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Friday, April 21, 2006 

General Elections: Final Salvo

Yes, General Election is finally here. After all the media hype and build up to this coming elections, 6 May will be the decisive day where the talking will end and the people decides (subjective…). Needless to say, this GE would be significant in many ways. This will not only be the first real test to the new leadership under PM Lee Hsien Loong, but is also the longest preparation time (and warning) given to the oppositions to GE. In this coming election, maybe we would see some fireworks and sparks.

New Leadership
Obviously, the new leadership would be questioned in the coming elections. In the previous transition of leadership (from LKY to GCT, in 1991), there was a significant drop in the percentage of votes. If Lee Hsien Loong was deemed a less popular Prime Minister than Goh Chok Tong, this election will show. Another issue on everyone’s minds is whether Ang Mo Kio GRC (PM’s ward) would be contested. Perhaps, only Low Thia Khiang has the answers. But in my opinion, it would be uncontested. The oppositions have already been hard-pressed for manpower and resources. Unlikely, they are going to devote that much time and effort to tie the PM down to his ward. Moreover, the oppositions have not been visiting the blocks or markets of AMK GRC that often.

NKF Saga
Some opposition parties such as the Singapore Democratic Party (under the leadership of Dr Chee Soon Juan) have announced that they would be challenging Sembawang GRC and Khaw Boon Wan on this issue. The interesting twist is that the Board members and TT Durai have been charged in court and the case is still in progress.

The problem now arises as it is unlawful to publicly comment on a case while it is still under judgment — otherwise known as sub judice, in legalese. As mentioned by Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Indranee Rajah, on TODAY papers: "The public is always at liberty to discuss matters of public interest. However specific issues such as guilt or liability which are the subject of pending court proceedings should not be pre-judged." Mr Shashi Nathan, head of criminal department at Harry Elias Partnership, explained that general comments on the NKF saga can still be made during the run-up to the elections, although "specific references to allegations or to people involved in the case should be avoided at all times".

For example, he said, it "should be fine" for candidates to express a public opinion such as citing the old NKF as an organisation lacking good governance, transparency or accountability. Likewise, it would not be against the law for Opposition candidates to question why the Government did not take action against the NKF much earlier. While the neutrals think that the NKF trial was not timed to coincide with the GE, many would differ with that opinion.

Thus it would be interesting to see the contest at Sembawang GRC where Khaw would have to face the heckling of Dr Chee and his party. Leading up to this point, I would make this prediction…

Civil Disobedience
The laws on public rallies, campaigns and speeches on NKF-like issues have been placed on the table and made clear. Dos and do nots have been issued and to be observed. However, I am quite sure that a particular opposition member would deliberately break the law, in the name of civil disobedience. The idea is not to proclaim in the name of civil rights to prove a law unjust by deliberately breaking it, but to use this as an election tactic. This is my following prediction.

At present, the various charges he received render him ineligible to run for elections. Wherever and whenever he made public rallies, there will always policemen tailing him. Come elections, it will be the grand stage where he will plan to make a big media bang out of this issue. First, he will talk in places where he has no license to talk. Next, he will talk on issues where he is, informed by law, not to talk on. In other words, it is civil disobedience.

Police will be there to enforce the laws and give him the usual warnings to leave the place. He would obviously refuse. Just when the police arrest him, he would try to make himself the martyr of political freedom, in the presences of the foreign and local media. Next day, his party would come onto the rally and ask the public why is TT Durai still on bail, walking free (technically), while the Singaporean who spoke on that issue gets jailed. The foreign media and the political blogs would have a media blitz to support this “martyr”. His aim, to be the “single spark that started a prairie fire”, is accomplished. If his party is lucky and able to capitalize on the anger of the people, they might walk away with a GRC. And all these controversies would start on the first few days of elections so that the issues discussed during elections would be drawn to what he wants rather than being dictated by the PAP. The rest of the opposition parties would tap on to this issue and exploit this controversy to their advantage.

May I just add that I have utmost disrespect for such civil disobediences. Nonetheless, this is quite a lethal election tactic. Let’s just see how accurate is my predictions.

Casino Issues
Another tricky issue would be the casino. Granted, that the whole saga was badly managed by the PAP. What started out as a public consultative project, led to not whether would there be a casino or not, but resulted in two casinos. Previously, I’ve written on my thoughts on the casino and will not repeat it further. Some have suggested that the PAP went against the wishes of the PAP, but this is quite hard to validate. It is a case of a vocal minority versus a silent majority. Should this issue be put to referendum, casino might still get the go ahead. Nonetheless, the oppositions are likely to use this as ammunition against the PAP.

Podcasting and Political Blogging
How could this (political) blog not talked about the regulations of podcasting and political blogging? =P

Firstly, the bloggers have to understand that there have been no additional rules placed. The recent parliamentary speech on podcast and blogging was just an interpretation of the existing laws (namely PEA) in place. Perhaps, the bloggers should view this issue in two distinct periods: election and non-election period. For the 9 days period of General Elections, podcasting on political rallies, parties and advertising are disallowed. After the elections, they are free to resume. Thus, there isn’t an extreme violation of speech or internet freedom. It is just a matter of adjusting to the election period and the regulations governing it.

Secondly, a blogger should know the rationale behind the election advertising laws. Although, the law purports to provide a level playing field for both the ruling party as well as the opposition, many would felt otherwise. Without a doubt, the ruling PAP has far more resources (eg: finances, manpower) to create their own pro-PAP websites, shadow sites or blogs, compared to the oppositions. In terms of online advertising resources, they have far greater capabilities than the opposition or any individuals. If the PAP wishes to “flood” the internet with their own advertisements they have more than enough resources to do so. Thus, it is not a matter of oppression or creating unfairness to the oppositions but the rationality of the law. While they may not agree with the law, the law has to be observed and obeyed. Thus, distinguishing between agreeing/disagreeing the law and obeying the law is important.

Lastly, the nature of the internet and blogging makes the law difficult to be enforced. It was announced that if the blogs persistently propagate, promote or circulate political issues relating to Singapore, they are required to register with the MDA. However, the nature of blogs is such that blogs can easily change their web address, name or even spawn multiple blogs with similar content. Registering one blog may just lead to another 10 blogs that have exactly the same content but not being registered I am sure the authorities realized this and this could be one of the reasons why there hasn’t been any blogs (or not to my limited knowledge) asked to register with MDA. This will simply create more negative publicity for MDA, without being able to remove the content. Thus, the nature of blogs and internet may simply render it ineffective.

To sum up my lengthy opinion, I do not view this (law) as an infringement, contrary to many other bloggers’ beliefs. I do agree with the purpose of the law but in the modern era, the law is simply not enforceable and should be revised. If you are wondering whether will this blog cease “operations” during elections? The answer is no. Bottomline is that we should always blog responsibly.

By the way, did anyone say this coming Election to be boring?

Hi Thrasy:

WP IS gg to contest AMK hahaha... Perhaps they wanna shift the attention of the media to AMK where the PM is from other GRCs.

I guess it's a good shen tong ji Xi tactic.

And Thrasy, would you tut tut at Gandhi's civil disobediance acts as well were you to be there in India and if you were a anglopile Indian?

Hi T,

regarding the part about PAP being able to flood the internet with pro-PAP content and thus the podcast/political blogging restrictions not about being oppression...I respectfully have to disagree.

Think about all the 'public' media modalities from radio, the press, television. Touch your heart and mind, and vouch for their impartiality in coverage?

The internet was the last bastion of free communication. Now it is neutered. Ideological deprivation is now complete.

Hey T, is your blog contravening any of the legal act with regards for the election? If not, why not?

Pardon my ignorance.

Well, it is barely 24 hrs since I've posted this article and seems like the comments and emails have been streaming in. =P

Hi At82
It is hard to say whether WP is going to contest in AMK. They did mentioned it in the press but they might be just calling a bluff. I do hope they contest as it would be interesting to see how the PM performs in his own wards.

Hi Ted
Yes, the idea of civil disobedience was made famous by Gandhi. While Gandhi knew what issues would struck the hearts of the Indians, before he went on the Salt March, CSJ might not have found his "salt" yet.

Ultimately, local politics will be dominated by bread and butter issues. Instead of flying all over the world for "democratic meetings", perhaps he should have use his party to listen and meet his residents and peition on their behalfs. After contesting in MacPherson (1997) and Jurong (2001), he hasn't gotten over 35% of the votes.

Hi Anonymous
I guess many would say that the press is heavily regulated by the govt and they might not be too far wrong.

Next time, I'll be writing on Temasek Holdings in relationship with the media. It is not as doom and gloom and most would think.

Hi Amatu
During the election time, if a blog is explicit advertising or campaigning for a party or candidate, then it contravenes with the law. However, if the blog is merely giving political commentary, then it is fine.

So I guess, I am still marginally on the right side of the law. =P

Cheers!
T

Hi Thrasy:

The most simple way to describe Temasek relationship wif the media is that:

Temasek OWN the media lol...

Mr T, just 2 days after you posted this and the SDP is already getting sued. Haha...

hello T!

how are you? it has been almost a month since i visited your blog (was away) and it was lovely to read your posts.

why do you say you disrespect civil disobedience? i mean, i think there should be room for a few outspoken, aggresive individuals out there to rile things up abit.

Hi at82

Haha, yes they do own the media. Just something interesting to note. Compared to, say, 5 years ago, the coverage on opposition parties have increased by maybe a least 300% more articles! Don't you find that they have been portray Sylvia Lim much better than her opposite, Lim Hwee Hua? Haha..I just find this concurrent with the journalists at the MM dialogue.

Another interesting fact which you might wish to know. CNA rejected suggestions from senior politicians to have some dialogue sessions. Unless they receive funding. Just an interesting rumour I heard from a mediacorp friend. =P

Cheers!
T

Hi abao

Maybe I might be quite accurate in this respect. ;)

Cheers!
T

Hi Melange

Nice to hear from you again. Hope you had a good trip (I assume its a trip..haha).

No, actually I do not disrespect civil disobedience, but I do disrespect that particular brand of civil disobedience by that politician. I think it is not diffcult to see why Gandhi succeeded and not him. The ideological distance between his views and the people's are simply too far apart.

On the contrary, civil disobedience is effective if you struck the right chord with the people. And it is perhaps one of the most effective soft-ball political method to remove an authority which does not have the mandate of the people. If a govt has the real mandate of the people, civil disobedience will never work. It would only demonstrate that your thoughts are too distant from the peoples, aka time to wake up! =P

Cheers!
T

Hi Thrasy:

I think it is the right way to go. CNa shd aspire to become BBC of asia.

BBC is funded by the UK govt, but we don't see ppl keep saying that it is bias in its reporting right.

Anyway i just read that DPM and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng said that PAP will challenge any allegation casting doubt on its integrity and anyone who made an allegation against the government should be able to substantiate it in a court of law.

So I am wondering when will PAP be sueing Dr Ross Worthington for saying that "all aspects of the governance of Singapore, including the judiciary, are carefully manipulated and ultimately controlled by a core executive of individuals who use their powers to maintain their own power and further their own political, economic, social and familial interests". in the enernorth case.

What he is much more direct and slanderous than what SDP said, don't you think?

Perhaps u can reflect to the higher level and ask them to begin their legal action!

Cheers
at82

Dr Ross Worthington provides the only documented account of Lee Hsien Loong slapping Dhanabalan, which makes liars of Goh Chok Tong and Lee himself. How come Dr Worthington isn't sued? Instead Singaporeans are taken to court for waving a police report or telling the truth about TT Durai travelling first class.

Hi,
enjoyed your posts:D

Would it be too troublesome to request to cover on the political scence in Singapore regarding defamations in the 1980s-present day??? Interested to find out what happened in the 80s...

TIA and look forward to your future postings:D

Hi At82 and Jeremy

I hear you all well. And I've viewed the link you send me. Interesting! Thanks for the information. Revisiting colourful politicians like Francis Seow is always entertaining as well as informative.

If you are wondering why didn't they sue Worthington, it has to do with cross-borders judiciary. This is unlike the case of The Economist defaming MM where the articles are available for local distribution and they have local distributors and agents. Cross-borders civil suits are no possible based on the international courts at the time being. So that is why, they have not reacted they way they did.

Politics is chess game. CSJ knew he would be sued for that article and for articulating those words. But one must think why he deliberately do this. If one can't run for the elections, he can be the agent provocateur to do the damage. Then the party simply need not react to the issue, but just need to ride on the sentiments of the angry people. That is why WP is riding on the "constructive opposition" tag and not get involve with this issue. Simply, the "bad guy" has been found and he will do the damage. So politics is a multi-layer chess game.

But the interesting thing about this saga is that the PAP is suing the CEC, which seemed to be "intended" (non-suggestive...purely opinionated) to split the SDP apart.

Cheers!
T

Hi Anonymous

Thanks for the suggestion. Yes, this is an interesting issue to cover and I would definitely consider. However, I've only did basic law, which is insufficient to justice to this broad and deep topic.

But based on the laws I've studied, I find no contrary of implementation by the current case. Thanks anyway!

Cheers!
T

Hi Anon:

If u are really interest in Singapore politics in the 80s, I suggest that you read this and this

But sometimes it is better not to know la.

I liked Francis Seow's "To Catch A Tartar" very much, and I also have the "Media Enthralled" book. But someone told me when Seow was AG, he was quite a character too. The story goes that his girlfriend (the hand holding with which upset Lee Kuan Yew to no end) was caught with some naughty magazines, and Seow "removed" the arresting officers. I wasn't aware of the tales when I heard him speak at Cheng San, and was utterly mesmerised by his charisma. But then Martin Luther King had ladies brought up to his hotel rooms, and John F Kennedy had females frolicking in his private pool whenever Jacqueline wasn't around.

Hi at82

Yes, I do read some of these. Well, I guess we just have to balance the story. ;)

Cheers!
T

Hi Yick Loong

That was once when LKY really felt threatened by the presence of a strong opposition. If you are interested in such reads, maybe the Select Bookstore http://www.selectbooks.com.sg/
will interest you.

Cheers!
T

Hi yick long:

Francis Seow had already fled singapore by then la.

At cheng san 1997 is Tang Liang Hong.

Tang also fled Spore already.

I hope that this time around, during the election, the opposition will win more seats in the constituencies. We need a more powerful opposition. It's good for singapore!

when is chee going to join seow and tang? I am getting tired of his outbursts and disruptions; compared with WP, he is really amateur

The PAP is absolute wasting time and resources, to promote their minefesto and democracy maturity of Singapore. Their concentrate fire on Gomezgate is going to get back fire.
The reasoning is straightforward.

Mr.Gomez can only damage Singapore if and only if he could get elected into the partliament. By then, it is therefore meaningful to probe into Mr.Gomez 's integrity.
And if and only if Mr.Gomez get elect as cabinet ministry,
By theh, it is therefore meaningful in probing his ability to destruct Singapore.

So, dear friend, Gomezgate is an distraction, if PAP does not give good answers to questions raised by the Oppositions, do what you have already decided.

VOTE IN OPPOSITION to carry on the uncomplete process in NEXT partliament.

Perhaps, Gomezgate, is a trap and PAP now walked into and suck down by quick sand. Ha,Ha,.....

In a new reported recently, Mr.Sink from YCK speculated terrorits may asbotage a rally when he was asked by reporter in responsing to the necessarity of more restrictions to be enforced during rally.(you know, for opposition rally la.)

In another new reported recently, You were surely amused by reasons given to shot the white elpehants gathered ootside Bangkok MRT by over-excited law enforcement officers. For all the moans all over, the minister make a clarified two weeks later, in an uncertaint term, whether he will save the white elephants, if the white elephant's plight got to him 2 weeks early.

More common in reported news or reply to you. "We regret and sorry of the inconvenices caused",

Dear friend, $&$ is now being allowed by present democracy system, We are partly to be blamed, to say and do whatsoever they want to, even during GE time, more "??!!$$$$" will be slammed after the GE?

What could you do to prevent. you know there is a way and you will do that way according to your heart.

Future generations will remember us for injecting new life into Singapore democracy, and they too will carry on this tranditon.

Let us give new meaning to "Majulah Singapore".

Absolute Power corrupts Power Absolutely

On civil disobedience:
If the system that you fight against stands for complete obedience and conformity, and coercion if required, then the only reasonable way to oppose it is by disobeying its institutions. Otherwise, you are not only playing on their turf but also confirming their absolutism. In any case, why fight "fairly" if the enemy chooses to gerrymander as well?

Hi Anonymous

I guess the question is not whether civil disobedience is right or wrong, but is how and when it is being used.

Why has civil disobedience worked for Gandhi and Sun Yat-sen but not him? That is the question I ask.

Cheers!
T

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