By Ho Juan Thai
Mr Sam Tan Chin Siong’s (Minister of State, PMO) letter on 10 November 2014 published on The Online Citizen requested me to answer various points raised. As such, I would clarify the following.
Singapore is supposed to be a democratic country practising the rule of law. If Mr Tan seriously believes that I did indeed commit an offence over my speech at GE 1976, why has he or his government so far not initiated a court proceeding against me? Why are they not enforcing the law and letting the court decide? The answer is simple. No court in this world will accept that my speeches were excessive and had broken the law, not even under the ridiculously tough Sedition Act.
Any reasonable person who has read all my speeches and correspondence will tell you that I have never at any point in time talked down any race, language or culture, nor have I ever advocated the superiority of any race, language or culture. It is totally inaccurate and unfounded to brand me as a Chinese chauvinist, inciting violence or trying to sow distrust between the English and Chinese educated.
Unfortunately, what I criticised the government about regarding its language and education policies 38 years ago at the general election have all come true. In addition to the English stream schools, we used to have Malay Stream Schools, Chinese Stream Schools and Tamil Stream Schools. But today we have none of these vernacular language schools left. Under whose policy is it that led to our vernacular languages schools disappearing?
These multi-language stream schools had been serving us well by laying the foundation for modern Singapore since our existence. The multi-language stream schools would have continued to serve Singapore even better economically and socially with the rise of Asian economic power.
Indian Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, made a bold assertion in the middle of this year, 2014, that the 21st Century belongs to Asia. I agree with his prediction. I believe the Indian economy will accelerate under his leadership. China, which is now the second biggest economy in the world, is widely believed to supersede the US to become the biggest economy in the world within the next decade. Our neighbours, Indonesia and Malaysia, are improving fast in managing their economies.
Having a good understanding of the local languages and cultures of the countries we wish to do business with is always an advantage. Our Malay Stream Schools, Chinese Stream Schools and Tamil Stream Schools could have us served well with these new economic rising stars. Now these advantages are almost all lost under the PAP’s education policy.
I do value our vernacular languages education, as do many Singaporeans. Many people could see decades ago that Asia would eventually revise itself and rise to the world stage again. There are values in maintaining our vernacular languages education for the sake of our future economic needs and our rich Asian cultures. As an opposition candidate I exercised my democratic right and spoke out within the law on this issue. My speeches were made in the context that the vernacular language schools were facing decimation and Nanyang University was abruptly ordered to stop using the Chinese language when answering exam papers and faced a shut down. Mr Tan has quoted my speeches out of context and mis-translated.
Mr Tan’s letter also made a wild statement by saying that I was helped by self proclaimed communist Mr Tan Chay Wa to escape from Malaysia. I have never met Mr Tan Chay Wa, let alone could he help me to escape. Will Mr Sam Tan now produce his evidence to substantiate this point?
Mr Tan is also contradicting the government position in asking me why the police wanted to question me. The police did not act in a way suggesting that they wished to question me as an opposition candidate who has never advocated violence nor ever been involved in fire arms. The police came to my house with guns threatening to shoot at me. The police only said they wished to question me after their failed attempt to arrest me. Mr Tan must now explain why his government for the last 38 years has never said I have broken the law, and yet the police still need to question me today.
Other than when I have to clarify wild statements made against me, I do not find myself contributing much to Singapore by spending time looking back at the past.
In my previous letter, I proposed that Singapore should learn from South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation spirit in dealing with all the social and political activists and, not least, PAP itself. To be constructive, I hope Mr Tan and his government could make a stand on this proposition.