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In the report Shanmugam Criticise a minister but don’t sling mud, the Minister for Law said that PAP leaders was not about to stop suing its critics for defamation, but added that lawsuits do not curtail political discussion.$CUT$
He could not be more wrong. Defamation lawsuits have had a chilling effect on political discussion in Singapore. Through the decades, many opposition leaders have been sued and this has effectively dampened political debate and participation.
But while Mr Shanmugam says that PAP’s critics should not sling mud, its leaders have not been shy of doing the same to its opponents. J B Jeyaretnam, Devan Nair, Francis Seow, Tang Liang Hong, Chee Soon Juan, etc. have been labelled and characterised in the most personal and vicious of ways.
And while PAP leaders see no problem in slinging mud at their opponents, they are quick to sue when the mud flies the other way. The party has in recent years turned to suing civil society members and bloggers, the latest being Mr Roy Ngerng over the CPF issue.
Such defamation suits do absolutely no good for political development in Singapore. It must stop. For the sake of progress, it is imperative that we raise the level of politics in this country.
To do this, we must have two things:
One, the government must be transparent and accountable. The PAP must remember that it is the custodian of public money and has the duty to make its accounts and transactions open for public inspection – without the opposition and citizens having to demand it. A good government avails the information as a matter of course.
When the Government is not transparent, it engenders distrust among the people. In particular, Singaporeans are suspicious and unhappy about what is happening to our CPF money and reserves.
Bad governance is non-transparency. Terrible governance is suing citizens when the distrust leads to suspicion and allegations.
Two, the opposition must be constructive by drawing up an alternative and persuading the people that there is a better path.
The SDP has tried to live up to this expectation. We have not only pointed out the PAP’s policy flaws but also, and more importantly, published a series of policy papers detailing comprehensive and viable solutions to remedy the current shortcomings.
It is important to raise the level of politics by showing who has the better ideas to take our nation forward than continually sue for defamation.
We desperately need to change our political ways. Only then can we achieve a First World government – the type that Singaporeans demand and deserve.