Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Crossing the line into vulgarity

Seelan Palay: Andrew Loh refers to an article in the Straits Times that was written by Chua Lee Hoong, an ex-ISD (Internal Security Department) officer. Why an ex-ISD officer is a prominent political columnist and current political editor in the Straits Times is anyone's guess.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Andrew Loh, The Online Citizen


I would sincerely like to believe that this is the absolute lowest that the PAP government will go to attempt to destroy its political opposition – crossing the line into vulgarity.


The first time I heard of Dr Chee Soon Juan was way back in 1992, when he first stepped into the political arena. Given the way the People’s Action Party ruled Singapore then – and even now – it was quite inspiring to see one such as Dr Chee stepping right into the cauldron of Singapore’s political minefield.

16 years have passed since then and many things have transpired – both with Dr Chee and Singapore as a whole.

As far as the Government is concerned, sadly, the changes have not been in tandem with the promises made.

Singaporeans will still remember how the Government promised a “tolerant society”, a “gracious society”, a “compassionate society”, and even one which would allow space for “political dissidents”,as declared by Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Minister Vivian Balakrishnan. (See here: Protecting the sacred cows behind electric fences)

There is no other more prominent “political dissident” than Dr Chee Soon Juan here in Singapore. While one does not expect the ruling party to “make life easy” for their political opponents, whether it’s Dr Chee or Mr Low Thia Khiang or anyone else, one does, however, expect a certain sense of common decency and respect. This is not because one has to respect some societal decorum or political rules, but simply because one has to respect a fellow human being.

When one reads the Straits Times’ reports on how Dr Chee was described as “psychotic”, “psychopathic”, “suffering from antisocial personality disorder”, one instinctively knows that a line has been crossed.

My first thought was: How does a husband and a father see such characterisation of him in a national newspaper?

I emailed Dr Chee to ask him:

As a husband, a father and someone who has given the last 16-17 years of your life fighting for your political beliefs, what is your reaction to such characterisation or attempts to further demonise you by the govt and its media?

His reply:

If you have truth on your side and you know your cause to be just, you need never fear your rulers and what they do to you. Time and history are powerful judges.

In a post on the Singapore Democratic Party’s website thanking his supporters for their support, Dr Chee called the media’s latest portrayal of him “the politics of evil:

I glanced through some of the things written about me by the press over the least (sic) week or so. Of course, this is not the first time that epithets have been thrown at me. But the degree of venom this time round is surprising.

The appeal to (pseudo) medical grounds in a concerted and coordinated manner to further blacken my person is unprecedented and quite without shame. Just when you think that the low road cannot get any lower, it takes another dip.

How do I retaliate? I shall not. Because to do so would be to engage in the politics of evil that I detest.

I would sincerely like to believe that this is the absolute lowest that the PAP government will go to attempt to destroy its political opposition – crossing the line into vulgarity.

Whatever one may think of Dr Chee, love him or loathe him, Singaporeans deserve a Government which looks beyond its own selfish political interests and not one which does not even blink an eye as it descends into the bottomless pit of vulgar and vile character assassination.

I haven’t spoken much with Dr Chee all these years although I have been present at several of his party’s public activities. On one of these instances, I remember taking pause and pondering on the motivation behind this man whom some might call an enigma. It was at the petition signing-cum-protest event held outside the Burmese embassy in October last year.

In the quiet of the night, when the crowd had thinned out, he sat in his chair, arms folded and looking into the distance. I could only wonder what was going through his mind then. Perhaps he was saying a silent prayer. Perhaps he was thinking of what would transpire the next day. Or perhaps he was just taking a moment.

Whatever it was, one thing was clear to me – that his is a conviction formed by more than just some personal political grudge against those who have persecuted him endlessly. Indeed, Dr Chee has said several times in the past that he bears no such animosity towards those in the PAP government. I believe that his conviction comes from a belief deep in his heart; a conviction which has its foundation in his belief in fairness towards his fellow human beings.

It is never easy to lead the life of a politician, based on such beliefs, for politics requires one to compromise, negotiate and even to abandon one’s personally-held principles and beliefs at times.

Perhaps it is precisely because Dr Chee has such convictions that his dogged tenacity is misunderstood or scorned at. But if one were to take the man at his word, and discard all the speculation and suggestions, one might just realise that the man indeed is no psychopath. For if he was, the history of the world would have to be re-written, for those who fought by the same beliefs as Dr Chee would then, too, be mad.

If you have truth on your side and you know your cause to be just, you need never fear your rulers and what they do to you.

Well said, doc.

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