Singapore’s Ambassador to the United States, Ashok Kumar Mirpuri (Mirpuri) has hit back at criticism made by the international media about charges that Singapore has brought against the social activist, Jolovan Wham (Wham) for the seemingly trivial act of holding up a placard depicting a smiley face at Toa Payoh Central in April, in support of two youth climate activists investigated by the police.
Mirpuri has said that Singapore makes “no apologies” for holding on to its “own values” by calibrating “the right to protest” against “the rights of others not to be inconvenienced by such protests”.
The question, however, is whether or not the general public has been “inconvenience by such protests”?
From a logical standpoint, how can a lone person holding a smiley face sign have inconvenienced anyone at all? Did Wham hold up traffic or incite violence? Not at all would be the answer!
Have Wham’s actions brought attention to an inconvenient truth or, has he actually inconvenienced anyone?
This seems to be the question that Mirpuri has fudged. He seems to suggest that in charging Wham, we are somehow upholding the values of Singaporeans. However, if we were to take a poll, would most Singaporeans agree that charging Wham is in line with our values? Somehow, I doubt so.
It is therefore disingenuous for Mirpuri to speak for Singaporeans as a whole on this.
He is an ambassador. He is a civil servant paid for by the public purse strings. He is not a member of the People’s Action Party (PAP). Why then is he speaking in defence of the actions taken by authorities, potentially out of turn with the views of the public? Did he take a poll of public opinion in Singapore on this matter?
Besides, why the defensive defiance? Who has asked for an apology anyway? International media has brought the world’s attention to a seemingly over the top reaction to Wham. It didn’t ask for an apology? Unless there is some element of a guilty conscience here?
Mirpuri further said that Wham could have exercised his right to political expression at the Speakers’ Corner and could have applied for a permit before doing so. Yet, his argument about Wham’s actions is premised on the inconvenience caused.
However, if there is no inconvenience caused in the first place, what difference does the permit make? We also have to note that Wham claims to be at the spots for a couple of seconds to have taken the photos instead of allegedly protesting at the sites.
Besides, it is a reasonable supposition to make that even if Wham had applied for a permit, he would not have gotten one. This makes Mirpuri’s stout defence of authorities in Singapore illogical at best and blind adherence at worst.
He is our ambassador to the largest economy in the world. Perhaps, he should focus on trade issues that could benefit the taxpayers that are paying his salary instead of defending a government for charging a smiley face placard holder.