3 Apr 2006

Dare to Speak Up: But Government should be proactive

Another letter I replied TODAY on a news report for its weekend edition.

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I agree with our Prime Minister that we must progress towards more liberalisation in Singapore.

In that regard, the government should take the initiative to show that it is working towards that end.

While Jack Neo has the privilege of making a social and political satire without any harassment, another local filmmaker, Martyn See, has had his equipments confiscated and called up for police investigation for his political documentaries. Even our Minister Mentor, has remarked in another local paper that he would have left the man alone. As such, the police should cease investigations and return Martyn his equipments.

While the Raffles Girl's "white elephant" cut-outs are now seen as a tongue-in-cheek expression, the court, in its judgement, finds the CPF protestors, “amounts to grave attack on the financial integrity of key public institutions.” The courts need to address this discrepancy and rule in favour of the protestors who are merely practising their freedom to assemble guaranteed under the Constitution.

Mr Lee also said that “the Government had been too pervasive in Singaporeans' lives...”

Existing legislations support his statement. It includes but not limited to archaic laws criminializing homosexual activities and oral sex. Henceforth, the legislative should push for legalising adult consensual sexual activities.

On racial and religious issues, there is a need to be more toleration of debates rather than err on the side of being too careful. Provocative discussions should be allowed unless they directly promulgate violence. Freedom of Speech should be practised as often as possible with minimal censorship. In John Stuart Mill's Essay, “On Liberty - Of the liberty of thought and discussion”, the philosopher argued that this freedom cannot be silenced as, “ If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”

Even in health care, more needs to be done. I had to pay 70 dollars merely for consultation in a government hospital even though I was jobless. Are there any safeguards to ensure that those who need the hospital be provided a similar service if they cannot afford the amount? Singaporeans would be happy to go for regular health check ups and not wait until they are sick as what Mr Lee has encouraged. Unfortunately, our CPF cannot be used to pay entire medical payments.

I agree with Mr Lee that “politics, whether you agree or disagree, be it subversive views or otherwise, they will all be accepted.” and that they must be “treated seriously."

Singaporeans need to speak up. Likewise, the government must be accepting of critical views and take steps to liberalise the political climate.

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Dare to speak up: PM
But do so reasonably, armed with the right facts and perspective
Weekend • April 1, 2006
Loh Chee Kong
cheekong@newstoday.com.sg


ON A programme taglined "Dare to ask the PM" to be aired on MediaCorp TV Channel 8 on Saturday night, film-maker Jack Neo shares a personal experience with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

When he was making his 1998 movie Money No Enough, which satirised some government policies, his friends and family were worried for him.

Said the 45-year-old film-maker: "They were asking me, 'Do you wish to get arrested? Do you wish to get sued and become bankrupt? So it's quite a pressure for people like us who are involved in the industry, with everyone around you discouraging you from doing such work."

His point: Is a climate of fear making young Singaporeans shun controversial pursuits?

Mr Lee rebutted such apprehensions by citing the case of the Raffles Girls Secondary students who sold white T-shirts bearing images of elephants — a tongue-in-cheek reference to "white elephant" cut-outs seen at Buangkok MRT station earlier. "They were not afraid of getting into trouble," said Mr Lee. "Whether it's in the area of arts or political discourse, we have loosened up considerably."

But where issues of race and religion are concerned, the Government will not tolerate attempts to disharmonise the society, he said.

"These are sensitive topics not because the Government has an opinion on them but because they can create misunderstandings and social strife which would result in very serious problems.

"In the past, we have had to censor scripts because their contents touched on race and religion and would provoke strong reactions among the audience. This is something we have to deal with carefully.

"With regards to politics, whether you agree or disagree, be it subversive views or otherwise, they will all be accepted. But politics must be treated seriously."

On the programme, Mr Lee speaks to nine panellists on issues ranging from whether the Government "micro-manages" the lives of Singaporeans to whether people here see the global picture.

"We are knowledgeable about things happening in our country. But when it comes to understanding the big picture, many Singaporeans cannot grasp how global trends would influence our nation's future," he said.

He added that the people's overdependence on the Government is a problem. Said Mr Lee: "When things happen, everyone's first reaction is: 'What is the Government doing about it?'"

He conceded that the Government had been too pervasive in Singaporeans' lives and it is looking to minimise its influence to allow citizens to play a more active role.

Mr Lee also addressed the panellists' concerns about the rising costs of living. "As Singaporeans get more affluent, what used to be luxury items are now becoming necessities. For example, almost every Singaporean owns a handphone and many households install air-conditioners," he said.

"Many people come to me for help. The first question I ask them is whether they have air-conditioners at home. They tell me they do, but they seldom switch it on," the Prime Minister said with a smile.

But he stressed that policies are in place to take care of needy Singaporeans. Citing measures outlined in the recent Budget, he said that the Government will continue to help people — but they also have to help themselves.

"In terms of medical costs, the situation is not as bad as we think," he said. "In reality, after Government subsidies, there are only a handful of Singaporeans who are unable to foot their medical bills. But to lower medical costs, it is every Singaporean's personal responsibility to take care of your health.

"And don't go to the doctor only when you are very sick."

The programme, Face-to-Face with the Prime Minister, will be telecast on Saturday at 9pm on MediaCorp TV Channel 8.

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.

4 comments:

Matilah_Singapura said...

>Dare to speak up: PM
But do so reasonably, armed with the right facts and perspective


Well, it's a start. But there's a "but" in there... so as far as I'm concerned, there are ways to go yet.

>[...] the Government had been too pervasive in Singaporeans' lives and it is looking to minimise its influence to allow citizens to play a more active role.

No more nanny state? Pro-active citizenery? Great.

Let's see if the man is congruent. He might be in "vote buying" election mode.

Politicians, along with everyone else, are judged by their actions.

I hope LHL has the fortitude to stand up to the occasional angry mob whose mantra is "The Govt should do something", and remind these "moochers and looters" to fix the "problem" themselves.

I consider this speech wierd. The tenor is still thus: the govt decides where to lighten up and when.

Sorry folks, the shackles are still there... and if I may put in my big but again BUT it's a good start.

Anonymous said...

to reduce the government role, they can start by reducing the no. of companies controlled by temasek

temasek says it only owns 15% of the market cap of SGX; that may be so, but one can control a chain of companies with a small amount of equity; further, the SGX market cap included various large foreign companies with shares listed here; the 15% no. greatly underestimates the amount of control; selling shares does not reduce control, merely rearranges control, since it gets cash that can be re-invested

Matilah_Singapura said...

I used to be concerned about Temasek. I'm not so any longer.

Try as they might to dominate the market, they can't - at least in the long run. There have been so many deals which failed to materialise, and many people already suspect that Temasek may not be as "profitable" as they (Temasek) would have us believe. Evrything's a secret in that company.

...and that's not all. There are murmerings around town about books being cooked (I won't get into specifics - law suits scare me), losses in ventures and other "negative" news.

But to me it is not "negative" - because all "negatives" have off-setting "positives" - in this case I mean The Market.

Eventually, regardless of manipulation and tinkering, the market will deliver the consequences for people's behaviour and actions. If Temasek is being managed well, the LONG TERM results is that they will "win". If not, they will LOSE and someone else will WIN by alleviating Temasek of their "non-performing assets" - and probably buy those assets CHEAP.

Anonymous said...

"Mr Lee rebutted such apprehensions by citing the case of the Raffles Girls Secondary students who sold white T-shirts bearing images of elephants..."

Ever heard of the phrase - it's the exception that proves the rule? By citing one exception in the RGS students case, Mr Lee had unwittingly proven Jack Neo's point that the majority of the population are afraid. Thanks, Mr Lee.