Friday, 16 January 2015

Free the Singapore Media and Let the People Go

Chan Chun Sing rebuts Huffington Post for articles by Chee Soon Juan
Social and Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing has issued a response to the Huffington Post for its publication of the articles “Without Freedom There is No Free Trade” and “Free the Singapore Media and Let the People Go”, by opposition politician Dr Chee Soon Juan late last year

His response is reproduced below:
  • Your website has given Dr Chee Soon Juan considerable but undeserved attention and space. You perhaps believe that he is a weighty political figure in Singapore. He is nothing of the kind.
  • Dr Chee has stood for elections thrice – and lost badly all three times, once receiving just 20 per cent of the vote.
  • The party he now leads, the Singapore Democratic Party, was once the leading opposition party in the country. But that was when it was led by Mr Chiam See Tong, a man everyone in Singapore, political friend and foe alike, regards as an honourable man.
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HuffPost gave Chee ‘undeserved attention and space’ on website: Chan Chun Sing

In a sharply-worded statement, Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing has responded to the Huffington Post’s publication of two articles by Secretary-General of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) Chee Soon Juan saying the website gave Dr Chee “considerable but undeserved attention and space”.

The two articles by Dr Chee were titled Without Freedom There is No Free Trade and Free the Singapore Media and Let the People Go, posted on Huffington Post on Nov 13, 2014 and Dec 11, 2014 respectively. The former called for free trade agreements to take into account human rights, while the latter focused on state control of the media.

Mr Chan described Dr Chee as a “political failure”, pointing to instances such as Dr Chee and three of his associates being convicted of perjury by Parliament and that Dr Chee had not only been sued for defamation by ruling party politicians but also by veteran opposition politician Chiam See Tong.

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Chee sacrifices S'pore to win points overseas: Chan Chun Sing

DR CHEE Soon Juan is disingenuous ("Not possible for poor S'poreans to live on $1,000 a month"; Dec 18).

Singaporean families earning $1,000 a month can indeed afford their own flats because of various housing grants. As a result, the lowest 20th percentile of households have an average net home equity of $200,000. That is an achievement no other nation in the world can boast of.

And that is not all. In recent years, we have enhanced our social safety nets. Lower-income households have benefited from, among other things, Workfare and various assistance schemes for medical, transport, utilities and education.

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Chee Soon Juan to Chan Chun Sing: Do not stigmatise failure

In response, Dr Chee published a statement on the SDP’s Facebook page, indicating that, unlike Mr Chan, politics for him has taken a different path.
“I have instead undertaken to speak up for the people of Singapore in what was, to put it mildly, a very difficult political terrain,” he said. “Nevertheless, I am proud of my achievements, as I am sure Mr Chan is of his.”
However, Dr Chee noted that Mr Chan’s comments were ” troubling on two fronts”.
  • “The first is the PAP’s out-dated practice of stigmatising failure. This is unfortunate. I want to tell my fellow Singaporeans, especially students, that we must not be afraid to fail. It is from our failures that we learn and become better persons and go on to achieve great things.
  • The second has to do with PAP’s habit of engaging in the politics of name-calling and personal destruction. It is disappointing that the younger generation of ministers like Mr Chan has not set a new direction for the conduct of politics in Singapore instead on relying on that of a bygone era.”
He ended by urging Mr Chan to “go beyond such an un-constructive form of politics which Singaporeans detest and graduate to a more mature level of contestation of ideas which the people deserve.”

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Chee Soon Juan responds to Chan Chun Sing

How does calling me a failure help to solve the problems that Singaporeans face? The more the PAP engages in mud-slinging and ignore the grave problems that confront our nation, the more dire will be the lot of our people.

For the sake of Singaporeans, let us go beyond such an un-constructive form of politics which Singaporeans detest and graduate to a more mature level of contestation of ideas which the people deserve.

To this end, I repeat my invitation to Mr Chan and his PAP colleagues to debate me and my SDP colleagues on issues such as CPF, healthcare, housing population, education, etc that Singaporeans care about.

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Huffing And Puffing At The Post

An ad hominem (Latin for "to the man" or "to the person"), short for argumentum ad hominem, means responding to arguments by attacking a person's character, rather than to the content of their arguments. Abusive ad hominem usually involves attacking the traits of an opponent as a means to invalidate their arguments.

Rather than rebutting - at the danger of "putting reason and intellectualism to sleep" - the points raised in the two opinion pieces of The Huffington Post, namely "Without Freedom There Is No Free Trade" (13 Nov 2013) and "Free the Singapore Media and Let the People Go" (11 Dec 2014, Chan Chun Sing resorted to the brass knuckles favoured by his political masters. A reprise of the treatment given to Chiam See Tong when latter faced off Mah Bow Tan, the blowback of which resulted in Chiam being elected to Parliament in 1984, the second opposition politician ever to be elected to Singapore's Parliament after J. B. Jeyaretnam of the Workers' Party (WP) in 1981.

Name calling like “political failure” may bruise the thin skinned types who actually claim to be "flame-proof", but not men of sterner stuff. As for "misappropriating research funds", the subject is postage to express mail his wife's doctoral thesis to her academic adviser in the United States, not a director level branch head of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) skimming off $1.76 million to fuel his gambling habit. The crime buster organisation's lame excuse for the lapse in supervision: “the offences were well-planned and hard to detect”.

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Firstly, the letter was signed off by “Minister for Social and Family Development, Singapore”. Chan is also the concurrent Organising Secretary of the People’s Action Party, the ruling political party that he is in. I wonder why Chan has to sign-off using his Ministerial appointment at MSF instead of his appointment within the PAP when the piece is a political attack against his political opponent.

Secondly, even if there is a need to respond to Huffington post, should he be the appropriate person to react when the article he responded to largely touched on trade matters that should fall within Lim Hng Kiang’s portfolio? Lim is the current Trade & Industry Minister.

Lastly, the Consulate-General of Hong Kong Jacky Foo had responded to Dr Chee’s piece in the Wall Street Journal Asia in the past as the publication is based in Hong Kong. Shouldn’t the Singapore Ambassador to the United States respond to Dr Chee this time since Huffington Post is based in the United States?


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Yesterday, Channel NewsAsia ran a piece which highlighted Social & Family Development Minister Chan Chun Sing’s criticisms of Dr Chee Soon Juan. Chan wrote that Dr Chee does not deserve media attention because he lacked integrity that any honourable politician should possess.

Dr Chee is the secretary-general of Singapore Democratic Party.

Chan is responding to a Huffington post by Dr Chee Soon Juan that was first published on 13 November 2014 but was updated on 13 January 2015.

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PAP minister Chan Chun Sing has written to the Huffingpost in response to its publication of two articles penned by Dr Chee Soon Juan.

In his response, Chan Chun Sing forgot decorum and resorted to the typical PAP modus operandus of name-calling by labeling Dr Chee a "political failure".

He went on to describe how Dr Chee was dismissed from NUS, sued and "disqualified from contesting the last two General Elections because he was declared a bankrupt in 2006 for failing to pay damages for libel to former Prime Ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong."

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Free the Singapore Media and Let the People Go

My op-ed in the Wall Street Journal "A New Vision for Singapore," or rather what happened following its publication, is an example of what has to change in Singapore.

I had first offered the piece to the main daily newspaper, the Straits Times. It was not accepted for publication. This is not surprising as in the nearly a quarter-of-a-century of my involvement in opposition politics in Singapore, I have not had any opinion piece published in the Singapore press even though I have contributed articles in many international newspapers in the past.

My piece in the Wall Street Journal elicited a predictably heavy-handed response from the government. The Straits Times and other pro-government news sites ran identical reports titled Singapore responds to 'dishonest' commentary by Chee Soon Juan in WSJ. My piece was nowhere in sight.

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Without Freedom There Is No Free Trade

Trade agreements are often promoted as a means to keep prices down and employment up. The matter, as one might expect, is not so straightforward especially when political freedom is not part of the equation.

The Singapore experience with free trade agreements is, perhaps, instructive. For years, human rights in the city-state have been dirty words, it was taboo to speak of them.

This has not, however, stopped Western leaders, both in the economic and political spheres, from continuing to disregard the lack of democracy and the abuse of human rights in Singapore in favor of trade and commerce.

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Not possible for poor S'poreans to live on $1,000 a month

IN ITS reply to my Wall Street Journal op-ed ("A new vision for Singapore"; Nov 28), the Government, through its consul-general Jacky Foo in Hong Kong, accused me of not sticking to facts ("SDP's Chee 'dishonest' in calling Singapore model a failure: Govt"; Dec 4).

It stated that, like many other countries, income inequality has increased. What it does not say is that income inequality in Singapore is one of the highest among comparable economies. In addition, this inequality is almost wholly a creation of government policy and inaction.

For instance, while the Government rewrites banking laws to attract high-net-worth individuals from across the world (Singapore has the highest proportion of millionaires globally), it refuses to legislate minimum wage.

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Govt repeats: families with S$1,000 income can afford HDB flats

On Thursday, Singapore’s Minister of Social and Family Development, Chan Chun Sing, reiterated the government’s position.

“Singaporean families earning $1,000 a month can indeed afford their own flats because of various housing grants,” Mr Chan said in a letter to the local press. “As a result, the lowest 20th percentile of households have an average net home equity of $200,000. That is an achievement no other nation in the world can boast of.”

The home equity of $200,000 was first mentioned by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his speech at the Economic Society of Singapore Annual Dinner in 2012. “In fact, households in the lowest income quintile (20%) have on average more than $200,000 of equity in their HDB flat!” Mr Lee said then.

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A New Vision for Singapore
Economic growth is not the only measure of a successful society. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Singapore has made great economic strides over the 50 years since independence. With a GDP per capita of $55,000, the island state is, by this measure at least, the most prosperous country in the world. Yet rather than being proud of their country’s achievement, measures of social harmony and happiness indicate that Singaporeans are far from pleased with the status quo.

Looking behind the numbers, it seems that Singapore’s economic success has wrought havoc on less measurable, but no less important, aspects of life: Freedom, compassion and equality. It is the degradation of these values that has contributed significantly to Singaporeans’ disenchantment with the current system.

Even before the Reagan-Thatcher era of neoliberal economics, Singapore adopted a market-driven approach in which even value systems and social life were commodified. When the government wanted fewer births in the 1970s, it paid women to undergo tubal ligation. When it changed its mind and wanted more births, it gave tax incentives to couples to have more babies. When it wanted the children to demonstrate strong character, it rewarded their desirable traits with cash

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