THE USE OF "ASIAN VALUES" BY THE SINGAPORE GOVERNMENT, SINGAPORE'S PENAL SYSTEM AND SOCIETY AT LARGE.
The Singapore government likes to use "Asian values" and "Asian culture" to explain the things that are “uniquely Singapore”. Caning, death sentences, police permits for assembly and speech, harsh penal punishment, a parliament that is one party with about 82 out of 84 MPs from the PAP, and the list goes on and on.
Singaporeans are always told that western liberal democracy do not work well in Singapore because we are Asian. And today, I have read online K. Shanmugam said in the newspapers that liberal democracy leads to slower development and a lower quality of life, with more tensions within our society.
The newspapers are state controlled by the way. No wonder the news are always bright and cheery and the only complaints that get published are those about mrt, buses, and all kinds of minor issues. Publishing them allows the newspaper to say "Look we do publish criticism too alright!” In reality, you will never get an article in the newspaper saying that “PAP’s policy on xxxx is a failure and it doesn’t work at all” which the British, Americans and citizens of the free world receive.
Back to K Shanmugam’s point that liberal democracy leads to lower quality of life and slower development.
Well, I guess liberal democracy does indeed lead to lower quality of life and more tension within society. That is why Europe, North America , Australia and New Zealand all have lower quality of life compared to Singapore. It is also true that liberal democracy leads to slower development which explains why many of these countries have GDP per capita (nominal) that are 10k USD or more than Singapore. These countries are all in chaos and their citizens are suffering indeed.
Perverted versions of democracy such as those in Russia, Malaysia and Singapore lead to higher quality of life. People in these countries are living the high life.
It is also apparent that the Americans, Europeans and Australians are all dying to give up their citizenships for a Singaporean one because Singapore's system works so much better, or so we are told by the government.
Oh hang on..... it is actually the other way around. Singaporeans are dying to immigrate into Australia, North America and Europe. These countries have a much higher quality of life and lesser tension within society. At my recent class gathering 4 years ago, I found that 40% of my ex classmates are now living in these countries.
Mr K. Shanmugam goes on to say that only the PAP can deliver good governance.
I have no doubt about that Mr K. Shanmugam. I have learnt over my years in Singapore (when I was still in Singapore) that the PAP are god sent. They are men and women of the highest calibre that cannot be found anywhere else in Singapore or the world.
Mr K. Shanmugam then goes on to mention something about younger voters being more educated and demanding liberal democracy. He then goes on to argue that the best systems are those that fit the society they govern.
Firstly, you either have democracy or you do not. What is democracy if it is not liberal? What in the world is a “closed democracy”? It is not democracy at all. Such democracies are pseudo democracies or hybrid regimes. A hybrid regime is what the Economist classifies Singapore as in its 2008 democracy index survey.
Yes, the younger educated voters will demand democracy. You cannot lie and pull wool over their eyes like you can do with the uneducated voters who can hardly string together a proper sentence in English. The educated voters will be able to discern and make the right decisions. They have seen the world. They know what is right and wrong. They know the best way forward.
The question is, can democracy exist in predominantly Chinese societies? Or is the Singapore government right in saying that as Asians, we do not yearn for democracy and democracy cannot work in Asian/Chinese societies, it is our Asian culture.
The truth is liberal democracy can exist in predominantly Chinese society.
There are only 4 countries in the world that are predominantly Chinese - China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore.
China is a communistic country, no doubt about it. But look deeper and you would see their citizens are busy immigrating to Europe, North America and even Singapore. I am sure we all have witnessed the growth of the PRC populace in Singapore. Why? They want a better life that is why. They want to enjoy more democracy, more rights. They want to have human dignity.
Hong Kong is now part of China. It is governed under the "one country two systems" rule. Just recently, Hong Kongers took to the streets in hundreds of thousands to march for democracy and universal suffrage. Hong Kongers are especially critical towards interference from the Chinese government in their territory. In 1997, when Hong Kong was to be handed over to communistic China, Hong Kongers were running all over the world desperate to take up a second citizenship before the handover. Hong Kong politicians were practically begging the British to grant them right of abode in the UK so they can escape communist rule. This goes to show how much Hong Kongers value their democracy and rights.
Taiwan has also showed that democracy can function in a majority Chinese society. The Taiwanese are certainly not western, in fact they don’t even speak English at all yet taiwan has a functioning democracy that ranks 33rd in the world. The Taiwanese refuse to rejoin mainland China for this very reason. They would rather risk open war with China than give up their democracy and rights. In Taiwan, there is a healthy functioning liberal democracy. The people have smiles on their faces.
Taiwan has showed that democracy can function in an Asian or Chinese society. The reality in Hong Kong, China and Singapore has showed that Chinese people year to live free. They yearn to have rights and democracy.
Liberal democracy is hardly a western concept like what Singapore's government would have us believe. How do you define western in the first place? To define something as western and eastern is very infantile. Each sovereign country has its own culture and language. Even in western Europe alone, each country has a distinct language and culture. A German can hardly understand a British. An American can hardly understand a Taiwanese. Yet they come together in their respect for human rights and democracy.
Even in the UK, they have had a long history of dictatorship under the monarch. They have had a terrible history of human rights abuses and torture. Not unlike Singapore, they used to hang and cane people in their recent history. But do they sit around and say lets continue such practices because it is part of British culture? No. They look forward, they choose to change for the better. They do not choose to say this is the British way of doing things and we must have such a system (dictatorship, caning, hanging, torture machines, taking children from their parents and sending them to far away places) in place to fit our society.
The same goes for the French, Germans, Taiwanese, Japanese, Australians, and every other enlightened nations in the world. They all had histories of human right abuses and torture. They all chose to change things and not wallow in their close mindedness and say, lets continue on as it is part of our culture.
The Singapore government likes to keep saying that this is our "Asian" culture, hence, we have to avoid liberal democracy. Hence, we cane people and hang people. Hence, we use very harsh punishment even for minor criminal offences.
To understand how ridiculous many of the punishments in Singapore are as compared to international standards, I will compare the punishment for some offences in Singapore against Australia.
Petty drug use - In Singapore it is 9 months jail. In Australia, it is a very small fine.
Drug trafficking - In Singapore it is the death penalty. In Australia, it is 6-9 years jail.
Overstaying your work visa for 3 months - In Singapore you will be jailed and caned. Permanent scars will be left on your buttocks. In Australia, they won't even jail you. They will just invite you for a chat and book you on the next plane home.
Almost every punishment in Singapore is manifestly excessive by international standards to be honest. The punishments DO NOT fit the crimes. Why? Because Singaporean's have no or little individual rights. That is the truth.
Or if you choose to believe the government, it is due to "Asian values". No doubt, there are plenty more perverted explanations the government can come up with to pull the wool over your eyes.
So is the Singapore government really a fervent believer in "Asian values" as they would have us believe?
Asian values dictate that you serve public office without wishing for extreme riches, you serve because you want to better society and your country. These are the teachings of Confucius and many Chinese heroes, "Yue Fei" being one of them.
If our MPs truly believe in their own trumpeted version of "Asian values", why do they raise their salaries into the highest in the world then? The Top 30 highest paid politicians in the world are all from Singapore!
A friend of mine once joked that Chen Shui Bian of Taiwan should not have embezzled 15 million USD. He should have taken a leaf out of Singapore's book and raised his own salary legally to 3 million USD a year by passing a bill in parliament. Within 5 years, he would have 15 million USD in bank.
Why does the Singapore government honour dictators like "Prime Minister" Thein Sein of Myanmar who plunder and murder their own people by naming flowers after them? (Dendrobium Thein Sein).
In Singapore, the teenage vandal gets caned and jailed while a dictator who subverted the will of democracy in his own country and abused human rights has a flower named after him along with the whole suite of VIP treatment. What a joke.
I can understand a government playing host to Myammese dictators to facilitate talks to advance human rights and help the people of Myanmar. But when a government names flowers in honour of dictators, it disgusts me to no end.
In all other developed countries such as America, Canada, UK, their cabinet ministers have no problem commanding million dollar salaries in the private sector too. But they do not demand million dollar wages as MPs. Why? Because they know it is public service, the spirit is in serving the taxpayers and country, not the tax payers and country serving them.
Also, unlike private sector jobs where you can be sacked at an instant, MPs have security of tenure for half a decade. The fame gained in public service would also provide many lucrative opportunities once one retire from public service. It would be ridiculous to peg public sector MP wages to private sector.
"Asian values" are used by Singapore government when it is convenient and when it advances their agenda. "Asian values" are thrown out the window when it is does not advance their agenda.
I am Chinese too. The Chinese certainly did not invent paper by insisting that their culture is to use stones. The Chinese also did not invent cannons and gunpowder by insisting that their culture is to use wooden arrows.
The bottom line is this - Every improvement in society and science is made by looking forward and not backwards. Yet the Singapore government continues to look backwards and say that “Asian values” dictates Singapore cannot do this or that.
Singapore has shown that the government can build an elaborate system that claims to be "democratic", yet go against the spirit of democracy by utilising their grip on parliament to amend the constitution and pass numerous laws to severely maim the practice of democracy in reality.
This is the main reason why a multi party parliament and democracy must exist in Singapore.
Democracy exists in Taiwan, that is the reason why Chen Shui Bian couldn’t legally raise his wages to 3 million USD a year even if he wanted to. The parliament in Taiwan, being democratic and multi party would certainly have not accepted such a ridiculous preposition.
When Singapore mentions the words "Asian values" you better run and hide because it is most likely bad news for you. Most of the time, "Asian values" has become nothing more than a code word to take away the citizens' rights and dignity.
In my case I have ran all the way to Europe.
Ding Ting In London
(Proud citizen of the UK now).