Singapore, the Prime Minister tells us, is going to have a National Conversation. This was promoted by Mr Goh Chok Tong and Education Minister Heng Swee Keat who said that he would “touch on the National Conversation on the future of Singapore” in his coming National Day Rally speech.$CUT$
But way before before anyone in the cabinet stumbled on the idea of the country having a talk about the direction and future of Singapore, Dr Chee Soon Juan had advocated it several months back.
In his acceptance speech at the Prize for Freedom Award given by the Liberal International in 2011, Dr Chee said:
[SDP is] not opposed to wealth but wealth inequality. We must demonstrate how the widening income gap harms the common good. More than just indignation, we need to offer a platform of why we see egalitarianism as a moral and more effective way of organising economic society.
To do this we need a national conversation, we need to have a politics of moral engagement. We see the inequity, we see the injustice. We see the misery caused by greed and domination. Now we must ensure that an alternative be heard and recognised, one that ultimately replaces the status quo.
This quote is found on page 288 of his latest book Democratically Speaking (available here), which reproduces the speech in its entirety.
But do you think this call will be part of the National Conversation even though Dr Chee came up with the idea before any of the PAP ministers?
In fact, SPH reporters were present at the ceremony but the state media chose to blackout news about the event and Dr Chee’s speech. Now that the PAP is calling for the same thing, the media goes wild with the news.
This is the tragedy of the Singaporean society. Everything is conducted under the PAP’s terms. Even as we face uncertain times and current policies are pushing the country in the wrong direction, the Government is planning to quell the discontent and disarm its critics by calling for a dialogue with the people – under its direction and framing of the issues.
In reality, it will do everything to exclude those it disagrees with even though those it disagrees with have important contributions and better ideas to make.
In the end, this is just going to be another PR exercise albeit a massive and politically seductive one.
Watch video: Book Launch of Democratically Speaking