Weekly news round-up: the Singapore General Election, the Villawood Detention Centre riot, and the origins of Easter

IN OUR news wrap this week, Amanda Yap and Karen Poh take a look at how Singapore’s opposition parties are preparing to put up a tough fight against a government that has been in power since Singapore became a self-governing state in 1959; the protests that turned violent at the Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney; and the origins of Easter.


Singapore General Election

IT’S game on as Singaporeans prepare to go to the polls in the upcoming General Election on May 7.

Immigration and the high cost of living are among the issues likely to be on many people’s minds in this election.

The People’s Action Party (PAP), currently led by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, has been in power since Singapore became a self-governing state in 1959. At the last election in May 2006, the PAP won 82 out of 84 seats, with 67 per cent of the popular vote.

But the ruling party could be facing its toughest political challenge yet, as opposition parties are seeking to contest all 87 seats in the 12 single member constituencies (SMCs) and 15 group representation constituencies (GRCs), for the first time in the nation’s history.

Not that most Singaporeans would expect the opposition to win, or seriously threaten the party’s leadership. But a growing opposition does reflect the changing political landscape in Singapore as it takes baby steps towards greater pluralism and liberalisation.

You’ll be able to find some excellent commentary on Singapore’s General Election in the New York Times (In Singapore, the Party in Power Offers New Faces) and the Wall Street Journal (Singapore plans elections for May).

Bloomberg’s coverage is essential reading for those who want to gain some perspective on the key issues affecting this election.

Singapore’s Mr Brown also provides insightful, entertaining and irreverent observations from the sidelines.


Sydney Villawood Detention Centre

Last Thursday April 21, a massive rooftop protest broke out at Sydney’s Villawood Detention Centre as up to 100 asylum seekers were involved in setting the centre ablaze, destroying nine buildings, including a kitchen, medical centre and computer room. No one was injured in the incident.


In Australia, anyone who enters the country without a valid visa is held in indefinite mandatory detention.

Those involved in the protest said they were desperate for attention and had no other option but to take matters into their own hands, as frustration over delays, lengthy detention and rejected refugee applications pushed the asylum seekers to breaking point.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has launched an investigation into the matter, and at least 22 immigration detainees have been moved out by the Australian Federal Police for questioning.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard criticised the violence, and said it would not help refugee claims.

As of Sunday April 24, three protesters remain on a roof at the Villawood detention centre.


The origins of Easter

Easter was traditionally meant to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – the birth of a new creation, with Jesus leading the way.

The Easter egg didn’t come into the picture until later, with the rise of Christianity in Western Europe, when the church adapted ancient pagan practices related to spring rites. The egg, as a symbol of new life, came to represent the resurrection.

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