3 Jun 2005

Lion City Still in the Dark Age

Entire article...

1 June 2005
Peter Kammerer
South China Morning Post
30 May 2005

Although Singapore has relaxed some tough regulations relating to tourism, one visitor's experience points to the continuing political stranglehold

Singapore does not fool its critics. They know that much like the middle-aged woman who tries to hide her age with makeup, dyed hair and trendy clothes, all the recent talk of casinos and topless cabaret shows are only skin-deep.

Under the facade of being tourist-friendly, they lament, the island nation remains the same as it has always been - a virtual police state where the media is tightly controlled, political opposition is barely tolerated and free speech is allowed only with permission.

A 'virtual police state', does this refer to the internet or is it a replacement for the term, 'almost', 'practically'. Either way it works for me. The internet is heavily monitored, Acidflask and Philip Yeo are one example. Cameras have become omnipresent in the fight against terrorism. Anti-terror law that could be used in a public disorder context. Cameras in classrooms and lecture rooms for the safety of the students.

Mr Moser-Puangsuwan has since been trying to get an official explanation from Singapore's embassy in Bangkok.[He was refused entry into Singapore at Changi International Airport after arrival on a Singapore Airlines flight from Bangkok on May 13, 2005] Comments from the Foreign Affairs Ministry in a report in Singapore's Straits Times on May 16, identical to a statement issued to the South China Morning Post on Wednesday, has given the only indication so far.

The ministry's communications director, Ong-Chew Peck Wan, said the activist had been indefinitely barred from entering the country for interfering in its domestic politics. Specifically, that was in January, when he had given a workshop to Singapore Democratic Party members at which he had promoted civil disobedience activities.

This argument about 'interfering in its domestic politics', is a common argument used to silence non-Singaporeans. It seems to be dependent on a world view that what happens in Singapore is happening in isolation from the region and the global situation itself. It is premised on the idea that Singapore is isolated from the rest of the planet. Isolated, cut off, removed, separate. Sounds like North Korea, and yet at the same time Singapore is a bridge between, 'East and West'. An economic bridge that can link up with China, India and the USA at the same time. A country that supports Burma via its 'constructive engagement' with a despot at the wheel.

All thoughts that the government was trying to "lighten up" to make Singapore less sterile and more friendly to visitors dissipated. His response was a stunned, "What does this mean?"

The officer wordlessly indicated the form. That was no answer for the American. He understood he was ineligible for entry, but wanted to know why.

The officer could not answer and nervously called on the help of an older man, apparently his superior, who was sitting nearby. Mr Moser-Puangsuwan was led to an office and in answer to his query, was again told, "You are ineligible for issue of a pass under current immigration rules".

Explaining that that was not, in his mind, a valid reason, he again asked why he was being denied entry and was given the same response. Time and again he asked for clarification, but the smiles and nods from the senior officer began to be replaced by agitation and anger with each identical reply.

Finally, two police officers were called and the activist was taken to a holding area packed with mostly young Asian men awaiting deportation. The policemen were also unable to answer his queries, instead indicating that it was an immigration matter.

I am very sorry but I am going to have to say it again. Has anyone every read Franz Kafka's The Trial. The reason the officers involved are unable to provide an answer is because they don't know the reason. It would be on a need to know basis. One question remains, what law has been broken? No law has been broken, the powers that be have issued a dictat.

The ministry's communications director, Ong-Chew Peck Wan, said the activist had been indefinitely barred from entering the country for interfering in its domestic politics. Specifically, that was in January, when he had given a workshop to Singapore Democratic Party members at which he had promoted civil disobedience activities.

She said that the decision had been based on investigations following publication in March on the internet forum NewSintercom of an interview with Mr Moser-Puangsuwan.

"From what was disclosed at that interview and subsequent investigations, Yeshua was found to have conducted a political action workshop in Singapore in January 2005," Ms Ong-Chew said. "This was aimed to teach Singaporeans how to wage a non-violent campaign of civil disobedience against the government so as to liberate and expand civil rights of Singaporean citizens who, he deludes himself to believe, are living under dire oppression and injustice.

Other deluded groups and individuals are Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International, the US State Department, Acidflask, Martyn See, Dr Chee, Shanmugam [not technically deluded, because he was killed for trafficking cannabis], Death Row inmates, those held without trial, Gay Event organisers... And again I would like to state that the internet in Singapore is under very close observation. Its like they've hired an army or group of civil servants to do nothing but monitor the internet, maybe write a few blogs while they are at it.

The government's contention that Singapore's politics were reserved for Singaporeans was reiterated. "Foreigners, like Yeshua, with no stake in the future of Singapore, will not be allowed to interfere in Singapore's domestic politics, much less to instigate, agitate and promote civil disobedience among targeted segments of society, against the laws of the country," the spokeswoman said.

She maintained that those who did were not welcome in Singapore

Instigate -
1. to provoke, to stir up civil disobedience
Agitate -
1. To cause to move with violence or sudden force.
2. To upset; disturb: was agitated by the alarming news.
3. To arouse interest in (a cause, for example) by use of the written or spoken word; debate.
To contribute to the progress or growth of; further.
3. To urge the adoption of; advocate: promote a constitutional amendment.
4. To attempt to sell or popularize by advertising or publicity: commercials promoting a new product.
5. To help establish or organize

The words appear similar, but the crux of the matter is 'civil disobedience'-
Refusal to obey civil laws in an effort to induce change in governmental policy or legislation, characterized by the use of passive resistance or other nonviolent means.

So change of a Singaporean governmental policy has to come from within? But isn't civil society in Singapore non-existent? Isn't every young, possible 'civil' group co-opted under an umbrella of a government linked organisation, thus turning the once 'civil' group into a 'civic' group.

And on a more personal note, does this blog 'Singabloodypore' mean that I am engaged in encouraging civil disobedience? Is discussing policies, laws, decisions online an act of instigating, agitating? On a very quick look at the list I think agitate, with its reference to 'the written word' would apply to this blog. But I don't believe I am attempting to cause 'civil disobedience', unless of course 'Freedom of Speech' is defined as civil disobedience in Singapore. Is there a law banning free speech?

Veteran journalist and commentator Ravi Veloo, is then quoted as follows:
"What they're really worried about is demographics and enlarging the tax base," he said during a business trip to Kuala Lumpur.

"The quickest way to do that is to import more foreign bodies in the name of foreign talent. The dilemma is how to have more people here, especially from abroad, without altering the political landscape which they've developed over the past 50 years and works very significantly to their favour."

But Mr Veloo rejected suggestions that Singapore was a brighter, breezier place because of the push for change.

"These are just superficial flourishes of the brush, but the paint is still the same colour," he said. "Singapore's the only country in the world that has moved forward so impressively in terms of technology and the economy, but it is still so retarded politically."

Politically 'retarded', wonderful command of the English Language. Sums it up nicely.

The entire article is available here.


Anonymous said...

Apparently Singaporeans only have cause to complain or initiate corrective measures if (and only if) we live in dire oppression or injustice.

In circumstances less than dire, we are meant to delude ourselves that we live in a perfect world.

Dire or perfect. All or nothing.

Sounds like the coginitve distortion I read about.

Anonymous said...

Politically retarded carries with it different meanings compared to the original term in the quote, which was 'retarded politically'.

Your view of Singapore is so coloured and biased that it has caused you to manipulate an article so as to achieve the effect that you desire.

And people who delude themselves are not deluded individuals. For instance, you delude yourself to a certain extent, but you are not technically a deluded individual.

Do please calm down and think it through before you pen your blog entries. Twisting words around to suit your purpose does in no way promote your message.

soci said...

So anonymous 2 please enlighten us with your superior 'interpretative abilities'. Help us understand the differences and similarities of the two terms.

And you seem to have some insight, into my 'message' could you also tell me what my message is.

If my views are coloured and biased, would you like to argue the same way in the Straits Jacket.

If you read the article itself, it also argues from the same biased opinion of myself. Or maybe yet again you can enlighten me with your superior interpretivist skills.

Gilbert Koh said...

Wouldn't it be funny if somebody tried to sue somebody for defamation and the first somebody insisted that "politically retarded" is different from "retarded politically" and that a "deluded person" may or may not in fact be "deluded", depending on whether he deluded himself or was deluded by others?

I think that the best defence would be a Zen one:

"What is the SOUND of one hand clapping?"

Min said...

"Retarded politically".

Very apt indeed. It seems that most locals believe the island state is what a 'civilised' world should be. The most perfect place to live. It's too stifling and the general Confucian mindset makes it seem wrong to do or think differently.

What is termed good (and bad) depends wholly on perspective.

soci said...

VeRy wise, Gilbert you are.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 2 is back, and I apologise for the delay. It's a busy period for me so I shall make it quick.

When one sees the term 'retarded politically', the first intepretation (and possibly the only one in the context of the quote) is that Singapore's political system is developing later than expected. So in a sense it's a political system that is taking a while to develop.

When you use the term 'politically retarded', it adds on negative connotations often associated with 'mentally retarded'. Thus you manage to pervert the term used in the quote by simply rearranging the terms.

The line of argument is very similar for 'deluded individual', so I shall not go into it.

Also, it is very subtle how you work the case of Philip Yeo v Acidflask into your second paragraph to reinforce the concept of Singapore being a place where freedom is restrained. (See the paragraph on 'virtual police force'.) But it must be noted that this threat of defamation has nothing to do with a nation being a police state of not, as being a police state entails maintaining repressive control over the people by means of the POLICE, not by threats of libel suits. Thus your point in that paragraph is invalidated.

What say you, Mr Mc Dermott?

malaysian in singapore said...

I say, forgive me if my grasp of the English language is incompetent, but "retarded politically" is not exactly (...in the context of the quote) that Singapore's political system is developing later than expected. So in a sense it's a political system that is taking a while to develop, but rather, choosing to be seemingly retarded because of being realistic/pragmatic/strategic (or maybe apathetic) and therefore the expression "politically". Which in a way sums up political "retards" (in the context of "I don't give a damn").. hmm.

Gilbert Koh said...

In my view, there is a lot of silly nitpicking here.

Hmmm. That could mean lots of different things:

Anonymous 2 is nitpicking because Steve is silly?

Steve is a nit and Anonymous 2 is silly to pick on him?

Steve is a silly nit and Anonymous 2 is picking on him?

Anonymous is a silly nitpicker?

Take your pick. Namaste. Peace. Om. There is THE sound of one HAND clapping.

Jowie said...


Anonymous said...

what are you anonymous2? a govt dog?

Jowie said...

relax on ur words dude.. :D and moreover, he won't simply agree with u. :)

Anonymous said...

Anonmynous 2 here again.

No I'm not a government dog. I simply process things I read with my brain whilst reading it, and if it strikes me as being terribly coloured I just feel the urge to speak out against it, in the hope that subsequent readers will stumble across my comment, and not be taken in by this subtle re-arrangement of terms.

And Gilbert, I'm not nitpicking. I was riled by Mr Mc Dermott's article enough to actually want to leave a comment. I'd be nitpicking if I complained about his spelling or his grammer. Which clearly I am not.

Is there no room for discussion here on this blog?

Anonymous said...

You are invited to feedback about policies, laws, decisions via proper channel Your Opinion Counts

The government will surely take your points into consideration!

He he...

soci said...

sorry guys, I can't make to many comments as my computer is down, and I am blogging from an internet cafe.

As for Anon2, yes there is lots of room from all comments. Although I am not able to respond to every single comment, cos I am only one person. I think what is at issue here could actually have something to do with 'splitting an infinitive'. is it 'retarded politically' or 'politically retarded'. Which is the correct grammar. And Anon2 is correct in picking up in nuances of my English. But remeber I merely copied a substantial amount from an article written by someone else.

So is it a case of discussing the 'split infinitive' rule? If it is, I wonder if anon2 is a linguistics student. Was anon2 riled by the 'split infinitive' or the issue of whether or not Singaporean politics languishes behind its economic development?

As I stated at the beginning my pc is down, so I may not be able to comment as much as others would like. I apologise for any inconvenience or riling caused.