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Al Jazeera focuses on the financial crisis in a special programme. TOC's columnist Leong Sze Hian features as a guest.

Letter to TOC

The following is a letter to The Online Citizen by one of our readers. The views espoused in it are his own and not TOC’s.

Dear Editor,

I'd like to address a number of issues relating to the follow-up responses to the 'piece' that I wrote recently on MM's particular stand on 'marriage'.

I was much perturbed by quite a few of those responses which in my view were very personal and unkind, and calculated to hurt. Apart from being irrelevant to what I was saying on the occasion, the kind of language used by several respondents clearly proceeded from anger, malice, and perhaps even a desire for personal vendetta. I'd like to say that this is just not the way to engage one another on 'issues of the day' in public. It is unethical and does not speak well of one to express one's feelings or views in the manner as described.

I believe that the Committee Members of the TOC are fellow-citizens who sincerely care for our People and our Nation. So their intention for starting TOC must have been well-meant and commendable.

Proceeding from para. 2 above, I am of the view that the TOC, and online websites or blogs similar to TOC, could play a positive and constructive role in helping our People and the Government of the Day to make Singapore a cohesive, and a more just and equal society where 'an even playing field' exists for ALL Singaporeans to live and work in peace and harmony, and together, contribute to the further progress of our People and our Country which we call Home.

Now please don't misunderstand what I am saying here. This is not a clarion call to Singaporeans to give support to the Ruling Party mindlessly. For sure, support does not and should not translate into unquestioning obedience. And no well-meaning Singaporeans worthy of the name should fear voicing their views forthrightly on an issue or issues affecting the Nation at large even when those views are at variance with the Government's stand on the same issue(s).

For when your views are clearly valid and meant for the best interest of the People, you are helping the Establishment by providing valuable input and contributing to good governance. In this sense you are playing a positive role, even as what you do shows you up as an exemplary citizen, an asset to the People and the Nation, and a Patriot.

Like-wise the Government of the Day should not frown upon, or worse, take to task or persecute citizens who dare speak up to offer a different perspective from that of the Government's on an issue or issues. No enlightened Government will assume the arrogant position of "we know best and we know all, for we have been elected to think for the people".

On the contrary an enlightened and an effective Government would always want to encourage the people they govern to play an active social role and include them in the decision-making process. In this way the bond between the Government and the Governed will be further strengthened at the same time as the people are then able to feel THAT sense of 'belonging' and of 'identity' as a People and as a Nation. This is crucial to the progress and further growth of Singapore as a sovereign political entity that can hold its own and walk tall amongst the other advanced countries of the world.

To continue with where I left of with regard to the kind of role an online set-up like the TOC could take on, I'd like to share my thoughts with readers of the TOC site:

As I have mentioned earlier on, the TOC could take on the role of a positive and an active intermediary between the People and the Government of the Day.

It could play a greater role by providing a forum for people to share and exchange ideas and information on issues of national interest and significance. Forum participants should also be able to feel free to engage with the Establishment on various issues that impact on the lives of the people at large. Such engagements and discussion should proceed along the lines of the participants involved abiding by the principles of civility and graciousness, of mutual respect, sensitivity to personal feelings relating to another individual's private or domestic life, and especially sensitivities that pertain to one's culture, ethnicity and religion.

In other words the TOC Committee should draw up an appropriate code of conduct to be made available for participants and would-be participants to observe. Lewd, libellous remarks, malicious acts of misrepresentation, character assassination, false accusations, half-truths and distortions should have no place on the TOC Forum site.

Participants are entitled to have their own views or perceptions on the issue at hand but they need to be able to argue for their position cogently and effectively by substantiating their arguments with sound ideas issuing from well-researched facts, figures and information.

In this way, it is hoped that the TOC will be able to establish itself as a respectable, informative and interesting venue for decent, educated and intelligent citizens to converge to their mutual benefits.

Our Citizens of Tomorrow at the Upper Secondary School levels up to the Tertiary level should likewise be encouraged by Teachers and Parents alike to refer to sites like the TOC Forum to keep themselves abreast of current affairs and other issues of National interest.

Gradually in this way we might hope to inculcate in our young the ability to think critically and independently and to form their own views on various issues at the same time as we help foster in them a heightened sense of civic-mindedness and political consciousness. This process is crucial to preparing those among our young who have the qualities to assume the mantle of leadership in organizations both in the public and the corporate segments of our society in due course of time.

Last but not least, we have to maintain strict surveillance at all times with regard to participation on our domestic forums by parties from outside of Singapore. Perhaps to reinforce my stand in this instance, I should give a brief account of my experience with the [email protected] and why I had decided to unsubscribe from the forum hosted by the  [email protected] in 2005 [can't recall the exact date].

Sg_Review is an online forum hosted by a group of individuals based in the U.K. and the U.S. One of the Editors who went by the name of Mellanie Hewlitt was very shifty about her real identity and where she was actually based. I had then received certain email correspondences from her which indicated that she was also with CNN.

Participants at the Sg_Review site, which included several Singaporeans but mostly foreigners based abroad, invariably had negative, pejorative and derogatory comments to make just about anything and everything that happened in Singapore.

It was my impression then that the people behind the Sg_Review [sadly including the Singaporeans who worked with them] were obviously anti-Singapore for reasons best known to themselves. Yes, it was obvious to me that they had an agenda against our People and our Country. And with these people I brook absolutely no tolerance of their interference in our domestic affairs.

Sg_Review's ongoing crusade for 'freedom' and 'human-rights' is hypocritical even as it is apparent that beneath the veneer of their posturing as champions for the cause of 'freedom' and 'human-rights, resides a diabolical agenda of their real objective of extending their 'imperialistic' sphere of influence and domination well beyond the shores of their homeland. And they plan to achieve their goal through the process of infiltration and subversion, and through the conversion of 'our people and culture' to that of the so-called 'free world'.

Indeed it is timely for us to know that in this globalised world, colonialism through military aggression and territorial acquisition as practised in the past by the Western powers such as the U.K., U.S., the Netherlands and Russia, may be more effectively replaced  by means of 'soft-power' tactics. Let me explain:

The modern day imperialists seek to win over people of other nationalities only subsequently to influence and control them by deceiving 'the others' into believing that they [the imperialists in disguise] would help champion 'the others's' cause(s) for a better life.

They glibly talk you into believing that their way of life is far superior to yours. They beguile you into accepting that your personal freedom and personal rights as a human being precede all other considerations. They tempt you with money and promises to help you with your cause(s) if you will just do what they tell you to do.

I have often, in the past, reflected long and hard on why people from some powerful countries, Europe and the West in particular, should be so 'charitable' and bent on expending money, time and effort on other people's problems or causes just so that these 'other peoples' and their countrymen might have a better life. It just seems to me too 'platonic' to be true of real life.

So yes the modern day imperialists do all these things only to forget that it was just over four decades ago that the late Martin Luther King Jr. made that famous  "I have a dream" speech. And shortly after that speech, the famous Afro-American fighter for freedom from black slavery, and justice for all in that 'land of the brave and the free', was assassinated.

So my fellow Singaporeans, whatever differences we may have amongst ourselves, remember always to place the Nation's interest before the individual's self-interest. And the Nation's interest, I should emphasize here, is distinct from the parochial interest of the ruling regime.

True there have been rogue leaders ruling countries in our part of the world. And such leaders have invariably wreaked havoc on their countries and caused great suffering to their people before they faced their ineluctable ruinous end.

Indeed it does us well to learn a lesson from the unfortunate experience(s) of some of our neighbours. It always pays for us to be able and willing to learn.

Ho Cheow Seng

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