Fellow NS men, please don’t cheat yourselves by saying that you will defend the constitution with your life

Just this February year when I went for my National Reservist training, we were told to recite the Singapore Armed Forces pledge in the seminar hall after the Division Commander reminded the servicemen about the constant threat that Singapore faces from its neighbours.

“We, members of the Singapore Armed Forces, do solemnly and sincerely pledge that we will always bear true faith and allegiance to the President and the Republic of Singapore.

We will always support and defend the Constitution.

We will preserve and protect the honour and independence of our country,”

We ended the pledge by shouting, “WITH OUR LIVES.” as we were taught since our basic military training as teens.

I chuckle every time I recite this part of the pledge because I really question the amount of conviction of the servicemen in what they pledged, just like their belief in the national pledge that we make every year during National Day.

Everyone seems to just focus on the independence part and nothing about the constitution. Which is pretty obvious, given how many NS men were typing in the comment sections of the Singapore-Malaysia dispute news reports that they will not hesitate to go to war to defend Singapore’s sovereignty.

I mean, doesn’t it bother you that the person whom you pledge your sworn allegiance to, the President, is someone who is being politically placed in the position and not because of the will of the citizens? Is it not obvious, with the amended constitution in regards to the Elected Presidency, the debarring of the private candidate who could have been allowed to qualify and not forgetting the actual racial status of the President? All these, so that the ruling party can have a President who will not disagree with whatever the government does.

For the less abstract, we turn and look at Article 14 in the Singapore constitution that enshrines the right of assembly and speech to all citizens as what a democratic country would.

Putting aside the ridiculous laws that have been passed over the past few years by using the excuse of public order and national security. With the upcoming law, entitled, “Protection against Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act” that will be passed in Parliament by the People’s Action Party in May this year, we are looking at a clear violation of the constitution.

While they are saying that the law is meant to protect Singapore from online falsehoods, but as what a Facebook page correctly pointed out, the powers that the government is seeking to include in the proposed bill, are unconstitutional.

The bill allows any Ministers to make an order to correct or takedown a post which “diminish public confidence in the performance of any duty or function of, or in the exercise of any power by the Government, an organ of State, a staturory board, or a part of the Government, an
Organ of State or a statutory board.”

How can any citizens be prevented from voicing out against the public bodies just because it diminishes the public confidence in the entity? Particularly when there is proof or reason to voice out against any wrong doing or poor performance by individuals or staff/former-staff involved. The Ministers have repeatedly say that the law only seeks to address false statement of facts and not opinions. But if a former employee of a government institution or Government Linked Company steps out and say that the system is messed up because so and so, will that going be regarded as a frank opinion of an employee or a false statement of fact? Don’t listen to what the Ministers say, ask yourself what would the current government think of such an opinion?

Ok, I give an example. Ngiam Tong Dow, former permanent secretary of several ministries, including the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), and former chairman of the Economic Development Board commented about the ministers being afraid to speak up, and the People’s Action Party (PAP) being elitist and had to retract his comments.

He said in an earlier interview with Dr Toh Han Chong, Editor of Singapore Medical Asssociation News, published in the Sept 2013 edition of SMA News:

“I don’t know whether Lee Kuan Yew will agree but it started going downhill when we started to raise ministers’ salaries, not even pegging them to the national salary but aligning them with the top 10.

When you raise ministers’ salaries to the point that they’re earning millions of dollar, every minister — no matter how much he wants to turn up and tell Hsien Loong off or whatever — will hesitate when he thinks of his million-dollar salary. Even if he wants to do it, his wife will stop him.

Lim Kim San used to tell me, “Ngiam, if you want to leave your job, make sure you have enough walkaway money.” When the salary is so high, which minister dares to leave, unless they decide to become the Opposition party? As a result, the entire political arena has become a civil service, and I don’t see anyone speaking up any more.”

He subsequently retracted his comments weeks after the newsletter was published.

Opinion or fact? You should be able to tell for yourself.

With the passing of the bill in Parliament, any high ranking public servant or Minister could very well hide behind the powers of this law if they screw up in their job or the public has poor opinion of their actions. With the Auditor-General and Attorney General being seated with closely affiliated individuals of the ruling party, it is even harder to imagine that any public censuring or called out through non-public auditing by the relevant agencies. And as for the President, I believe we have covered that part already.

Now that it is pretty clear that your beloved constitution will be violated here, so what are you going to do? Are you fearful of repercussion from the government if you voice out publicly, thinking, “If I write to my Member of Parliament, I sure get marked by the government” or “I want to do something about it but what about my livelihood? My family still depend on me for income…”

Well, you are not alone. According to Reuters’ Digital News Report 2018 report, 63% of respondents in Singapore said that they were concerned that openly expressing their political views online could get them into trouble with the authorities, just one position lower than Turkey out of the 37 countries’ data.

So dear fellow servicemen, don’t kid yourself when you recite the pledge that you will defend the constitution with your life. There is nothing you can do and will do, whenever the Singapore constitution is being trampled like a piece of unwanted publicity flyer in your name. Just like how Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam said it in his interview after the last General Election.