12 Feb 2005

Speak up, Tharman tells youths

I first saw this article originally from The Straits Jacket, at Singaporerebel. Its put here for my own records as I have stopped visitng the Straits Jacket now that it requires us to sign in and all that other stuff.

Jan 27, 2005
Speak up, Tharman tells youths.
He says there is nothing to fear from pushing the boundaries

By Ho Ai Li

ASK not what you can or cannot do, but do something to make a difference instead.

That was the message from Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam to students at a youth and media conference yesterday.

And that was what the minister, a former student activist, did himself.

Mr Tharman, who was once questioned by the Internal Security Department over his leftist views, said he was driven by the need to 'do something' about things he was dissatisfied with.

'And I did something about it, with friends, with groups of people, writing articles, selling them, sometimes surreptitiously,' he recalled.

One does not develop a conviction and commitment to a society without first questioning and pushing the boundaries, he said.

He welcomes restlessness in young people as it feeds idealism and helps society move forward.

Censorship was the key theme during a lively question-and-answer session at the event organised by film and media studies students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Students, taking up the theme of youth, media and political involvement, grilled Mr Tharman and the three other panellists about overstepping the out-of-bounds markers around sensitive issues.

Mr Tharman assured the more than 1,000 youths present that nothing will happen even if one breaches an OB marker. One simply learns to steel oneself and be more adroit.

Straits Times editor Han Fook Kwang said that fears of repercussions should they say something the Government did not like were exaggerated and might stem from past incidents such as the Government's rebuttal of novelist Catherine Lim and opposition politicians.

Mr Tharman noted that Ms Lim is now more famous than ever and still speaks out with relish.

Nanyang Technological University's Associate Professor Ang Peng Hwa gave more encouragement, saying they can plead the ignorance of youth if any flak ensues.

In his address, Mr Tharman warned that social and political apathy among the young posed long-term risks to community cohesion.

Mr Han said the media had an important role in helping readers understand what was happening around them, especially now that Singapore as a nation was re-examining the way things have been done.

He noted that despite a slide in the percentage of youths who read newspapers in countries such as the United States, World Association of Newspapers figures showed that 92 per cent of young people here read them - more than anywhere else.

For MediaCorp group managing director Shaun Seow, the key to engaging youths lies in the packaging of political content.

He pointed to how wacky political websites and show business figures such as film-maker Michael Moore led the way in encouraging turnout among young voters during last year's US presidential elections.


redrown said...

Is this what is meant by Irony?

akikonomu said...

No, this is civil engagement, normalisation of public discourse, and co-opting dissent.

The more youths (and other Singaporeans) are allowed to participate, the more popular/intellectual discourse can moderate itself into a healthy, credible model - which knows its natural boundaries, and sets its limits on what is respectable and responsible dissent. Tharman's been reading his Chomsky, in other words.

Agagooga said...

Nonetheless, ever so slightly, this will push the political boundaries

Anonymous said...

well, u can't please everyone.. it's like, u'll be damned if u do, damned if u don't

The Legal Janitor said...

pfft, michael moore...

I can't believe that fat asshole of a hack is used as an example.

soci said...

shianux, and that witty rejoinder of yours is why the men in white are nervous about letting the flood gates of speech open up.

I thought the minister merely referred Michael Moore to enforce the hope that more Singaporeans would engage themselves with politics.

The Legal Janitor said...


haha, well, Michael Moore is fair game for 2 reasons.

1. He's American. Don't you know, its open season on Americans nowadays? I'm only insulting him, not chopping his head off. ;D

2. None of the 3 things I'm insulting him with are false.

redrown said...

Isn't it quite a unique trend that people (such as the author of the article himself) who do speak out against government policies usually end up on the party they were speaking against? (or they are bankrupted)

True Flight said...

There is a third PAP strategy you forgot to mention -

people who speak out against government policies are also offered plump, cushy jobs as Singapore's ambassadors, and sent to another country far, far away.

Examples include Professor Chan Heng Chee; Prof Walter Woon; and for a long time, Prof Tommy Koh.

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