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National CONversation

National Conversation? LOL, as the youngsters would say.  It is just propaganda. The outcomes are pre-decided, the PAP model is rigidly entrenched, it has no parliamentary mandate,  it is an exercise in deflecting us away from  building a functioning democracy. How much tax payer money will be spent on this PAP propaganda machine? It’s not even an election campaign period so doesn’t come out of their own party coffers.

Personally for me the National Conversation is a continuation of the National Silence that I am so used to. Well, until Jim Sleeper of Yale started to make a bit of noise that is. No sooner had he posted an article detailing how I was excluded from National University forums, the National televised debates for GE 2011, National Media and so on than an invite arrived to appear at a forum from the earnestly co-opted NUSSPA.  Thanks Jim! I am sure Jim causing embarrassment from Yale is also behind the sudden magnanimous decision by the PAP to accept Soon Juan’s offer of a $30,000 payment of his fine. Or the PAP have finally realised that they risk not only embarrassment but the creation of another National Martyr under virtual house arrest  in the manner of Aung San Suu Kyi, if Soon Juan is not able to join us in a proposed visit to Yale later this year.

So we all know it is just a Wayang,  a continuation of the National chorus for some , the silence for others. In any case National Conversation is a nice phrase borrowed from the UK, referring to the consultation process on devolution of Scotland and Independence. That resulted in a white paper and a proposed referendum but also complaints from the Opposition parties that it was all Propaganda.

Meanwhile  I very much doubt that our Nation’s State controlled Media’s level of English is sufficient to conduct a conversation in English.

Recently, for the first time in years,  a reporter spoke to me and then surprise, surprise, a few words of what I said actually went into print.  ( As opposed to say all the reporters who attended  our IMF case Press Conference but then filed nothing – A lawyer friend of mine said he had been speaking to a Business Times journalist who seemed to know nothing about the IMF case. “Was he just pretending ignorance?”, he wondered. Yes, he was.   Business Times were in attendance at the Press Conference and I have photos to prove it. The non reporting is not from a lack of information but censorship)

But to get back to the point and at the risk of sounding ungrateful, what a pity that the reporter’s English and the editing team of Today’s standard of English wasn’t up to even reporting those couple of phrases that found their way from me into print.

However, Reform Party’s (RP) Secretary-General Kenneth Jeyaretnam said the RP is “not taking part in a state-managed exercise” as he demanded for “freedom of expression”.

Ms Yng defined irony by reporting my words in Today as , “State Managed Exercise” ( sic). What I actually said was, we would not be taking part in  a STAGE managed exercise. I also used the phrase, stage-managed exercise to refer to a question tabled in our parliament, in my open letter to Christine LaGarde.

Kenneth Jeyaretnam: Open Letter to Christine LaGarde

29 Jun 2012 – Suffice to say the tabled question was a carefully scripted andstagemanaged exercise dispensed with in minutes. This may have been 

Here’s another recent example but not by me.

China – Historic Gu Kailai trial stagemanaged by Beijing…/china-historic-gu-kailai-trial-stagemanaged-…

19 Aug 2012 – China – Historic Gu Kailai trial stagemanaged by Beijing  the complete control exercised by Beijing over the murder trial of Gu Kailai, the wife …”

Today’s reporter then went on to quote me as saying we would be, ” demanding FOR freedom of expression “(sic). One doesn’t demand for something. You can ask for or you can demand. Anyway I am sure I said I would continue to ” call for freedom of expression and demand the Abolition of the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act as a first step.”  I’m sure an expert in grammar can explain why you need or don’t need these preposition, what kind of verb it is and so on. But you don’t need to be an expert to know that our English as reported in our National Media  should be better than that. What’s happening to our National Education?

It surprises me that a reporter from Today would not be familiar with the phrase, ” Stage managed exercise.” But then I do often refer to the National Media as State Managed so they may be confused.  Dear Ms Yng, you are State Managed because the management positions in our National Media are government appointed. The National Con on the other hand is Stage Managed.

Yes, the National Conversation is a National monologue.  You know the glass screens that operators sit behind at train stations. They speak to you from behind the glass. Close to the counter there is always a little microphone that you have to bend down and contort yourself to speak into. The National Conversation is a panel behind a  glass screen but with the microphone your side removed. They can speak out at you but they can’t hear anything you say back.

Unlike Scotland or other Nations there is no hope in our stage-managed, facade of a democracy that any conversation will ever lead to a referendum. Surely, the only National conversation that counts.

A few things that I would like to see on a referendum.

  • Should we abolish GRCs ( with a requirement to field proportional representation from minorities and women)?
  • Should we abolish ISA ( but replaced with an up to date, fit for purpose, anti- terrorism legislation)?
  • Should we abolish the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act?
  • Should we have an independent elections commission?
  • Should we abolish the mandatory death penalty/ corporal punishment?
  • Should we repeal 377A?
  • Should Temasek and GIC  be required to present an annual statement of performance and accounts to Parliament every year?
  • Should Ministers be required to publish  their  tax returns?
  • Should women contribute to National Service?
  • Should NS be reduced to 6 months or a year for men?
  • Should Singaporeans be given the freehold of their HDB properties?
  • Should Temasek and GIC be privatised and the shares distributed to Singaporeans?
  • Should there be a cap on total population size?
  • Should there be stricter controls on immigration?
  • Should CPF be scrapped and a voluntary scheme be introduced?
  • Should the Minister of Finance be required to provide full details of Singapore’s assets and liabilities including those of all State owned companies  with an explanation of valuations.

These are the issues we want to discuss. What I believe we need is a Singaporean conversation, for Singaporeans, by Singaporeans. All of us. For the time being let us  keep the real conversations going and refuse to participate in the National- blowing -in -the- wind extravaganza.

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