05 June 2008

Whose misbehaviour diminishes us all?

Political theatre in Singapore courts as leaders and supporters of the Singapore Democratic Party are charged for various offences. Some unflattering similarities with Thailand and Zimbabwe. Full essay.


Anonymous said...

You forgot to add that Lee Hsien Loong, in his election speech has clearly indicated his need to fix the opposition and buy votes. If not, the government would be distracted on running the country, eg raising ERP charges, raising GST, raising minister's salary etc etc. These must be done with minimal intrusion from opposition parties, look at how South Korea is hampered by political bickering as mentioned in ST on 4 June and such bills would be impossible to pass expediently.

Aidil Omar said...

The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out... without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable.

-Henry L. Mencken
The Sage of Baltimore

Anonymous said...

I'm a US citizen, and I called and spoke to my congressman yesterday about Mr. Nair's arrest. He told me that he already knew about it and was "hopping mad". Arresting Americans for speaking their minds is akin to arresting us for behaving like Americans. Guys, this is really bad. The fact that he's a former Singaporean is not going to matter. The US Embassy's statement that they are closely monitoring the case is diplomat-speak for "this is a really big deal."

yuen said...

>fix the opposition

fix, repair, to make it better!!

I also happen to think the government's treatment of CSJ, James Gomez, etc, was unnecessary, and they post no real threat, not even much of a distraction; however, it needed to be admitted they themselves did poorly and offered PAP opportunities that require some mental effort and philosophical generosity to pass by

CSJ not only, as LKY says, destroyed SDP after its promising achievement in 1991 election, he has shown no innovative political thinking, other than making himself a long running victimhood soap opera; frankly, I expected something better from our ex NUS colleague

Yawning Bread Sampler said...

I see from a Channel NewsAsia report that Law Minister Shanmugam has weighed in on the matter. He was quoted as saying,

"If you take a country like Singapore, based on democratic principles, and you look at the institutions that underpin our society, then conceptually, rule of law is important.

"It means independence of the judiciary and equality of everyone before the law. In order to have that – not just as a slogan but in reality – you need an independent judiciary that really protects the citizens and, in fact, anyone who goes before the courts. People must have confidence that the judiciary is independent."

Hear hear! But alas, he goes on to say,

"In order to make sure that we protect the integrity of the judiciary and people's confidence in the judiciary is not affected, you have to be very, very strict with anyone who attacks the judiciary in scurrilous ways or calls into question its independence."

That's not logical. You have to be very, very strict with anyone, e.g. incumbent politicians and weak-kneed jurists, who undermine the independence of the courts through their interference or failure to do their jobs properly. Otherwise you're only addressing the facade, not the substance of the issue.

Anonymous said...

"If you take a country like Singapore, based on democratic principles, and you look at the institutions that underpin our society, then conceptually, rule of law is important."

Well is the current PAP regime democratic? Note that LKY dodged the question during the court hearing, and instead cited the country's surplus and reserves as justification. Shanmugum is just trying to pull a fast one here.

yuen said...

>incumbent politicians and weak-kneed jurists, who undermine the independence of the courts through their interference or failure to do their jobs properly

alex I think you are sailing dangerously close to the wind

I made the following comment on the issue previously


Judiciary Independence

Judiciary independence means judges make case decisions on their own without interference from other branches of government; under Singapore law, anyone who says or implies "judiciary is not independent" commits contempt of court.

Recently, an opposition MP (Silvia Lim, a polytechnic Law lecturer) touched on this issue in Parliament by referring to the presence of executive branch members on the body that makes decisions about promotions and pay increases for judges. Apparently, this point had been raised in the past by other opposition MPs, and the Law Minister in reply dismissed it as an old conspiracy theory.

Obviously, if you believe that both the judges and the decision makers are men of integrity, then you would believe that the latter would award promotions and salary increases on the basis of qualification and capability, not on whether the judges made rulings in accordance with executive wishes, and you would also believe that judges would decide cases according to their perception of the merits. Hence, there should be no problem, unless you make certain negative assumptions about both sets of people involved.

Since how you see the situation depends on the assumptions you start with, it is not surprising that different camps see things differently.
I would add another comment: not all suspected crimes are prosecuted, and police investigators/public prosecutors exercise discretion; they take into consideration what kind of lesson a decision to be stringent or lenient would give to the public; in other words, value systems come into play

Anonymous said...

As a German living here for a while, I have to say that the obnoxious behavior of the government is overbearing.
I hope the young generation of Singaporeans will bring down this system as it will get Singapore nowhere.
LHL's words about a modern open society are a joke. As long as he can't get his own father to finally keep quiet and stop repeating his antics again and again, people with an open mind will just leave this Orwellian nightmare place.

Chinese National said...

Freedom of speech is not synonymous with freedom to misrepresent facts or to defame another individual.

Singapore must remain the way it is, if only to crush the Eurocentric assumption that only a Western style democracy would work in this world. For the same reason, I am a firm opponent to a transition of China into a Western style democracy. Not that I oppose political progress but rather that I wish to see politics progress in a way that defies the arrogant monology of Western ideology.

I applaude the writings in this site on gay issues. But I find a bit disturbing the almost across-the-board proclivity towards Western liberal democracy. But then again, you are entitled to your opinion.

Alan Wong said...

"She was probably unaware that people would naturally see irony in her statement, asking whose misbehaviour was more instrumental in diminishing Singapore's justice system."

I fully agree.

Our judges truly need to see that justice is not to be heard only, justice must be seen to be done. Seriously I can't help feeling there was a apparent lack of the latter in our judiciary system when dealing with political cases.

Anonymous said...

Using a cannon to kill a mosquito instead of a fly swatter is clearly overkill & silly. Likewise, using a clearly biased court system to obtain favourable defamation judgement against the opposition is just a pyrrhic victory. It is a victory with devasting costs to the victors. The monetary damages that they received from the defamation suit is a pittance compared to the irrepairable damage done to them & the Spore court system in pursuing this trivial case.
The Spore govt has already lost considerable affection with the people especially after the astronomical ministerial salary increases the last few years. The "foreign talent" issue have created tensions amongst the locals & foreigners. The recent bashing of a Chinaman talking loudly on his handphone is just tip of a simmering volcano. The widening economic chasm between the "haves" and "have-nots" should be a cause for concern for those in power. However, they seemed to be clouded by political issues which have diverted their attention.
The SDP & CSJ have little political support within heartland Spore. His antics have put off many Sporeans at large. CSJ fights for Spore democracy & human rights but these values does not resonate with the locals as these are alien western concepts. The locals are only concerned with their full bellies & money in pocket issues. However, CSJ is posturing to a wider audience which are the developed nations whom are critical to our foreign investments. He is a sacrificial pawn to draw in the king in a chess move or a martyr eg. someone who seeks attention or sympathy by exaggerating the impact upon himself.
It is evident that our political system has grown complacent & out-of-touch after nearly 40 years in power. The compliant judiciary, the muzzled mainstream media & the censorship laws and strait-laced social constraints have sapped a lot out of the people. The use of "good governance" by the Spore govt is simply to pat themselves on the back & award themselves a huge raise. It is pure hogwash ie. garbage fed to a compliant audience whom have not known any better alternatives since independence. Spore is being governed on "no governance" principles. A good analogy would be a car whose steering wheel is disconnected with the wheels. The whole country is falling apart! Good solid Sporeans are migrating overseas & are not coming back! This country is being overrun by hordes of so-called foreign talents. In Geylang, the "foreign talents" of a lewd nature have spilled from the back alleys onto the main thorough-way. Yet, we see regular press statements by Ministers stating that foreign talents are good for this country! BTW, are those prostitutes foreign talent? Spore is becoming increasingly decadent despite the strait-lace facade - illicit drugs are coming through & vice, gambling have increased as the police seemed to be focusing their attention on CSJ & his SDP antics.
Just look at the US democratic party primaries - the see-sawing battle between Senator Obama and Hilary Clinton. Both candidates are fighting toe-to-toe for the party nomination. The energy & vibrancy between the candidates to out-do one another & to win the hearts of the party members bears scrutiny. Every speech made by them is scrutinized word-by-word and immediately opinion polled. The candidates' strategists often modified, adjusts or even revamp their stand according to popular public opinion polls. Contrast to Spore, the sledgehammer approach to silence opinions, dissidence or criticisms - no dialogue, no consultation, no feedback! Deafening silence. Good Governance? my foot!

KiWeTO said...

to Anon: 05 June, 2008 23:35

You believed that "our political system has grown complacent & out-of-touch after nearly 40 years in power."

However, our political system has never been real ever since coherent opposition parties were crushed into near non-existence by iron rule and other tools of government misapplied.

Neither has our political system ever attempted to mature in any sensible way - whether 2 party rule, or coalition rule, or whatever forms it could have taken.

Constitutional change requirements on parliamentary majorities are a joke when one party has virtual control of the constitution, and has the legal right to change it as and when the party sees fit.
(as an addendum to this thought - when can an attack on a political party's ideology ever be constituted as an attack on government, or is that a fallacious question?)

As for the rest of what is happening to Singapore that most Singaporeans seem to be simmering hotly about, I doubt there can be any positive change towards a state for Singaporeans first.

When foreign talent are more attractive to employers than locals (eg: NS obligations etc), we can see what happens to us - HOTEL Singapore, where the majority of the staff are NOT Singaporeans.

As to leaving, I have already decided that one day, my ticket will be validated. And that is the sadness, for I will leave not for the sake of a better life, for I forever will remain born a Singaporean, but for the sake of a freer life.


Anonymous said...

I personally feel that the practice of libel suits is only favoured by MM Lee. Neither SM GOh or PM Lee looked very keen on it. But i guess the old man's moral authority is so overwhelming.

Having said that, there is also a bit of political calculation in which the PAP feels that it can feel Singaporeans bring out the worst in Chee and gang rather than themselves.

And i think that this seems to be working according to the last election results where sDP almost lost its deposit in getting 20% of the vote in Sembawang GRC.

Honestly, do you prefer Chee or Lee to be in government?

yuen said...

> libel suits is only favoured by MM Lee. Neither SM GOh or PM Lee looked very keen on it

when James Gomez made a mistake regarding the submission of the minority certificate form, GCT and LHL both kept quiet, but WKS and George Yeo had to go on and on about it, despite their obvious reluctance to make such a big thing about it - the senior figurers could act more according to their own wishes, but lower figures had less choice

this is why I said repeatedly: there should be an upper house to which retired ministers can be sent by their party (on a proportinate system so that PAP sends say 70% of senators and opposition 30% - PAP can actually use this to ask voters to give it a lower house clean sweep since opposition is sure of senate representation); they have the forum to express their views, including matters too small for the cabinet to worry about

LHL says too many opposition MPs would distract him from running the economy, but other people can also distract him; the trick is to confine the distraction by having institutions specially meant to deal with them; a talkshop like a senate, with experienced but less active members, would be just the thing

Anonymous said...

To Chinese National, are you saying you don't like democracy because it is "Western"? What would you rather have then? Bring back Chairman Mao for another round of great leaps forward? I think you might just hate the West and reject anything Western. Seriously, look inside yourself, and ask if the reason you don't like democracy is because most democratic countries are Western, or if you find something more fundamentally wrong with the concept of people being free to choose their own government?

lise said...

I dont get it when people view democracy as a Western concept. Who cares where it originated from? Im not a "westerner" and I sure as hell like it! So, I HAVE to like EVERY single thing that is "Asian" just because Im one?

It reeks of the asinine "Asian morals and Asian values" crap. Yea, I see it being exercised very well in places like Geylang and Desker Rd. I see it when old people are having to sell tissues and collect cans for a living.
It is unfortunate that most people cant see the good in what CSJ is saying and doing. Things like human rights and free speech are alien in a materialistic, self centered society like singapore. Unfortunately, its citizens are more concerned about getting the latest gadget, losing weight or having everything look nice and shiny. You can blame the education system, you can blame the lack of resources for topics like human rights but sometimes I just wonder if people have a problem with thinking. Can you not think? Do you need things to be spelt out for you every single time?

yuen said...

Democracy IS a western import (unlike homosexuality which has been here historically), and its application IS culture dependent - Japan, Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore each developed unique democratic systems as influenced by the local culture

the people in control of each system would naturally want to justify its features, including features that permit the entrenchment of their own power - that is just self-interest, and always the same regarless of cultural differences

recruit ong said...

Chinese national appears to be still stuck in the past, engaged in western bashing. Probably has to do with China's 19th century history. Well get a move on! I hope this PRC doesn't get Spore PR or citizenship. We don't need this type to import his baggage to Spore hahaha.

Those PRC students in my school also like this. Blind unthinking patriotism and nationalism which imo can be easily manipulated by those in power.

Anonymous said...

Dear Recruit Ong and others: Can we stop the shameless and xenopobic bashing of Chinese nationals? What makes you think that Singaporeans are better? If you want to criticise his views, that's fine, but you do not need include his own socio-cultural background. So much for your democratic values

Kai Khiun

Chinese National said...

It is not “anything Western” that I reject. It is the selfish and aggressive Western imperialism that I reject. I do not hate the concept of democracy per se. Rather, I abhor the hypocritical, aggressive and imperialistic connotations that this concept invokes against the broader international reality.

The USA (and its allies) sees it as an integral part of their foreign policy to 1) impose its own systems on other peoples, 2) to punish governments who do not uphold or reject the same value systems. In this game of international arm-twisting, righteousness, or the concern for the common people, is never the primary consideration. International reality is solely based on power and strength.

The USA and its tail-wagging allies went ahead to invade Iraq in the noble name of “planting the seed of democracy” supposedly for the benefit of the Iraqi people. We (well, the intelligent ones amongst us) all know that the USA was really after the control of the oil pipeline in the Middle East so as to have leverage over Asia (and to a lesser extent, Europe). No matter that millions of civilian lives were lost.

The recent cyclone disaster in Myanmar is another instance exposing the wickedness of Western political scheming. America is exploiting this unfortunate disaster to push for its own (perennial) political objective in Myanmar: a regime change. In the press conference held immediately after the cyclone hit Myanmar, Mrs. Bush wasted no time in politicizing the disaster. Only one sentence was spent on the tragedy, the rest of the press conference was on her political agenda of regime change. America has insisted that the Burmese junta grant US military airplanes immediate access to the region for “assessment” purposes before any aid could be given. Considering the record of America’s past doings in Burma, the junta had good reasons to reject this arrogant demand. The insistence of the USA on access of its military aircrafts to Burma was the real reason why aid to the victims was delayed. Never mind millions of victims perished. Of course, the corporate media is simply resonating the US propaganda and condemning the Burmese government. For the record, I am not defending the Burmese junta. But I think the media has deliberately missed another important aspect of the story.

The point I am trying to emphasize is that the aggressive exportation of “democracy” is not being done for the well-being of its supposedly recipients. Rather, it is part of a vicious and selfish imperialistic agenda on the part of the USA to impose its ideals on others. It is American interests that are being pursued, not those of the recipients. Those who reject this imposition are punished. It is this distressing status quo that I reject. And I feel that many others share my sentiments. Whether democracy is a good thing is beside the point. But I do feel that an uncritical acceptance of the evangelical crusade of American democracy is only for the supine and spineless amongst us.

And for the record, I oppose a regression into the Mao Zedong ideology.

Anonymous said...

Comparing Singapore with Zimbabwe is wrong. Zimbabwe is a failed state experiencing hyper-inflation but Singapore is approaching 1st world status both economically and socially.

The PAP has won every election since 1959. It is the people's choice. All the ranting and raving by bloggs and political parties about democracy don't make an iota of difference.

Anonymous said...

HELLO! even Communism is from the West, so what Political models should the East follow?? Yawn!

yuen said...

>what Political models should the East follow

what about LKY's invention: a leninist control system with trusted individuals controlling all important institutions of a society with organization operating commercially, so that the country as a whole operates like a business

singaporeans may not appreciate the originality of the system, but Deng Xiaoping did - tight social control combined with money making, exactly what he wanted for China; of course, actualy implementation of a concept is highly dependent on local culture, but "socialism with chinese characteristics" has just that aim

Robert L said...

Quote [06 June, 02:52]:
"Honestly, do you prefer Chee or Lee to be in government?"

This comment somewhere above, and other such variants, appear all over the internet. I wish bloggers would not ever leave it unchallenged.

Lee is titularly head of a govt that robs its citizens (compulsory annuity), punishes citizens who vote against them (no upgrading for opposition wards), outlaws freedom of assembly and free speech. Do we prefer any other person other than him? Is there any doubt of our answer?

No matter whether it's Tom, Dick or Harry, it's still an improvement as long as we get him removed. Is that clear enough?

And as for Dr Chee, all those who bother to read his website will realise what a good man he is, contrary to the picture painted by the official media. Our country will be mighty blessed if Dr Chee replaces Lee as PM.

yuen said...

>all those who bother to read his website will realise what a good man he is

oh..lots of people who read mein kampf had a good impression of hitler from the book; it is very easy to criticize without having to deliver; you have to look at how a guy actually does things

in a way, PAP did a poor job attacking Chee - it focused on minor issues like spending $200 of NUS money to send his wife's thesis, his giving speeches without a permit, showing disrespect to judge, etc; Chee's real failures as opposition party leader are:

1. scheming to get Chiam's job, without understanding the previous success of SDP and how to continue it

2. failing to set an example of organizational democracy, by running SDP as a one man show and political victimhood soap opera

3. failing to propose alternative policies of running singapore economy and society, in anticipation of their being adopted by government because they are good reforms; PAP adopted changes regarding gambling, homosexuality, chinese education, assistance to the needy, etc; each of these could have been anticipated by a clear thinking opposition group that takes the time to study the problem areas

Anonymous said...

To KiWeTo,
You may forgotten that once upon a time there were a number of key political parties in Spore besides the PAP - Spore People's Alliance (headed by Lim Yew Hock), Labour Front (headed by David Marshall), Liberal Socialist Party, United People's Party (headed by ex-PAP leader Ong Eng Guan)& Barisan Sosialis (headed by Lee Siew Choh).
Political ideology have no place in Spore. Spore people only want full bellies & able to earn a good living - in that context, the PAP have succeeded, but only too well! Attracting foreign investments, industrialization & offshore banking have provided Sporeans with an enviable standard of living, plentiful jobs & highly consumptive lifestyle. The sad thing is that it ended over 10 years ago in 1997 (with the Asian Currency Crisis). Then no one would have given their vote to the opposition if the PAP could guaranteed the bread and butter issues (jobs, housing, standard of living). Nearly all Sporeans would have voted for PAP just to keep the good times rollin'. It was a unwritten social contract between the PAP & the people. This situation evolved over time. "...iron rule and other tools of government misapplied" - it occurred because the people allowed it to happened! - for security & safety reasons so that in their own selfish view, continue to reap the economic rewards. Well, the party's over & now we have to pay the bill! The PAP is now claiming its pound of flesh & there's nothing you & I can do about it! The only option is TO MIGRATE!

recruit ong said...

Dear Recruit Ong and others: Can we stop the shameless and xenopobic bashing of Chinese nationals? What makes you think that Singaporeans are better? If you want to criticise his views, that's fine, but you do not need include his own socio-cultural background. So much for your democratic values

Kai Khiun

Hello, i am including his socio-cultural background only because he chooses to use his socio-cultural background to make his argument. Duh....

p.s. hmm i sense that mentioning certain socio-cultural thing doesnt sit so well with you? ;)