COMPETENT CONSTRUCTIVE COMPASSIONATE
Ms Chua Lee Hoong claims that she cannot understand why
I criticised the PAP Government's idea of a free speech venue
("Speakers' corner a test of whether people will listen," ST, 22 Mar
Singaporeans must never forget that our rights to freedom
of speech, assembly and association is not for the PAP to give. They
belong to us as much as our bodies and our minds belong to us. Take them
away and we become lesser, or even non, humans.
speakers' corner is not a right that we have claimed, but a concession
that the PAP, with whatever motives, has condescended to us. It is like
someone coming over to your house and taking over it, as well as every
possession that you have in it. Years later he decides to return to you
your television set. Should you be thankful and continue to timidly hope
that some more of your belongings will be given back?
must be reminded also that what the Government feels that it can give,
it assuredly also knows that it can take away. Take the case of our
presidential elections. Years ago when the PAP decided to let the people
elect their president who was to be vested with executive powers, many
thought that the Government was opening up and that Singaporeans were
finally getting more political space. Mr Goh Chok Tong underscored this
point when he said, "In introducing this Bill, the Government is in fact
clipping its own wings. Once the Constitutional amendment is effected,
this Government will have some of its powers checked." Then in the
recent presidential non-election, Mr Lee Kuan Yew bluntly refuted the
Prime Minister saying, "No, if you've to clip your wings, then you are
in trouble, you cannot govern...I cannot remember what he [Goh] said but
I would not have used that phrase because the executive powers of the
Government should not be clipped." Soon thereafter, Mr S. R. Nathan
became President without an election.
The reason for the PAP
granting the free speech venue is also disturbing. PM Goh said that he
feels it is now okay to allow a speakers' corner because the economy has
now recovered. Does this mean that everytime the economy gets diarrhea,
our right to free speech is the first to get flushed down the toilet?
How can a right be given and taken away based on such caprice? In fact
it is when the economy turns bad that this Government becomes even less
transparent and less accountable in a bid to to protect its own
interests and power. The right to speak freely and openly at such times
thus becomes even more compelling and consequential. Note the cutting of
Singaporeans' wages during the economic crisis while the PAP Government
accumulated billions of dollars in surpluses and continued to pay its
Ministers millions of dollars in salaries. And this does not include the
tens of thousands who lost their jobs and are still unemployed and
underemployed. Political rights, lest we forget, equal economic rights.
laws such as the Internal Securtiy Act, Public Entertainment Act,
Societies Act in place, a speakers' corner is nothing but a gaily
decorated window. The reality inside the shop has not changed one iota.
Chee Soon Juan