10 October 2007

Petition to the prime minister: repeal 377A now

An online petition is open until 19 October to ask the government to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code forthwith. Alas, too many signatories have chosen to use pseudonyms. Full essay.


Anonymous said...

maybe people can be encouraged to ask questions using commercial techniques, e.g., by some sponsor offering prizes and holding luck draw for the questioners

it might also help if the ST reporter and others sued for defaming NKF are given medals; that would show that speaking out is appreciated


recruit ong said...

YB: "But the biggest joke of all is when I hear some of us cry out for the government to let up, loosen up.... give us a sign that the coast is clear, and that we can speak up. In other words, to wait for the government to give us the 'OK'. It won't happen. This government is not going to let go of its worst instincts. They would rather drag Singapore down than trim their own span of control -- in that way, they are no different from the junta in Burma, just slicker economic managers. The only people who can save Singapore are Singaporeans themselves. We begin by seizing back our right to ask tough questions and speak our minds. Overcoming our own fears. Standing up for what we believe in."

Sorry YB for quoting this whole chunk. Just want to say I absolutely agree with you on the above. Signed it.

Anonymous said...

this was written last year


"Climate of Fear" is a regularly used expression in Singapore, and a rather weird one: when challenged to explain "Fear of what?", the speaker is usually unable to do so. Some point to the case of Chee Soon Juan, but this is unenlightening, because the specific activities that led to trouble: his dismissal by NUS for using his research grant to send his wife's thesis for examination in Georgia, the public comments on GCT, LKY and LHL that led to the defamation lawsuits, and the civil disobedience acts that led to his brief imprisonment, could all be easily avoided. Even the cases of Catherine Lim and Mr Brown were atypical: a critic of the government normally does not receive a letter of reprimind from the prime minister or get so publicly dropped by a newspaper - such matters are usually handled quietly.

So those who say "climate of fear" were merely being oversensitive, or just finding excuses for their own timidity? Some commentators, such as our late NUS Business School collegue Jennifer Mao, who used to write a regular column in Lianhe Zaobao, would mock others "what's there to fear; see I often criticize but nothing heppens to me", but this merely reveals a failure to appreciate the basics of Singapore's social psychology. A behaviour may be irrational, but if an irrational behaviour is widespread, there must be a reason for it. My answer to "Fear of what?" is "Fear of official disapproval".

To explain this, it is first necessary to explain, why does the government show official disapproval so often? Given its grip on political and economic power, why should it worry about little pinpricks from the likes of Catherine Lim and Mr Brown? Can a few cartoons about Jesus Christ or jokes about Islam really do much harm? In the west, no one would expect the government to take action since these minor matters are obviously beyond its control. Curiously as it may sound, it is precisely because of the government's power and wide span of control that it has to intervene even in little matters: since it is so much in control, anything happening in public is assumed to be "the government allows it to happen", and the government would get the blame for anything anyone does not like. If the government is responsible for everything, then it has to be cautious about everything.

It then naturally follows that anything, anyone, is labelled as "approved" or "not approved"; since speaking up could cause one to be classified as "not approved", one need to be extremely cautious, even fearful, about anything one says.

Wai said...

I fear that in this present environment the situation you're discussing is going to remain as it is. We humans have millenia worth of selection for self-preservation. The fitness of the individual is all it boils down to. It is contrary to basic human instinct for people to stand up for a cause if it's at a possible detriment to themselves. You can't even really blame them for it.

I like your Burma analogy by the way.