Monday, July 19, 2010

Singapore Arrests UK Author

I must express my concern over the arrest of author Alan Shadrake (75) in Singapore on defamation charges and contempt of course following the publication of his book on the death penalty in the city state.  Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock was launched Saturday at the Post Museum.  The report against him came from the Media Development Authority.

 It sounds like Shadrake opened up a bag of worms the authorities would rather have kept tightly closed, particularly regarding serious inconsistencies in sentencing. The blurb reads :
Over the past few decades, investigative journalism has come to mean the kind of brave reporting that exposes injustice, wrongdoing and, above all, the abuse of power. Alan Shadrake’s hard-hitting new book cuts through the fa├žade of official silence to reveal disturbing truths about Singapore’s use of the death penalty. From in-depth interviews with Darshan Singh, Singapore’s chief executioner for nearly fifty years, to meticulously researched accounts of numerous high profile cases, Once A Jolly Hangman reveals the cruelty and imprudence of an entire judicial system. At the same time he displays a touching empathy with the anguish of the victims and their families. This important book should be required reading for human rights activists everywhere.
The Online Citizen looks at what exactly might have rattled the Singapore authorities

The book can be purchased in Malaysia from Kinibooks and SIRD, but in Singapore, although the book was not banned, bookshops were ordered to take it off the shelves.

But there's always a positive side to book banning - it invariably highlights the books we really ought to read, and I hope that as a result of his arrest, the issues highlighted by Shadrake will be debated in a larger arena.

Postscript (20/7):

Shadrake has been released on bail.


Fadz said...

I find it quite amusing that no one has commented about this. Had this been about a foreign author getting arrested in Malaysia for writing a book that exposes the country's darker secrets, I'm quite certain it would have ignited criticisms and mockery from quite a number of people.

Not that I want to instigate anything. I just find it kind of funny.

bibliobibuli said...

Yeah, I was surprised no-one commented on this either. Maybe we're just not surprised to come across the darker side of Singapore.

The book is published in Malaysia btw.

Fadz said... was? Typical. Books that touch on sensitive Malaysian issues are confiscated and blocked from public viewing, but books that touch on other countries' sensitive issues are published.

Talk about kiasu.

John Ling said...

Sharon, the reverse is probably true. Most Malaysians tend to turn a blind eye to Singapore's shortcomings. So much so that when confronted with the dark side of the PAP, they tend to shy away from making negative comments. The PAP's propaganda has been so successful that many have bought into the rose-tinted view of Singapore as being efficient, fair and incorruptible.

Remember the Alfian Sa'at interview you linked to a while back? It seemed to be as if people were reluctant to comment as well.

footix24 said...

Might be of your interest :)

bibliobibuli said...

thanks footix24! very good post and I have blogged it.