Do foreigners have rights in S’pore?

July 15, 2005
Singapore Democrats

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

Dear Dr. Chee,

I was the one who wrote the 1 Jul 05 article “stupid to antagonise Buddhist  Majority. For several reasons, I note with sadness and disappointment your  publication of my letter and your subsequent reply:

(1) First, you published my letter despite my explicit request for you not to do so. I had meant that email to be a private conversation with you (the reason of which is explained in (2) below). Because this “speakup” email address is the only email address on your website that works, I have no choice but to email you (privately) using it. Since I thought you wouldn’t be rude enough to publish my letter without my permission, (a) I did not thoroughly checked my sources regarding the Singapore Buddhist Federation or its leader, what they wrote or what they say. I would have done that if I had known that you would insist on publishing my letter against my wish!

Moreover, (b) I had no intention of giving any Falungong people the golden opportunity of going into a rebuttal/free advertisement on your website about their cult. Finally, (c) had I know that my letter will be published, I would have checked its tone and grammar, and use of language/phrases more thoroughly so that it befits publication!

That you find it appropriate to publish a letter despite its author’s request for it not to be published, is my first disappointment with you (see point (9) below).

(2) I note that you have censored out one entire paragraph from my email to you. In this paragraph, I suggested the type of voters whom I think you have the best chance with. I indicated clearly hat these two issues (SDP being sympathetic to a cult, and the constituency you stand for election) are similar with the same theme: it’s all about having a good political sense. Unfortunately, by censoring out this paragraph, you made my letter appeared to be about my personal frustration with this cult and not about its central theme: suggestions of how SDP can best win the next election (by having what
I feel is good political sense).

That you find it okay to censor my letter, while you criticise the Singapore media for censoring your letters disappoints me (see point (9) below)

3) I had naively thought that after reading my letter, you would thank me for pointing the issue out, and quietly refrain from providing arsenal to your political opposition i.e. the PAP, in future. Instead you chose to publish my letter, thereby letting your political opponents read it on this website and probably use this against you in future.

Your sense of how best you can win an election in Singapore disappoints me and at the same time somewhat amuses me. (But see point (9) below)

4) I note from your reply that you evidently regard your principles and beliefs of “democracy” (the quotation marks are there because I do not believe democracy means allowing a cult’s foreign practitioner to enter my country. That’s an abuse of the concept of democracy) higher and more important than the concept of having the political sense of not antagonising a majority religious group in Singapore especially when that religious group’s leader has already come out openly to declare its stand about a cult.

Your “idealism” disappoints me, and at the same time, enlightens me, for now, I can better understand why your performance at the past election is as such.

And now, in reply to your reply:

(5) In the 3rd paragraph of your reply, you wrote: “… political freedoms in Singapore”. In the 4th paragraph, you again said “speak up for everyone whose political rights have been violated”.

The title of the article you published reads: “Singapore bars Taiwanese Falungong practitioner”. Excuse me, did the banned Taiwanese practitioner want to conduct politics in Singapore or want to stand for election in my country? Did she come to Singapore to support PAP or SDP? Tell me exactly, what you mean when you write that “political rights (of the Taiwanese) have been violated (by the Singapore govt)”? Your argument is strange.

Furthermore, the banned practitioner is not a Singaporean, but a Taiwanese. She has no political rights whatsoever in Singapore. Political rights belong to you and I, as citizens. Foreigners are guests in this country. They have human rights etc. But political rights? Please don’t anyhow label any issue as a political cause that the SDP should defend.

(6) What PAP did is simple: by banning that Taiwanese and several others in the past, the govt can (a) make China happy, as you correctly pointed out, and (b) make citizens like me, happy too. And what’s wrong with that? Doing point (a) can give us more leverage when conducting diplomacy with China. Doing point (b) can win some votes from people like me.

But of course, I understand you don’t agree, since you think principles and “democracy” (note again the intended quotation marks, because I believe you have abused this word. Democracy does not means one cannot ban the practitioner of a cult from entering one’s country), is more important than winning votes and conducting business with other country.

For that I am disappointed (but again, see point (9) below)

(7) By the way, initially PAP used to say that Singapore should support the Iraq war, and should support USA because it is the right thing to do, because it’s a moral thing to do. A few weeks later, the govt changed its tune: we should support USA because that is in Singapore’s interest…Everything (regarding the Iraq war), we do, because it is in Singaporeans’ interest.

Why do you think the govt changes its tune? Is it not evident that the feedback unit regularly conducts survey and it must have been the feedback from most Singaporeans do not think what the USA is doing is moral or the right thing. But many Singaporeans think that we should only support the US if it is in Singapore’s interest.

And so, the govt quickly changed its tune. This is call good political sense. And this is what any good politicians or political party should do. But no, your reply indicates clearly that you don’t think it is right to “figure out where the majority is and then not antagonise it even if by doing so, we run counter to our principles”

By the way, what principles? The principle that foreigners should be granted free access to Singapore to practise a cult even if it is against the wish of a major country (i.e. China) whom we want to maintain good relationship, against the wish of some Singaporeans such as me who can vote, and will cost my political party some votes? If that’s is your “principle”, I am disappointed,  because I can now see clearly that it will still be a long long way before you can come into power in Singapore politics.

(8) By the way again, I note you are against the Singapore govt doing business with the Myanmar government. I hope you understand that while your stand is very popular with the foreign human rights people who have been eagerly supporting you, I dare say the majority of Singaporeans disagree that we should give up our chance to make money with Myanmar, because of some “principles”. (That the majority of Singaporeans think like this should be obvious from the USA/Iraq issue as described in (7) above).

That you don’t find the need to align your political agenda to what Singaporeans want, saddens me, as it further confirms my belief that such lack of political sense is going to cost you more votes and finally,

(9) Who is the one who replied to my letter (and each letter written on this website)? Is it Dr. Chee himself, or some other people? Or a group of people, including/excluding him? This is important because, for example, it would be wrong of me, as a potential future voter for/against Dr. Chee, to form any opinion about his good or bad political sense,  if he has in no way participated in reading or replying my letter. Nor should anyone based our opinion of him on the numerous replies that other SDP people wrote. So who is replying to all these letters?

As for you, Marc Lee, I did not say “majority of Buddhist in Singapore have been antagonised by falun gong”. You should not put words into my mouth. What I said was: “it is stupid of SDP to antagonise…” Your ability to twist words is better than mine, so I guess I should refrain from arguing with you.

Incidentally, have you been to Tibet in the past 10 years? I know for a fact that photographs of the Dalai Lama is everywhere in Tibet, and the Chinese government have no objection to him being revered as a religious figure. So please, go Tibet and see for yourself before talking. Your description is at least 10, if not 20 years out of date. Also, when the Chinese govt wage a war against terrorist and separatist movement in Muslim-majority region, that is clearly not the same as conducting a hate campaign against Muslims! The last time I know of Christians being persecuted in China was during the Cultural revolution more than 25 years ago! When was the last time you travelled to China? 1975? Churches and mosque are all over that country! I suggest you travel to China again (or for the first time if you haven’t done that before), before accusing another country like that. After all, you won’t want a foreigner who has never been to Singapore anyhow publicising distorted/outdated views about our country, would you? (Now I know that this is the SDP website dedicated to Singapore politics, so we should not be diverting this discussion to China’s politics. So, I don’t even know why you spent 2 paragraphs doing that?

Finally, your last paragraph: your imagination and hypothesis is wild, but entirely baseless. My original letter is simply a suggestion (a private one in fact, before SDP decide to publish it without my permission), to SDP that it should try to win votes rather than potentially antagonise a major religious group in Singapore, and how to avoid providing an excuse for the PAP to accuse SDP of doing that. Your strange twisting of my suggestion to what I will do if I become a citizen of China is amusing at best, malicious at worst. (And why again are you talking about China? Let’s talk about Singapore? We have enough problems here).

You can publish this letter of mine, as you wish.

JS

SDP: Dear JS,

You had said in your first email that there was “no need” to publish your letter. This can be read as “if you want to you can publish the letter but I am not insisting.” If you had categorically stated, as many of our readers have, that you do not want your letter to be published we would have respected your wish.

We chose to publish your letter because we thought it was well-written and that your arguments were sincere, even though we disagreed with them. It was also a subject that we thought would be of interest to the rest of our readers.

We do not know of any paragraph in your letter that was omitted. The SDP does not censor letters sent to us. We may edit them when they contain profanity or remarks that may cause the PAP to take legal action. Rest-assured, the Singapore Democrats stand ready to publish any view and debate them when necessary. Ironically, your accusation of us censoring your letter is very similar to your call for us to censor the views and practices of Falungong practitioners. This is a demonstration of us being consistent in our adherence to democratic principles of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

You mentioned that you “do not believe democracy means allowing a cult’s foreign practitioner to enter my country” and that this was “an abuse of the concept of democracy”. We would do well to remember that the major religions that are practiced in Singapore today such as Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and Hinduism were not native to this island and, indeed, the region. They were brought here by “foreign practitioners”. Singapore, or Singapura as it was then known, was not always “our” country. Our forefathers had traveled from their countries to settle in someone else’s country. Had the locals here insisted that we kept out these other faiths (practitioners of some of the faiths consider it a sin to believe in and practice another faith), we would either be all Muslims or there would be no Singapore as we know of today. Whether this constitutes an abuse of the concept of democracy on our part as you say it does, we’ll leave it to our readers to decide.

As for your contention that foreigners have no political rights in Singapore, we never argued to the contrary. But a foreigner coming to Singapore to spread new ideas and beliefs is very different from a foreigner having political rights here. (Again as a point of interest, it was a foreigner who came here with his ideas that helped Singapore’s economy to expand. His name was Albert Winsemius.) The Taiwanese Falungong practitioner that was deported came here not to campaign against the PAP but to spread the word of her faith, much like Christian missionaries who come freely into Singapore to spread the word of their faith.

To be very pragmatic, Singapore will lose out significantly, if it hasn’t already, if we continue to stop ideas and beliefs from entering our shores. As for the rest of the points you raised, we have to say that we cannot agree with you that:

i. Singapore should make China happy at all costs – even if we have to compromise on our democratic principles.

ii. Singapore should support the Iraq War based solely on our national interests (what is our “national interest”, anyway?).

iii. Singapore should continue doing business with the military regime in Burma because we can make money.

We have stated our stand on these matters both in this email and elsewhere. Again, we are happy to let our argument rest and let readers judge for themselves.

Finally, it doesn’t matter who replies to the letter. The point is that it reflects the democratic principles of the SDP which all of its members proudly support.