Straits Times continues its charade

Dear Dr Chee,

We shall publish your letter if you confine it to the issues raised by Mr Paul Fernandez. Your letter goes into many areas not pertinent to the issues raised by Mr Fernandez.

Yap Koon Hong
4 Apr 08

Yap Koon Hong
Editor, Straits Times Forum

Dear Mr Yap,

First, it beggars belief that you took four whole days to write those two sentences in your response to me. Was it such a difficult decision to make regarding whether or not to publish my reply?

Second, your excuses are wearing thin. You had wanted to take off paragraphs in my previous reply to Mr Peh Shing Huei’s column. When I agreed to cut down on its length, you backtracked and wanted even more of my letter deleted. This rendered my reply quite without a point.

You are doing it again, this time insisting that I have gone into many areas not pertinent to the points raised by Mr Paul Fernandez. If my reply is so off the point, why not let readers read for themselves and conclude how irrelevant it is?

Why do you have to play gatekeeper on what points I should or should not raise in my defence, and by extension, what your readers should and should not read?

In his letter Mr Fernandez makes three basic points:

1. That he leads a trouble-fee life under the PAP Government;

2. And because of this the SDP should not engage in peaceful protests because they are a waste of taxpayers’ money; and

3. That the SDP should work in tandem with the PAP.

I have taken each one of these points and addressed them in turn and substantiated my rebuttals with essential facts without which my reply becomes inane. I have, nevertheless, kept it to within your rather arbitrary 400-word limit.

My reply cannot be construed, except for a very partisan stretch of the imagination, as “not pertinent” to the dscussion.

Be that as it may, I invite you to show me where and how in my reply have I not been pertinent. And please don’t take another four days to respond.

Chee Soon Juan
6 Apr 08

Mr Paul Fernandez’s letter and Dr Chee’s reply are reproduced here. Readers can judge for themselves whether Dr Chee’s reply is pertinent or not:

Advice to Chee: Don’t waste taxpayers’ money
Forum, The Straits Times (20 Mar 08)

I refer to Sunday’s report, ‘SDP holds illegal protest against rising consumer prices; 12 held’, on the protest march held by Dr Chee Soon Juan and his supporters last Saturday.

As a Singapore-born citizen since the 1960s, I and many others are grateful to the Government and appreciative of what it has done since Independence.

No government can appease all. A good government will do its utmost to ensure that the majority are taken care off.

My advice to Dr Chee and his comrades is that instead of periodic publicity stunts which waste taxpayers’ money, they should form a coalition and work in tandem with the ruling party to make life here more interesting and peaceful for all.

Until then, let us continue enjoying a trouble-free life under our current Government, which is in touch with the ground through grassroots organisations, and addresses the concerns of those who fall through the income gap.

Paul Antony Fernandez

Dr Chee’s reply: Protests are a lifeline for the people, not a waste of taxpayers’ money

I thank Mr Paul Antony Fernandez for his advice. Unfortunately, it is misplaced.

Just because Mr Fernandez is “grateful” and “appreciative” of the Government does not mean that it is right for the ruling party to ignore the Constitution that guarantees the right of Singaporeans to freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly.

For every Paul Antony Fernandez who is leading a “trouble-free life”, there are several others who toil under an unforgiving economic regime that strips them of all dignity and hope.

The writer has a well-constructed channel to express his love for what benefits him. What about those who disagree with him?

They have two ways of making their views heard: One is through the elections. The other is through peaceful public assembly. Both are guaranteed under the Constitution and absolutely essential to a functioning democracy.

Just as Mr Fernandez does not think that elections are a waste of taxpayers’ money, why should he think that way about public protests?

Perhaps its because in elections the PAP can bribe and intimidate voters, fix the opposition, and make up the rules as it goes along in order to achieve a certain outcome.

The result is that, in such unfair and unfree elections, issues important to voters become submerged under the onslaught of misinformation propagated by the PAP-controlled media.

Note that Freedom House, in its annual report, states that “Citizens of Singapore cannot democratically change their government.”

Such control of the citizens’ views and the production of a predetermined outcome in elections is much more difficult to achieve in public protests.

In addition, it is only through peaceful mass protests that the people can compel the PAP Government to reform the election system.

Peaceful assemblies, especially in an authoritarian state where elections are manipulated, are far from a waste of taxpayers’ money; they are the lifeline of the disenfranchised, the weak and the voiceless.

Mr Fernandez also wants the SDP to “form a coalition and work in tandem with the ruling party.” The only way that this can happen is for the SDP to abandon our democratic principles and become client-party of the PAP.

Hell will freeze over first.

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