Two lawyers have published pieces in Jom today. Harpreet Singh Nehal, a senior counsel, gives us his take on the twilight-of-the-elites moment in Singapore right now, concerning two cabinet ministers living in two palatial black-and-white bungalows. In “Strengthening the Singapore system: the Ridout Rd saga and conflicts of interest”, Harpreet writes about potential conflicts of interest, and tells us what we (ideally) should be expecting from the government’s upcoming review into the matter. Glad to see Harpreet’s first piece for Jom! And we’re grateful to Deborah McKellar for her mixed media image of a colonial black-and-white bungalow. (It’s not like the ones on Ridout though—artists we spoke with said no depiction could do them justice.)
We’ve put this commentary outside the paywall, it’s free to read. Do share. Speaking of free, for a few more weeks we’ll still be offering Singapore This Week (STW) for free. What’s STW? It’s Jom’s weekly, opinionated update on Singapore, from politics and society to arts, history and tech. We decide on the most important stories that week and offer you Jom’s view of them. This week we discuss everything from Singapore’s role in facilitating the illicit arms trade to the launch of Paris-based Singaporean fashion designer Andrew Gn’s first retrospective and the passing of Wahid Satay, the star of golden-age Malay cinema.
Many people have told me that they look forward to STW at the end of the week. This includes Singaporeans who can’t follow the local news every day but want a weekly review; and foreigners working at embassies who need a non-mainstream view of affairs here. Internally, STW is the one product that is truly a whole-of-Jom affair. It’s always fun to see everybody contributing on Wednesdays and Thursdays to the same thing.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out STW, please do. As Jom nears 1,000 paid subscribers (yay!), we are on the verge of moving it behind the paywall, as we always intended to. This newsletter, which offers snippets, including one blurb from STW (see bottom), will always be free.
The other piece today is an essay by Daryl Yang, a lawyer and social justice advocate, titled “The price of racial harmony in Singapore”. Daryl tackles an age-old question: by making discussions of race and religion taboo, are we hampering a deeper understanding between people? He does so by examining “...Singapore’s punitive approach towards race and racism. As Singapore contemplates enacting new legislation on racial harmony, we must not confuse the veneer of racial harmony for racial justice.”
Many countries struggle with this, and I’m glad that Daryl has included examples from Australia and the US. For those of you attending Sunday’s event on anti-racism in Singapore, we’ve timed this as a bit of a primer. Finally, we decided to save some money on illustrations for this piece through child labour: a 10-year-old drew something in response to “racial harmony”; and another one drew this newsletter’s header. But seriously, we’re grateful to the mum of Jean Hew, our head of research, for asking her students if they’re keen. Our youngest collaborators to date!
It’s also fortuitous that both Daryl’s and Harpreet’s pieces are out on the same day, because it allows us to appreciate the difference in approach and style. Daryl’s is drawn out, as it gets into the weeds on a complex topic. Harpreet’s, by contrast, is a short and punchy response to a current issue.
Finally, two bits of good news to share. Jom has been selected as a finalist in the Society of Publishers Asia (SOPA) 2023 Awards for Editorial Excellence. We’ve been chosen as a finalist in the “Opinion writing” category for our piece on the repeal of S377A. Hooray! I think we are by far the youngest outfit to make it to the finals. It’s some nice validation of our work.
Also, a couple of weeks ago Jom was mentioned twice in this article in The Economist, “A winner has emerged in the old rivalry between Singapore and Hong Kong”. The writer referenced “Why Singapore’s government and economy are outperforming Hong Kong’s”, a recent piece in Jom by Donald Low. (Aside: there’s a new letter on our Letters to the Editor page critiquing the comparison.)
It really wasn’t that long ago that many foreign journalists much preferred the socio-political climate in Hong Kong to Singapore. Much has changed, and if, as the writer says, “[t]he launch of Jom reflects a growing desire for independent voices,” then it’s only right that I thank you for that desire and for your support.
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