Author Archive
North Korea: Human Beings Live There Too

North Korea: Human Beings Live There Too

I am tired of clichés about North Koreans. They are starving and brainwashed. Robots devoid of personality. They don’t smile. They’re not allowed to think. Their purpose in life is to obey. It’s strange, but when it comes to those poor people from that evil country, some in the media seem incapable of understanding nuance. A...

Still Waiting For Answers

In January this year, I interviewed former SMRT bus drivers, He Jun Ling, Gao Yueqiang, Wang Xian Jie and Liu Xiang Ying. They were said to be key instigators of Singapore’s first strike in 26 years and as a documentary filmmaker and journalist, I was eager to find out their stories. A fifth driver, Bao...

The SMRT Saga: Anatomy Of A Strike – Part 1

At around 3.45 pm this past Saturday, He Jun Ling left Singapore on a plane bound for China. He had just finished a seven-week sentence* at Changi Prison – punishment for his role in what authorities call an “illegal strike” at transport operator, SMRT. He’s departure followed that of his colleagues Gao Yueqiang, Wang Xianjie...

In Which Benjamin Cheah Gets Overwhelmed By His Own Imagination

I don’t like to draw attention to poorly written articles, but then this piece appeared in The Online Citizen today and it happens to be about me. On top of being very pompous and very cheong hei, it’s also riddled with mistakes, half-truths and made-up facts. And so, even though I’d rather spend my Saturday...

In Which Lim Makes Me Kopi At The Internal Affairs Office

I’ve spent the last 15 years telling stories about other people. It’s a little mortifying knowing I’ve become a story myself. I’ve not read all the news reports, but friends have alerted me to various postings on Facebook and last Thursday, there were hundreds of messages expressing concern and alarm over how I was being...

“I Have Ways To Make You Confess”

The industrial action caught Singapore by surprise. More than 100 mainland Chinese bus drivers at transport operator, SMRT, refused to report for duty on the 26th of November 2012. It took some time for authorities to label the stoppage an ‘illegal strike’.  Once that happened, things moved quickly. 29 drivers accused of participating in the...

Cheap Shot, Minister Shanmugam

A young Indian woman is dead, the victim of an unspeakably sadistic gang rape. Her passing has triggered a wave of protests and soul searching in her country. People are angry. They want justice. They want answers. All this is understandable. Details of what happened to Amanat (a pseudonym coined by the media) on a...

Fear And The Need To Kill

It is not often one sees so many upstanding, clever politicians argue so earnestly and so passionately for the need for state-sanctioned murder. But that’s what’s been happening in Singapore over the past few days. They seem to be driven by fear, these good people. Fear and an intense need to prove that we are...
Bo Kyi - Still Fighting The Current

Bo Kyi – Still Fighting The Current

I had the privilege of moderating a post-screening discussion of Into the Current this past Sunday. The documentary about Myanmar’s political prisoners was both shocking and inspiring. Many of us left the theatre awed by the courage and determination of the men and women who sacrificed so much in their fight for freedom. One of...

Sumiko Tan Replies

This morning, I wrote a letter to the Straits Times’ Sumiko Tan. Here’s her reply. Dear Lynn, Thanks for your e-mail and link to your interesting and well-written blog. I don’t disagree that there are people – too many – in Singapore who are like the homeless man you mentioned. Like you, my heart goes...
Not So Golden, Sumiko

Not So Golden, Sumiko

Dear Sumiko Tan, I want to tell you about the homeless man who sleeps on the pavement just below my flat. I’m sure you think it’s a little weird, my writing to you like this, to talk about someone you don’t know. But bear with me, Sumiko, bear with me. I’ll explain in a bit....
Nowhere To Go

Nowhere To Go

The Rohingya are a stateless people described by the UN as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. They are reviled in Myanmar, the country many Rohingya call home, and unwelcome in neighbouring Bangladesh, where tens of thousands live in refugee camps. For decades, they’ve suffered official discrimination from the Myanmar government. But now they...