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Response to a Response July 11, 2008

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.
2 comments

In an unsurprising move, the ST spin machine is at work again, to downplay the IBA report which was released just a few days ago. As expected, a writer extolling the virtues of the PAP and attacking the character of Dr Chee Soon Juan in the process; the proverbial killing two birds with one stone. In his letter, the writer has called Chee irresponsible and all other sorts of words; finally he goes on to reaffirm his loyalty to Singapore.

I must admit, when I began to follow the goings on of the political realm, I too was under the impression that Dr Chee was a fool and a joker; many years ago, it would not be inconceivable for me to author such a letter to the forum, if I were minded to do so. And yet as time passed and I began to gain more information I begin to realise that Dr Chee is not as irresponsible and irascible as he is made up to be.

For society to progress, there needs to be a variety of players; you have the academics and the commentators (sometimes derogatorily referred to as the armchair critics), you have the workers who oil the machinery, and then you have the leaders, the doers, entrepreneurs (I call them the movers). Among the movers you would need people who are not within the system, people who agitate for change in a manner different from that of the “armchair critic”. These movers will seek to show people, by their actions, the various issues which would never appear in the mainstream due to control by the establishment. These peopel are the reminder to us that sometimes, especially in Singapore, there is more to life then just commuting to the CBD area and trying to chase money (ironically, the nature of the money chase is such that one can spend one’s life in pursuit of money, but will always be one step behind). To cut to the chase, people like Dr Chee Soon Juan would be known as movers. Thus his actions which, to some people, bother on the flamboyant. Chee’s tactics are described in further detail here by Mr Alex Au.

Of course there are those who will begin parroting lines that “Chee is not credible” and so on. It is my fervent hope that such people who believe this believe in it because they have come to the conclusion and not because they have been influenced by the establishment’s narrative. Indeed it will be tragic that one professes to disagree with the establishment but is still influenced somewhat by the very same establishment.

Thus I most heartily disagree with the forum writer’s dismissal and character assassination of Chee. Indeed it seems rather ironic that on one hand, we have people lamenting that Singaporeans are apathetic and lack passion and are money minded… and at the same time, we will then turn around and condemn any Singaporean who show such traits. A more apt saying is that “a prophet is never liked in his home town”.

The writer also seems to confuse the concept of a nation with the concept of government, as seen from his declaration of loyalty to Singapore, his pride as a Singaporean. Furthermore he seems to suggest that a loyal Singaporean cannot be a “shambolic critic” which is a patently ridiculous statement. To be willing to stand up and be counted, and go against the ruling party is an act tantamount to suicide. A person willing to do so can be said to display loyalty to his country, which is more that one can say for others who merely act as parrots. It is instances like these, when the government turns against those people who merely mean well, and is accompanied by such people, that make me ashamed to call myself a Singaporean (that does not mean I accept the equation that PAP=Singapore, because I dont. However I also recognise that the concept of Singapore has been tied up with PAP by the powers that be that the above statement is to be expected).

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A Tale of Two Organisations July 10, 2008

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.
6 comments

The Singapore government must have felt like it had struck lottery when the International Bar Association chose to host its annual conference in Singapore after the International Monetary Fund had held its meeting in Singapore. This fact became part of the ammunition the government used against naysayers such as Dr Chee Soon Juan. Unfortunately as shown by this IBA report, the Singapore government has jumped the gun in patting themselves on the back. Suffice to say the report made the usual criticisms of Singapore’s record on Human Rights.

Naturally the Singapore government became defensive and issued a “rebuttal”; unfortunately this sudden “U-Turn” does not paint the government in a good light, though with the help of the Straits Times and people like Syu Ying Kwok I would opine that they will come out of it none the worse (if they can come out of all that policies which increase the cost of living without a scratch I fail to see why this slip up would have any more impact).

This “U-turn”  is not unprecedented, the government has oft played up any praise (actual or imagined) by foreign organisations, only to then turn around and use a mixture of fearmongering and arguments which evince some sort of “Eastern supremacism” once the said organisation begins to say anything displeasing to the ears of the government. (As an aside there is a chinese idiom which roughly translates to “bitter medicine cures the sickness, good advice however hard to hear cures the soul”… if we are indeed followers of Confucious we might do well to remember this… government included).

A Tale of the Privy Council

Long before the IBA decided to hold its conference in Singapore, the Singapore Judiciary had, at its apex, the Privy Council in Britain. The PC was once feted, by  then Minister of Law Jayakumar, as the litmus test of judicial independence in Singapore. Unfortunately the PC dug its own grave, so to speak, when they allowed Mr JBJ’s appeal (JBJ v Law Society [1988]) against Mr JBJ’s removal from the rolls of advocate and solicitor of the Supreme Court in Singapore. Their Lordships then went on to expressed “deep disquiet” over the proceedings which resulted in JBJ’s conviction. With one stroke, the government deemed the PC to be one of them pesky Western Organisations and appeals to the PC from Singapore were eventually abolished. The PC was accused of playing politics, a questionable accusation given that the PC had allowed Mr Goh Chok Tong’s defence of fair comment against a suit launched by JBJ in JBJ v Goh Chok Tong [1989]. If the Council was indeed “playing politics” then there was no reason why they would have ruled in favour of Mr Goh.

Conclusion

The government has thrown the baby out of the bathwater, a regretable but unsurprising action given the government’s thin-skin when faced with anything remotely critical. The Singapore government has shown a rather hobbesian view towards criticism; which may yet bode ill for us in the future. It is my fervent hope that people would not toss the IBA report aside on the basis of the government’s “u-turn” and instead read the report with a critical mind; after all it would be ridiculous for right thinking people to reject the report on account of the government’s peevishness, wouldnt it?