Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Silence is not always golden

I was hoping to hear something from the other opposition parties with regards to Brown-out. Except for the Singapore Democratic Party, the other major parties like the Workers' Party; Singapore People's Party and National Solidarity Party, have been silent on this issue.

Not that i blame them. These parties have different approaches and styles. And they face tremendous obstacles & pressures in a system created by and for the ruling People's Action Party. I can empathise with their predicament given such a political environment.

Still, the ruling party did get kicked in their arrogant arse during the general elections held in May'06. The people, through the opposition parties, delivered the much deserved kick! Of course, i was wishing they would have kicked harder to bring these PAP buggers down to earth! Well, maybe next time.

But next time's another 5 years away. In the meantime, i really wish the other opposition parties make their voices heard when such important issues, like Brown-out, pops-up on the radar. The PAP government shot its own foot by opening its big bloody mouth the way it did. And its also quite obvious the decision by TODAY to suspend Mr Brown's column must have been due to government pressure since the government owns MediaCorp, TODAY's parent company. All these things have left a bitter taste, and i believe seething anger & frustration, among most Singaporeans.

Here's a letter written by Eric Tan, a Workers' Party member, in his personal capacity. It was sent to the Straits Times but the mouthpiece declined to publish it in their letters section. Apparently, many others have also written to TODAY on the same issue and their letters were also declined. This letter was originally posted at Yawning Bread.

Let Mr Brown speak

by Eric Tan Heng Chong

I am very sad and disappointed to learn that Today suspended Mr. Brown’s column. I felt he had not done anything wrong. If anything else, he brought out a lighter side of life in Singapore. In this age of stress he gave us relief and made us laugh. He even taught us to laugh at ourselves. Singaporeans resonated with his views and creative sense of humor earning him popularity. As people can identify with his column, the government should value it as good feedback.

In the business world we treat a complaint as a gift, as it gives us an opportunity to improve. We never belittle a gift and so the government if they value feedback should do likewise. Especially since they have often mentioned they want an open society and not "yes’ men.

In Mr. Brown’s case we did not see any evidence of an open society. Today suspended his column shortly after the MICA letter as though he has done something wrong. Mr. Brown never attacked any one personally in his article. Yet MICA rebutted Mr. Brown on a personal level, bringing up his autistic child hinting that he had vested interest. However for those who read his article you would know that was not the case. He was prepared to pay for the increase. I quote from the article he wrote, ‘We can afford it, but we do know many families who cannot, even those that are making more money than we are, on paper.’ Their response is simply unbecoming of a ‘first world’ ministry of information. Don’t get me wrong, we uphold MICA’s right to rebut him but they should do it logically and with dignity. In the same breath, we uphold Mr. Brown’s right to reply, which sadly in this case he was not given the opportunity. He should have been allowed to respond and to let the public decide the truth.

Further more, I do not agree with MICA that Mr. Brown has to provide an alternative policy. Mr. Brown is not part of a political party and is simply a Singaporean on the receiving end of the government’s policies. On the other hand MICA being a service provider and the government is obliged to do so. I am a member of the Workers Party and we are obliged to give an alternative. This is similar to a customer complaining to a bak chor mee hawker that the noodles are bad. In such a case the bak chor mee man does not expect the person to offer an alternative recipe.

Mr. Brown reflects the feelings of the people resulting in his popularity. He gives the government valuable feedback. The government can do two things with this feedback. They can either regard his views irrelevant i.e. ignore him or otherwise take them on board and change. But he should not be belittled or punished for expressing his views. He is just a Singaporean who loves his country and wants to make it better for his fellow Singaporeans. This is evident in his pod cast "I am a Singaporean" produced in the spirit of National Day.

So I appeal to the government to be more receptive to feedback and to Today to reinstate his column. Let Mr. Brown continue to speak.

Eric Tan stood as one of the Workers' Party candidates for East Coast Group Representation Constituency, in the recent general election. This letter, however, was written in his personal capacity.

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