Those who have been paying any attention at all to local news would likely be familiar with the ongoing case of The Prime Minister versus The Blogger. I hadn’t planned on writing anything about it because I didn’t consider it news (emphasis on “new”). It’s all been done before: someone criticizes or insinuates something about the PAP or any of its high-ranking members, invokes the ire of said party, is swiftly served a lawyer’s letter demanding a retraction of the “offending” statement and a subsequent apology, and, depending on his luck / the PAP’s mood, could have the case dropped, or have his sorry behind hauled into court. In the latter scenario, it’s a given that the state will win – after all, they didn’t spend five decades cementing their money, power and influence just to lose face because of some small fry with a big mouth and equally big balls.
It’s not that Roy Ngerng has a big mouth per se. I have read many of his blog posts, and even referenced one of them in one of my own when I first started this blog. Valid points are valid points, no matter who makes them; we simply have to extract what is useful and apply it in the right context (but that’s a discussion for another time).
That said, I do think Roy was a little in over his head from the very beginning of this entire fiasco. He should have been smart enough to anticipate this sort of backlash, sooner or later. After all, those bold enough to speak their minds about issues deemed “sensitive” by our hypersensitive government will likely attract attention from the very same people they criticize, albeit to varying degrees. Having read the “offending” post before it was removed, I picked up very clear implications that the PAP is supposedly misusing our CPF money for its own gain; the parallel Roy drew between the PAP and City Harvest made this assumption even more damning. While I’m wont to believe him, I also feel that raising questions and being critical of the current state of affairs, as opposed to outright accusations, would have sufficed. Knowing our dear PM, Drew & Napier would be his go-to mode of attack against those like Roy. It’s happened before and will keep happening so long as the overpaid, overgrown babies in parliament have their astronomical salaries and positions of power. I’m pretty sure Roy would have connected the dots even before the PM sent him that letter.
And then today, I read a post by another local blogger, Singapura Pundit, in which he said something I myself have been saying ever since Roy apologized and offered to pay damages to PM Lee: “You cannot expect to be taken seriously if you publicly accuse the Prime Minister of criminally misappropriating CPF funds, only to concede when challenged to provide evidence for your accusations in court, that your accusation was (in your own words) ‘false and completely without foundation’.”
Singapura Pundit raises several other highly valid points, and the post can be read in its entirety here, but I thought I’d take the time to list a few disagreements I have with his other points, which, to me, teeter on the edge of statism:
Allow me to point out that a dictatorship doesn’t always involve military rule, war, or genocide. Sure, some parts of the world have had the terrible misfortune of being well acquainted with the likes of Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe, and Adolf Hitler, to name but a few examples of the 20th century alone. But a dictatorship can also be characterized by a one-party system (Hougang and Aljunied versus every other constituency in Singapore? Nice try), and “benevolent” dictatorship.
Look whose name that is on the list of leaders considered “benevolent” dictators – that’s right, Emperor Lee himself.
Oh and here’s another fun fact: Singapore is on the DD (Democracy-Dictatorship) Index, classified as a military dictatorship and an anocracy, the latter being “a regime-type where power is not vested in public institutions but spread amongst elite groups who are constantly competing with each other for power”.
As for the possibility of the PAP being “voted out of power” during the general elections, well…let’s just say that possibilities are endless (or at least, plentiful). The odds of them actually losing the majority vote, however, are slim to none. Between their die-hard loyalists, pre-election carrot-dangling, and not-so-subtle threats of opposition wards going ghetto, we can rest assured that even voters who do not support the PAP will vote for them, anyway. Sites like TRS are allowed to continue their miserable existence because let’s face it: as much criticism as I am happy to level at the ruling party, its ministers aren’t exactly idiots. They have been so gracious as to allow irrationally angry Singaporeans this little corner of the World Wide Web to spew their embarrassing blind hatred of all things foreign and remotely pro-government because doing so makes the “anything but PAP” (ABP) crowd feel as if they are winning, as if the freedoms which have been denied them so long are slowly but surely being reclaimed. In truth, however, no one with half a brain or who possesses the smarts and / or influence to actually make an impact in our society would waste time on that drivel.
And what anti-government signs at public protests? Oh…you mean the mass bitching sessions at Hong Lim Park. See aforementioned bit on TRS – Hong Lim Park is but yet another small corner (albeit a physical one) allocated to keep the anti-establishment folk at bay.
Let them have one website, one park. Let them say and do whatever they want. Lull them into a false sense of progress and accomplishment so the powers that be can better concentrate on consolidating and affirming their wealth and position. Yup, sounds about right.
I’m sorry…what? Stop me if I’m wrong, but since when have the professional values of an organization been tied to one’s personal political leanings? As quoted by Singapura Pundit himself, the “dialogue” stated on the TTSH website is between the hospital’s staff and “supervisors in a safe and dignified environment”. So unless PM Lee has some secret employment as a TTSH staff member, I don’t see how Roy’s opinions of him are at all connected to his level of communication with his peers and superiors. Likewise, the “respect” TTSH hopes to see in its staff has zilch to do with whether or not Roy respects the PM. Singapura Pundit would have us believe he is not a PAP “IB (Internet Brigade) member” and that he is an “independent writer”. But surely he cannot expect to be taken seriously if he is unable to differentiate between an individual’s work ethic and personal political views / affiliations.
I will say this, though: TTSH’s decision to dismiss Roy should remain between employer and employee. TTSH was probably worried about how its association with Roy might affect the company on the whole, and that him supposedly using work hours to settle personal matters was a convenient excuse to fire him. I say this because I had a similar, albeit much less publicized experience. When I was still a PropertyGuru editor and a member of the SDP, I covered the party’s housing policy paper for the company’s newspaper, and allowed the party to publish my article on its website. The HDB chanced upon it and went batshit crazy, calling my bosses and essentially demanding to have me fired – all because of my personal political affiliation. I was prepared to be dismissed, but after informing a party member of my predicament, he kindly decided to take the heat off me by removing the article from the SDP website.
My senior editor had known for some time that I was an SDP member, but he began feigning ignorance when the issue came up, and though I felt rather put out at the time, in retrospect, I can better understand the situation. Basically, people want to maintain their livelihood and so, do not wish to be implicated in any way by the actions of others, especially if these “others” happen to be their subordinates. After all, it’s business – they capitalized on my affiliation with the party to get an insight into the paper, but were ready to dismiss me because of that same affiliation. And truth be told, when I think about it now, I don’t have any negative feelings towards my superiors regarding the issue. In fact, I occasionally meet my former senior editor for lunch and wine, and, until the company’s freelance budget was tightened, had continued writing for them even after I had resigned (yes, I left for personal reasons unrelated to the HDB blowup. Pity I couldn’t be a martyr).
Wow. Where do I even begin with this one? For my thoughts on PM Lee’s “public service since his NS”, please see this recent post. As for the PM not “demanding that the masses worship” him, well…I did mention earlier that this is a benevolent dictatorship, right? This means it’s imperative that the ruling party is seen (keyword: “seen”) as acting in the interests of the people. That level of wayang will only work if the control exerted over the people is not blatant but instead, subtle and well disguised. And that’s when it’s the most insidious.
But I guess there’s some truth to all this talk of the PM’s dedication to and sacrifice for Singapore. After all, didn’t he say, not too long ago, that the Internet is just full of sad, complaining sacks? Now that he’s updating his social media accounts more regularly, I suppose he’s no longer content. The stress of leading a nation of complain kings and queens – and at a 36% pay cut! – must be getting to him, the poor thing.
All sarcasm aside, I have no doubt that the PAP played a huge role in building this country and leading her in the early days of her independence. But times change, and people, however powerful, well-intentioned or capable they may be, change along with them. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and winning the majority vote after priming the electorate with a deadly cocktail of empty promises and thinly veiled threats is not a reflection of a government that is acting in the interests of the people. It is naïve to think in terms so black and white. Besides, if the ruling party’s steadily dwindling votes over the last few elections is any indication, an increasing number of voters have lost faith in the mighty PAP.
This. This right here is why I titled this post Friday Afternoon Humour. Forget what you heard – Singapore is a democracy, people! Party!
In all seriousness, however, I think the case of Ngerng versus Lee is one gigantic joke. Our esteemed Prime Minister has proven once again that he is little more than a big baby with more money and power than he can handle, and an unfortunate ease of access to use that money and power to soothe his ego, and rein in his critics with the same fear-mongering tactics that have worked so well for the PAP for the past 50 years. As for Roy, he has (unwittingly or otherwise) exposed the self-proclaimed “opposition supporters” as the tunnel-visioned ABP zealots they are.
This is politics. If you want to go up against the big boys – even if they’re really just big babies – you need to be formidable enough to endure it. As it is, lowly bloggers and humble citizens like Roy lack the sort of money and influence the PAP has in abundance. Therefore, in the absence of concrete evidence and strategically clever moves, all you have is the sympathy of your loved ones, and those with whom you share a common enemy. To date, Roy’s supporters have raised a tidy sum of money for his legal fees, which I must admit is rather impressive. But does this achieve anything besides getting him out of hot water and sending a message to the powers that be?
I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions. Have a lovely weekend, everyone.