Tuesday, December 22, 2009

“Milder but more credible”…for whom? (My response to an article on the WP Youth Wing)

My letter as featured on The Online Citizen.

Seelan Palay

A lead article on The Online Citizen portal a couple of days ago described the Youth Wing of the Workers’ Party as “milder but more credible”. But what this headline means has become a subject of controversy, going by the comments that the article has attracted.

However, my focus is on something else.

The first two paragraphs of the write-up are an unbridled attack on WP’s former secretary-general, the late Mr J B Jeyaretnam who had led the party for three decades until 2001.

The late JBJ, as he was popularly known, was accused of “unrestrained election rally speeches and rambunctious attacks on the PAP government“.

This is exactly the same allegation that the ruling PAP, through its controlled media, was accusing JBJ of doing during his political life. What is most disturbing is the fact that such an allegation has found resonance, of all places in the new leadership of WP.

It was through his resolve and determination that JBJ was able to break 15 years of PAP’s total domination of Parliament by winning the Anson seat in a by-election in 1981. Again, he was elected with an increased majority in the same constituency in 1984 when all electoral wards in Singapore remained Single Member Constituencies.

Soon after, the MP for Anson was found guilty by a high court judge for “having falsified” the party accounts, together with its chairman. Both were fined and jailed, depriving JBJ of his Anson seat and thus frustrating the constituents of their elected MP. But in 1991, when he remained disqualified from contesting, JBJ worked relentlessly to make sure Mr Low Thia Khiang, an unknown WP candidate then, got elected in Hougang. If not for JBJ’s leadership of WP and his election rally speeches, the Hougang single seat would not have been won.

Despite the constant attacks from the PAP, including name calling such as “mangy dog” by Lee Kuan Yew, JBJ’s tenacity paid off in the form of a Privy Council judgment in the late 1980s when the Law Lords ruled that the MP for Anson and his co-defendant (WP chairman) were subjected to “a series of mistrials for offences which they did not commit”. The Privy Council in London was then the highest court of law of the county due to Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s insistence that an outside body provided the “litmus test” of Singapore’s judicial independence.

This damning indictment by the Privy Council sealed the fate of the so-called litmus test Lee Kuan Yew often boasted about. Soon after, appeals to Privy Council were scrapped.

And yet the WP and its Youth Wing now seem “adamant about avoiding the bevy of defamation suits suffered by its former Secretary-General“.

What an irony. Instead of blaming the perpetrators of the crime, the victim remains condemned.

I suppose that is the price one has to pay to earn the accolade “milder and more credible” from an authoritarian regime intolerant of dissent.

With this kind of opposition or alternative party, Singapore will continue to be under the PAP for another half-a-century, giving firm assurance to the obvious desire of Law Minister K Shanmugam for the ruling party to continue with the status quo.

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

pls refer link below.....

http://theonlinecitizen.com/2009/12/milder-but-more-credible-for-whom/

YOAHYO said...

You got yourself a reply :)


HAMMERRRR HAMMMERRRRR BILAAA BILAAA

Singaporean said...

With due respect, Mr Palay,

The opposition parties' target should be the “authoritarian regime intolerant of dissent”. Not each other.

Singapore needs all kinds of opposition and alternative parties, whether they choose to be mild or firebrand or in between.

Singapore will continue to be under the PAP for another half-a-century, if opposition parties spend even a precious minute directing their limited firepower at each other.

ed said...

It's great to see that you're putting down more of your own views now. Keep it up Seelan. Don't forget, next year's the Year of the Indian/Tiger;) so let's hear more growls coming from you instead of just repostings of others' articles.

ed

Seelan Palay said...

Hi ed, I have difficulty finding time to blog because of the jobs I have to take up to help support my family. But yes, for the past 2 weeks I've been trying to blog more, and I hope to keep it going.

Seelan Palay said...

If commentator 'YOAHYO' is a member of the WP Youth Wing, then do the comments made by the person reflect the mentality of the rest of that camp?

Seelan Palay said...

Dear Singaporean,

I agree that the opposition parties' target should be the “authoritarian regime intolerant of dissent” and not each other.

But I feel at some point I have to be honest about whether they have the same target in mind.

And this incident where JBJ is cited went a bit too far for me to continue keeping quiet.

I cannot be part of any game that may mislead the people into thinking they're supporting something that isn't what they think it is.

Singaporean said...

Mr Palay,

I agree with you that you do not need to be part of the WP or their "game".

I believe Singaporeans are not that easy to hoodwink. Easy to threaten and "bribe" maybe (with pre-election goodies).

There was a time when I believed everything I read about CSJ in the papers. But the Internet era has made that history.

Similarly the internet will expose any "misleading" propaganda with hidden agenda, all in good time.

Our country (not city) is crying for people to end this nepotistic dynasty.

For me, any opposition will do. I'm prepared to vote in toothless tigers and let them grow baby teeth if necessary.

I'm not from the WP but I will gladly vote for them. Or the SDP, SPP, RP, even independents.

I wish to see opposition unity, if not, some form of tolerance of differences. If we don't start now, we may not get another chance after GE2011.

Seelan Palay said...

Thank you for clarifying Singaporean, I hope for opposition unity too.

Robox said...

My first post is to Singaporean. Singaporean, you said:

Re: "I believe Singaporeans are not that easy to hoodwink."

Yet you go on to contradict yourself by citing your own example:

Re: "There was a time when I believed everything I read about CSJ in the papers."

And that is perhaps due to the availability of objective analysis on the internet, different from the 'rational', and 'unemotional' reporting by the PAP media, which is why you probably you also say:

Re: "...the Internet era has made that history."

But what is the extent of internet use for politics-related information by Singaporeans? Are we truly ready to consign the lack of correct information that the majority of Singaporeans hold about Dr Chee and the SDP to the dustbins of history?

Finally, you also sang the Opposition Unity tune but it hasn't gone unnoticed by me that these happen ONLY after SDP supporters, along with other objective observers fight back. (Make no mistake: "milder" and " more credible" are actually a veiled attack on the SDP by the WP using JB Jeyaratnam as an example.) And when SDP supporters with others who are equally objective fight back, we CAN make sense, and I supppose that's when and why everyone only gets busy fishing for their dusty songsheets.

Why don't the Opposition Unity Choirboys plead the same Opposition Unity when it is the SDP that comes under severe attack and online to boot where you can sing your anthem of piety? Is opposition unity not important in those many instances?

Perhaps, like the racism against Indians that we see so much of on the internet, attacks against the SDP are considered 'normal' and 'acceptable'.

Not unwarranted and much-deserved attacks, in other words.

Care to explain?

Robox said...

Seelan, I had previously written another version of the following in TOC where I have been effectively banned; my posts were placed permanently under moderation for three whole weeks never to see the light of day until I gave up. (While they will probably use the excuse that it was because I had made a counterattack against a Chinese racist attacking both minority races - while his post remained intact - I think the true reason was for frequently putting up a strong defence for the SDP which cause some angst for at least one moderator.)

I first used this as a definition for the the PAP establishment's explicit use - as well as the sublimal and oblique variants proffered by the WP - of "adversarial"; I think it's it's equally applicable to "confrontional and unrestrained".

confrontional and unrestrained (defn. ): "First, we implement an entire slew of cruel, unreasonable, inhumane and Draconian measures against Singaporeans in general and the opposition parties in particular; We tell them are are based on good Asian values. But we pretend not to know they can only result in conflict. Then, when the conflict erupts out into the open, we turn around and yell, "You're incorrigible! You're CONFRONTATIONAL and UNRESTRAINED!"

Note: The above definition is taken from the PAP Dictionary for Inverted Logic. The WP obviously has unrestricted access to the same manual.

Seelan Palay said...

Hi Robox are you still unable to comment on TOC?

Nyved said...

After re-reading the article in question , i find it actually rather ODD, Seelan, that you are taking the Workers' Party to task instead of the author of the piece, Terence Lee. As you have said, the first two paragrahps have irked you. The first two paragraphs are done by the author of the piece, not the WP Youth Wing. Isn't it unfair to criticize the Workers' Party based on the introduction written by someone not related to the Workers Party? Now, partisan biases aside (yes, Seelan, don't jump to conclusions based on an introductory paragraph)...

Nowhere in the entire piece do the WP Youth Wing interviewees criticize JBJ directly or indirectly. The President of the Youth Wing only indicates that the party is taking a different direction in the past, not even as part of answers to the interview but in the introduction as well. This could mean a lot of different things, such as policy formation etc. Apparently this interview is not as clear as we would like it to be. We can't jump to quick conclusions like this, can we?

Robox said...

Hi Seelan,

The last time I tried, which was maybe about three weeks ago, I still wasn't.

Robox said...

On another note, isn't the new ploy hatched by the joint PAP-and-WP IB hilarious? I'm talking about their references to you, along with others like M Ravi, as "SDP proxies".

I don't know if either of you are SDP members I don't think either of you fulfil the necessary criteria to have earned such a moniker: both your identities, as well as your open affiliation with the party are known to the public.

Both of you are a far cry from the true proxies of the PAP and the other parties who always anonymous and always either "non-partisan", "apolitical" ("Do they even know what that means?"), "unaffiliated with any party" or any number of other such copouts.

Singaporean said...

Robox,

If you believe SDP is the only opposition party that is doing things right, that's OK with me.

As I said, between the PAP and any opposition party, I will choose the latter.

If you think opposition unity is only choir practice, that's a view you are entitled to.

But what makes you think that SDP did not have any support when it was under severe attack ?

Racism against Indians is another topic, which I am unprepared to comment on.

However to equate it with the attacks on SDP is stretching it.

heh said...

I do admire JBJ. don't get me wrong. but i really don't think a confrontational style of CSJ (or sometimes JBJ) serves the people of the ward they are in charge of. It is too easy to lose your own seat, once your ward sees you championing causes that has nothing to do with them.

call it the style of singapore politics. you must admit that to get to the majority, you have to play your cards right.

I do hope sometimes WP would be more vocal. but i do think this is the work of the MSM. we and you, Mr Palay, are all falling for it. so PAP makes WP meek and weak. SDP is some foot stomping monster. who else can you go for but PAP?

right? don't fall for it Mr. Palay. Unite the opposition!

Seelan Palay said...

Dear nyved,

A commentator cannot plug something from nowhere. Anyone reading it, in particular the two words ‘seems adamant’ in the sentence "the Worker’s Party seems adamant about avoiding the bevy of defamation suits suffered by its former Secretary-General" would inevitably come to the conclusion that that is what the WP's present position is, including its YW.

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Seelan Palay said...

Dear heh,

It's good that you admire JBJ. However, the fact remains that it was under the leadership of JBJ that WP's current secretary general Low Thia Khiang got elected in 1991 as MP for Hougang. Furthermore, WP's electoral performance when JBJ was leading it still remains a feat unreachable by its present leadership.

You should be blaming the PAP for their sham of a political system and their underhanded means to remove legitimate opposition from their seat, instead of calling it the 'style of Singapore politics'. That will lead us nowhere and we will remain at the state you see now for decades more to come.

This is not just the work of the MSM my friend, don't fall for it.

Unite the opposition indeed.

Robox said...

To Singaporean:

Re: "But what makes you think that SDP did not have any support when it was under severe attack?"

Err...first hand experience.

Coupled with desperate reactions like yours when SDP supporters fight back and do a convincing job of it.

What else do you need to be convinced?

Robox said...

To Nyved:

You said:

Re: "...i find it actually rather ODD, Seelan, that you are taking the Workers' Party to task instead of the author of the piece, Terence Lee."

I don't know where you acquired your English reading comprehension skills, but I looked back at the article and found that Seelan had actually started his own article by saying:

Re: "A lead article on The Online Citizen portal a couple of days ago described the Youth Wing of the Workers’ Party as “milder but more credible”."

What that means is that his initial focus was The Online Citizen, and presumably the writer of the article.

But slightly later he mentioned:

Re: "However, my focus is on something else."

This he did by devoting the first three quarters of his article to an account on JB Jeyaratnam. And no one else.

It was only about three-quarter way down the article when he finally mentioned the Workers Party:

Re: "And yet the WP and its Youth Wing now seem “adamant about avoiding the bevy of defamation suits suffered by its former Secretary-General“."

Incidentally, the above statement was also the ONLY direct reference that Seelan made throughout the entire article to the Workers Party.

But after the very first sentence of the article, Seelan also continued as such:

Re: "But what this headline means has become a subject of controversy, going by the comments that the article has attracted."

That show up this statement of yoiurs as disingenuous:

Re: "Nowhere in the entire piece do the WP Youth Wing interviewees criticize JBJ directly or indirectly."

I believe that the WP's youth wing had made an indirect attack on JB Jeyaratnam, and by proxy the SDP.

Robox said...

To Singaporean:

Re: "Racism against Indians is another topic, which I am unprepared to comment on...However to equate it with the attacks on SDP is stretching it."

Really?

Even if there undeniably striking similarities between the two?

YOAHYO said...

Why is my COMMENTS not PUBLISH YET Mr SEELAN?

Are you AFRAID??? :PPPPPPPPPPP



WP!!! WP!!! WP!!!

Nyved said...

Seelan,

The words are coined by the author's point of view. He thinks that the party is "adamant." Do the interviewees tell him that they're interested in avoiding lawsuits?

This is one good example of misinterpreting the entire piece. I'm sorry to say that this time you've made a grave mistake on your part and jumped the gun.

Nyved said...

"No insinuation has been made anywhere in the article, whether explicitly or implicitly, about who is to blame for the lawsuits he faced. I suspect that the conciseness of my introductory paragraphs might have caused Mr Seelan to tack on additional meanings onto the article that was never there in the first place." - Terence Lee.

You can read the rest of the write up on TOC.

Nyved said...

Robox,

Yes, his initial focus was on the TOC Article. But Seelan has criticized the entire party based on the premise of TWO introductory paragraphs. Yes, he is also defending JBJ on the premise of those two paragraphs, i can see that. This is in relation to his criticism. As i have said he has jumped the gun, and as Terence Lee puts it himself, Seelan has "tacked on additional meanings onto the article that was never there in the first place."

And honestly, i fail to see where the WP Youth Wing have criticized JBJ, or the SDP. Could you say this of other parties who are not as vocal and active as the SDP? It seems that you, Robox, it is you who needs to improve your own English Comprehension skills.

Nyved said...

- "The words are coined by the author's point of view. He thinks that the party is "adamant." Do the interviewees tell him that they're interested in avoiding lawsuits?"

Slight mistake here. I'd rephrase the first sentence and say: "The paragraphs you are calling into question are the author's own point of view." Anyway, the term "seems adamant" is not the same as "is adamant." Therefore i would not conclude safely that this is the party's position.

My sincere apologies for these string of comments.

Seelan Palay said...

Dear nyved, thank you for your comments.

I posted this on TOC and I'll repost it here:

In all honesty, I’ve put the matter to rest in my mind already. I’ve said what I needed to say, and TOC has replied accordingly.

Let’s take all criticism in stride and move forward to build a better Singapore.

Nyved said...

Yes Seelan,

I believe we should be forward looking. This is what JBJ would have wanted. No point debating over the language of Terence's article now.

YOAHYO said...

Sorry Mr Seelan, but we in WORKERS PARTY will never work with SDP.

We work with pride and we know the law for not being handcuffed all the time.

Bila Bila WP!

Robox said...

Re: "Sorry Mr Seelan, but we in WORKERS PARTY will never work with SDP...We work with pride and we know the law for not being handcuffed all the time."

Oh, BOO HOO HOO!

Seelan, allow me give your readers the benefit of insight gained from the struggle for gay rights.

Alex Au has just written an article on this very issue:

http://www.yawningbread.org/arch_2009/yax-1089.htm

http://yawningbread.wordpress.com/2009/12/26/two-oppositions-and-why-in-the-long-run-they-may-not-matter-at-all-part-1/#comment-1113

I quote from his article:

Re: “The more important point…is why we’re so obsessed with this question [of civil disobedience]. It shows up the fear, and perhaps cravenness, that infect much dissent in Singapore. The constant need by some opposition politicians, not restricted to the Workers’ Party, to abjure it, seems almost pathological.”

I will post my own edited-for-your-blog response to Alex' article.

Robox said...

This is my reworked response:

[Quote]

As LGBTs, we are only too familiar with a specific type of internalized oppression that we are all invariably impacted by, namely internalized homophobia or internalized transphobia.

For the benefit of your readers who may be unfamiliar with what the term means, internalized homophobia or internalized transphobia, say, occurs when LGBT’s *believe* the false messages we hear about ourselves (from being inundated by those messages), and frequently go on to *act* out those false messages. (This is to be distinguished from what is actually true about ourselves, which varies from individual LGBT to individual.)

Similarly, as Singaporeans, we are all impacted by another type of internalized oppression resulting from our political oppression by the PAP government. For want of any yet-to-be-coined term to describe this type of internalized oppression, I shall just call it internalized political oppression.

I believe that as far as political parties go, parties like the WP and the SPP – and I’m beginning to suspect, the RP as well – suffer from a bad case of internalized political oppression.

I would concur that unchecked internalized oppression can indeed become a pathology.

On [Alex'] other point about ‘credibility’, I have found from probing users of the charge that the SDP is not credible, that it rarely, if ever, means ‘believability’. For example, when I engaged a netizen once when he charged that the SDP is not credible by asking which of the SDP’s statements, policy directions, actions affected was not believable, I was – needless to say – met with stony silence.

‘Credible’ is frequently used in place of “I don’t *LIKE*” (as in . I" I don't like the SDP's civil disobedience becuse I am paralysed by fear from my own internalized political oppression.

The WP is similarly immobilized by the same fear.

Robox said...

(Cont...)

This is another post that I wrote in the Yawningbread site. I think my comparison of the WP (though it is hardly the only aflicted party) to ex-gays should demonstrate the seriousness with which to view the WP's pathology of internalized political oppression.

YOAHYO: The WP does the SDP a huge disservice when it refuses to work with together. For that, I thank you as the WP's messenger.

[Quote]

I came to the conclusion some time back that depending on the WP and the SPP to be leading edge on any issue is an exercise in futility, and it has everything to do with the internalized (political) oppression that I referred to.

Those two parties, perhaps along with the RP, have a parisitic relationship with the SDP whom they depend on to do all the grunge work and take all the initial flak for it including from themselves; they however, never hesitate to jump onto the bandwagon after an issue gains more widespread acceptance such as was the case with the death penalty and the (false) declaration that the RP was the only party that had a stand against the death penalty.

(Note: The SDP has had longstanding policy positions on both the abolishment of the death penalty as well as on gay rights)

Looking to the three parties I have named is like gays looking to Shawn Tay’s circle of ex-gays at COOS to lead the charge for gay rights.

It’s interesting that Alex referred to the “two oppositions” in his article. To continue with the gay rights analogy, maybe those opposition parties should be called ex-opposition parties instead.

[Endquote]