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Protesters walk past a mock gravestone that reads "RIP Freedom of Speech" during a protest against new licensing regulations imposed by the government for online news sites, at Hong Lim Park in Singapore June 8, 2013. Human Rights Watch on Friday said that Singapore is undercutting its status as a financial centre by expanding media censorship to the web and urged the city-state's government to withdraw the new licensing requirements for online news sites. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Power concedes nothing without demand

by Remy Choo Zhengxi

ST Editor-at-Large, Han Fook Kwang, writes (from behind the paywall) with a warning:

"An innovative, enterprising people must be allowed space to express themselves freely, to venture into new areas, in business, the arts, and in politics. They cannot be over-protected, sheltered and controlled, made to believe there is one way to lead their lives and organise themselves. Singapore risks being such a society."

Han Fook Kwang, probably hoping that Singapore will avert the fate he warns of, asks:

“Will Singapore leaders be bold enough to allow the people more space in civic, commercial and political life to find new ways to grow and thrive?”

The question, unfortunately, appears un-ironically rhetorical. The answer is clearly no.

Archaic legislation like criminal defamation is being dusted off and deployed against government critics, and a slew of criminal charges and civil suits have been mobilized against social activists.

A Constitutional office and organ of state has recently been deployed in what appears to be a retaliatory move in a private family feud. Singapore continues to cling onto blatantly discriminatory colonial-era legislation like s377A despite its clear impact on our fellow citizens and Singapore’s reputation on the world stage.

Han can do his part by prodding opinion-shapers with digital ST subscriptions to consider changing the way they govern.

But equally, we, the governed, as individuals with agency, need to ask ourselves why things are where they are today. Is it because we’ve turned a blind eye to the civil liberties of our fellow Singaporeans for too long, considering their suffering isolated data points that do not concern us?

Power concedes nothing without demand. But if we can’t be arsed to safeguard and demand the civil liberties which are rightfully ours, then maybe we deserve to live in the Singapore Han warns of.

The above post is first published as a Facebook note by Mr Choo and reproduced with permission.