in his article, “our de-vocalised public space”, (lhzb, 1 nov) chan cheow pong deplored the lack of political space here for argument and debate. in “a letter to my dad aka the government” (lhzb, 15 nov), julie ng siew choo continued this theme.
mr chan cites as proof the lack of anti-us demonstrations over iraq during the recent visit of president george bush in singapore. unfortunately, he did not explain how such demonstrations would have been in our national interest.
on freedom of speech in singapore, mr chan fails to distinguish between form and substance. the substantive issue must surely be whether singaporeans have a right to a different view and whether they have effective avenues to express them.
the answer is clearly“yes”as is amply demonstrated by many singaporeans exercising this right in the forum pages of the newspapers, the internet and elsewhere. the space for political debate has gradually but steadily widened. that mr chan could publish such a critical piece in lianhe zaobao shows this to be so.
as a form, street protests may be an accepted channel for expression in other countries in other circumstances. in singapore we have different but effective avenues for expression.
mr chan is dismissive of them, arguing that because the government defines these alternatives, they are tantamount to restrictions on an individual’s political space. mr chan advocates that “society”, but not the elected government, should decide the boundaries of political action and expression. fail to do so effectively, the electorate can vote them out in the next election. every individual in such a society lives within the framework of policies and laws determined by the elected government.
ms julie ng asked why the government still needs to censor films at all, since she is already 21. but censorship is not just a question of age, but societal norms of public decency and morality. even in western countries like the uk and australia, censorship boards decide what can or cannot be shown publicly in films. every country needs to uphold the ＆#118alues affirmed by the majority of its population. in no country is individual freedom absolute.
singapore society must evolve and grow on its own terms and at its own pace. just because we refuse to ape other societies mindlessly in having street demonstrations or in our censorship standards does not make singaporeans a“de-vocalised” lot, or signify any lack of idealism or self-mobilisation.
on the contrary, it underlines a growing maturity and confidence in our own model, which has enabled singapore to grow and prosper. ·the writer is member of parliament for holland-bukit panjang grc