It is time to stop the practice of “name-calling and personal destruction” in Singapore’s political landscape, says Dr Chee Soon Juan, secretary general of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP).
Writing on the party’s website on Sunday, Dr Chee made the call in the light of the assault on 16-year old blogger and Youtuber, Amos Yee.
The teenager was hit in the face by a 49-year old man on Thursday as the former was making his way to the State Court for a pre-trial hearing.
The assault had apparently resulted in a bruised eye and cheek on the youth.
The assailant was reported to have been arrested by the police 12 hours after the incident and investigations are ongoing.
Amos Yee is currently in remand for breaching bail conditions.
It is unknown if he has been given medical attention.
Dr Chee’s remarks is the latest which call for restraint in how the public react to the teenager’s views.
“We heave [sic] a collective sigh of relief that the assailant did not carry a weapon, otherwise the situation could have turned even more tragic,” Dr Chee wrote. “As it is, if the culprit had landed closer to Amos’ ear, it could have caused critical perhaps even irreparable damage to the boy.”
Dr Chee pointed out that the physical assault on the teenager had been preceded by “expressions of hate” after Amos Yee’s controversial video on Youtube on the late Lee Kuan Yew’s death, which is also claimed to have insulted Christianity.
“We should not be surprised therefore that someone took it upon himself to express his emotions through a violent act,” the SDP leader said.
He added that “it is the PAP’s rhetoric, often bordering on incitement, that provides the substratum for mistrust and hate.”
Dr Chee then provided three examples of where the PAP’s rhetoric had allegedly or could have led to threats made against their opponents.
He cited the case of Tang Liang Hong who had taken part in the 1997 general elections and who “was accused of being an anti-Islam, anti-Christian Chinese chauvinist” by PAP leaders.
“The incendiary labels stoked vicious threats against Mr Tang so much so that immediately following the elections in 1997, he fled the country,” Dr Chee said.
He also related the experiences of former solicitor-general, Francis Seow, and former Workers’ Party chief, JB Jeyaretnam, both of whom Dr Chee said had had derogatory and incendiary labels ascribed to them, which could have led some to behave in “a very regrettable manner” towards the two men.
“I have been called a gangster, a traitor who opposes Singapore and even diagnosed a psychopath,” Dr Chee said. “When you top this off with a call to ‘annihilate’ me, you set up a scenario laced with poisonous tension, tempting individuals to perpetrate acts of malice and aggression.”
The SDP leader, whose first foray into electoral politics was in the 1992 by-election in Marine Parade, then disclosed two incidents where he himself had been targeted for such “acts of malice and aggression”.
“The first was that my German Shepherd dog was poisoned, the cause of death was confirmed by the vet. The second involved the repeated slashing of my car tyres. Both episodes happened in the late 1990s at the height of the PAP’s vitriol against me.”
Explaining that opponents of the PAP may not have the same security protection, he asks the latter to realise that “their opponents are vulnerable to attacks by persons on the violent fringe.”
“Engaging in over-the-top rhetoric and using violent imagery is dangerous,” the SDP chief warned.
“All it takes is just one moment of madness by one lone individual to commit one violent act, and no amount of calling for justice by the Minister for Law can undo the damage,” he said, referring to Mr K Shanmugam’s remarks following the assault on Amos Yee.
Mr Shanmugam had described the attack as “quite unacceptable”.
“I have often counseled against personal attacks and character assassination in our politics,” Dr Chee said. “It is base and primitive, and has absolutely no place in the modern and civilised nation that we aspire to.”
“I call on those in the PAP to stop its practice of name-calling and personal destruction.”
You can read the full text of Dr Chee’s article here: “This is why we must stop personal attacks in politics”.