Opportunistic Musafirs of Geylang Serai

October 15, 2006

After being viciously cornered on four separate occasions by random individuals known as musafir asking for money today, I sincerely feel that something is wrong with this whole idea of donating money to such people if at first glance,
a) there seem perfectly physically able to work (since they are so aggressive and industrious in their search for donations) and
b) that you can encounter so many of them in Geylang Serai or even at the comforts at your own home!

According to MUIS, musafir or ibnu sabil are stranded travelers on a permissible journey who are in need of money. Such individuals are immediately recognised by their white innocuous songkok haji donned on their heads, white long sleeved shirts and an open hand constantly gesturing for money. You can even add in a white moustache or beard for a more realisitic effect.

Once such people approach you, they will use the Muslim salutation of Assalamualaikum to greet you and speak Malay in a fake arabic accent, asking for donations, dropping Islamic references here and there and even quranic phrases to religiously compel you to donate. Because in doing so, when you refuse to donate, you are by implication going against the main tenets of Islam, proving to everyone how heartless and selfish you are.

But why is there a sudden deluge of kaum musafir roaming the streets of Geylang Serai and Kampung Glam during the month of Ramadhan? I would assume that they fall under this category because most are ethnically Indian. Is the state of poverty of those underprivileged that bad in Singapore? If so, why do they only make an appearance during Ramadhan? Doesn’t this mean that since they know people are generally more generous during Ramadhan that they take this opportunity to ask for money since they know on religious and moral grounds, they would have a higher chance of getting the money they want? Such individuals go to the extent of roaming your HDB flats, knocking from house to house trying to find a Muslim family and minta sedekah or beg for money. Isn’t there something very wrong in that when even at home you are not free from the constant inundation of people asking you for money? Isn’t there something even more wrong when my parents, brother and I were breaking fast on our car boot at the car park in Geylang Serai, that we were asked by not one or two but three different individuals asking for money while we were eating, when we are most vulnerable and busy? (There wasn’t space at the various eateries along Geylang Serai so we decided to head to the car)

I’m not saying that we should not help them. I believe that there are more sustainable ways of helping such people earn a living so that they can focus their energies on something that can help themselves. Asking people for money during Ramadhan is simply a short term measure, something that does not solve the real problem of poverty at hand. At the same time, I must remind all Muslims to pay their Zakat Fitrah during this month because the money collected will go towards helping those who really need them in a equitable manner. To know more about zakat read here.

Doesn’t anyone else find this a persistent perennial problem that occurs each Ramadhan? Am I wrong to say that I can exercise my right not to donate money to such people since I already paid my Zakat Fitrah and that maybe one is enough not four or five? Aren’t there checks and balances on such occurances so that people do not get conned into giving money each time they see such people which may be 5 or 6 each visit to Geylang Serai?


Make poverty permanent?

October 11, 2005

I chanced upon this article by Timesonline entitled Click, click, click. If only saving half the world from poverty were so simple from From a Singapore Angle.

If those behind Make Poverty History were serious about ending poverty they would be campaigning for property rights and the rule of law — for better governance, in other words. And they would campaign not to abolish free trade but to extend it — attacking, for instance, the EU Common Agricultural Policy and its immoral tariff barriers against the developing world. The EU spends €2.7 billion a year subsidising farmers to grow sugar beet; at the same time it imposes high tariff barriers against sugar imports from the developing world. And the EU’s agricultural tariffs average 20 per cent, rising to a peak of 250 per cent on certain products. The European market remains barely open to the majority of low-cost textiles from the developing world.

I guess this is very true. Government institutions and the legal framework are key for free trade to work and be advantageous to the consumer. It would most defintiely help people get out of poverty by allowing them access to financial and technological capital from around the world. Trade justice is a very European Welfare concept which does not go beyond solving the roots of poverty. And coupled with the problem of poverty is political instability, social chaos and etc, with makes such conditions favourable for economic development literally inapplicable.

But I would still champion the cause simply because it has the power to change the mindset of world leaders to prioritise this issue as a continuous global concern. This would allow active engagement with the Third World, and would be most advantageous to them, especially to Europe. With fears of mass migration from the African subcontinent to Europe in the next century, economic development in their own countries would only serve to make them more rooted to their countries. Make poverty history, while not so forseeable in the near future would leave an indeliable mark in making people more aware of the problems of eradicating reducing poverty in the world.

One Singapore

October 8, 2005

I’m officially shocked! Finally a global movement on such an important cause finally reached Singapore after a few months of existence. Come and sign the declaration (its not up yet, but feel free to take a look around!) to make poverty history and to rally under one united cause!

ONESINGAPORE is a new effort to rally Singaporeans to fight the emergency of global extreme poverty. Through ONESINGAPORE, each ONE of us can make a difference. Together as ONE we can change the world.

The idea was generated in June 2005 as part of a community project rooted from within a deep desire to make a difference as One Singapore in the worldwide movement of GCAP (Global Call For Action Against Poverty) of which until now, does not have any representation from Singapore.

This initiative allows concerned volunteers from Singapore to rally for a worthy cause, encouraging and promoting volunteerism and philanthropy within the local community, impacting the global community.

Togther with a number of responsible corporate partners, we aim to lead the Singapore Coalition Movement as ONESINGAPORE, bringing forth the possibility of LOVE, COMPASSION & CONTRIBUTION to the community.

Sign up to add your voice to support The ONESINGAPORE Declaration. You will join the growing number of Singaporeans who are getting involved online and in communities across the country to fight poverty through ONESINGAPORE, a part of the global Make Poverty History movement.

Read more about the OneSingapore campaign here. The white band I wear is NOT, I say again, NOT from Giordano or some unassuming coin-operated toy machine (the one you see outside provision shops where you insert coins to get a toy from a globular plastic casing). The white band I wear was obtained from MakePovertyHistory.com, a UK affliated organisation championing the same cause. Order yours now here!

For Singapore, we are taking a stand for Making Child Poverty History as our committed listening for the international Global Call To Action Against Poverty (GCAP). For simplicity, our White Band will only bear the engraved word ‘ONE’ with our website address ‘onesingapore.org’ embossed on the opposite side.

Join this local movement and be part of a global rally to end poverty in the world! Do more than just charity and donations. Inform the world leaders that much more is needed to help make poverty history!

Leaders Told To ‘Wake Up To Poverty’ At UN Summit

September 10, 2005

The news that the UN World Summit in New York on 14-16 September is set to downplay the global fight against poverty, has been greeted with dismay and deep concern by anti-poverty campaigners.

Early in the morning of 10 September, days prior to their departure for New York, leaders around the world will be treated to a rude awakening by people campaigning as part of the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) in 74 countries around the world. Alarm bells will ring outside their residences, peaceful marches will trail past their offices, white kites and thousands of white doves will take to the air. Iconic buildings, including London’s Oval cricket ground, will be wrapped in white bands, GCAP’s global symbol. (See highlights and details attached for film and photo opportunities.)

Leaders attending from 191 countries were to have reviewed progress made on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set in 2000 to halve poverty by 2015. Instead, the New York summit agenda now appears to ignore long overdue and unfinished work in ending world poverty. The job is far from done. Leaders and summit organisers must ‘wake up’ and reorganise their priorities, putting poverty back at the top of the agenda.

To that end, the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) is rallying its supporters from Asia to Africa, Latin America to Europe, to ‘wake up’ their leaders to continue the urgent journey and to organise peaceful protests against the apparent indifference of some of the leaders of the most powerful countries in the world. A series of morning meetings with presidents and prime ministers, including France’s President Chirac and Germany’s Chancellor Shroeder, as well as similar meetings in Indonesia and Niger, will start the day at which campaigners’ demands will be presented for their leaders to take concrete steps in New York to end poverty once and for all.

The global mobilisation will then continue with an diverse series of world events: a massive beach festival in Brazil, a peace march of 150,000 people to the ancient Italian town of Assisi, simultaneous concerts and club dance gatherings on three continents, and the launch of ‘people’s reports’ on the MDGs in countries across Asia, Latin America and Africa.

“When 191 Heads of State arrive at the UN in a few days time they must have no doubt that the world is watching every move they make,” said Kumi Naidoo, chair of the Global Call to Action against Poverty. “During 2005 we have seen an unprecedented momentum build across the world, uniting citizens in rich and poor countries in the desire for their leaders to commit to eradicating poverty in this generation. No more excuses will be acceptable to the millions of people living in poverty. A failure to take decisive action on the quality and quantity of aid, trade justice, human rights, debt cancellation, transparency and improved governance and delivery effectiveness will be an indefensible betrayal of almost half the people of our planet”

After the unprecedented mobilisation of public support and awareness that moved politicians to take some small steps at the G8 summit in July, the momentum cannot be allowed to slow.

Just a few months on from those momentous events on the first White Band Day in July 2005 just before the Gleneagles summit, the world will now be witness to the next phase in the largest anti-poverty campaign ever seen.

In solidarity

Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) http://www.whiteband.org [GCAP gcap-newsletter] Newsletter No. 13
2 September 2005

White Band Day 2 : Activities Across The World

September 3, 2005

Editor’s Note: On September 10, White Band Day 2, GCAP activists across the world will be taking part in several activities. Below we have selected ten nations in the five different regions of the world and highlighted the activities in those countries. Until September 10, we will continue to highlight activities across the regions. However, as there are over seventy nations aligned with GCAP worldwide, it may be difficult to mention all countries and for this we apologise profusely. If you want to know what is happening in your country and it is not mentioned in this letter, we ask that you visit http://www.whiteband.org . If there is nothing happening in your country, we ask that you take charge and do something!


BAHRAIN – On September 10 in Bahrain, Global Call to Action against Poverty activists will hold a conference on poverty. The conference will seek to engage people on the best way to reduce poverty. Thereafter, there will be a meeting with members of parliament on Millennium development Goals.
Contact: Hani El Shaikh – hani@agu.edu.bh 973)399-6654

JORDAN – With the eyes of White Band Day 2 activists focused on New York City in general and the United Nations in particular, it is very fitting that on September 10 in Jordan, GCAP activists are going to organise a manifestation next to the United Nations building.
Contact: Trez El Rayyan Jordan_aah@yahoo.com 962)795 850-429


PAKISTAN – This white band day two, Pakistan will aim to raise greater awareness for the Global Call to Action against Poverty. For the electronically enriched, the electronic media will highlight the GCAP campaign and the role of civil society. There will be rallies across the forty districts of Pakistan. Signatures from people in all walks of life will be collected showing support for GCAP and white balloons with the GCAP logo will be released to fly across the Pakistan skyline.
Contact: Hina Shahid 9242)520-2100 hsfoozy@gmail.com Hamad Malik 9251)226-4689

JAPAN – There is an initiative, currently in Japan, known as the Students’ Hottokenai Caravan. In this initiative, occurring now, students are going around all the islands collecting messages and signatures around poverty. The caravan will significantly reach Tokyo on September 10. On the same date, from midnight, Japan will have a Film Festival on Poverty with three films shown focusing on poverty. With National elections occurring soon in Japan, the Hottokenai group is lobbying with different parties to have poverty on the election agendas.
Contact: Takumo Yamada takumo@oxfam.jp; Kaori Kuroda kaori@csonj.org


COLOMBIA – Bogota, the capital of Colombia, will host a concert on September 10. After the concert, the national coalition Por Una Colombia sin Pobreza, no mas excusas (For a Colombia without Poverty, No more Excuses) which will be working in close collaboration with the Trade Justice campaign, will hand over 20,000 GCAP action cards to congress.
Contact: Alberto Yepes 571)338-2220

PERU – The Global Call to Action against Poverty coalition in Peru will launch a conference from 6 to 11 September entitled “por un Peru sin pobreza nicorrupcion, una economia al servicio de las personas.” In the midst of this conference on the morning of the 8th, buildings in Peru will be wrapped in white bands.
Contact: Luisa Heft luisafsp@millicom.com 511)261-2466 Jaime Carasco osver21@yahoo.com 511)950-0923


AZERBAIJAN – The Eastern European nation of Azerbaijan will hold a concert in the National Park in Baku. As proof that every day is a white band day, five days after GCAP’s official second White Band Day on the 15th, there will be a youth march in Barda and Fizuli on the first day of the academic year. A stunt entailing the ringing of alarm clocks for a minute will be done and there will be a collection of petitions.
Contact: Sunubar Nazarova snazarova@oxfam.org.uk

SLOVAKIA – It will be party time in Slovakia’s old town of Bratislava with a Latino fiesta and concert. However, party or no party, the focus will still be on poverty as the national coalition will distribute postcards and white bands around the podium and in the most frequented streets of Bratislava.
Contact: Ludmila Pastorova office@mvro.sk


NIGER – Highlighting that the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) is not yet another middle-class initiative to patronise the poor, the poor in Niger will participate in morning rallies in front of the offices of political leaders. This will be followed by a breakfast with the Millennium plus Five delegation and a press conference after the breakfast.
Ali Abdoulaye rosen@intnet.ne 227)752-560

NAMIBIA – In the Namibian capital of Windhoek, White Band Day 2 will be marked with a march through the city centre. The marchers will carry a petition that will be delivered to Namibian officials who will be attending the MDG Summit. Ad what would a White Band Day be without white bands? The Namibians have not forgotten this and there will be white bands draped around the park and in the central business district on this day.
Theo Uvanga 26461)238-002/3

Global Call to Action against Poverty http://www.whiteband.org [GCAP gcap-newsletter] Newsletter No. 12 26 August 2005

So what are we doing?

White Band Day II: Wake up to Poverty!

August 23, 2005

On 10 September, ahead of the UN Summit, people across the world will unite in the second GCAP mobilization – to demand that world leaders Wake-Up to Poverty. Thousands of people will be holding breakfast meetings with politicians, all night vigils, rallies outside state buildings, jamborees, petitions and early morning press calls. World leaders will literally be waking-up to the voices of people demanding action to end poverty before they depart for the UN Summit. These actions will be mirrored in New York on 14 September, the opening day of the Summit, with a stunt including alarm clocks to ‘Wake-up’ the delegates. Millions of people will also be wearing white bands – the symbol of the campaign – to show their solidarity for an end to poverty.

A number of countries have already arranged meetings with their leaders, and others have suggested doing ‘Shadow Reports’ on their government progress toward to the MDGs. Tell us your plans, send us your reports. Email: info@whiteband.org. Also visit http://www.whiteband.org to download materials.

Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) http://www.whiteband.org GCAP gcap-newsletter Newsletter No. 9 19 August 2005

Eurodad Report: G8 Debt Plan More of the Same

July 17, 2005

What The Communique Says – And What Civil Society Groups Say:

The deal, as presently agreed, is worth US$40 billion over the next 40 years. A further 9 countries could be included in the plan over the next two years bringing the total cost to US$ 55 billion. The text of the official communiqué reads: “The G8 has agreed a proposal to cancel 100% of outstanding debts of eligible Heavily Indebted Poor Countries to the IMF, IDA and African Development Fund, and to provide additional resources to ensure that the financing capacity of the IFIs is not reduced, as set out in the statement of 11 June.”

This was as expected by debt campaigners however there were fears just before the G8 Summit that support by some members of the G8 for this proposal was shaky. There is therefore some relief that G8 Heads of State have not reneged on the plan announced by G7 Finance Ministers in June but campaigners are very clear that the plan falls far short of what is really needed – and has many flaws.

Stephen Rand of Jubilee Debt Campaign, UK said “this deal is an inadequate response to the global debt crisis, particularly in its failure to challenge the damaging and undemocratic conditions that are consistently attached to debt relief. This [deal] will provide less than US$1 billion per year – the equivalent of less than one dollar per head per year for the people who will benefit – when more than $10 billion a year of debt cancellation is needed to contribute to the ending of extreme poverty.”

In a joint African civil society statement on the Summit’s conclusions, Hassen Lorgat of South Africa’s SANGOCO, a national NGO forum, stressed that “the debt package only provides only 10% of the relief required and affects only one third of the countries that need it. A large component of the US$50 billion pledged is drawn from existing obligations”.

Lidy Nacpil, international coordinator of Jubilee South said, “the conditionalities attached to debt cancellation will exacerbate poverty rather than end it”.

AFRODAD commented: “We continue to question – how democratic is the selection criteria to pick on post completion point HIPCs and, after all, the agreement does not address the real global power imbalances in which debt is just but a conduit of expressing it. We reiterate our position that the debt crisis needs a lasting solution in which all stakeholders – debtors and creditors have a say.”

The plan also falls far short of what the African Union has called for. The draft declaration of the 5th African Union Summit, held from 28 June to 5 July, indicates that African leaders are calling for “full debt cancellation for all African nations” to the tune of US$350 billion – a far cry from the US$40 billion promised by the G8.

Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) http://www.whiteband.org [GCAP gcap-newsletter] Newsletter No. 8 15 July 2005

“The Global Campaign for Action Against Poverty can take its place as a public movement alongside the movement to abolish slavery and the international solidarity against apartheid.”
– Nelson Mandela, Trafalgar Square, February 3, 2005