This article is posted on 31 Jan 2011 on blog Singapore Notes.
When Mas Selamat Kastari's relatives were jailed in Nov 2010 for aiding a fugitive from the law, the message sent was loud and clear - nation's interest comes before family ties. Mohd Fatris Bakaram, Deputy Mufti of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), rubbed in the salt: "It is natural to help and give protection to family members, but it is not acceptable by Islamic law to perform the act that will jeopardise the peace and security of a society." Well, it depends on whose family is involved.
When 3 young Singaporeans were charged under the Sedition Act for allegedly posting inflammatory racial remarks online, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong drew the line in the sand:
"It does not matter whether inflammatory racist remarks are made online or offline, it is still against the law to stir up distrust and enmity between the races. And the Singapore government will act against anyone who threatens racial and religious harmony". (17 Sept 2005).
"It has nothing to do with whether you are a blogger or not. If you publish such stuff, anywhere you go, we will act," said Lee, who was then speaking to reporters at the launch of a family carnival organised by the People's Action Party Community Foundation (PCF) and the National Trades Union Congress.
This is how he acts after the Association of Muslim Professionals issued a strongly worded statement to seek clarification on whether MM Lee's comments on the Muslim community reflected the thinking of the Government, comments which "have hurt the community and are potentially divisive": "The views on Singapore Muslims expressed by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew in a new book are his personal opinions, and not those of the Government," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday. That's it? He's going to continue drawing a fat salary as a member of the Government? He's not going to step down "for personal reasons" and "spend more time with the family"? Do we need an ICBM from North Korea heading our way to send the PM a clearer message?
Would the 3 young Singaporeans mentioned earlier have been left off the hook if they used the "personal opinions" defence? Can Alan Shadrake, who published some stuff about the judicial system, also avail himself of the "personal opinions" defence? Are we to understand that all Government policies are also subjects of "personal opinions"? That's a very slippery road he has chosen to navigate - but at least we now know what we are voting for.