Civic participation serves to strengthen governance

This is a letter written by Tan Rong Jin Timothy, and was sent to the Straits Times. TOC thanks Timothy for allowing us to publish it here.

I read the letter by Mr Chua Sheng Yang with great interest.
(“Demos at Speakers’ Corner? No, they could hurt S’pore”)

It amazes me that he rails against so-called Western principles of freedom of speech and expression. He must realise that by being able to write to this Forum, he enjoys the very same privileges that such principles afford, and to brand them “degenerate” in the same letter simply makes no sense.

Mr Chua also believes that, by empowering Singaporeans with the right to peaceful assembly, it would be “detrimental to the climate of stability”. Perhaps he would like to explain exactly how this would happen. Most developed and developing nations (in the West or otherwise) have had such principles as the cornerstone of the political process for decades, and they have seen no need to dispense with them. In many cases, civic participation has served to strengthen governance by improving transparency and accountability.

A greater benefit is the social cohesion that arises from all citizens being part of a national dialogue, and knowing that their voices matter.

Recent headlines remind us that we are not immune from threats to our national security, and that vigilance rather than suppression should be the main strategy in tackling such threats. In fact, studies have shown that one effective way to combat terrorism is to engage in dialogue with radical elements of society, and not to silence or shut them out.

Avenues for public opinion like this Forum may be daunting to those who are less articulate than others, but are equally invested in the future of our country. I applaud the Government’s move to widen the scope of public discourse, and in so doing, make all Singaporeans true ‘stakeholders’.

Tan Rong Jin Timothy

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