An Imaginary Climate of Fear?

The following is an excerpt from the blog Reinventing The Ricebowl

Kenneth Jeyaretnam/

On Wednesday on behalf of the Reform Party I attended the Singapore Forum on Politics at NUS as one of the panellists. The other panellists were Dr. Chee of the SDP, Sylvia Lim of the WP and Michael Palmer of the PAP. The topic was “GE 2011: What’s at Stake for Singapore?”

In my opening remarks I mentioned the pervasive climate of fear which prevents Singaporeans from coming forward as Opposition party candidates and even from signing up as members. However I was promptly assailed by Michael Palmer who said this was rubbish. He pointed out to the large attendance and the fact that a forum was held as a sign that Singaporeans were able to debate and ask questions without fear. He specifically singled out the presence of the media including the foreign press as demonstrating how open Singapore was.

With only limited time I was not able to devote as much time as I would have liked to rebut Mr. Palmer’s assertions, so I would like to do so here in more detail. I said that no one in Singapore may be in danger of disappearing in the middle of the night and ending up with a bullet in the back of the head. However, even as recently as 1987, the ISA had been used to detain a group of people (the so-called Marxist conspirators) who were on the verge of joining the WP which was led by JBJ at the time. If this had not been done and they had been able to stand for election in 1988 Singapore history might have been very different. Since the ISA remains on the statute book we have no guarantee that it may not be used again at some future date.

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