Readers will recall that Channel NewsAsia(CNA) had stipulated three conditions for party representatives wishing to speak at its television programme: One, they must be a CEC member; two, an office bearer; and, three, eligible to run as a candidate.
At the taping yesterday, the PAP sent Ms Josephine Teo who is neither a CEC member of her party nor an office-bearer. To add insult to injury, PAP had two representatives (the other being Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam).
This is the depth to which the media will plumb just to give the PAP the advantage. Executive Director Ms Lee Siew Hoon in her invitation to the SDP wrote:
On behalf of the channel, I cordially invite you to nominate a party representative to participate in the programme. The representative must be a CEC member and office holder in your party. In addition, he or she must be eligible to stand for the coming election. For your information, MediaCorp is extending the invitation to the PAP and four opposition parties. (emphasis added)
Why then did she allow Ms Josephine Teo who did not qualify under CNA’s conditions be a participant?
The SDP sent Assistant Treasurer Dr Vincent Wijeysingha. The news organisation had effectively barred secretary-general Dr Chee Soon Juan from speaking at the forum.
Even so, CNA included the SDP only after we had protested against being left out. This was the first time that the Singapore Democrats have been invited on its programmes.
And as before, each party could send only one representative – except, of course, the PAP which was allowed two. In another programme called Talking Point, the same happened: Opposition parties each fielded one speaker whereas the PAP had two – Ms Indranee Rajah and Mr Michael Palmer.
Singaporeans must not be lulled into accepting that this is the natiural order of things, that the system must necessarily be tilted in favour of the PAP. We must speak up and speak up loudly against such double standards.
As it is few question why the PAP is given one-leg up over the rest even if the Constitution expressly forbids this. For example, PAP-affiliated groups like the PAP Community Foundation and the Consumers Association of Singapore are allowed to conduct public assemblies and processions whereas civil society and opposition parties are banned.
This is carried over into the realm of elections where the PAP can do things that the opposition cannot. In the 1997 GE, PAP ministers had entered polling stations unauthorised to which former Attorney-General Mr Chan Sek Keong, who is now the Chief Justice, rationalised that the ministers were inside the polling stations (as opposed to loitering outside) and therefore were not in breach of the law.
All this translates into an autocratic system based not on the rule of law but on the premise that everything must be arranged so that the PAP always comes out on top.
Such a system breeds contempt for the concept of justice. As long as we sit back and accept such appalling standards, our society will not see brighter days ahead.