Our police state is fraying at the edges
Written by Ng E-Jay
20 July 2010
Recent events have shown unequivocally that not only has the PAP Government run the country as a police state, but also that the authorities are now getting panicky and desperate to the point that they are fumbling and making glaring mistakes.
Barely two weeks ago, a member of the National Solidarity Party (NSP) was fined by the National Environment Agency (NEA) for illegal hawking. (See here.) His alleged “offence”: Selling the Party newspaper in a public area.
The NSP has written to NEA seeking a clarification on the matter, based on the fact that it was not engaging in any unhygienic activity, but merely promoting its political cause in a fashion that surely, in any democratic country, is 100% legitimate.
Apparently the authorities must have felt that NSP’s activities are politically unclean and pose a political health concern (to the PAP, that is).
To this date, as far as the NSP has revealed, the NEA has yet to reply on the matter.
This is a blatant example of how the authorities have used the rules to intimidate political opposition in an attempt to silence dissent. The motive behind NEA’s action is clear: To scare new activists into refraining from engaging in political activity, and to curb the spread of undesirable publications, namely those espousing views different from that of the PAP.
It gets worse, however.
Barely days after the NSP member was fined, the Media Development Authority banned Martyn See’s film which shows a recording of a speech by former political prisoner Dr Lim Hock Siew.
Martyn See was ordered to take down the film from Youtube and surrender all copies of the film in his possession to the MDA, or risk facing possible jail terms and fines. He has complied with the order, but he also pointed out that anonymous people in cyberspace have chosen to continue distributing the film in defiance of the law.
Readers of this blog who also follow Malaysian politics would notice the close similarity in methods used by the ruling parties on both sides the causeway to clamp down unjustly on film-makers and activists and prevent the painful truth from being spread.
In its statement to the press, the MDA said that “the Singapore Government will not allow individuals who have posed a security threat to Singapore’s interests in the past, to use media platforms such as films to make baseless accusations against the authorities, give a false portrayal of their activities in order to exculpate their guilt, and undermine public confidence in the Government in the process“.
The MDA is basically asserting that it alone has the power to judge whether a certain content is accurate or not, and to ban it if it feels it is inaccurate, in the name of protecting the public interest. There is no opportunity for dialogue and debate. There is no chance for dissent and criticism, no avenue to express a view different from that of the establishment. Either remove the banned content, or face jail time, regardless of the underlying facts, regardless of whether the content was created to distort the truth, or expose the truth.
If that is not enough, just last Saturday, a Lianhe Wanbao reporter was handcuffed and detained by the police for an hour because he was taking pictures of the flood.
Apparently, nowadays anyone who takes photographs that can potentially embarrass the Government may be given the Chee Siok Chin treatment.
Fortunately, the reporter is from the mainstream press and could use the power of his editorial to expose the injustice. His outrageous story was given front page attention on his own Daily on Saturday. If he had been from alternative media instead, his case would never have been known to the general public because it would have been covered up.
According to the police statement, the reporter, Mr Shafie Goh, was trying to take photos in the middle of the road and he had been repeatedly asked to move to a safe place as he was taking photos in a dangerous position. But he refused to comply, and continued walking along the road divider, snapping away. Officers then handcuffed him. Mr Goh was not wearing any media identification at the time, and officers were not aware that he was from the press.
In addition, Minister for Environment and Water Resources Yaacob Ibrahim told Parliament on Monday that there is no ministry policy that prohibits the taking of flood pictures.
When the authorities get desperate enough and the embarrassment to the Government gets acute enough, they fumble, sometimes outrageously. That was what happened to reporter Mr Shafie Goh. Mr Yaacob Ibrahim could only offer empty assurances that did absolutely nothing to address the injustice and humiliation Mr Goh had suffered. Obviously he is at a loss for words regarding this incident, because it is so closely connected with his own ineptitude at handling the flood situation.
On Sunday morning, British author Alan Shadrake was arrested for criminal defamation and contempt of court, apparently in connection with his book “Once A Jolly Hangman” that was launched on 17 July. Mr Shadrake’s book is about Singapore’s mandatory death penalty for drug traffickers.
Mr Shadrake has been granted bail and has Mr M Ravi acting as his counsel.
Choo Zheng Xi of The Online Citizen speculates that the use of the draconian law of criminal defamation as well as contempt of court was motivated by Mr Shadrake’s story about the trial and execution of Vignes Mourthi which he described as “arguably one of the most appalling miscarriages of justice in Singapore’s history“.
And to show just how tight the noose can get (no pun intended), anti-death penalty activist Rachel Zeng was apparently harassed last week. Rachel was one of the organizers of Mr Shadrake’s book launch in Singapore.
How low can the powers-that-be get? How idiotic and moronic is all this?
All these incidences, put together, paint a grim picture of a Government that is surely losing control of itself.
Facing embarrassment from so many different angles and having had its incompetence as well as its draconian, autocratic ways highlighted for all the world to see and to condemn, the authorities have begun to fumble and make glaring errors that have only worsened the situation for themselves and heightened the embarrassment they are suffering.
The only viable solution for them is to admit they have steered Singapore down the wrong path and have committed human rights atrocities on their political opponents.
But to compel the authorities to admit the grave folly of their ways, we need a strong opposition presence inside and outside of Parliament, a political opposition that is able and willing to speak up on BOTH bread and butter issues AS WELL AS broader issues like democracy, social justice, and the rule of law.
If not, we’ll just be running around in circles and it will be cold day in hell before the Government even comes close to admitting it is blatantly in the wrong.