A Straits Times report by Mr Jeremy Au Yong and Mr Kor Kian Beng on the public forum last week organised by The Online Citizen (TOC) described opposition parties as “taking jibes at the People’s Action Party (PAP)”. Were they attending the same event as everyone else?
Definition of jibe: to taunt or mock one’s enemy. Those who were present will attest that there was no shortage of serious discussion on policies. Given time constraints, it was not possible to get into as much detail as the participants would like.
But taking jibes was certainly not the leitmotif of the evening to warrant such a dishonourable mention in the report.
What did not make it into the report but should have was the fact that the organisers had expressed disappointment that the PAP had disallowed one of its MPs, Mr Zaqy Mohd, from participating in the forum.
Instead the report mentioned, quite unrelatedly, that another young PAP MP, Mr Christopher de Souza, had take part in another forum organised by the National University of Singapore Society (NUSS) a few weeks ago. Damage control for the PAP?
And the one line that the 720-word report carried about what Dr Chee Soon Juan said was not even accurate. Messrs Au Yong and Kor wrote: “SDP’s Dr Chee said that a solution could be found if only the Government would share more information about HDB building costs.”
What Dr Chee had, in fact, said was that the HDB needed to revert to its original objective of providing cheap affordable housing for the masses instead of becoming a money-making machine. To do this the HDB needed to be a zero-profit venture. Houses in different areas would be priced differently; some would be sold above cost and others sold below cost. In the end HDB should not make a profit nor incur a loss.
But in order for the flats to be appropriately priced, we needed to know what the cost to build them are. The Government, however, will not release the information – hence the SDP’s call for such information to be made public. This is very different from Dr Chee saying that “a solution could be found if only the Government would share more information about HDB building costs.”
This is the kind of slanted and slip-shod reporting on the opposition that has earned the Straits Times its reputation.
Another of its writers, Mr Ng Tze Yong, compared the affair to a rowdy cowboy town that needed a sheriff to keep order. “The cowboys in the ballroom came looking for action, but left denied,” was how Mr Ng summed up the evening. The cowboys, in this case, are more the outlaw kind that Mr Ng had in mind.
That’s the problem with Singapore, isn’t it? Correction: That’s the problem with a controlled press, isn’t it? Passion and life in a public forum is immediately labelled with negative imagery. How do you expect the participants to feel given that the PAP continues to detain citizens without trial or sue opposition leaders into silence even as it brings in foreigners to dsiplace locals while refusing to tell the people how their reserves are being used?
Real cowboys, to borrow Mr Ng’s analogy, would have run the mayor out of town for all his abuses. As it is, the participants at the forum had shown remarkable restraint given the dire political situation Singapore finds itself in. To show emotion and anger in Singapore must, it seems, be quickly slapped down by the town-crier.
Political society in Singapore is already moribund. Will the Government not be satisfied until it cremates the whole damn thing?
Passion and emotion are not bad attributes. They are part of human nature that make life as we know it. In politics and public service, they are qualities that drive progress. Don’t mock, much less kill, them.