Singapore protest speaker resigns from posts after alleged govt pressure

Nizam Ismail (right) was one of the speakers at the Workers' Party Youthquake Seminar (Yahoo! photo)Nizam Ismail (right) was one of the speakers at the Workers' Party Youthquake Seminar (Yahoo! photo)

A Muslim civil society leader in Singapore resigned from his posts in two charitable organisations on Monday after allegedly receiving government pressure to curb his critical views.

In a post on his personal blog Wednesday, Nizam Ismail explained why he decided to quit as board director of the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) and chairman of the Centre for Research on Islamic and Malay Affairs (RIMA) effective earlier that Monday.

Nizam said that AMP chairman Azmoon Ahmad called him on Saturday to say that he received separate phone calls from two government ministers expressing concern over Nizam's participation as a speaker at next week’s May Day protest at Hong Lim Park.

The protest, organised by Gilbert Goh of transitioning,org, is to be a follow-up to an earlier protest criticising the Singapore government’s top range projection of a 6.9 million population by 2030.

The ministers were also said to be concerned about Nizam's participation as a panelist at a Youth Wing Youthquake Seminar for the opposition Workers' Party and his critical leanings on social media.

Azmoon relayed a message that Nizam should “take it easy” and decline participation from such activities, or else, the government would withdraw all funding from AMP.

Nizam said that Azmoon suggested Nizam “disassociate” himself from AMP if he were to continue with the activities.

Saying he was appalled by the alleged threats of withdrawal of funding from AMP on account of activities he had done in his "personal capacity", Nizam deplored what appeared to be "political reasons" behind them.

"I could not, as a matter of principle, see myself functioning as an activist in AMP or RIMA’s Board in an imposed non-critical state, in return for continued funding of AMP’s programs," Nizam said of his decision to resign from the two organisations.

Nizam also alleged that the latest incident was not the only attempt at influencing AMP, which was established in 1991 as a non-partisan group to help Malays and Muslims in Singapore.

State funding of AMP’s programs were cut in the wake of a proposal in 2000 for a collective community leadership and threats of funding cuts were also made in reaction to a the group's proposal in 2012 for an independent Community Forum, Nizam claimed.

"The readiness to use the threat of withdrawal of funding when the State feels displeased or threatened also ignores this important fact – that these funds are being used to fund programs which benefit thousands of beneficiaries – be they low-income families, youths at risks, [and] students," he said.

"The interests of these beneficiaries seem to be readily steamrolled," he added.

As of Thursday evening, Nizam’s name had been removed from the AMP’s board of directors’ page on the organisation’s website though his profile page was still live. His name had also been removed from RIMA’s page.

AMP has not yet replied to Yahoo! Singapore's request for comment.

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