ST gives excuses for not publishing SDP reply

October 8, 2004
Singapore Democrats

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A couple of week ago, the Straits Times published a commentary The SDP: Destination Unknown. The following week it published even more letters that attacked the Democrats. When the SDP wrote its reply, the newspaper refused to print, giving the excuse that it was too long. Below is some of the exchanges between Dr Chee Soon Juan and Mr Kong Soon Wah, Editor of the Straits Times’ Forum page.

Dear Dr Chee,

Thank you for your letter of Sep 27, responding to our Insight article, “The SDP: Destination Unknown?” We are prepared to carry the following paragraphs of your letter, which relate to our commentary. Please let us know if you are agreeable to our proposal. Thank you. Kong Soon Wah

Dear Mr Kong,

Doesn’t the SDP have the right of reply to the other parts of your commentary and to the letters that had attacked the Party? Chee Soon Juan

Dear Dr Chee,

We will be happy to publish the SDP’s reply to our Insight piece.

But we are concerned about the use of our Forum page to comment on other extraneous issues not relevant to the issue at hand. If you are able to shorten your letter to respond specifically to those issues raised in our piece, we will be happy to publish it. Kong Soon Wah

Dear Mr Kong,

In my letter, I specifically referred to the Insight feature (ST, 18 Sep 2004) and the letters published under the heading “Opposition Parties Have To Win People’s Trust” (ST, 25 Sep 2004). If you care to read the piece and the letters carefully you will note that each point made in my missive is a counter to the attacks launched by our detractors.

The paragraphs that you want deleted address the point made by your reporters and the letter-writers, namely, that the SDP does not address Singaporeans’ concerns but instead goes gallivanting all across the world.

Our reply to this is that while we continue to raise bread-and-butter issues, we will also work to garner international support for democracy-building in Singapore. Why? Because Singaporeans are helpless under the PAP onslaught. The hope of bringing about change through the ballot box under present arrangements is not realistic. Without the ability to affect the system through voting, Singaporeans and the opposition cannot address the bread-and-butter issues in any meaningful way. And without freedom of speech and international pressure, the PAP cannot be made to reform the electoral system. This is why the SDP is doing what it’s doing.

How is this “extraneous” to the issue at hand? Chee Soon Juan

Dear Dr Chee,

Thank you for your email. While I appreciate your wanting to say as much as possible in your letter I hope you can also appreciate our policy of keeping our Forum page letters as succinct as possible.

If all our letter writers insist on 650-word letters we’ll have to cut down drastically the number of letters we can publish. Kong Soon Wah

Dear Mr Kong,

We do not want to “say as much as possible.” We just want to respond to the article and letters comprehensively. May I remind you that ours is not just another letter but a reply to some very serious accusations that have been made by your staff and readers. If you weren’t a government publication, you would have been by now put to sleep by the PAP.

You are obviously making excuses for curtailing the response of the SDP to the many points that were raised in your commentary and the four subsequent letters. Any reasonable person would see that a 650-word reply is not excessive. Chee Soon Juan

Dear Dr Chee,

Thank you for your email. I am afraid that due to space constraints, as explained in my previous email, we are unable to accept your letter for publication unless you shorten it to 500 words. Kong Soon Wah

Dear Mr Kong

Lets face it. The ST never had any intentions to allow the SDP to reply to the Insight piece and the letters. The 500-word limit is just an excuse. A check of the Forum page over the last couple of days showed two letters that were way longer than 500 words.

I wish to inform you that our correspondence will be posted on the SDPs website. Chee Soon Juan