Why is the PAP so afraid to let S’poreans think for themselves?

December 3, 2005
Singapore Democrats

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The Age, a Melbourne newspaper, has published Dr Chee Soon Juan’s letter in reply to Mr Joseph Koh.

Mr Koh, Singapore’s High Commissioner to Australia, had written a piece in which he defended the PAP Government’s position to hang drug carriers like Mr Nguyen Van Tuong. In his article published in The Age, the High Commissioner also referred to Dr Chee’s questions about Singapore’s investments with Burmese druglords:

Singapore connives with drug lords. This is an old falsehood propagated by Dr Chee Soon Juan [an Opposition leader]. He has alleged the Singapore Government had invested in projects in Burma that supported the drug trade. When this first surfaced in 1996 the Singaporean Government explained its investment in the Myanmar Fund was open and above board. The Government offered to set up a commission of inquiry so that Chee could produce evidence to prove his allegations. Unfortunately, Chee never took up the offer.

Dr Chee then replied to Mr Koh’s comments which was published by The Age on 2 Dec 05 (see below).

Singaporeans should note that Mr Koh’s comments about Dr Chee was also published in The Straits Times, Today and Lianhe Zaobao. Unlike The Age, however, they refused to give Dr Chee his right of reply.

If these newspapers can print the PAP’s standpoint, why don’t they have the guts to print the SDP’s counter-arguments?

The difference is that Australians get to read both sides of the story while Singaporeans are exposed to only one. Australians can then make up their own minds which side of the argument they support.

Singaporeans, on the other hand, are fed only one side of the story. How does anyone expect them to come to an intelligent and informed conclusion on this, or any other, issue?

In addition, on the evening news of CNN and BBC, the execution of Mr Nguyen Van Tuong was one of the lead stories. The reports presented the Singapore Government’s stand – Mr Lee Hsien Loong was shown talking about the Government’s position on executing drug couriers in a press conference in Germany. At the same time they showed how some Singaporean activists had protested the hanging right up to the minute Mr Nguyen was killed.

The MediaCorp, on the other hand, blacked out the news about the protesters and only presented the Government’s views.

Why is the PAP so afraid to let Singapore’s see both sides of the argument and think for themselves? If it feels that its position is so well-supported by Singaporeans it should be confident and publish opposing views. Singaporeans can then see the “silliness” of its opponents’ arguments.

The fact that it doesn’t and continues to censor opposing views says something about how confident, or rather not confident, the PAP feels about its own position. Dictatorships always portray themselves as righteous, confident regimes. They do this by controlling what the people read and hear. When they finally crumble, the hollowness of their rhetoric often surprise people.

On a bigger picture, can Singapore and Singaporeans really compete with other peoples on the international stage when they are so ill-informed?

More questions than answers on ties with Burma

Chee Soon Juan
The Age, Melbourne
2 Dec 05

Singapore’s high commissioner to Australia, Joseph Koh, insists that investments in the Myanmar Fund were “completely open and above board” (Opinion, Age Nov 30). He fails to mention that the Singapore Government invests in projects all over the world using public funds but refuses to give an account of where these investments go and how they perform.

Mr Koh’s yardstick for “completely open” is made of plasticine. Will the Singapore Government open up the books so that Singaporeans can inspect the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation’s accounts and transactions?

Instead of repeatedly insisting that the Myanmar Fund project was “above board”, will Mr Koh categorically say that the investments in the Myanmar Fund were not invested with Asia World, a company owned by Burmese drug lord Lo Hsing Han? In addition, will he unequivocally say that current investments in Burma are not linked in any way with Lo Hsing Han and other drug lords in Burma?

It is inexplicable why Mr Koh does not refute former US assistant secretary of state Robert Gelbard’s claim that “since 1988 … over half of (the investments from) Singapore have been tied to the family of narco-trafficker Lo Hsing Han”. Singapore’s total investments in Burma are estimated to be about US$1.5 billion (A$2.02 billion).

Mr Koh declines to tell your readers that after the documentary was aired, the Singapore Government quietly wound up the Myanmar Fund in 1997. If the fund was “above board” why was it wound up? The GIC was a core shareholder in the Myanmar Fund with a representative in the fund’s investment committee and not a passive investor, as claimed by the Singapore Government.

Will the high commissioner also say whether Lo Hsing Han has been banned from entering Singapore, and whether Mr Lo’s son, Steven Law, banned from the US for suspected drug activities, continues to operate in Singapore?

Mr Koh has also not revealed the fact that I am not a member of parliament and could not move a motion for a commission of inquiry. In addition, the Singapore Government need not open a commission of inquiry to the public and the international media are often barred from covering the proceedings. The Government barred the public from a parliamentary select committee hearing that I was involved in challenging the Government on health care costs in the country.

If the Singapore Government will telecast a commission of inquiry “live” and allow the foreign media to attend it, I would be more than happy to participate in it. Even then, why does there need to be a commission of inquiry to answer the questions that I have repeatedly raised about my Government’s investments in Burma?

Mr Koh should also inform the people of Australia that the questions that I have mentioned in this letter vis-a-vis our dealings in Burma continue to be censored by the media in Singapore. Your readers should ask why.