They really, really don’t want you to know about this

December 20, 2005
Singapore Democrats

This post is at least a year old. Some of the links in this post may no longer work correctly.

If readers recall, Dr Chee Soon Juan wrote to The New Paper last week to reply to Mr Clarence Chang's piece Singapore bashers abroad. Dr Chee had categorically asked the newspaper, as he does with all the newspapers, not to make any amendments without his permission.

The New Paper's SpeakUp Editor, Mr Philip Lee, replied to Dr Chee in which he asked Dr Chee to shorten the letter: "You requested that your reply should be published in full without amendments. I am afraid it is too long for us not to have to edit and shorten it. Our letters page, I am sure you know, simply does not have the space for a letter as long as yours.”

Dr Chee complied and shortened the letter considerably and sent it back. This time Mr Lee published the letter – with one glaring omission: He removed the paragraphs about the Singapore-Burmese druglord connection (see below).

Whenever Dr Chee writes to the newspapers, he insists that they don't make amendments without his permission precisely because editors like Mr Lee will blackout – wholesale – important information.

The Straits Times also tried to censor Dr Chee's questions about the Singapore-Burma connection. In particular, the newspaper didn't want to publish the paragraphs about the GIC's investments with Burmese druglords like Lo Hsing Han; the statement by Mr Robert Gelbard, US former assistant secretary of state, who said: "Since 1988 … over half of (the investments from) Singapore have been tied to the family of narco-trafficker Lo Hsing Han"; and about Singapore being a money-laundering centre for druglords.

Today and Lianhe Zaobao simply ignored Dr Chee's call to publish his reply.

But why did Mr Philip Lee of The New Paper amend and publish Dr Chee's letter despite the SDP secretary-general's specific demand that no editing is to be made without his consent? As with the Straits Times, Dr Chee would rather not have his letter published if the newspaper insisted on removing the paragraphs relating to the Burma issue.

The reason is that the newspapers are getting rather embarrassed that it is not according Dr Chee his right of reply to all the articles it has published denouncing him. Singaporeans could be getting curious as to why Dr Chee was not replying, as he always does, to the slew of articles attacking him.

At the same time, however, the press has to protect its masters and not let the Singaporean public read about the Singapore-Burmese druglord connection.

This is why The New Paper, without permission, removed the "dangerous” paragraphs in Dr Chee's letter and quickly published it to show Singaporeans that it had given Dr Chee his right of reply.

Clever.

But thanks to the Internet, not all Singaporeans will be hoodwinked. This article exposes how the media continue to manipulate and censor information to keep Singaporeans in the dark. It is unethical. It is unbecoming. And most of all, it is dangerous to the people.

If the Government can so blatantly censor information as stark as the Singapore-Burma connection, just imagine what it has been doing and what it can do with the information relating to the billions of dollars of public funds it has at its disposal.

With everything that has gone on with the NKF - the secrecy, the non-accountability, and the mismanagement of the public's funds, do you feel safe with the Government have such control over the media? It gives the people the information it wants them to read and blacks out those that it doesn't.

The investments in Burma are done in our name. It is important to make sure that they are not tainted with blood. If we choose to remain silent over the matter we will be just as guilty as those who made the investments – one is sin of commission and the other is the sin of omission.

Don't just get worried, Singaporeans. Don't just get angry. Get active. Come help us break this strangulation of the PAP on the media. Our CPF savings, our investments, our unspent tax dollars are in the hands of a non-accountable and non-transparent Government. Let us stop living so precariously.

Below is Dr Chee Soon Juan's reply which appeared in The New Paper on 19 Dec 05. The paragraphs in bold are the ones edited out without Dr Chee's permission.

Like the rest of his colleagues in the PAP-controlled pressroom, Mr Chang excoriates me for hurting Singapore’s image.

It is vintage PAP. When it cannot answer the charges and uncomfortable questions its opponents raise, it launches ad hominem attacks.

In a familiar fashion, Burma’s daily, The New Light of Myanmar, says that Aung San Suu Kyi has “sold herself and the country to foreigners.”

Hong Kong’s opposition leader Martin Lee has been accused by the Communists in Beijing of “bad-mouthing” the territory whenever he is overseas.

Dissidents like Kim Dae Jung, South Korea’s former dissident-turned-president; Benigno Aquino, whose assassination toppled Ferdinand Marcos; Andrei Sakharov, whose dissent helped bring an end to the Soviet Union; and even Nelson Mandela were all accused by their governments of what the PAP and its newspapers are accusing me of today.

I bring up these examples not to compare myself to these luminaries, but to highlight that dictatorships invariably resort to accusing their opponents of being traitorous individuals. (By the way, Mr Chang would do well to cite where I have compared myself to Mahatma Gandhi.)

By pasting the image of the PAP all over the image of the country, any criticism of the ruling gang will be quickly portrayed as disloyalty to the State. Let me say it again: the PAP is not Singapore and Singapore is not the PAP.

These leading democracy figures have also reached out to the international community for support. Aung San Suu Kyi tells the democratic world to “use your liberty to help promote ours [in Burma]” and calls for economic sanctions on Burma. Martin Lee recently told the US Senate about the China’s threat to Hog Kong’s democracy. Kim Dae Jung campaigned for democracy in South Korea when he was exile to the US.

Without the international community’s support dictatorships will continue to punish, censor, and intimidate their hapless citizens.

Mr Chang uses that much-loved PAP word “antics” to describe my call to put an end to the hypocrisy of killing small-time drug peddlers. What he does not reveal is the Singapore Government’s investments in Burma of which over half, according to former US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Gelbard, “have been tied to the family of narco-trafficker Lo Hsing Han.”

Mr Lo Hsing Han, and his son, who has been banned form the US for suspected drug activities, is known to travel freely in and out of Singapore. Remember, drugs produced by Mr Lo find their way into Singapore and are consumed by Singaporeans.

International experts have also said that Singapore’s financial system is where the drug syndicates launder their money.

Execute small-time drug couriers while dealing with druglords? This is hardly the way to deal with the drug problem, is it? I would be happy to debate the PAP on this matter in Singapore. The problem, as I have pointed out, is that the PAP will not allow the subject to be discussed in this country.”

I brought up the cases of Michael Fay and Julia Bohl to show that the PAP does bow to external pressure, in these cases the American and German governments. It is Singaporeans that the PAP does not listen to, the very people who supposedly give the PAP its power.

In the Bohl case, the German lady was convicted of smuggling marijuana, possession of other drugs, consuming ketamine, and allowing her apartment to be used for narcotics trafficking. She was also accused of belonging to a drug syndicate. Following intervention by the German authorities, however, the marijuana she was carrying was subsequently “purified” and found to be less that the original amount which would have led her to the gallows. She was, instead, sentenced to five years in prison but served only three for good behaviour.

Compare this to the late Shanmugam s/o Murugesu who had also carried marijuana, but nothing else. A Singaporean, Shanmugam served in the army for eight years and the Singapore Sports Council for another four. He had also represented Singapore in sports. He was hanged.

Such criticisms of our Government, whether they come from me or the international community, are not “potshots”, as Mr Chang derides. They are matters that call out to our national conscience and Singaporeans need to examine them. Let us not continue to dismiss international opinion of us out-of-hand. It will be to our country’s detriment.

The honesty to ask questions of our own conscience requires courage; the stupidity to constantly thump our chests in misplaced nationalistic bravado needs only cowardice.