Chee: I offered the WSJ piece to Straits Times first

Chee Soon Juan

The Government’s rebuttal of my Wall Street Journal op-ed A New Vision for Singapore said that I “pander to the editorial tastes of the Western media.”$CUT$

It is a label that the PAP has always tried to hang on me: that I am in collusion with the West against Singapore.

What I have not made public so far is the fact that I had offered the piece to the Straits Times first. I sent it to the newspaper’s political editors on 13 November 2014 and sent a reminder on 19 November and to enquire if the ST would use it.

I did not receive a response. It was only then that I offered the piece to the WSJ.

In reporting the Government’s letter through Hong Kong Consulate-General Mr Jacky Foo, ST could have informed readers that I had, in fact, sent it the piece first.

Singapore needs an honest conversation about the direction of our country. I wanted to have this discussion with the Singapore people in a Singaporean newspaper. Clearly, this was not to be.

But even as it reports the Government’s rebuttal, ST has not published or reported on what I wrote in WSJ. To remedy this, I have written a letter to the ST (as well as Today and Channel News Asia which also carried the report) to address the matters raised by Mr Foo.

In the nearly 25 years that I have been with the SDP, I have published several op-eds in international newspapers and news sites such as The Guardian, The Australian, CNN, Huffington Post, and WSJ but I have not been able to publish in Singaporean newspapers.

I have also been interviewed on news programmes and radio talk shows on BBC, CNN, NPR, Reuters, Australia’s ABC, just to name a few. But I have never had been invited to talk on a Singaporean TV or radio station.

In fact, in 2011 prior to the elections, CNA repeatedly left out the SDP in its programme Talking Point while other opposition parties were invited. It was only after we protested the discrimination on this website that CNA relented and invited us, but not before insisting that only office-holders who were eligible for the elections could participate. That ruled me out as I was barred from elections because of my bankruptcy.

The truth of the matter is that I have always wanted to discuss issues of national importance with my fellow Singaporeans and the most effective way to do this is in the Singaporean media. But it has always been the heavy hand of state censorship that has prevented this.

It is, therefore, unfair to say that I pander to the editorial taste of the Western media.

Which, by the way, raises two questions:

One, if the Government says that my op-ed panders to the Western media, is it not admitting that the piece is unpalatable to the local media?

Two, should the media be the arbiter of taste in the first place or should they be facilitators of debate and discussion in pursuit of the truth regardless of taste?

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