Play by the rules? Good idea, Mr Lee

September 8, 2004
Singapore Democrats

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Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew is showing clear signs of confusion. Some of the statements he made in relation with his suing Dr Chee Soon Juan are not in sync with reality.

For example, he said “Mr Chee should learn from Nelson Mandela. Mandela played by the rules. He won because he fought constitutionally. Chee should play by the rules, then he may rally people around him. By breaking the rules and flouting the law, he is getting himself marginalised.”

Mr Mandela had resorted to armed violence which he revealed in his own memoir. Rightly or wrongly, that was not playing by the rules in South Africa then or now. In fact, Mr Mandela was arrested and convicted for using bombs to blow up key installations in South Africa. His acts were certainly not within the constitution of South Africa (or any other country).

The curious thing is that while Mandela never denied the accusation, and he was a member of the African National Congress (ANC), which was a banned organization at that time, he was given a trial.

If Nelson Mandela had been a Singaporean (heaven forbid), he would have been thrown in prison under the ISA. Worse, he would have been charged with treason and armed violence, and sentenced to death.

Mr Lee has the gall to bring up the struggle of Mr Mandela when there is the fate of our very own Mr Chia Thye Poh. Unlike Mr Mandela, Mr Chia was an elected MP, a member of Barisan Sosialis a legally constituted political party in Singapore unlike the ANC, and was someone who never advocated violence.

Yet, Mr Lee Kuan Yew arrested Mr Chia, locked him up for 23 years and then banished him to Sentosa for another nine all without ever bringing a charge against Mr Chia. At least, Mr Mandela knew what he was charged with and was able to have his day in court, no matter how biased the process was. Mr Chia, on the other hand, was never allowed to defend himself against the accusations (not formal charges) in public.

To use one of the Minister Mentors oft-used exclamations: Come off it, Mr Lee!

This leads one to the next interesting point. If one has to play by the rules in Singapore, one must first ask: What are the rules? They keep changing to suit the PAP and to undermine the opposition.

For example, when the Singapore Democrats came up with a video to explain its policies and present an alternative to Singaporeans, the PAP Government quickly introduced a new rule to ban such videos.

And when the opposition started to gain ground in elections, the PAP again changed the rules by introducing the GRC system to make it harder for its opponents to win.

And when the international media started to report on politics in Singapore, the PAP quickly changed the rules to prohibit them from engaging in domestic politics.

Yes, the Singapore Democrats want to play by the rules but the PAP must first make sure that these rules are democratic and fair to all competing parties.

But even as Mr Lee asks Dr Chee to play by the rules, his own party flouts them. Remember the farce during the 1997 general elections when PAP ministers were filmed and photographed entering polling stations when they clearly had no authority to do so. If this had happened to the opposition, prosecutions would have come thick and fast. But what happened to the PAP ministers? The Attorney-General said that because they were seen inside the polling stations and not loitering outside them, they had not broken any law. Ai yai yai…

Then there was the infamous PAP-NTUC march against the US in 1988 where thousands of PAP supporters took to the streets in public protest. When Dr Chee tried to have a May Day rally on 1 May 2002, he was arrested together with Mr Gandhi Ambalam.

When SDP tried to display National Day buntings, the Government confiscated them while allowing PAP flags to freely flutter. These are just a few of the many examples of one rule for the PAP and another for the rest of Singapore.

Accept it, Mr Lee, before any one can play by the rules in Singapore there must first be the rule of law.