Jun 7, 2013

CONTROLLING THE MOUTH

The recent announcement by my government to regulate - the popular phrase in a well-regulated and over controlled Singapore - online news media comes as no surprise to many Singaporeans who knew and lived through the Emperor Lee I's reign of no tolerance of any other views other than his views and how he came down crushing on those who dared to speak differently and more rationally than him and his chosen "intelligent" stooges. Now after the narrow escape of the Malaysian government in the recently held election which saw the erosion of popular vote due to disproportionate coverage given to opposition by the online news media community, the Singapore government is getting its acts together to control the online media so that they speak and reflect the ideals of the ruling elites. I am not against controlling the media but that control must not be to the detriment of them by corrupting their news worthiness by dictating what must be covered and what should not. In this there are lessons for Malaysia to reconsider some of its policies of transformation and reformation. For there is a problem in their approach. That is, should transformation precede reformation or the other way round? A head wrenching question.

Had Malaysian government not fallen for the enticement of democratic openness by discarding the security shell which had preserved its time-tested system, it would not have faced the barrage of attacks it is getting from the opposition. Dato' Seri Najib tried to win popular support by relaxing the laws and the legal apparatus that gave security to the nation in the hope of winning the hearts and minds of people who voted against BN in the 2008 election. He finds himself in a quandary that he is realizing that the going is getting tougher. He cannot remain Mr. Nice for too long if he wants to secure the future of this country. The more he shows his niceness he will be misconstrued by his opponents as weak. They are all laughing like sheepish wolves behind his back.

I remember talking to a Malaysian Indian hotel manager in Lahad Datu few months before the recent incursion by separatists who gave an interesting insight into the non-Muslim readings of the Malays of Malaysia and the Bajaus. He said that by nature the Malays will cave in under pressure as they do not want to embarrass others or seen as oppressors. Malay tolerance should not be taken advantage by others to put undue pressure on them. The way the Hon. Prime Minister handled Indian outbursts was a lackluster performance as he tried winning them through round-the-clock charity to meet their various demands. Despite these overtures of kindness dictated by necessity the Indians are as ever calculatively divided. They are now making more splinter groups voicing discontents over their treatment despite giving a ministerial post to one who made the most noise. If that is the criterion than there are many Indians willing to make noise louder than that. It is time for the Prime Minister to get tough and affirmatively assertive in handling dissents.

Comparing my country with Malaysia, I find the minorities in Malaysia are well treated and they are economically advantaged as it can be seen from the list of the super rich among the top 10 Malaysians, that 8 or 9 of them are minorities. This is not the case with Malay/Muslims in Singapore, where their backbones are broken. Established Malay/Muslim families have been systematically liquidated through policy of selective meritocracy. Their leadership were hijacked and replaced by boneless, gutless and ball-less pimps who became pimpinan or pemimpins (Malay words for leaders). The present crop of Muslim leaders, however, seems to be slightly better in terms of education and status which the ruling elites have carefully nurtured, sustained and bestowed on them to reflect a better picture of the Malay/Muslim community so that the visiting foreign Muslims will find it Islamically receptive which may help in drawing in more foreign Muslim funds. But the leadership considers any Malay/Muslim discourse as sensitive that it deems it "sensitive to talk about sensitive things" and thus hush and flush it down the drain. This is not sincere and sensible.

Often not my country has been taken as a bench mark for comparison by leaders near and far. It is an honor and I feel elated. But what needs to be considered is the sacrifice of the Malay/Muslims for the prosperity of the country. They have been deliberately targeted as a community. My recent visit home has exposed the level of fear on the faces of the Malay/Muslims who feel that after the last election, where the swing in votes was significantly favoring the opposition, some of the Muslim elites are trying to control the economic activities of successful or promising Malay/Muslim business ventures by buying them over with the aim to consolidating power and to deliver a bloc vote to the ruling government in the next election, thereby pressurizing those who oppose them to be forewarned that they hold the key to the destiny of all Singaporeans. But then coming to think of it, even the oppositions are also not real opposition. They look more like the Chinese triads rather than genuine opposition and there is little or no voice for the minorities. Here too the Malay/Muslims are disadvantaged. To them "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" when comes to political choice. Despite all the misgivings one may have credit must be given to the present government for putting people and their welfare first and for providing a world-class facility with serene security that belies all problems that lie underneath.

It is important that Singapore must create the proper space for people to express themselves freely and fairly without any fear of reprisal in the form of legal notice or suit that is meant to silence those who dare to speak out. Assigning a speakers' corner is an attempt to corner people or to confine them to a corner in a mental ward. A healthy democracy must encourage independent voice for the betterment of the society and nation. Leaders must be questioned for the decision they made, the misappropriation of their power that resulted in unjust victimisation of innocent people whose lives were destroyed and their families were punished for holding views better then the leaders themselves. If arrogance of power is left unchecked it will lead to gross injustice as absolute power corrupts absolutely. By relegating the role of opposition to a select few "disgruntled" members of the ruling gang will not fulfil (i.e.: fully fill) the obvious vacuum in a sober democracy like Singapore. They will be seen as barking under license. I wish those in power will loosen up a bit, but not to lose their pants and stand exposed!

READ: Controlling Democracy

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