Dear reader,

In Singapore This Week, we start by critically examining two social media posts this past week. One is a video put out by our rising influencer of a president, Tharman Shanmugaratnam. How visible on social media should our president be? And which issues and personalities should he be publicly championing? His video annoyed some of his critics.

Yet even he was overshadowed by the Embassy of Israel’s highly troubling attempt at revisionist history. They seem to have enraged many, including a visibly fuming K Shanmugam, our home affairs and law minister. What are the bounds of free speech for foreign diplomats in Singapore? What action can or should we take?

Read Singapore This Week for more. Elsewhere in the issue, we discuss how foreign domestic workers are (worryingly) turning to gold to help with their financial precarity, Singapore again being named the happiest place in Asia, poets gathering for another round of SingPoWriMo, the bike-sharing market shrinking, and much more.

Jom’s essay of the week, I object: mental illness is not a crime, is an urgent piece that I hope you read before next week’s parliamentary session. It’s about proposed amendments to laws that will give the police greater powers to arrest those who are “mentally disordered”. 

“These amendments are well-meaning,” writes Chan Li Shan, mental health researcher and advocate. “But there’s a risk that these amendments might be counter-productive to society if, for instance, excessive force during apprehension worsens the trauma of the person concerned, or the apparent criminalisation of those with mental health issues exacerbates social stigma.”

We’ve all known Li Shan, an accomplished writer, for a while, and are thrilled to see her first piece for Jom. I like how she experiments with form for her commentary, using “I object” as a repetitive device “for a certain legalistic flavour”, as she had suggested. It’s in keeping with her narrative experimentation in Searching for Lee Wen: A Life in 135 Parts, her book on the famous Singaporean artist and Cultural Medallion winner, where she plays with chronology and source material.

We’re also grateful that Li Shan has written openly about her one specific mental health episode, which included a brush with the cops here. It’s not something she’s often spoken about, and we’re humbled by her vulnerability here at Jom. “Acts” and “amendments” and “powers” can often seem like cold words with ill-defined meaning and impacts—without the humanising touch of a lived experience, which Li Shan has offered us.

These amendments are about to be codified and legitimised in Parliament next week, and I’ve heard on the grapevine that many parliamentarians are getting ready to speak up, a rarity for an initiative from the fearsome Shanmugam.

Read Li Shan’s essay now to find out what the fuss is about.

Jom baca,
Sudhir Vadaketh
Editor-in-chief, Jom

p.s. Yes, we’ve published our weekly a day early because of tomorrow’s public holiday. Enjoy the long weekend!

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