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Fear of associating with the SDP?

By Andrew Loh For the longest time, associating oneself with an opposition party in Singapore would instantaneously throw up that dreaded feeling – fear. Let alone stepping up and joining and being a member of one. It was the result of years – decades – of fear-mongering by the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), led for some 30 years by strongman, Lee Kuan Yew. Lee’s “hatchet” politics, no doubt, contributed a large part to this aversion towards all things opposition. But times have changed somewhat – and Lee himself is no longer worshipped by the masses, especially the younger set, as the demi-god which some still make him out to be. His tactics of jailing his political opponents, suing them to bankruptcy, and – with the help of the media which he held a firm hand on – he decimated any remnants of dignity and integrity any of his opponents had in the eyes of the public. All these created a lasting climate of fear – even today. But slowly, things are changing. Events in the past 2 years, in particular, show that Singaporeans are no longer as fearful of associating themselves with the opposition as before. Two of these…

Avoiding the fundamentals and going nowhere

By Andrew Loh It is frustrating to see how the National Conversation initiative is turning out. Bertha Henson describes it as a conversation going nowhere and it feels like it is. From government ministers to our media facilitators, there seem to be u-turns and some dodgy shenanigans going on. In a word, the conversation is emerging as one which is less than honest. At this point, I am not sure if it is on the part of the government or on some lower-downs who are trying too hard to, ironically, be inclusive. The man tasked to facilitate this National Conversation, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, was reported to have said, “I don’t think we should start our Singapore conversation on the basis of looking for sacred cows to slay… I don’t think that would be a constructive exercise.” That sets this NC apart from the previous Remaking Singapore one back in 2002 where sacred cows were explicitly said to be not sacred. “There will be no sacred cows…there will have to be a systematic willingness to go through all policies and programmes we’re about to embark on,” the minister in charge in 2002, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, said then. It was…

I am against hate speech of all kinds: Sim Ann

The following is a reply from MP Sim Ann to Mrs Lina Chiam’s statement which we published here earlier. I refer to the letter “Govt should change rhetoric on xenophobia” by Mrs Lina Chiam, NCMP of the Singapore People’s Party. I believe Mrs Chiam is alluding to my article in the Straits Times, “Of Wrongful Pride and Prejudice”. First, Mrs Chiam says I should have told readers what I thought of foreigners who use hate speech against Singaporeans. It is clear from my article that I am against hate speech of all kinds, regardless of target. This naturally includes hate speech directed at my fellow countrymen by foreigners. Second, Mrs Chiam says that “the tenor of online voices is not all hate speech”. I quite agree. My point remains that hate speech is hate speech, and that we all have a choice as to whether to indulge in it. I think we should not. I trust Mrs Chiam will agree. Sim Ann Senior Parliamentary Secretary Ministry of Education and Ministry of Law MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC…

Govt should change rhetoric on xenophobia: Lina Chiam

The following is a letter to publichouse.sg from Singapore People’s Party (SPP) Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP), Mrs Lina Chiam. Senior Parliamentary Secretary Ms Sim Ann has spoken of online comments which ‘spew hate and prejudice against individuals or groups’. She urged that we ‘must take a clear stand against hate speech. Abuse of foreigners, or any human being, is not acceptable, whether it is verbal or physical, online or offline’. MP Mr Baey Yam Keng has also asked Singaporeans to reflect on our own actions. The SPP agrees with Ms Sim that we must disavow hate speech. But there are two major problems with her argument. Firstly, if she wants to frame her call in moral terms, she should have told us what she thought of foreigners who use hate speech against Singaporeans. But she did not. Earlier this year, the NUS student Sun Xu from China called Singaporeans ‘dogs’, which upsetted many of us. Singaporeans feel that our government is ever ready to lecture us, and yet the government is silent on the same actions from non-Singaporeans. This only fuels the belief that our government offers no sense of protection to Singaporeans. Secondly, the tenor of online voices…