16 Apr 2006

Great moments in television history

On 12 April 2006, Channel News Asia Singapore telecast a dialogue between Papalee and several Singaporeans born after 1970. You don't have to watch the entire thing, because you can fast forward to about the 12m30s mark of the video to view this interesting exchange:

(previously: a journalist fields a question on whether any invasion of privacy and violation of the secrecy of the vote had been committed since (allegedly) the PAP does know the percentage of people, down to the apartment block or polling district, who voted one way or another)

MM Lee: But you won't know who comprises the 60%, right?

Ken Kwek, 26 - Journalist; Never voted: You don't need to know that to strike fear, though.

MM Lee: Oh, come off it! (laughter) You mean to tell me you have, you're one of the 40% who voted against the PAP and something happens to you?

Ken Kwek: I mean, I've never voted for that matter, but I mean - we talk to hundreds of voters in the course of our work, and it's either "no comment" or "if I vote against the PAP, I may..."

MM Lee: No, no. Let's get down. What are the hundreds of voters? You name the hundreds of voters, a few of them. Tell me.

Ken Kwek: Well, I mean I can't name them by name...

MM Lee: No, no. You tell me you've spoken to and tell you they're afraid.

Ken Kwek: A few weeks ago, the Straits Times did a report, we polled a hundred voters...

MM Lee: No, no, no, no. Never mind the Straits Times poll. You made a statement just now, that "I spoke to a hundred respondents, and they were all afraid." I say, you name them. Tell me who.

Ken Kwek had the guts to start this, but he did not have the gumption to go all the way. After being badgered by Lee Kuan Yew, he remained silent for the remaining 40 minutes of the forum.

Foreign media should watch this video clip and take down notes here. When the Minister Mentor goes to a foreign talk show, he answers difficult questions through spinning. This video shows how he answers difficult questions from his own citizens and subjects.

Since Ken Kwek did have a point to make, let me perhaps construct what he should've said to the Minister Mentor, had he the guts to finish what he started:

Mr Minister, what will you do with this list of names of people who believe there is a climate of fear in Singapore? Can we trust you not to run investigations on who these people are, who they have studied with, who taught them?

Sir, many Singaporeans of my age do not want to live in a country where people get their names on a list because they espouse a view that you cannot accept, a view that you insist is factually wrong.

You may have started life as a cross-examiner. I have started life as a journalist, and one of the basic rules of the profession, one that is legally protected, is the right to confidentiality of journalists and their interviewees. You may ask for the list of names, but you have no right to ask for them. You, sir, do not have the right to know.

My editor at the Straits Times would have that right, to check my findings. You do not. You may even cross-examine me in court. Our judges, whose legal standards and rulings are in lockstep with judicial matters elsewhere, will answer to you the same way: you do not have the right to ask me for that list of names. Perhaps you could test this out legally. I welcome you to cross-examine me, not in a television studio, but in open court, in the full attention of the world media.

Mr Minister, why are you so insistent on proving that there cannot exist a hundred people in Singapore who believe there is a climate of fear? They are but a hundred. They are insignificant, compared to the popular support your party has had.

We at the Straits Times polled a hundred people. On the conservative side, say we have 10 people out of the 100 who believe there is some fear, and 40 who gave no comment. We shan't bother with the 40. What is the probability that out of this sample, the actual number of people in the entire population of Singapore who believe there is fear, is less than 100? The Prime Minister, your son, is a mathematician. He can tell you the odds, and he can certainly tell you that it's silly to swipe at this claim just because I didn't personally interview all the 100 respondents. Your own department of statistics operates on the same principle as well, and I don't see you swiping at them.

Why are you so insistent, then, that there cannot exist even 100 people in Singapore who believe the electorate is cowed by your party?


Anonymous said...

very well written

Anonymous said...

Well written indeed. I've watched the clip and I'm flabbagasted. Particularly disturbing was the remark by Lee Kuan Yew comparing Ken Kwek to his grandchildren who needed to put down when they step out of line.

Anonymous said...

polls are meant to be anonymous so of course the people cannot be named

therefore no poll can be taken seriously, at least, not if the nos. are different from what you expect

Anonymous said...

The causal relationship between the anonymous nature of a poll and its unreliability only exists when there are prior reasons to suspect that the privilege of anonymity encourages dishonesty.

In fact, to cast doubts on the results of a poll because they were not what one expected betrays a hidden prejudice and perhaps, in the extreme case, an ulterior motive on the part of the journalist.

I cannot think of any reason why the people polled by Ken Kwek would give the impression of being afraid of the PAP government other than the fact that they were truly afraid.

Ironically Lee Kuan Yew personified the terror of his government by the shamefully patronizing response to Mr Kwek and by the manner of the dialogue as a whole.

Anonymous said...

poor man is 82; we mustnt be hard on him

Anonymous said...

Dont talk cock. Give Ken a chance. You sit there you think you so smart can think so fast shoot back answer to MM Lee? Mouth talk cock happy.

Anonymous said...

So what if he's 82? The man is Mr. PAP. I certainly hope that the rest of the PAP is not as out-of-touch as he is, not to mention, defensive and self-righteous. Sometimes, time can do that to a person. Granted, he is a founding father of the nation.

Rong said...

I am not anonymous because I am ready to take responsibility for what I say. My response to the CNA dialogue with MM LKY can be found at www.onerongview.blogspot.com
I am an ordinary citizen and I do not believe I am supressed by my govt. I speak and write freely. I criticise the PAP when I feel the need to. I don't know where everyone else got the idea that we have to be afraid.

Anonymous said...

But rong,

you sound so pap in your blog. Of course there is no climate of fear for you lah!

Anonymous said...

Dude, do you even think you can put in that long of a sentence while you are talking? The man bulldozed is way through difficult questions. Ken didnt even have the time or space to speak properly. In the heat of the moment, especially when you are being grilled by MM, its not easy to speak what you just wrote.

And believe me you, Ken did the right thing in shutting up for a bit before coming back with a question or two.

In anycase, the exchange made MM come off worse than Ken. For goodness sakes, the man looked like a bloody dictator. At least ken had the guts to speak up against him in his face in the flesh. It is easy for you to write behind annoymity what you think he should have said.

Do you have the guts and gumption to speak what you just wrote to MM in the face?

queerquail said...

if u dont look at how long the PAP has been the ruling party, i felt that the elderLee spoke fairly.

if u are someone just dying to rebel anonymously u obviously wldnt be too happy.

Anonymous said...

You cannot blame journalist Ken Kwek for the outcome of his rather weak questioning of MM Lee on the possibilities of voters being scared of the PAP. Our mentor minister is an excellent lawyer and barrister, and despite his age still answers succinctly as ever.
Poor reporter Kwek showed his lack of training and inadequacy
when he was unable to ask the necesssary follow up questions.
MM Lee quickly saw the loopholes in Kwek's questioning and jumped in for the kill.
Mr. Kwek please go back to the drawing board if you intend to continue interviewing subjects of the character of the very great mentor minister Lee.

akikonomu said...

I do have the guts and gumption to say what I wrote. It's a matter of whether I will keep getting rudely interrupted, having my sentences completed for me and words put into my mouth before I finish what I say =D

Now, I don't believe MM Lee came out of this worse than Ken Kwek. If anything older voters will be thrilled and pleased that the Strongman of Singapore has still retained his iron tongue. This performance will win votes from them more than it lost votes from young Sinaporeans.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if ken didn't want to put his career in the line. After all he works for 140th.

Matilah_Singapura said...

I hope these journos don't represent the majority of young Singaporeans.

They are wimps.

Anonymous said...

If he had answered with any of those suggested answers you've posted, that scene would be CUT/CENSORED/DELETED. That gay wouldn't want to see himself stumped on television would he?

Anonymous said...

the problem with "fear" thesis is "fear of what?"; the possibility of checking up how people voted, and the chance of being sued for defamation, hardly explains why a majority of the people polled would feel fear

singapore inc is a huge monolith; it generates fear, rational or not, simply because it is everywhere; even thais have that feeling, hence their hostility to temasek buying shin

Rong said...

Did some of you guys not notice that I OPENLY CRITICISED the govt on a VERY severe issue?

In fact, it is one of the main-est point of my entry, second only to my point about the responsibilities of journalists in the democratic world.

It is very easy for the PAP to "put me in my place" or "invite me to drink tea" based on my criticism. No one has contacted me about taking my crticisms off and demand that I apologize. I have NOT been censored.

If they do, you can be sure that I'll be ONE PISSED CITIZEN and I'll be telling the PAP why they shouldn't make me take back my words and apologise.

I am NOT AFRAID because I speak the simple language of honesty and truth. I mean no malice. I want what I think is best for me and my fellow countrymen.

You can be sure that when the PAP screws things up for me, I'll be the first to call them on that. Oh wait, I did.

I guess I should be waiting for someone to knock on my door.

old voter said...

i watched with shock , when health minister said that PAP plan to send old people to retire or die in batam ,bintam and johor. PAP is so cruel , the plan is evil. i dont want to die in batam. If a crime is committed against a old person in batam, whose laws will protect him or her...why PAP so heartless

Matilah_Singapura said...

To rong:

I liked what I read on your blog, especially this:

"We as a people are the ones who have the civil responsibility to act as the govt police!"

... i.e. the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

I stand corrected - you are not all wimps :)

As one from "the previous generation", let me say it was actually quite surprising to see Old Lee in such a jovial and at times, congenial mood - his inimical style of communication notwithstanding. Lee Kuan Yew was a lot "softer" on you than he was on my generation - when he banned the music, movies and books we liked, forced us to cut our hair, shut down the clubs, and castigated the women for not pumpin' out enough babies. (as if the state owned their wombs)

Looking back, not many of the males (Old Lee is alpha male) put up resistance - like claiming their right to keep long hair, but at least the S'pore women reciprocated tit-for-tat.

You know folks, there's one person I really miss, and he would have been so wonderful in responding to the PAP's insanity over blogging and podcasting... Mr David Marshall.

If he were still alive today, I would be reading his blog and listening to his podcasts, which he would have created - without doubt.

Anonymous said...

rong, what do you mean with that you speak and write freely?

The Singapore government itself reminded bloggers to stay away from politics recently.

"Outside of election periods, bloggers and website managers have to register with the Media Development Authority (MDA) if they want to write about party politics.

However during elections even registered users are prohibited from open political discussion.

The government said that anyone breaking the ban faces legal action."


What's this if not threatening????

phishy_ said...


how are the people supposed to police the government if they lose their only form of power - the vote? keeping in mind only 30% of the population got to vote in the 2001 elections due to many GRCs having walkovers, by shutting down the opposition through bully tactics, we may lose that power soon if we don't do something about the unfair state of the general elections.
i'm not asking for the PAP to handicap itself for the sake of the opposition, rather, to have a more equitable starting point for the different parties. The Political Donations Act enacted in 2001 limits anonymous political donations to $5000 a year. The media NEVER features the opposition right (eg. Forum with Chiam See Tong?) before the elections. The PAP constantly uses propaganda and the 'crisis mentality' to scare voters into voting for them again. The said alternative would be a chaotic country overrun by incapable opposition members who would spend all our reserves, racial riots would happen again, our economy would go down, we would not have any more material satisfaction.......e.t.c.. However, as Mr Chiam has already said, the SDA isn't even intending to take over the government, rather, they just want to provide an alternative voice for the people.

I thought it was pretty rude of the MM to shut Ken up whenever he tried to answer. Imagine if Ken had tried the same on the MM, i'm pretty sure he'd be criticised for being rude to the grandfather of Singapore.

Rong, actually gerrymandering is just one of the many unfair tactics that the PAP has been using since they got into power.

Anonymous said...

face is important; this is why neither Potong Pasir nor Hougang has been cut up and combined with PAP majority areas or incorporated into GRCs - would be an admission of not being able to win them back

satay said...

Thanks for the link, I plan to watch it as I'm abroad but following this very closely. just reading the transcripts, I was quite disappointed by the way MM Lee handled it. I feel it's a way to remind the public who's the boss, and experience still countrs. If MM Lee is going to lord over us with his history as founder of Singapore in troubled times, where does that leave us, the younger generation? We have embraced this history, and him, but how can he and the older generation blame us for wanting to have a greater say, even if we will make mistakes along the way. Is our society so fragile we cannot withstand this? This is the kiasu mentality the government has ingrained into us, worse that our parents thoroughly believe in it and we become the nightmare that we are facing now.

Anonymous said...

oh please, ken kwek was a pompous ass on that program. that guy had it coming, and he didn't even know what hit him till it was all over ;)

lee hsien tau said...

I give such tele-casts a miss. Ken and the rest, except for a smattering of undergrad representation, are journalists, and they aren't 14#th without effort.

The Bard said: 'All the world's a stage.' You can be 99.99% sure this was staged. You just need to consider the follow-up by Diana Ser to tell it was staged. (If there's a journalist over at TCS that you can at least respect, and then only for her voice, it is that May Ying-Welsh girl - her slang ain't fake.)

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