I had been hopeful that the PAP-led government would change for the better when I first started my blog post GE 2011. Unfortunately, those upbeat sentiments went downhill fast after watching the words and actions by the ministers over the past 2 years. To be fair, there were some positive changes, such as the review of ministerial salaries (lower but still the world’s highest) and various attempts made by the government to engage the citizens more such as through the National Conversation (which has been subjected to both praise and scorn).
However, such improvements get overshadowed whenever the Government issues threatening lawyers letters , exercises heavy use of the law and carries out other unsavoury actions to muzzle vocal activists. The latest sagas that have left a foul-smelling trail involve the pressure tactics on activist Nizam Ismail for having spoken up publicly on national concerns when he was still involved with the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP). His punishment? Threats were allegedly made (by two Ministers no less) to cut off funding to AMP where he was a director. Nizam has resigned from AMP and has documented the saga on his blog.
And a week ago, cartoonist Leslie Chew was arrested for allegedly being seditious in two of his cartoons from his satirical cartoon series Demon-cratic. Both incidents involving Leslie and Nizam caused an uproar among many concerned Singaporeans who care about fairness and justice. Like them, I am upset because of the hypocrisy and double standards that exist in Singapore.
Adding to this storm of injustices, Minister Tan Chuan-Jin made a brow-raising comment on his Facebook page recently over the vandalism incident where the word “Democracy” was spray painted in red on a war memorial. Before even knowing who the culprit was, which could have been a mischievous youth, Chuan Jin expressed his anger and implied “Anarchy” from this ONE single graffiti! His exact words were: “The vandals sprayed “Democracy”. Sorry. Wrong spelling. Was it “Anarchy” they were looking for?”.
Vandalism no doubt it was, but anarchy?? Was he trying to stir anger against anyone who talks, writes and paints the word democracy? Was he trying to turn the public against activists without even knowing who the culprit was? And even if the culprit were an activist, where’s the link between this one-off graffiti and anarchy? Does Chuan-Jin know the meaning of the word? Anarchy as defined by Merriam-Webster means “a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority.” That surely doesn’t apply to Singapore which, as the entire world knows, has too much government control and exceptionally stringent laws.
As I have always said, PAP needs to stop being hyper hypocritical and reflect on its own ugly behaviour before it shouts, threatens and accuses its critics.
The biggest culprit guilty of manipulative partisan politics is them. Look no further than the entire public-funded People’s Association which is supposed to be non-partisan and yet is clearly there to support the PAP’s agenda; and look deeper at the entire network of GLCs and TLCs and the vast NTUC empire. Now, can they look us in the eye and tell us that they are non-partisan?
And what about the case of Malminderjit Singh, president of the Young Sikh Association (YSA)? Like the AMP, the YSA also receives funding from the Government and yet, as blogger Andrew Loh pointed out, Mr Singh is a PAP member and is Chairman of the council of PAP’s Policy Forum. Isn’t PAP practising partisanship in this case? Is partisanship ok so long as one is with Them and not critical of them?
Clearly PAP is the ultimate master puppeteer when it comes to wayang. Their actions sometimes make many wonder, is our government on our side to help and protect us or to control us in whatever ways and means? Do they not know that if they continue this way, they are being divisive in splitting this nation into a Them vs Us? They are the direct cause of the resentment and anger that has been building up among Singaporeans.
And do they not know that continued oppression of the people’s views through threats and use of laws that they created will not destroy our spirit but make it stronger? We are in a different era now where people are wising up as we have access to unprecedented diverse information thanks to the Internet and thanks to better education and a more vocal populace. With more sources of information and stronger critical thinking skills, we are in a better position to sieve out the lies and discern the truth. Knowing the truth strengthens our resolve to do what is right.
Our Government seriously needs to wake up and realise this. The people are not blind and are no longer agreeable to closing our eyes and being manipulated by lies and spin, nor are we easily threatened. Using reason, showing respect for the citizens and behaving ethically would go much further in getting our respect and trust.
As a citizen, I truly hope that our government will wise up soon and start behaving with some dignity and principles befitting leaders of a democratic nation. Are they capable of doing this for the sake of our country’s peace and future? I do not have the answer. For now, I can only hope and keep speaking up.
Disclaimer: I do not know Nizam nor Leslie. This is a non-partisan commentary.