Straits Times changes mind, wants to cut out more of Chee’s reply to Peh

March 7, 2008
Singapore Democrats

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When Dr Chee Soon Juan replied to Mr Peh Shing Huei’s column The partitioning of the opposition, Straits Times Forum Editor Yap Koon Hong replied and said that he would publish an amended version.

The edited version removed Dr Chee’s references to the newspaper’s real intentions of trying to marginalise the Singapore Democrats in favour of the kind of opposition politics that the PAP finds more acceptable and to the fact that the elections are manipulated by the PAP.

Dr Chee said that these points formed the backbone of his reply and he didn’t want them deleted. But he agreed to cut the number of words so that it would not be longer than the Straits Times’ edited version.

The newspaper replied again, this time wanting to, incredibly, cut even more of the letter so as to keep it to the “400-word limit”.

Obviously someone along the editorial chain felt that even references to the Government allowing CASE to hold its march while prohibiting the SDP’s as well as Mr Peh’s comments about “moderate” opposition could not be printed. (See below)

Dr Chee also pointed out that the Forum regularly published letters from Mdm Ho Ching (Lee Kuan Yew’s daughter-in-law), Dr Lee Wei Ling (Lee Kuan Yew’s daughter) and Mr Lee Kuan Yew himself that were way beyond the word limit.

He noted how Mr Lee Kuan Yew always insists on his right of reply to the extent that no amendments may be made to his letters and that foreign publications have been penalised for not adhering to such dictates.

If the Straits Times has the time and space to criticise the SDP, then it should also have the journalistic decency to accord the Singapore Democrats our reply.

Again, Dr Chee relented and agreed to shorten the letter. But he insisted that the essential points of his letter remain.

Why does one get this funny feeling that the word-limit thing is just an excuse? Let’s see whether the Straits Times publishes the letter without the further cuts.

And no, we’re not taking bets.

The further cuts that Straits Times wants to make

Dear Dr Chee,

Thank you for replying. We’ve edited your amendment to keep within the 400-word limit for each letter published in the Forum page.
Please see attachment.

Sincerely,
Yap Koon Hong
Forum editor
The Straits Times

This coming from a journalist writing for a newspaper owned by the PAP Government. So what is Mr Peh’s real agenda? Here are a few pointers:

Mr Peh labels the Singapore Democrats as “radicals” for our “brazen actions flouting the law.” In the context of his piece, this is a bad thing to be shunned by society.

What Mr Peh doesn’t point out is that it is not the Singapore Democrats who are flouting laws but rather the PAP which is making up and/or using unjust laws to deny citizens our constitutional rights to freedom of speech and assembly, rights essential to our well-being.

I have written countless articles and even published a book to explain why civil disobedience is the correct and necessary response to a government that rules by whim.

A good example is the recent banning of the planned SDP protest outside Parliament House on 15 March 2008. In contrast CASE was allowed to hold a similar event at the same venue in 2007 and will do so again on 16 March this year.

Yet the writer glibly ignores all this, opting to portray SDP as a bunch of renegades out to wreak havoc in Singapore.

In contrast, Mr Peh paints the “moderates” as “limit[ing] their challenges to the Government to constitutional means, contesting elections for seats.” How can such a democratic approach to politics be criticised?

(Mr Peh’s use of the loaded terms “radicals” for the SDP and “moderates” for the others is telling.)

What he doesn’t tell readers is that the PAP bribes and intimidates voters, fixes the opposition, and makes up the rules as it goes along.

The opposition has been playing the game under PAP rules for close to half-a-century with disastrous results. The SDP is calling attention to the fact that these rules must be reviewed and reformed, and for elections to be run by a genuinely neutral body. How radical is this?

Mr Peh further writes that “moderates focus more on bread-and-butter issues…Not so for the radicals.”

A check of the SDP’s website shows this to be completely false. We have consistently and repeatedly raised bread-and-butter issues like the price hikes, HDB prices, withholding of CPF funds, etc.

It is the media that censors our views. They then use this lack of coverage to tell the people that the Singapore Democrats are not focused on such matters.

Mr Peh also tries to give the impression that it is Mr J B Jeyaretnam and I who are not interested in opposition cooperation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The SDP organized a forum for election reform and invited all opposition parties to participate. We will continue to urge opposition parties to come together on this issue.

Past events also show that the SDP has tried to work towards greater opposition cooperation.

The columnist points out that support for the Singapore Democrats in the Internet has grown. This is because the SDP does not take our support for granted. We work for it.

If we make sense to the people instead of patronising them, we will win their support.

In cyberspace, the PAP cannot censor or distort our views, and because of this, people can see the truth for themselves and who is really worthy of their support.

Chee Soon Juan
Secretary-General
Singapore Democratic Party