This is why we must stop personal attacks in politics

Singapore Democrats

The assault on Mr Amos Yee last week as he was walking to court shocked many Singaporeans. Watching the video, one could hear the revolting crack of palm on cheek.$CUT$

We heave a collective sigh of relief that the assailant did not carry a weapon, otherwise the situation could have turned even more tragic. As it is, if the culprit had landed closer to Amos’ ear, it could have caused critical perhaps even irreparable damage to the boy.

Lest we think that this was an isolated incident, it should be noted that the discussion against Amos had been building up to a climax, with expressions of hate often accompanying the comments.

We should not be surprised therefore that someone took it upon himself to express his emotions through a violent act.

It is the PAP’s rhetoric, often bordering on incitement, that provides the substratum for mistrust and hate.

For example, Mr Tang Liang Hong was accused of being an anti-Islam, anti-Christian Chinese chauvinist. The incendiary labels stoked vicious threats against Mr Tang so much so that immediately following the elections in 1997, he fled the country.

In a similar vein, Mr Francis Seow was accused of being a stooge of the US Government colluding with the CIA. For effect, the NTUC even staged a theatrical protest outside the US embassy. An over-emotional PAP supporter given to delusions could have easily acted in a very regrettable manner against Mr Seow.

The late J B Jeyaretnam was likened to a “mangy dog”, and his political challenge became analogous to a scenario involving cul-de-sacs and weapons.

I have been called a gangster, a traitor who opposes Singapore and even diagnosed a psychopath. When you top this off with a call to “annihilate” me, you set up a scenario laced with poisonous tension, tempting individuals to perpetrate acts of malice and aggression.

It happened on several occasions to my family and I. For present purposes, I will cite only two: The first was that my German Shepherd dog was poisoned, the cause of death was confirmed by the vet. The second involved the repeated slashing of my car tyres. Both episodes happened in the late 1990s at the height of the PAP’s vitriol against me.

While the PAP leaders have bodyguards to ensure their physical security, they must realise that their opponents are vulnerable to attacks by persons on the violent fringe. Engaging in over-the-top rhetoric and using violent imagery is dangerous.

All it takes is just one moment of madness by one lone individual to commit one violent act, and no amount of calling for justice by the Minister for Law can undo the damage.

I have often counseled against personal attacks and character assassination in our politics. It is base and primitive, and has absolutely no place in the modern and civilised nation that we aspire to.

I call on those in the PAP to stop its practice of name-calling and personal destruction. Leaders must lead and we must set the example to cultivate a political culture that is free of hateful rhetoric and incitement.

Instead let us set about a new politics in a new era where we engage each other on policies – vehemently if we must – but always with respect as fellow Singaporeans. When we do this, our supporters and the general public will follow.

We have the opportunity and the ability to set this new direction, let us seize it and, in so doing, uplift our nation.

Chee Soon Juan