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28 July 2002
If I did not remember wrongly, when the Government announced the setting up of Speakers’ Corner in 2000, SDP chief Chee Soon Juan described the whole issue as a farce. How does Dr Chee now view the setting up of the Remaking Singapore Forum, where surfers are free to provide their views/feedback? Does Dr Chee or any of his party members visit the site regularly or even once so far?
SDP: Most people will agree that the Speakers Corner is a farce. The place is deserted and hardly anyone bothers to speak there anymore. The SDPs view has been vindicated.
The major cause of the failure of Speakers Corner (or any attempt to create a so-called free speech venue) is that if there is not a genuine respect for freedom of speech by the authorities, people will see it for what it is – a fa?de and nothing more.
Freedom of speech is not just a gimmick for people to vent their frustrations and complain about society. It is a means to which the people, by coming together, can express their will and bring it to bear on a government unwilling to care and listen.
For example, most Singaporeans feel that the election system, with all the gerrymandering, GRC system, HDB upgrading intimidation, etc. is unfair. So many write into the forums and complain. Will this be sufficient to make the PAP become more democratic and make elections in Singapore genuinely free and fair? The answer is an obvious no.
The same can be applied to the Remaking Singapore Forum. The government can create all kinds of channels and avenues for citizens to write in. But all this will come to nought when people feel that all they do is write and post, and the government continues to do as it pleases.
The danger of the Speakers Corner and Remaking Singapore Forum is that it may lull Singaporeans into thinking that the system is opening up, when in fact nothing substantial has changed. In such a scenario, the PAP would have its cake and eat it too.