Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Law Minister says criticisms of Singapore are "Divorced from reality"

Singapore repressive? Nahhh, not possible, says Law Minister K Shanmugam.

Some points from a friend:
  1. Shanmugan totally missed the point on RWB ranking on by conflating press freedom with a country's internal stability.
  2. Tthe rankings are based on inputs by human rights activists/ press correspondents/ media
  3. Accusing the government sector (including the elites/ bureaucrats) of inappropriate behaviour/ corruption is part and parcel of any democratic state (provided there is 'sufficient' evidence or doubt). That's what whistleblowing is about. Defamation suits threaten and destroy the intent of free speech.
  4. I would ask Shanmugan to provide us with an example of a 'sharp' criticism from the local press on governmental policy in recent years. Just ONE.

'Divorced from reality'
27 October 2009
Source: Today Online - It is a modern, prosperous city-state based on the rule of law - but if you only read about Singapore in certain American publications, you would think it a repressive state that controlled people's very thoughts.

"As if that is possible in a modern, successful, wired and internationally connected city," added Law Minister K Shanmugam.

Tackling such "misperceptions among some Americans" as he addressed members of the New York State Bar Association's international section in town for a meeting, he alluded to how criticism of Singapore in relation to press freedom sometimes reached levels "quite absurd and divorced from reality".

Take the World Press Freedom index by Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based non-government organisation, which last year ranked Singapore 144 out of 173 countries - below even Guinea, whose military junta of late was reported to have gunned down people and had women raped on the streets.

"This year, we behaved better - so we moved up to rank 133. Below Kenya, which saw riots following a disputed election," he quipped.

And then there is the Freedom House 2009 rankings which put Singapore on par with Iraq. Would a truly objective assessment give the Republic such a ranking?

"Our approach has therefore been to ignore the criticisms which make no sense - and we will continue to do better," said Mr Shanmugam, who is also Second Minister for Home Affairs.

One source of some media's dislike of Singapore: The famous tussles the Government has had with publications like the Wall Street Journal and the Far Eastern Economic Review. The Government's stand, he reiterated, is: Criticise us, sure, but we demand the right of response. And if the line is crossed to making "allegations of fact against someone ... then there will be a libel suit".

It is not something the press are used to, so "every lawsuit is met with the same reaction - we are out to silence the press". But having read some of the articles at the centre of suits, he feels "it would have been perfectly possible to have been deeply critical of government policies ... without the addition of totally unnecessary remarks on some form of corruption".

In the political arena, too: "We have no problems with tough debate, criticism of policies. But ... if untrue statements are made that a person is corrupt or that he lied, or that he tried to help my family or friends, there will be a suit."

He added: "If it is said that someone is stupid or that policies make no sense and the policies are attacked vigorously, then you can't sue. There is public prerogative, to comment on policies ... It will be sensible to defend the policies and ignore the attacks on intellect."

Mr Shanmugam cited how Singapore scored 100 for Government effectiveness on the World Bank Governance Index, and ranked as the third least corrupt country in the world. He also expanded on the economic and strategic linkages between the US and Singapore - noting, also, that 10 of the 21 Singapore ministers have had some education in top US schools.

"This education, in our formative years, has made many of us admirers of many aspects of American society," he said.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

SDP's Deepavali Message 2009

The Singapore Democrats wish all Hindu and Sikh friends a Happy Deepavali:
சிங்கப்பூர் ஜனநாயகக் கட்சி இந்துக்களுக்கும் சீக்கியர்களுக்கும் எங்களின் மகிழ்சிகரமான தீபாவளி வாழ்த்துக்களை தெரிவிக்கிறோம்.

Visit the SDP website at

A response to Young PAP's article on 'Western Democracy and Human Rights'

Seelan: The following article is from a fellow local blogger.

To The Devotees of “Asian Values”

By Die neue Welle

Many of my readers (if there are any left) will want to have a reason for my disappearance. Well, I have been observing. Ris Low boomz’ed, lifts should be upgraded, the EZ-Link cards had to be changed. But then i came across something on Young PAP, an article called “To The Devotees of Western Democracy and Human Rights.” Since I believe that idiocy has to be dealt with using a large hammer, so here goes…

The author has tried to justify the “superiority” of Asian values vis-à-vis Western values. Well, in every culture, the dominant values are always seen as superior over other values – it is one of the things which contribute to identity. But one has to ask the question if it is right, or even if it does make sense to use such a blanket-term like “Asian Values”. What are “Asian Values,” anyway? The author seems to be deliberately trying to remain vague on what they are. Does he assume that we all know what they are? One quarter of our population are now expats and PRs leh.

In fact, the term “Asian values” as they are in Singapore remains so vague, because it is implicitly expected that we know what they entail. But do we? The ruling class can have another set of “Asian Values” – e.g., maybe the Men in White ARE the Sons of God, or maybe a particular Man in White, the scholar system (i.e., elitist thinking), the larger focus on belief in authority, society before self, etc. But for the ruled, “Asian Values” may mean virtue, being ruled fairly, and that a ruler should care for his subjects, family, etc. BUT these are never said clearly. ”Asian Values” must remain vague, because as a blanket-term, you can apply it anywhere and everywhere, and you can separate yourself from the horrible West. So yah, first, what are “Asian Values?”

And these were also the nations [European powers] that, at the height of their imperialism, imposed, by sheer brute force, the ‘right’ of extra-territoriality upon the countries they had subjected. And now, they are crusading for Freedom and Human Rights in their former colonies as well as the other countries of Asia.

Now the author accuses the West of cultural imperialism. Of course the West can afford to be cultural imperialists (especially Uncle Sam, well under Bush anyway), since they have the might and the money. But in ‘crusading’ (jeez! what a word! this isn’t the Middle Ages, you prick, and if you had any sense of political language, you would have avoided it. The very concept of Jihad by Muslim fundamentalists go back to the Crusades, you fool!) for “Asian Values” overseas – what, Singapore is trying to strike back? With what force?

In fact, Western values are so important for Singapore that you can’t do without them. If we don’t want Western values, then we should chase foreigners out, especially the educated Westerners in our universities, and we should, of course, send our scholars not to Europe anymore! I mean, they ARE going to rule, you know?? So what is being said is that for our author, he is grossly short-sighted: this smacks of a way to stay in power, by using a vague term to make one system sound better than the other. Without any agreed definitions, this is just RHETORICS.

The Anglophile may be despised, but maybe our author should be too, since he is doing nothing much more than building castles in the air, i.e. calling others to take up arms against the Western cultural crusade (seriously, were you with the Taliban?) based on a term which is so general that it is empty, and using the rhetoric of certain senior citizens who deem fit to travel the world and impose their own brand of imperialism under the motto of “leave us alone, you have no idea what it is like to rule an Asian country,” yadda, yadda. Yes, what were you thinking?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Young PAP member guises human rights as western imperialism and praises Chinese communist premier

Seelan: Just when I was giving the Young PAP the benefit of the doubt, they put out a flabbergasting statement like this! Totally 'Highfalutin'!

Another online commenter: "The PAPpies keep claiming that Westerners are attempting to impose their ideas of liberal democracy (and now human rights) on Singaporeans, yet PAP is the one that denies us of our right to determine for ourselves. It is the PAP that is imposing its values on us, insisting the party knows what's best for everyone."

From the Young PAP website:

To The Devotees of Western Democracy and Human Rights.
Written by Ho Cheow Seng
Tuesday, 22 September 2009 is one thing for one to have read about Singapore's Early History as a nascent, sovereign Nation and quite another thing to have lived through that period and to play a crucial role in Singapore's struggle to stand on its own two feet and fend for itself.

We, as Citizens of Singapore, are the best to judge which system of governance suits our Nation best in terms of advancing the well-being of our people. And no, we should not be so arrogant as not to want to look closely at other successful systems of governance with a view to adapting aspects of those systems to our benefit.

The observation has been made that it is those countries in the West, who were former colonisers of countries in Asia, and who robbed lands belonging to others, suppressing the native inhabitants of the lands they conquered, and stealing their valuable resources to fuel their own industrialization now condescendingly want to teach us how to govern ourselves following their model wholesale.

These were also the countries that once lorded over the great ancient civilization of India, and who also derided China [another great ancient civilization] as the 'sick man of Asia’. And these were also the nations that, at the height of their imperialism, imposed, by sheer brute force, the 'right' of extra-territoriality upon the countries they had subjected. And now, they are crusading for Freedom and Human Rights in their former colonies as well as the other countries of Asia.

Have you ever wondered why no Asian countries have ever tried to preach to countries in the West about our Asian values and way of life? Do remember that it was the great Asian and Middle-Eastern nations that gave the world the first great inventions in the various fields of human activities. As the current Chinese Premier Wen Jie-bao once said in his address to the Chinese People's Congress: "Why should the U.S. and the West be afraid of China's economic re-surgence?" He went on to say that history has shown that China had never harboured any imperialistic ambition and had not occupied an inch of anyone's territory.

And so the West, and in particular the U.S., want now to teach us how to run our countries according to their model of Democracy. Beware of their pulling cotton wool over our eyes. Do you seriously believe there is genuine Freedom and practice of Human Rights in America? May I refer you to Noam Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent", a book that exposes American Democracy as a sham? And Chomsky is both a citizen and one of America's most brilliant thinkers and incisive critics on Social and Political issues.

You know the term 'cultural bananas'? To give you some clue, a banana is yellow outside and white inside. And 'cultural bananas' is the term the great white lords used to pour scorn on the 'Westernized Asians' who were bold enough to speak up to them.

Now why do we allow them to treat us this way? Have we no self-respect or do we totally lack the ability to think for ourselves that we should sink so low as to be devotees of everything white and Western? Given our colonial history, many of our citizens are Anglophones. This is perfectly fine especially as we are a muti-racial society and we need a common language to facilitate transactions both social and economic among our various ethnic groups.

But please, don't ever fall into the trap of taking that one further step to become an 'anglophile' in the misguided belief that THAT would enhance your standing in the eyes of your countrymen and that of the 'great white lords'. If at all, you will likely be despised.

The late Mahatma Gandhi once penned a few verses to show his disgust for the hero-worshippers of Western culture. He wrote:

Discarded by the West
And despised by the East,
They stand as living monuments,
Of Western adultery.

By 'Western adultery' Gandhi may be referring to the adulteration of Indian [and likewise Asian] culture by the Western culture. So don't be sold on Western Democracy and Human Rights. Right up to the second half of the 20th Century, Afro-Americans were still fighting their white counterparts to be accorded equal rights. Martin Luther King Jr. had this to say:

"I have a dream that the children of slaves and the children of former slave-owners will one day sit at the table of brotherhood".

Martin Luther King Jr. may well be more than surprised should he be alive today to witness that an Afro-American, a coloured man holding the highest post in 'the Land of the brave and the free', the post, that is to say, of the President of the United States of America.

For all Afro-Americans and all coloured peoples of the world, indeed the wheel has come full circle.

Majulah Singapura!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Singapore’s art groups decline to be propaganda mouthpiece for National Integration Council

Source: Temasek Review key players in the Singapore art scene have declined an overture by the government to become their propaganda mouthpiece to help promote integration between locals and foreigners, a call made by the National Integration Council on Friday.

The Council, led by Minister for Community, Youth and Sports Dr Vivian Balakrishnan had earlier recommended the government allocate an eye-popping $10 million dollars to organize events for immigrants to make them feel welcome in Singapore.

The government is becoming increasingly worried at the rising social tensions on the ground due to relentless influx of foreigners in recent years.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a dialogue with NTU students lately that the government’s immigration policy will remain though it will “tweak” it to slow the intake of foreigners.

When interviewed by the state-controlled media, many key leaders in Singapore’s art scene expressed their doubts and scepticism of being involved in helping foreigners “integrate” into Singapore society.

Tay Tong, managing director of TheatreWorks, said:

“It’s really more about that, rather than say, ‘Oh, let’s do a play and please, integrate!’. I don’t think that’s going to work. I’m kind of curious what it means by integration. I think when we’re dealing with cultural differences, it should primarily be more about the celebration of differences, rather than trying to be homogeneous.”

NMP Audrey Wong, who is also the co-director of Substation was more direct:

“The thing is, we don’t want to do propaganda art. In fact, the public cannot be duped. They are suspicious of anything that smacks of propaganda. So there needs to be an understanding of how art works and how art functions in society, in order for the initiative to be successful.”

Shaun Teo, president of Migrant Voices, added:

“We are not talking about issues in a hypothetical or ideal situation. The characters act out certain situations that will happen at home, so the solutions that they’ll find from forum theatre are the solutions that they are most probably able to apply at home.”

The lukewarm response from the arts community in Singapore must have disappointed the government who is sparing no effort to ensure that their new citizens are well integrated into society without incurring the wrath of the locals.

It is strange that the NIC would recommend “outsourcing” this noble task of promoting integration to outsiders when the government already has the most ideal candidate within its ranks to spearhead its latest pro-foreigner initiative – Acting Minister for Information, Communication and Arts Rear-Admiral Lui Tuck Yew.