Khaw Boon Wan, fishing and the Asian

Singapore Democrats

In a blogpost in March this year, Minister for National Development Mr Khaw Boon Wan wrote about the problem on fishing with live bait at our public parks and how careless anglers leave a mess of rotten bait without cleaning up.$CUT$

The result? NParks now bans live-bait fishing at the waterfront jettys. That’s not surprising $CUT$ given everything else that’s banned in Singapore.

What is surprising is Mr Khaw’s view on the ban. The Minister admitted that the prohibition is “not a good solution” as it spoils the joy of fishing. (The SDP is with the Minister on this one – it’s like walking into Steaks ‘r’ Us and then told that the only item on the menu is garden salad.)

Mr Khaw admitted that the best solution is for fishing enthusiasts to “take ownership of the jetty’s cleanliness”, and work out a system where live bait is used but not left behind to rot and despoil the environment. In other words, educate instead of legislate.

But what does “take ownership” really mean? Do Singaporeans have the experience or the opportunity of taking ownership of anything in this country? Do they even understand the concept of community-regulation and education instead of having laws rammed down their throats on everything from gum chewing to toilet flushing?

In truth, the concept of self-monitoring and community organising is as alien to Singaporeans as Martians. (With the number of increased UFO sightings of late, we just might get to befriend those little green men first before we ever get to own our own communities.)

But can we blame the people? With almost a law for every type of behaviour in Singapore, rules and laws have become second nature to the inhabtants of this island.

And how did we become like this? Enter Mr Lee Kuan Yew. His edict that “we wouldn’t be here, we would not have made economic progress, if we had not intervened on very personal matters – who your neighbour is, how you live, the noise you make, how you spit, or what language you use. We decide what is right. Never mind what the people think” has been hot-stamped into the mind of every rule-maker who has graced the chamber of the unicameral, uniparty parliament.

Here’s the problem: With rigidity comes conformity and with conformity comes the inability to innovate and produce things weird and wonderful. But that’s precisely what we need at this stage of our economic development. Continuing to emphasize on the top-down, PAP-directed, target-industry approach is going to lead us down an economic cul-de-sac.

But that’s how Singaporeans have been conditioned into thinking ever since we were fooled into believing that we were building a democratic society, based on justice and equality.

Now Mr Lee tells us that we are an Asian society and, as such, we need a strong ruler – preferably himself – to tell us what to do and how to do it. Using the technique of pedigree analysis, genome mapping has not been able to trace any genetic markers that indicate the democracy gene in the Asian person’s DNA.

“Now if democracy will not work for the Russians, a white Christian people, can we assume that it will naturally work with Asians?” Mr Lee taught. No, of course. Anthropological studies have shown that we are descendants of the Slavic stock and if their systems reject democracy, so will we.

And that’s how Singapore will stay – orderly, clean and white.

But what about Mr Khaw’s “take ownership” call? Give him a break – even PAP ministers need to indulge in a bit of fantasizing.

In the end, the ban on live-bait, like all other bans, stays. And like those anglers at the waterfront jetty we just move on, repeating that all-Singaporean saying: “Aiyah, what to do?”

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