Govt must stop legal action against citizens

December 6, 2013
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

The recent spate of legal action orthreats of legal action against activists and bloggers signal thatdespite its promises to change, the PAP has remained largelyunreformed.$CUT$

During the last general elections,Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong expressed contrition for “mistakes”his administration made. Mr George Yeo admitted that Singaporeansresented the Government and said that the PAP had to change its ways.

But that was then when the PAP wastrying to shore up its vote count prior to polling day. A couple of years after theelections, the party is back to its old ways, taking citizens tocourt and threatening them with punitive action when criticisms are levelled at the Government.

Ms Han Hui Hui was sued by the Councilof Private Education (although the suit was later rescinded),cartoonist Leslie Chew was cited for contempt of court, and filmmakerLynn Lee was harrassed by the police and threatened with prosecution for her reporting.

Mostrecently, political commentator Mr Alex Au was charged with scandalising the court. This is not the first time that Mr Au has been threatened witb legal action. 

The PAP must realise that criticisms of the government and itspolicies are not a bad thing. In fact, they are necessary feedbackfor the system (and, therefore, society) to improve. To silence civil society and its actors is tocripple the feedback mechanism that keeps a healthy check ongovernment.

Such freedom of expression is not onlya fundamental right and important in itself, but it is also a necessity where creative impulses are encouraged in order to develop a vibrant society. It is the key to Singapore graduating to a higher phase of economic development.

Without an innovative culture, we cannot get out from the low-wage, MNC-dependent economic model and move on to a higher, ideas-driven economic paradigm.

It is unfortunate that the PAPGovernment refuses to accept this fact. The danger is that itscontinued unenlightened approach towards governance will causeSingapore to become less and less competitive. Ultimately, it is ordinary Singaporeans who will will suffer the most.

Protecting our political rights is alsonecessary to protect our economic rights – without the former, wecannot have the latter. It is the inability of the people to speak upall these decades that has caused our healthcare, housing, wage, andpopulation policies to become so skewed against the interests of Singaporeans.

The SDP repeats its call for theGovernment to stop taking legal action against citizens, starting with the cessation of proceedings against Mr Au. Singapore desperately needs anew start to our political system.