Ladies and Gentlemen,
The state owned and controlled news media Channel News Asia of Feb 15, 2008 has an article "Foreigners should not organize, lead complaints about Singaporeans".
A short background. A few months ago, a Finnish based choir, the Complaints Choir, which goes around the world singing complaints in different countries applied to organize a function to sing in Singapore. The Singapore choir which is affiliated to the Finnish organization had many Singaporean as well as some foreigners. An application to sing in public by them was denied by Singapore government. As a result, they conducted a private singing function. The reason for refusal to grant the permit was that foreigners were in the choir; the argument being, foreigners are not permitted to criticize Singapore from within Singapore. Yet another logic defying drivel from a government which no longer cares whether it makes sense or not!
After the choir’s private performance, a Nominated Member of Parliament; which by the way is a totally illogical and unnecessary political position in this Alice in Wonderland; had asked in parliament why the Complaints Choir was refused permission to sing? The arguments of the government minister Dr. Lee Boon Yang are so warped and nonsensical; it has to be taken separately.
He says: Foreigners should not be encouraged to organize and lead Singaporeans in making complaints about the nation.
Does that then mean that the prohibition is only against encouraging foreigners? If foreigners decided themselves without any encouragement to make complaints against the nation, would that be permissible? In any case, under what provision of the law is this proscribed?
He says: Only Singaporeans can be involved in domestic politics.
If that is so, are foreign newspapers not permitted to comment on domestic politics, which they appear to do routinely, such as New Straits Times, Newsweek, Time and other foreign newspapers? Why are they permitted to do so? And sold in Singapore?
In fact, is it not true that Singaporeans are not permitted to engage in domestic politics unless they belong to the PAP? If they are permitted, why then are the opposition supporters denied permits to speak or assemble in public? Is such activity, not termed domestic politics?
He says: Letting foreigners lead Singaporeans to make complaints in public run contrary to established principles that comments for domestic affairs should be reserved for Singaporeans.
Is the prohibition only against letting foreigners leading Singaporeans in complaints? If they do not lead but follow Singaporeans in their complaints, would it be permissible? Why should comments on domestic affairs be reserved for Singaporeans only? Are not foreign academics in Singapore Universities allowed to criticize Singapore in education, or are they only permitted to praise and glorify it?
Have there not been foreign politicians invited to Singapore who have then criticized the appalling human rights record of Singapore? Is Singapore a closed society like North Korea where all criticism is illegal or are they an international city engaged in free exchange of ideas?
In any case, why has not a single permit to speak or assemble ever been granted to any Singaporean in the last 40 years to criticize his government? What is the point of reserving criticism for Singaporeans when they are never permitted to exercise it?
He says: Although Singapore had commented on Myanmar’s human rights abuses that was all right because it was in line with international sentiments.
How and when was this new rule introduced to allow criticism of other countries only provided it was in line with international sentiments?
Did not Lee Kuan Yew once call the residents of Johore Bahru, Malaysia a bunch of gangsters and muggers? Did he not on several occasions malign the ability and intellect of Malays in Malaysia? Were these insults to Malaysians because they were in line with international sentiments?
Dr. Lee Boon Yang, the Arts Minister should speak plain English for a change and not speak it in the Pickwikian sense. And what the Minster for the Arts is saying is simply that he will not permit criticism from anyone, friend or foe, Singaporeans or Hottentots, from criticizing his one party totalitarian government.
And this is what we should say to this Minister. No! No! No! We will not take this lying down. We will protest with or without your blessing. If it is a peaceful law abiding protest, assembly or speech, it is protected by the Singaporean constitution and we intend to do it.
That should be the message for Singapore’s Dr. Goebbels, Dr. Lee Boon Yang.
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