What is PM trying to avoid ?

May 17, 2004
Singapore Democrats

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

Lim Tung Hee
Member
Singapore Democratic Party

This letter was sent to TODAY but was refused publication.

TODAY has done it again! Although not surprised by the journalistic inaccuracies and convenient omissions of the Singapore media, one still cannot help but hope that a certain measure of integrity, fairness and truth is found in reports by the local reporters.

Although Dr Chee Soon Juan made a point for point rejoinder to the TODAY article dated 8 May, it will never see the light of day in any print or broadcast media here.

PM Goh Chok Tong has again proven himself to be intolerant, incapable or perhaps both, of addressing important issues. This is especially so when the questions are posed by those whom he sees as potentially embarrassing for him and his party.

By ignoring Dr Chees question at the Council on Foreign Relations speech in Washington DC, Mr. Goh clearly showed that he was trying to divert the attention that possible terrorist activities may be brewing here if Malay-Muslims who feel marginalized are not positively engaged. The question is certainly not confined to domestic politics as Mr Goh would have us believe. It is one that should be of international concern.

Radical activities carried out in the name of God are very real threats in any country including Singapore. If this is indeed true, how can Mr. Goh say that this is Singapores domestic politics? Does the international body not have a vested interest in how insensitive treatment of the minority races in Singapore can create and breed deep revulsion for the establishment?

More ironic is the fact that Mr. Goh, on the very next day, warned the US to be sensitive towards views of Muslims. Is this not a contradiction to his response to Dr. Chee?

The government has already detained several Jemaah Islamiah members under the Internal Security Act linking them to terrorist activities. If these threats are real, then shouldnt Mr. Goh and his team look into the causes for such disenfranchisement? Throwing these men into jail does not address issues which may be real to the Muslim community in Singapore. This government must engage communities that feel discriminated against and make amends if necessary.

In trying to avoid these questions and dismissing the opposition so arrogantly, the PM has behaved in a way extremely unbecoming of a statesman. He should take on a sensible question objectively instead of getting so personal with Dr Chee. Those of us who have seen British PM Tony Blair and even US President George Bush grilled by their fellow countrymen will agree that these two leaders were courteous, tactful and even humble in the way they answered even the most sardonic questions about their participation in the war on Iraq. None of them had demonstrated such scornful and pompous behaviour towards any member of the audience.

PM Goh would have done well to learn from his counterparts how not to display his paranoia when his government is taken to task. If he has to resort to such derisive responses when he feels challenged, then how has this Prime Minister been holding his own?

It is this contemptuous approach towards critics which has been the hallmark of the PAP government. It adds to the dissatisfaction of those who feel that they have been discriminated against in Singapore. It seems as if Mr Goh, will never address our concerns directly except through prepared speeches and to an audience thats dressed in all-white.