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“Singapore is (R)evolving”

 I recently wrote to the New York Times to protest against Ms .Chan Heng Chee’ s letter.  I thought it timely to bring up Orwellian newspeak being so close to the 62nd anniversary of the publication of 1984.

Note how these days our civil servants and ambassadors like to come out in support of our vibrant, robust or healthy democracy. (I believe  my old friend Michael in the UK wrote a similar missive  to the papers defending Singapore’s record on  the death penalty and spoke of a robust debate). It’s as though  they read 1984 and mistook it for one of those books, ” dictatorship for dummies”  or some such.  Well they lost no time adopting the idea of a ministry of double speak.

 In November 1978 there was a sensational defamation trial held in Singapore. The defendant a Singaporean, engaged a famous British barrister and author John Mortimer. John Mortimer argued that the defendant’s remarks were fair comment. Indeed he went on to tell the court that the ability to engage in robust debate was the essence of democracy. He lost of course.

 The ability to engage in robust debate is the essence of democracy.

 Knowing that robust debate might lead to democracy ,  the PAP put a stop to it and then with no sense of Orwellian irony went around claiming to be supporting it on the International stage. Ta Dah! Back home of course, they call a Spade a Kate and tell us we aren’t ready for Westminster style destructive democracy.  Here’s the letter.

23rd June 2012

The Editor

The New York Times

Dear Sir,

I refer to Chan Heng Chee’s letter dated 21st June entitled “Singapore is Evolving”.  Ms. Chan is the Ambassador and her taxpayer-funded time should not be used to produce spin on behalf of the ruling party.

It is ironic that she talks about “a vibrant democracy.” But then the PAP are past masters of Orwellian newspeak. Is it a vibrant democracy when by law all media outlets must be government controlled; when state resources are used to buy votes and the threat of withdrawal of state resources is used to intimidate voters; when Opposition parties are harassed by oppressive restrictions and Opposition leaders are bankrupted through the use of defamation suits; and when the Elections Department is just an arm of the Prime Minister’s Office without even a charade of independence?

Ms. Chan says other countries have anti-terrorist legislation. However Singapore must be alone among robust or vibrant democracies to have detained individuals for over twenty years merely because they refused to give up their fundamental human right to engage in peaceful politics.

Yours sincerely,

Kenneth Jeyaretnam

Secretary General
The Reform Party
18A Smith Street
Singapore 058932
+65 65349641/+65 91461976

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