Wednesday, 27 September 2023

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In Parliament: government’s reply poorly reasoned, insulting

By Choo Zheng Xi

The Worker’s Party MPs asked why their party was not allowed to hold a cycling event at East Coast Park as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations.

If Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs Ho Peng Kee’s answer is any indication, the rationale for the police denial of the permit is completely bankrupt of all good sense.

The recent ban was justified by Associate Professor Ho using the following reasons:

“It is an open area where there is potential for breach of peace, public disorder, and unruly behaviour.”


“You may be well behaving, but there may be other people whom you come across when you cycle who may stop you, may want to debate with you and that may attract a crowd, therefore will result in problems the police want to avoid”.

The Slippery Slope
It is puzzling why the police is giving the WP such a hard time registering their event considering a quick perusal of the Young PAP website will reveal numerous outdoor events: kayaking, an amazing race and they even had their own cycling event! (Click screenshot from YPAP website, left).

Looking at his comments we can tell he’s worried about people who will want to confront happy WP members on their cycling activity. Who might these be? Possibly overzealous partisans of the PAP. I hope he has more faith in his fellow party members: after all, the WP has set a good example by not harassing YPAP members on any of their numerous outdoor events.

Prof Ho’s comments seem hauntingly familiar. As I warned in an earlier article: beware the slippery slope! (link)

I’d now like to put the public on notice that Prof Ho has employed this line of argumentation, expecting it to stand despite being totally divorced from context. As the above example of the numerous YPAP events have shown, there is absolutely no reason to believe that riots will occur from recreational public events sponsored by political parties.

This is reminiscent of the now infamous Vivian Balakrishnan’s warning of what might happen if the government allowed bartop dancing (albeit in favour of liberalization). It is worth repeating here for comic value:

“If you want to dance, some of us will fall off that bar-top. Some people will die as a result of liberalising bar-top dancing, not just because they have fallen off the bar-top. Because usually a young girl, with a short skirt, dancing on a bar-top, may attract some insults from some other men, and the boyfriend starts fighting. Some people will die. Blood will be shed for liberalising this policy.”

Circularity and sarcasm

Associate Professor should know that repeating nonsense twice or three times does not make it any less nonsensical. When pressed for a proper answer regarding the ban, he replied in an insultingly sarcastic fashion:

“If you listened very carefully Mr Low, I don’t know whether his hearing aid is with him because he wears one, I said there is a greater potential for law and order problems”

Was Associate Professor Ho really being unparliamentarily sarcastic? One inclined to a more charitable interpretation of his comments could perhaps say that the source of his frustration really wasn’t directed at Mr Low. It might have been directed at the inanity of the policy he had to defend, knowing full well that it was a completely intellectually bankrupt argument.

More likely though, he was resorting to a well known tactic of gutter politics: if you say something often enough, and demean your opponent while you’re at it, there’s a good chance the electorate might believe you.

My message to the government is this: defend your laws on their own merit, and if there is none to speak of, bite the bullet and amend them. When you’re in a hole, stop digging.

It reeks of arrogance when someone who should be well versed in the law gives poorly reasoned responses to a simple question.


Read also: “Police cannot ensure safety and order in opposition’s outdoor event, so application rejected” by Urbant Rant.

Stay tuned for TOC’s ongoing commentary on Parliamentary proceedings.


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