take for our future, for the people of Singapore.

UK’s Deputy PM Nick Clegg said Thursday that “…I really do think now the Israeli response appears to be deliberately disproportionate. It is amounting now to a disproportionate form of collective punishment. It is leading to a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which is unacceptable.”

Claiming the bodies of their loved ones.

Since this massacre began, 214 Singaporeans have died. Most of the Singaporeans were nursery kids and primary school children. The rest were mostly Singaporean civilians on their way home or taking cover in the mosque, church and hospitals.

Did it hurt to read those 2 lines??? Did it mean anything to you?? Does it make more of a difference if it is one of us? We don’t want to remain silent anymore and pretend we don’t know what is going on. Let other countries remain silent out of fear or ignorance. But I urge my leaders whom we have elected with faith to act according to the Spirit of Singapore. To stand up,speak up & speak out against this atrocity. Let us create awareness, boycott, divest & send aid to the people when they need us. We may be small but there is nothing any country can do that Singapore cannot overcome better. Let us shine and be an example to the rest of the countries who are undecided in their stand.

According to Mr Lee, in an interview with the Discovery Channel Programme, on the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, “It was the catastrophic consequences of the war that changed the mindset, that my generation decided that, ‘No…this doesn’t make sense. We should be able to run this island as well as the British did, if not better. The Asians had looked to them for leadership, and they(the British) had failed them.”

His son, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, the current Prime Minister of Singapore said in his 2014 New Year speech, “The Singapore spirit burns bright in our people – in the concern of volunteers who distributed masks to vulnerable groups during the haze, in the determination of a SEA Games cyclist who fought back from a serious car accident to win gold, and in the courage of Home Team officers who formed human shields to protect colleagues during the riot in Little India. We must nurture this spirit, and keep faith with our nation and our people. By trusting and helping one another, we will create a brighter future for ourselves and our children.”

We, the people of Singapore are now looking at you, our leaders whom we have elected with full confidence, we are looking at you for your leadership and stance to step up, unlike other countries who simply get their foreign affairs minister to make a diplomatic statement and then go into oblivion.

Keep our faith upon you and let’s continue to nurture our Singapore spirit that burns bright. You have never failed us.

You know how you kept asking for ideas for Singapore’s 50th Birthday? This will be the greatest gift for her and all of us. That we acted with dignity and stood up for humanity.

I end this letter with my favourite quote from the man who our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hailed “as an inspiration to himself and millions for his lifelong fight for humanity, courage and freedom”-

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. – Nelson Mandela

With hope,
A proud citizen of Singapore

From the time this blog has been published on 17/07, 230 Palestinians and 1 Israeli have died. That’s 231 people who died in vain. This includes 4 young boys who were playing soccer on the beach.

This letter was sent to the following Ministers of Singapore on 17/07/2014 and the writer awaits the response from her respected Ministers

  1. President of Singapore : Tony Tan Keng Yam
  2. Prime Minister : Lee Hsien Loong
  3. Deputy Prime Minister for National Security & Home Affairs : Teo Chee Hean
  4. Minister for Foreign Affairs : K Shanmugam
  5. Embassy of the Republic of Singapore : Israel – Lt Gen Winston Choo Wee Leong

Please feel free to copy the letter and add your name and  opinion & send it to our Ministers.

For those of you who want the EASIEST way to understand the WHOLE issue, watch THIS VIDEO done by a National Jewish Organisation – Jewish Voice for Peace

I also urge every reader to watch this 3 minute video to fully understand what happens to the plight of people who are oppressed and helpless. A Singapore team has created ASRIT to aid these people in Syria. Find out how you can help and make a difference by watching THIS VIDEO.

This letter first was published at http://fyndingnoor.wordpress.com/