Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Singapore: We must get behind our activists and alternative newsites

Singapore Democrats

As the next election draws nearer, government-controlled sources of information will increasingly push out commentary praising the PAP regardless of the difficulties and frustration that Singaporeans face.

But while this may have worked well for the ruling party in years past, circumstances have altered considerably with the expansion of the Internet.

No longer is it easy for the PAP to play fast and loose with the facts as bloggers, with the ability to retrieve information at a moment's notice, are able to call out the authorities' bluster and disingenuity.

This is why, if Singapore is going to mature into a thinking society where we are able to distinguish between news and propaganda, we must value our activists.

Alternative newsites such the Temasek Review Emeritus (which has recently called for financial support), The Real Singapore, The Online Citizen, Redwire Times, etc., as well as the myriad of blogs provide an invaluable service in our effort to develop a democracy.

Coupled with a fast-developing civil society sector where activists, once non-existent, are now making themselves heard on a variety of issues, the scene is set for citizens to take on a more meaningful role in shaping public policy.

This is the reason the SDP fought for democracy and the rights of our fellow Singaporeans.

Not only did we believe (and still do) that freedom, in and of itself, is worth defending, but we also knew that without our political rights, we could not fight for our social and economic interests – interests like curbing the excessively liberal immigration policy or protesting against the retention of our CPF money.

The exercise of our fundamental rights of speech, assemble and association – exemplified by the gatherings at Hong Lim Park organised by our activists – have enabled the blogosphere to keep the people informed of the damage done by PAP's policies.

If Singapore is going to develop into a truly First World society, a robust civil society, of which the Internet community plays an integral part, is indispensable.

PM Lee Hsien Loong recently disparaged the Internet as a medium that has “led to divisions and all kinds of different ideas being able to take root and germinate.”

It is unfortunate that the leader of a government that professes to champion a knowledge-based economy cannot see that it is “all kinds of ideas” that has led to progress and the advancement of human civilisation.

Like everything else, modern communication tools can be a force for good or it can be abused to degrade humanity. It does not portend well for our nation that the PAP cannot inspire our people to achieve great things and aspire to noble ends.

But we must not despair. We must, instead, encourage “all kinds of ideas” to be articulated and have faith in our people that the good ones will be cultivated and the bad ones discarded.

This means supporting the endeavours of our online community and civil society.

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