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Leaders must persuade, not silence, critics

the following is a media release by the Singapore Democratic Party:


The recent threats of defamation suits by PAP's leaders against Mr Alex Au and the editors of TR Emeritus (TRE) is another blow to freedom of speech in Singapore.
 
For years, the Singapore Democratic Party has been the target of attacks from the ruling party and the media it controls. In addition, blogs and websites publish articles and comments from PAP supporters criticisng us in unreasonable, often defamatory, ways. But we have never threatened editors of such sites with legal action.
 
We choose, instead, to publish our own website and put forward reasoned arguments to counter such views. More important, rather than silencing our critics through lawsuits the SDP responds to our detractors by demonstrating our capability and leadership qualities.
 
Through the years we striven to be a competent and well-organised opposition party. We have consistently demonstrated that we are a party of ideas and alternative solutions. In other words, a constructive opposition party. We have crafted a vision of a compassionate, just and egalitarian Singapore that the people have welcomed. 
 
As a result, more and more Singaporeans are beginning to understand what we are about and the values we stand for. And because of this, they are coming to join the party in unprecedented numbers.
 
Such a turnaround has taken many years to establish and we are still in the process of building up. But if we aspire to lead this nation, there is no option. Leadership - sound leadership - takes time to develop and it comes from inspiring and persuading the people, not suing and silencing them. 
 
We need to respect their views no matter how much we consider them to be wrong. Shutting them up through lawsuits and controlling the media may be the expedient thing to do but it harms the larger, and longer-term, good of society.
 
It is important that leaders develop our character, not merely protect our reputation. For, unlike reputation, character is permanent.
 
In this age of the Internet, let Singapore's political leaders not continue with legal action. Let defamation suits, or threats of defamation suits, be a thing of the past. Let us have confidence that our people can argue and disagree, and that such debate and contention forge a strong nation.
 
To this democratic end, we call on the PAP to exercise quality leadership and leave the blogosphere and, in particular, the TRE to function the way it has in the past. 
 
In politics there will always be people who disagree with us and, for a time, we may be maligned and misunderstood. But let us not forget the wisdom of the late Martin Luther King Jr who said that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."
 
Dr Chee Soon Juan
Secretary-General 
Singapore Democratic Party