Why Chan Chun Sing Poked Chee Soon Juan

Thread of Events:
• No Free Trade Without Freedom
• Free The Singapore Media

Summary: SDP’s Secretary-General Dr. Chee Soon Juan had published in The Huffington Post two opinion pieces, “Without Freedom There Is No Free Trade” and “Free The Singapore Media And Let The People Go“, on November 13 and December 11 last year, respectively, that were critical of the Singapore Government. In his letter to The Huffington Post, Minister for Social and Family Development Mr. Chan Chun Sing of the PAP took issue with the publication for giving Dr. Chee “considerable but undeserved attention and space“.

The following Mothership posting supposes the reasons why Minister Chan Chun Sing poked at Dr. Chee Soon Juan.

5 reasons why Minister Chan Chun Sing decided to poke Chee Soon Juan via Huffington Post
Martino Tan
16 January 2015

To many, Mr. Chan’s reaction might appear unprecedented as he came off strongly to skewer Dr. Chee and going on the offensive. After all, Mr. Chan did not appear to have any beef with Dr. Chee publicly on previous occasions. However, if we looked beyond the theatrics, we can examine how this might just be the most calculated move in Mr. Chan’s political career thus far. Here are five reasons why Mr. Chan may have decided to have a go at Dr. Chee:

1. Mr. Chan is the Minister at Tanjong Pagar GRC, a seat likely to be contested by Dr. Chee.

At the launch of the SDP’s General Election campaign on January 10, Dr. Chee said that the party could contest at Tanjong Pagar GRC. He had earlier shared that SDP had begun ground work in Tanjong Pagar since 2011.

Although Tanjong Pagar GRC is widely known as Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s stronghold, Mr. Chan is the only cabinet Minister in the GRC. Therefore, it was left to him to fire the first salvo.

2. Mr. Chan is troll baiting Dr. Chee, so that Dr. Chee can commit himself at Tanjong Pagar GRC.

Tanjong Pagar GRC was the only GRC that experienced a walkover in GE2011. This means that Tanjong Pagar will be up for grabs among the opposition parties.

Between the stronger WP and the weaker SDP, it is a no-brainer that Mr. Chan wants to get Dr. Chee to commit to contesting in Tanjong Pagar GRC. If WP wishes to contest there, SDP’s involvement will split the opposition votes. And it is much safer for the PAP to go toe-to-toe with SDP than WP.

3. Mr. Chan wants to remind Singaporeans about Dr. Chee’s past. 

Over the past few years, Dr. Chee has done a good job in rehabilitating his image as the elder statesman of opposition politics. He sounded reasonable when he urged bloggers Roy Ngerng and Han Hui Hui to apologise after they were accused by many to have heckled the special needs children at Hong Lim park.

At the risk of looking and sounding rather petty, Mr. Chan chose to remind Singaporeans about Dr. Chee’s past. Perhaps Mr. Chan was concerned that Dr. Chee’s track record would not be closely examined during the GE campaign, since the focus would be on WP.

In the letter, Mr. Chan reminded Singaporeans about Dr. Chee’s dismal electoral records, his ungentlemanly conduct in ousting gentleman Mr. Chiam See Tong, his dismissal from the National University of Singapore, and him being sued for defamation by both PAP and the opposition.

4. Criticising Dr. Chee is a rite of passage for PAP politicians.

In 1992, then PM Goh Chok Tong proved his personal popularity as a Prime Minister by thrashing Dr. Chee in Mr. Goh’s only by-election and Dr. Chee’s maiden election. Mr. Goh garnered 72.9% of the votes, while Dr. Chee received 24.5% of the votes.

Dr. Chee was Mr. Matthias Yao’s whipping boy in the 1997 General Election. After Mr. Yao defeated Dr. Chee by 12,546 votes (65.1%) to 6,713 (34.9%) in the GE, Mr. Yao was promoted from Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of State.

Therefore, it appears that any PAP stalwart who wants to prove his calibre must go through the rite of passage of hammering Dr. Chee Soon Juan.

5. As one of the fourth generation PAP leaders, Mr. Chan has to lead by example. 

In the 2013 PAP convention, Mr. Chan said that the PAP must continuously and strenuously defend the common space for people to speak up, because if it does not, then others will occupy the space and make them irrelevant.

“We must not concede the space – physical or cyber. We will have to learn from the 1960 generation of PAP pioneers – to fight to get our message across at every corner – every street corner, every cyberspace corner, be it in the mass media or social media. We will have to do battle everywhere as necessary.”

Since Huffington Post is a space that is dominated by Dr. Chee, Mr. Chan felt the need to reclaim the space from Dr. Chee.

Read all the comments to the full article at http://mothership.sg/2015/01/5-reasons-why-minister-chan-chun-sing-decided-to-poke-chee-soon-juan-via-huffington-post/

#Sg #Singapore #Singapura #thelioncity #littlereddot #LeeKuanYew #LeeHsienLoong #CheeSoonJuan

Why Chan Chun Sing Poked Chee Soon Juan

HuffPost Responds To Chan Chun Sing

New Nation
HuffPost responds to Minister Chan Chun Sing: Chee’s 2 articles represent 0.0001% of content we publish a year
15 January 2015

In a sharply-worded statement, Huffington Post has responded to Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing.

This after Minister Chan chastised the publication in a statement on Jan. 15, 2015, for giving Secretary-General of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) Chee Soon Juan “considerable but undeserved attention and space” on their website.

Chee had previously written two articles for HuffPost, titled Without Freedom There is No Free Trade and Free the Singapore Media and Let the People Go, on Nov. 13, 2014 and Dec. 11, 2014 respectively.

In his diatribe against the website, Minister Chan also called Chee a “political failure” and insinuated he is not an honourable man.

In response, HuffPost replied Minister Chan by explaining that Chee’s contribution of two articles in reality made up only 0.0001% of content they published in any given year, and therefore, the accusation that he received undeserved space is uncalled for.

This is compounded by the fact that Chee’s articles were competing for eyeballs against cat videos and other shorter articles on HuffPost showing people face-planting that were more shareable in nature.

Moreover, as an American media, HuffPost said it is not up to them to judge people based on how well they did in life thus far, but what people can do to contribute to society in the future. 

HuffPost then wrote that they would allow Minister Chan himself to contribute articles to them if he is so inclined to be heard on such a platform, but that time spent writing articles for a blog-like website might not justify his ministerial salary.

HuffPost then wrote: “We wonder how much did it cost taxpayers for Minister of Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong to write this article for The Straits Times?”

The Straits Times article mentioned above by Huffington Post is originally linked at http://www.straitstimes.com/news/opinion/more-opinion-stories/story/wp-town-council-and-the-sound-silence-20141210 but is now broken.

Taken from http://newnation.sg/2015/01/huffpost-responds-to-minister-chan-chun-sing-chees-2-articles-represent-0-0001-of-content-we-publish-a-year/

#Sg #Singapore #Singapura #thelioncity #littlereddot #CheeSoonJuan

HuffPost Responds To Chan Chun Sing

Chee Soon Juan’s Reply to Chan Chun Sing

The following is posted on Dr. Chee Soon Juan’s Facebook Page.

Chee Soon Juan replies to Chan Chun Sing
15 January 2015

Mr Chan Chun Sing is certainly an accomplished man in Singapore. He has risen quickly through the ranks of the army and appointed a minister. I commend him on his remarkable achievement, there is much to be admired.

I have, unfortunately or otherwise, chosen a different path. It is, admittedly, not a conventional path and, certainly, not one that leads to power, privilege and a high salary. In this respect Mr Chan is right, I have not succeeded.

I have instead undertaken to speak up for the people of Singapore in what was, to put it mildly, a very difficult political terrain.

Nevertheless, I am proud of my achievements, as I am sure Mr Chan is of his. But I do want to sound him a note of caution: When we attain our goals in life, we should not look down and criticise others who have yet to achieve theirs.

Even if I have failed in Mr Chan’s eyes, he must resist the urge to denigrate. Wasn’t it Albert Einstein who said: “You never fail until you stop trying”? I have not stopped trying and I don’t think I will.

I do, however, find Mr Chan’s comments 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.

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.

Chee Soon Juan

Read the comments to the Facebook posting at https://www.facebook.com/cheesoonjuan/posts/10153681044773849:0

Let us reflect upon this thread of exchanges so that we can make a just and informed decision when we cast our ballot.

#Sg #Singapore #CheeSoonJuan

Chee Soon Juan’s Reply to Chan Chun Sing

Free The Singapore Media

The Wall Street Journal dated Nov. 28-30 published an article titled “A New Vision For Singapore” by Opposition politician Dr. Chee Soon Juan. Read the article here: https://politicalher.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/a-new-vision-for-singapore/. After a series of reactions in Singapore, Dr. Chee writes the following article in The Huffington Post (HuffPo), a US online news aggregator and blog offering original content. HuffPo won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 and was ranked The Most Popular Political Site by eBizMBA Rank.

The Huffington Post
Free the Singapore Media and Let the People Go
Chee Soon Juan
11 December 2014

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.

The ‘dishonest’ label is one assiduously cultivated by the riling People’s Action Party (PAP); it is the favored tactic of the ruling party to character assassinate its opponents.

In this instance, the charge is already an improvement compared to earlier criticisms. In a courtroom hearing in 2008, Mr Lee Kuan Yew testified — after consulting his doctors — that I was a “near-psychopath.” A Straits Times columnist even penned an editorial confirming the diagnosis after looking up a medical website. Mr. Lee’s successor, Mr. Goh Chok Tong, declared that my integrity was suspect, vowing that the government “would try and annihilate” me. The third and current prime minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, said in 2006 that I was a liar and added for good measure that “he’s a cheat, he’s deceitful, he’s confrontational, it’s a destructive form of politics.”

The condemnations were not just in word. I was sued for defamation by the three prime ministers and made bankrupt (for which I recently managed to annul after paying off a reduced amount of the damages), imprisoned and fined on more than a dozen occasions, and banned from running for office for nearly 15 years.

I am not the only one so targeted by the government. Many before me have suffered greater abject fate, some imprisoned without trial for decades, all branded societal menace by the state media.

If all this sounds archaic, that’s because it is. PAP is clinging to a past that has long since finished.

When the party came to power in 1959, it, with considerable help from the country’s British overlords, locked up its political opponents, including journalists whom it deemed unhelpful to its agenda.

Through the decades, the party’s grip on the media tightened, resulting in the present situation where every Singaporean TV channel, every radio station and every newspaper is owned and run by the state. The World Press Freedom Index 2014 ranks Singapore 150th out of 180 countries. Even Myanmar does better at 145th.

The control of the media and the heavily financed propaganda has held Singaporeans in utter thrall, enabling the PAP to rule uninterrupted for more than half-a-century. Even today, albeit with less of a swagger due to push-back from the online community, the party continues to dictate to Singaporeans what they should read, watch and hear.

The state-controlled media shield the ruling class from being responsive to the needs and aspirations of the common people. They have put reason and intellectualism to sleep and, as a result, stymied development.

Such kind of politics cannot continue, not if Singapore is going to graduate into the next phase of development. The ruling party must stop attempting to conquer people and, instead, move to contest policies. It must end the political solipsism from which the PAP arrogates unto itself sole ideological legitimacy and turn to a contemporary pluralism where differences in opinion are debated, indeed celebrated.

If the country is going to survive the next phase of technological advancement in an increasingly competitive global environment, politics in Singapore must evolve in tandem. Starting with the media.

Singaporeans have a lot to offer to the world. We built this island-nation to what it is today and we can build an even better country for tomorrow. The only thing that is holding us back is the anachronistic political system and the received opinion among the public that democracy threatens progress.

To this end, Singapore must free the media. The government must let the people go.

Read the comments to the full article on http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chee-soon-juan/free-the-singapore-media-_b_6306736.html

#Sg #Singapore #Singapura #thelioncity #littlereddot #CheeSoonJuan #LeeKuanYew

Free The Singapore Media

A New Vision For Singapore

The following Wall Street Journal article has been written by Opposition politician Dr. Chee Soon Juan.

The Wall Street Journal
A New Vision For Singapore
28-30 November 2014

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.

Monetizing things that we shouldn’t—especially under circumstances where societal values are involved—leads to harmful outcomes. It causes citizens to abrogate moral responsibility and devolve decision-making to market norms set by the elite few.

We need to fundamentally rethink how we pursue wealth and, more importantly, to what end. We need to ask that all-important question that Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel so trenchantly posed: What price do we pay when we cede our values to market mechanisms?

Unfortunately, without democracy Singaporeans cannot have a national debate on the future direction of our country. Talk about political freedom and the rights of the people is eclipsed by government threats that democracy undermines GDP growth.

And yet Singapore is in danger of being left behind. A survey of countries around the world reveals a distinct shift towards more democratic forms of governance. Many such political transitions have yielded greater, not less, prosperity. Adaptation to change is necessary for societies to keep themselves relevant in the global community. Singapore is no exception.

The island republic needs an alternative vision, one that will confidently usher Singapore into the next phase of development: Privately owned small and medium-sized enterprises, instead of state-owned conglomerates, need to be the prime drivers of growth; the wage structure should ensure that the working poor don’t see their real incomes shrink even as the number of billionaires rise; the elderly should not have to work menial jobs just to feed themselves; the media must be free from state control; and, most importantly, the political system needs to change to allow truly free and fair elections, where the political freedoms of Singaporeans are respected.

Singapore is at a crossroads. How the country moves forward will depend on the choices that the people and their leaders make today. The incentives that those in power build into the system will determine whether the country progresses or stagnates. To that end, the ability of Singaporeans to question authority and to build a capacity for collective reasoning and debate is essential.

It is shameful that we live in a state where market values guided by an authoritarian system trump moral ones guided by a democratic process. The danger is that we become blinded by the things we want and ignore the things we really need. Ultimately a nation’s success is not measured by the size of its GDP but by the number of minds it unfetters, the number of young lives it gives hope to and the number of poor it empowers. It is this kind of wealth, the kind that really matters, that Singapore must accumulate.

Now more than ever, we need a genuine conversation about Singapore’s future. Indeed, we need a bold new vision for the country.

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

Read the comments to the full article at http://online.wsj.com/news/article_email/a-new-vision-for-singapore-1417109903-lMyQjAxMTA0MTIwNzQyMTczWj#livefyre-comment

#Sg #Singapore #Singapura #CheeSoonJuan

A New Vision For Singapore

No Free Trade Without Freedom

The Huffington Post
Without Freedom, There Is No Free Trade
Chee Soon Juan
13 November 2014

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. 

In 2003, Singapore signed a trade pact with the US. At that time, the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (USSFTA) was touted as a job creator and that the world needed more, not less, free trade. The US Ambassador to Singapore at that time said that as many as 50,000 jobs would be created in Singapore by the trade pact.

I wasn’t so sanguine. Without clauses to guarantee human rights and rights of Singapore’s workers, the agreement would just help the business elite in the US and Singapore to exploit cheap labour. And I said so when I visited the US then. Of course, given the might of the corporate interests, I couldn’t get in a word edgewise.

That was in 2003. Ten years have since passed and the results are in:

According to the International Labor Organization, Singaporean workers have worked more hours than in most countries, and, perhaps unsurprisingly it has resulted in the workforce being the unhappiest in the world.

  • Income inequality in Singapore is higher than that in the US. While the city-state has the highest proportion of millionaires in the world, nearly 5 percent of its workforce have an annual income of less than US$5,000.
  • Despite the Economist Intelligence Unit ranking Singapore as the most expensive city in the world, there is no minimum wage law in the country.
  • It’s not just the lower-income workers who are getting pounded. A recent study showed that almost 50 percent of Singaporeans subsist from paycheck to paycheck.
  • We have a pension savings system that is broken. An entire generation of workers is in danger of not having sufficient income to retire on. 
  • As for the younger generation, there is significant underemployment and limited opportunities for graduates. 
  • The rich in Singapore, in contrast, have never had it so good. The island, out of 23 economies, ranks 5th on the Crony-Capitalism Index compiled by The Economist.

It is clear that the benefits of the USSFTA have not accrued equitably. One reason for such a skewed outcome, at least for Singaporeans, is, as I’ve mentioned at the outset, the lack of democratic rights of the people. 

The labour movement is under firm state guidance (the umbrella National Trade Unions Congress is headed by a cabinet minister), the print and broadcast media are owned by the government (Singapore ranks 150th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom index — even Myanmar is higher at 145th), the ranks of the political opposition and civil society have been decimated through decades of state harassment, and fundamental freedoms of speech, assembly and association are severely proscribed.

More free trade in the pipeline

The European Union (EU) is about to sign its own FTA with Singapore. The proposed agreement makes extensive provisions for the protection of the rights of businesses, but almost nothing in it speaks of the protection of the rights of workers.

The US has also embarked on the expansive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which seeks to, among other things, “support the creation and retention of jobs.”

I understand the importance of trade. Without it, modern world comes to a standstill. I also understand that in an imperfect world, no one expects perfect equality. 

However, extremes in income inequality does not conduce to society’s well-being. Without freedom there can be no free trade; without democracy there can be no workers rights’ and without workers’ rights, FTAs are only tools for exploitation. 

If we are going to ensure that trade remains sustainable, then we must strive to make trade pacts beneficial for all — from the lowliest worker to the mightiest CEO. For this to happen, free trade agreements cannot continue to ignore human rights.

Read the comments to the full article on http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chee-soon-juan/without-freedom-there-is-_b_6149966.html

#Sg #Singapore #Singapura #thelioncity #littlereddot #CheeSoonJuan

No Free Trade Without Freedom