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Leon Perera Is No JBJ Despite Chee’s Attack


perera-cheeOn Thursday last state-owned Mediacorp publication Today carried a report about an exchange between Leon Perera, the WP NCMP, and Minister of State Chee Hong Tat in Parliament on Tuesday.

Chee took Perera to task for the latter’s claim that Mediacorp had selectively edited a video from the debate on the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill that took place in February this year. Chee attacked Perera for allegedly saying that the editing of the video was politically motivated and that they only corrected it and put back what had been edited out after he spoke to them. According to Chee this was incorrect as Mediacorp had restored the missing footage two days before Perera spoke to them. He accused Perera of dishonestly trying to score political points.

According to the Today report, Perera backed down and denied that he had been implying that Parliamentary video footage was edited in a partisan manner. He also conceded that the missing footage had been restored two days before he contacted state media monopoly Mediacorp.

In a Facebook post Perera said he questioned who owned the copyright to Parliamentary video footage and why a live feed could not be made available as in other countries. I am surprised by his apparent naivete. Surely he knows that the state broadcaster used to televise Parliamentary proceedings live during the 1980s. This was stopped by PM Lee the Elder because the former leader of Perera’s party, JBJ, showed up the PAP MPs and Ministers as either incompetent or liars. Too many Singaporeans were watching JBJ in the debates and LKY feared it would erode support for the PAP. After LKY had JBJ removed from Parliament through a fake prosecution aided and abetted by a compliant judiciary, live televising of Parliamentary proceedings was stopped.

Chee’s attack only served to demonstrate the complete control the Government have over the media monopoly. It seems too convenient that truncated footage was missing due to a glitch and turned out to have been mysteriously restored two days before Perera wrote to Mediacorp about it. Unfortunately Perera, like his other WP colleagues, gave Chee much too easy a ride over this.

In another exchange the same day Chee insinuated that Perera should have declared his interest when he asked a question about e-cigarettes.  Chee claimed that since Henkel produces adhesives for cigarettes and Henkel is a client of Perera’s company that he would benefit personally.

This insinuation reminded me of what happened to my father in Parliament.  Within a few months of his election in 1981, he was referred to the Committee of Privilege when he asked a question about insufficient safeguards over the detention of drug addicts. After a referral  by Jayakumar, the man whose defamation suit mysteriously avoided Low and WP but bankrupted JBJ in 2001,  and the late Eddie Barker, the Speaker reprimanded my father for having bought the house into disrepute by failing to declare that he had acted for some detainees previously and succeeded in getting several of them released through habeas corpus applications.  Yet, as JBJ pointed out, the charge was absurd since he had no direct pecuniary interest in raising this issue which was one that concerned all Singaporeans.  My father referred to arguments he advanced before the Committee based on the UK Parliament rules which Singapore’s Parliament is supposed to follow. However, just as in his fake conviction four years later when he was jailed and lost his seat for something that was not an offence, he was reprimanded for something he was not guilty of.

Chee’s attack on Perera mirrors that on JBJ thirty five years ago though in this case there was no threat to refer him to the Committee of Privileges. It would be a mistake to see Perera as in any way shape or form taking on the role of JBJ as a tireless crusader for the people’s rights. I took part in a TV forum just before the last election representing Reform while Perera represented WP. He started off by fulsome and nauseating praise for the PAP and called their election manifesto excellent, a strange choice of words for a member of the Opposition, at least in a democracy though not in Singapore where most members of the Opposition fawn over the PAP. His biography reads like that of a PAP candidate. He did PPE at Oxford as a government scholar before working for the EDB and later founding his own economics consulting firm. According to the firm’s website their client list includes many MNCs as well as Government agencies like NEA. One would not get that kind of client list in Singapore if you did not receive the approval of the PAP Government. Singapore is lauded by right-wing economic think tanks as some bastion of economic freedom yet the Government exerts overarching control over the economy and people’s lives.

So maybe Chee was just sending a warning shot across Perera’s bows that the Government knew who all his clients were and that if he became too outspoken or asked too many inconvenient questions he might find that his client list would evaporate. I am sure that Perera will take note and his questions will become even more timid and focused on nonessential issues than they already are. I spoke to Pritam Singh, the WP MP and deputy SG, recently at a conference in  KL and he said that while he admired JBJ, who to quote his words was “like a meteor in the sky”, he had a wife and children to take care of like the other WP MPs and was not prepared to jeopardize them by going against the PAP too much. As long as this remains the case we will never get a real democracy. Things will only get worse

 

3 Comments »

  1. Yes, Leon is not JBJ, but neither are you. Unfortunately, you are right that the WP took for granted the business of the opposition and was co-opted into the narrative of an opposition by the government.

    But can you offer an alternative? Right now, everyone is worried about the public transport system which is going from worst to worstest. But nobody in the opposition (that includes yourself) actually comes out to take the government to task about it. So, unfortunately, there is no JBJ anymore in Singapore.

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  2. It is noteworthy that live telecasting of Parliament during that brief period, which you rightly observe was discontinued probably because they had put JBJ in too prominent and favourable a light, had been introduced by LKY with the intention to show the public live how trivial and incompetent the opposition was, as he had always supposed. But the scheme backfired. It produced the opposite effect, and LKY quickly discontinued the practice!

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