Crying wolf: Singapore National Conversation
Reading the online reactions about the so-called National Conversation (NC) confirms my belief that it’s a red herring and sloganeering.
As expected, the government mouthpiece MSM has been shouting from the rooftop and trying to whip up excitement over NC. Truth be told, no one gives two hoots.
Will NC be about really fundamental issues like freedom of the media, respect for human rights, civic and political freedoms, separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary, electoral reforms, accountability and transparency, abuse of power, the ISA and so on?
Why are these important? For example, a judiciary separate from the executive can examine laws to see if they are consistent with the Constitution
Article 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore, specifically Article 14(1), guarantees to Singapore citizens the rights to freedom of speech and expression, peaceful assembly without arms, and association. However, the enjoyment of these rights are restricted by laws passed by the dominant ruling regime.
Or will NC be confined to issues like immigration, housing, transport, anti-immigrant sentiments, fertility rate, economic matters and so on? Such issues have been flogged to death for years, in particular during the GE2011.
GE 2011 provoked expressions of regret by the regime, soul searching and even mutterings of political reform or transformation if you like. There were tantalising glimpses of a new era. But it turned out to be a mirage.
At his swearing-in ceremony PM Lee declared: “… we will take a totally fresh look at our problems and policies, and rethink what is necessary and best for Singapore’s future.” Now that was 15 months ago and the regime is still just keen on talking and talking? For another 15 months?
To be fair, it has reviewed ministerial and the President’s salaries, promised a better transport system and taken steps to meet housing needs. Matters which it should have looked into seriously years ago anyway.
A 1991 Straits Times reported then DPM Lee HL as saying : “Singapore will seriously consider abolishing the Internal Security Act if Malaysia were to do so.”
He said that if Malaysia did not abolish the same Act, which provides for indefinite detention without trial, it must have its reasons.
Now that Malaysia has taken the bold step to scrap the ISA, PM Lee has remained silent on the subject. This is consistent with the regime’s disappointing record in keeping its promises.
Little wonder then that this National Conversation has been largely greeted with derision and ridicule.
Reminds me of the fable “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”.
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