The international image that Singapore clearly wants to cultivate is a shiny, prosperous Asian city that is modern, convenient and cultured. Looking at the way, the government chases after global branding events such as the Trump-Kim summit and Singapore’s attempts to put together nomination papers to inscribe hawker culture as part of Unesco’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, it is manifestly obvious how much Singapore wants to be seen as a big player and not a bit player in international affairs. Yet, there are aspects of Singapore that will not measure up to international standards no matter how we try to whitewash it or push it under the carpet.
The first is the way the government refuses to take a stand on the issue of section 377a of the penal code. Those who want it retained seem oblivious to the inconsistencies of the clause – blind to the fact that it only bans homosexual sex between men and not women. Not to mention the fact that the statute is absolutely useless in the face of the government’s constant reassurances that it will not be prosecuting anyone based on section 377a. That said, the “conservatives” misguidedly fight for it without any attempt on the part of the government to even address the issue.
Secondly, we have the uncomfortable existence of the death penalty which we utilise rather liberally. The government insists that people actually want the death penalty but do they really? Singaporeans are by and large a compassionate lot – do we really agree with the taking of life so liberally? Even if Singaporeans agree with the death penalty, to they agree with its rampant use, seemingly without regard for the sanctity of human life?
What about the restriction of press freedoms and how low we score in the Press Freedom Index?
Despite Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s attempts to create a happy image of Singapore through appearances in lighthearted Vlogs like that of Nas Daily’s, the truth of the matter is that there exist many issues in Singapore that could not be further from the image that the establishment is trying to portray to the international community.
I know that there is no such thing as a perfect society. However, it is precisely this image of perfection that the government is trying to portray and my question is – How can you push ahead with that haloed image when we have on our statute books, a law that is not only wrong in my book but unfairly drafted (penalising only men and not women); the death penalty that is meted out so flippantly and the way individuals such as historian Thum Ping Tjin are being treated just for having a slightly different take on history?