15 April 2008

Political activism, cyber or otherwise

A private forum was organised last week featuring a Malaysian opposition activist and the founder of online newspaper Malaysiakini. Some thoughts following that event. Full essay.


yuen said...

the logic of "depoliticization" leads to "decommitment" is obvious, but then, so is LHL's logic "if we have too many opposition MPs, I would be too busy dealing with them and have less time to look after the economy"; I guess PAP would only be too happy to adopt some alternative mechanism whereby people could feel a sense of participation without threatening or even distracting its control; whether its system is flexible enough to generate such ideas and let the worthy ones float up to the decision makers, however, is another question

Anonymous said...


I am not sure what we can learn from the experiences of our cousin up North. As you have pointed out in your blog, Singapore is politically half dead, what hope is there of mimicking the kind of change up North.

Whatever the lesson one gain from the forum, what is clear is that New Media is only but one leg of the agent of change. The other legs, civil disobedience and political activisms that you have eluded to, have and, in my opinion, will not bear fruit until Singapore really hit a crisis point. Mind you the crisis point will have to be of a catastrophic proportion before any initiative for action.

On this point, the Singapore "political" situation seemed more to parallel Zimbabwe than our cousin up north.

In Zimbabwe you have a founding-father-type-figure still refusing to relinquish power or influence. Not unlike our own so-called "Mentor" Sage.

In Zimbabwe, you have an establishment so intertwine with the governing political party that it has become one and the same. There the military has even stated the possibility of intervening in case the ruling party fell out of favour. In Singapore the Mentor has eluded to such a possibility and given the ambiguous "chain-of-command" structure of the Singapore security apparatus, such a possibility would not be inconceivable.

In Zimbabwe, you have a judiciary totally in favour of the governing party. No need to elaborate further here. The parallels can easily be seen in SDP's skirmishes.

In Zimbabwe, the opposition is fairly split along the "must play by the rule" and the "break the rule". WP and SDP comes to mind?

In Zimbabwe, you can heap hardship upon hardship and still dislodging the present government is almost impossible. Why, first you have an establishment that has been co-oped with the fruits of the country. And a middle class who has the ability to migrate to other countries in this case South Africa. The same applies to Singapore too. You have a highly, if not overly, rewarded establishments on the backs of citizens rather than productivity gains. In the case of Civil Servants through high fees and GLCs protected markert. And a middle class that would rather emigrate than stay and fight for changes. So what you get is the stayer feeling the pinched but lack the resources and resoluteness to do change things.

Ned Stark said...

I think the end result will be more tragic than that... it will be those who are damned by the system who would stand by the country in its final days. Unfortunately things arent improving...if one interprets LHL correctly it appears that they are going to implement more measures to prevent even a 1% chance of a tsunami. What is worst is the prevalence of parrots (see Mr Wang's latest post for an eg). Indeed Alfian Saat's line about Singapore becomes more and more apparent as the day goes by.

Johnny B said...

I think this is the photo in question...


Anonymous said...

Your last sentence says it all. When you look at the comments on some of the forums and blogs, it reflects exactly what you are saying. 'Stand up for Singapore?' I won't dare bet on it!

Anonymous said...

There's more than one photo of Abdullah sleeping. See


Scroll down about halfway to see.


Anonymous said...

The Comment above the Caption in the Sidebar(TOC) says it all.

It has to die and be reborn, no other way.


recruit ong said...

YB: At the rate things are going here, I kind of know how the Singapore story will end. When things go wrong -- and like all countries, things will go wrong one day -- Singapore will be abandoned, not saved. There won't be enough people left who care enough to save it, because for too long, we've been conditioned to think that it's too risky to care.

Well said!

It is already happening. They have to use money to entice people to care and to lead hahaha! They could not even trust our own people enough and instead rely on foreign mercenaries to guard their safety.

And i agree with Ned Stark. I feel things will not improve... it will get a lot worse before it gets better. More controls and draconian laws to come.

Alan Wong said...

Abdullah tried to find a scapegoat when he used the excuse that they lost the elections because they didn't pay enough attention to the Internet. He was merely trying to distract attention from the incompetencies and corruption of his BN ministers. The real issue was that the majority Malaysian electorate were entirely pissed off with his sheer hypocrisy and inability to carry out his promise for a more open and transparent government.

For example, I was told by a Malaysian relative of mine that by word of mouth, all the colleagues in her company unaminously agreed not to give their vote to the BN. Just imagine what would be the results if this scenario is repeated in many other companies.

I guess if our current PAP leaders continue with their arrogant ways of dissipating their self-serving policies at the expense of ignoring the people's sentiment, there is a real possibility that with help by word of mouth spread through the net, PAP can also meet with the same fate as their BN counterparts.

In this case, I'll bet that "the Net is mightier than the Sword".

Readymade said...

Alex: I share your concerns, but I'm a bit less pessimistic.

I suspect that the "non-political" stance that civil society groups here maintain is more of a survival tactic than an ingrained habit.

Besides, not every civil society group has to challenge the government or work with opposition parties to fulfill their purpose.

They should be able to if they wanted though, without the govt retaliating.

I'm not as concerned that the people already in civil society groups will really become de-politicised.

But I do wonder how to get more Singaporeans involved in civil society groups to begin with.

Once inside such a group, perhaps tomorrow's non-PAP political leaders will emerge by themselves.

Anonymous said...

In places like Burma, if the people do not go out to bring down the junta, at least you could say it is a 'backward' country communications-wwise.

So they won't get to know things like Than Swie's daughter getting a $50 million diamond necklace as wedding gift.

So they don't know, can't know, much less due to lack of infrastructure to communicate with one another to organize numbers to go to Naypidew to sack the junta.


We're talking about a teeny-weeny islet of some 640 sq km, where there are TWO telephones to one person, mobility unparalleled, etc, etc - unlike Burma.

And despite all these, you couldn't even make one errant minister go, much less a whole cabinet of (similarly cowed, just like you) subservient million-dollar men.

All your rants, chants and bloggings - I hear Singaporeans are the top blogging community in South East Asia despite their puny population of 4 million (3 if you exclude foreign talents) - can only find a few beneficiaries: the ISPs you use, and the power company.

And that of course means one company that profits ultimately.

And one family that is The Winner That Takes All.

Christine said...

Readymade makes a good point.

There are many interpretations of the parameters of political activism. Political activism that fuels apparent conflict and discord is not activism in the fullest sense of what it seeks to achieve. There will and should always be boundaries of discussion and diplomacy in a world of similar dynamic people.

We are all participants of politics,
so then, if we already are participants, where is the need for activism?

As a participant, how effective and efficient are we?