Interview with an Enviromentalist Rudi Putra

Rudi Putra, a biologist by training, is dismantling illegal palm oil plantations that are causing massive deforestation in northern Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem, protecting the habitat of the critically endangered Sumatran rhino. As part of his efforts In 2013 he set up a petition that asked the Indonesian government to enforce better conservation laws. The petition received more than 1.4 million signatures, increasing awareness of environmental issues in Indonesia and attracting widespread international condemnation and support. Rudi received the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2014 for his efforts to combat illegal logging, forest encroachment for palm oil production, and policies that open endangered ecosystems to mining and plantation industries. AsianThinkers caught up with Rudi Putra in Indonesia to better understand the man behind the vision of saving Sumatra’s Leuser ecosystem and what it means to him personally 



Catching up with Benny Tai Yiu-ting and what “Occupy Central with Love and Peace” means to him and millions of Hongkongers

Benny Tai is an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Hong Kong who received widespread media attention in January 2013, when he initiated the Occupy Central with Love and Peace campaign for universal suffrage in the 2017 Chief Executive election and 2020 Legislative Council Elections. Tai is currently a member of the Panel of Advisers of the Office of the Ombudsman. Tai is currently based in Cambridge Faculty of Law as a visiting lecturer.

What is the general background of the movement you founded, Occupy Central with Love and Peace?

All the changes to the political system were initiated and designed by the central authorities of the sovereign state governing Hong Kong.


M Ravi, Lawyer and Human Rights Activists From Singapore

You have been a champion of human rights lawyer since you started your career as a lawyer in Singapore. What were some of your more recent cases ?

The challenge to the constitutionality of caning. Not only I am opposed to caning myself but my client (Malaysian Yong Vui Kong) has got an additional caning sentence imposed aside from life imprisonment. My question to that is; for someone to be sentenced with both life imprisonment and caning, the caning does not serve any purpose because it is a disproportionate punishment. It is an excessive punishment given the fact that he has also been given caning. I have been fighting for him for about 4 years. Recently, his death sentence has been lifted but it was replaced with life imprisonment with caning. So, the fight against constitutionality of caning is my most recent case, in fact I filed it only 2 days ago in court. The second case is the right to counsel, because accused person in Singapore does not have an immediate right to counsel and this has been the interpretation of the constitutional law. I am challenging that on behalf of my client saying that accused person should have an immediate right to counsel upon arrest. So that issue is being considered by the court and the hearing date is on the 7th May.

Will politics in Singapore evolve and change over time as you see it?

The question of the future of politics in Singapore ultimately depends on the impending demise of Lee Kuan Yew. That is a certainty and is a question of time. For those that are looking for change unfortunately it will be a wish to have it earlier rather than later. The central question is whether the Post Lee Kuan Yew era, will necessarily bring about some fundamental changes in Singapore. Some may take that view that the PAP will reinvent itself with a more responsive opposition party. My view on this question is that the PAP is incapable of bringing about any fundamental changes in Singapore because of the way interests are structured in Singapore. Those that are earning millions whether as Prime Ministers or Ministers or even holding high positions in government controlled organizations and agencies have sucked into a particular political culture. It is a political culture which is one that serves the interests of a very small class. For want of a better expression I will call this a bureaucratic capitalist class in that their self-interests in a perpetuation in a system which justifies extremely high reward. Rewards which evenconventional capitalists can only dream of. Because one need not fight for such reward where one is born into such reward either by virtue of family connection or by virtue of one having academic intelligence. The rest of the population as we see in Singapore is then treated as mere digits. Information is withheld. Singapore is not transparent despite whatever that has been going on with some degree of liberalization it is still towards a high degree of political control. Notwithstanding the fact that there are more opposition members in parliament.