What’s wrong with this picture? Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong recently visited Burma and said that investors would invest in Burma in a “big way” if the country moved towards democracy and held free and fair elections.
In the first place, Singapore already has lucrative deals in place with the Burmese generals, making us the one of the biggest investors there. The problem is that our dollar is greasing the palms of a very corrupt and murderous bunch of soldiers.
While billions of dollars are poured into Burma, the Burmese people remain mired in poverty. It is estimated that nearly 30 percent of the population live below the poverty line. This is because the generals use the money to fatten their own bank accounts, much of which is in all probability stashed in Singaporean banks, instead of benefitting the people.
In addition, the US and Europe maintain tight economic sanctions on Burma and because of this the country is shunned by the international trading community. Given the situation, how is investing in a pariah economy a wise move?
This is not a new development. Burma has been under a dictatorship for the past several decades. What makes Mr Goh think that just because he says that there would be more investments coming to the country if the junta held free and fair elections, that the generals would pay heed?
What incentive is there to democratise the country if the rulers already benefit from the money given to them by governments like the PAP? Hasn’t the Senior Minister figured this out already?
The other problem could be that the generals don’t take Mr Goh’s call seriously. Who would? Singapore calling on other governments to conduct free and fair elections? Might as well have Genghis tell Attila to be more humane.
Mr Goh’s propaganda blitz is reminiscent of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s right hand man in Germany during the Second World War. He said: “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play…If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
The truth is that while most of the countries in the region and beyond are moving towards freedom, democracy and openness Singapore, on the other hand, is heading south.
The recent expansion of the NMP and NCMP schemes together with the introduction of the Public Order Act, where even one-person protests are considered an illegal assembly, make the political system even more moribund.
With the running of elections still firmly in the hands of the Prime Minister’s Office, the GRC scheme the order of the day, redrawing of constituency boundaries announced only at the last minute, and state media fawning over the PAP can elections in Singapore be any less free and fair?
By putting all these controls in place, elections in Singapore have become a charade to be orchestrated by the PAP once every four or five years to hold the people accountable.
It might be better for Mr Goh to look at his own house before sermonizing to others about the benefits of free and fair elections. You know what they say about people who live in glass houses.