a community of singaporeans

Civic participation serves to strengthen governance

Posted by theonlinecitizen on March 5, 2008

This is a letter written by Tan Rong Jin Timothy, and was sent to the Straits Times. TOC thanks Timothy for allowing us to publish it here.

I read the letter by Mr Chua Sheng Yang with great interest.
(“Demos at Speakers’ Corner? No, they could hurt S’pore”)

It amazes me that he rails against so-called Western principles of freedom of speech and expression. He must realise that by being able to write to this Forum, he enjoys the very same privileges that such principles afford, and to brand them “degenerate” in the same letter simply makes no sense.

Mr Chua also believes that, by empowering Singaporeans with the right to peaceful assembly, it would be “detrimental to the climate of stability”. Perhaps he would like to explain exactly how this would happen. Most developed and developing nations (in the West or otherwise) have had such principles as the cornerstone of the political process for decades, and they have seen no need to dispense with them. In many cases, civic participation has served to strengthen governance by improving transparency and accountability.

A greater benefit is the social cohesion that arises from all citizens being part of a national dialogue, and knowing that their voices matter.

Recent headlines remind us that we are not immune from threats to our national security, and that vigilance rather than suppression should be the main strategy in tackling such threats. In fact, studies have shown that one effective way to combat terrorism is to engage in dialogue with radical elements of society, and not to silence or shut them out.

Avenues for public opinion like this Forum may be daunting to those who are less articulate than others, but are equally invested in the future of our country. I applaud the Government’s move to widen the scope of public discourse, and in so doing, make all Singaporeans true ‘stakeholders’.

Tan Rong Jin Timothy


6 Responses to “Civic participation serves to strengthen governance”

  1. Im sick and tired of people like Mr. Chua Sheng Yang! Wonder which cave r they from?

  2. freedom loving singaporean said

    Freedom of speech and expression is an universal right and belief which unfortunately some countries such as Singapore dont buy into. Freedom of speech and expression definitely is not something western as it is popularly believed to be. It is also not something that the west only has first thought of or implemented. Asian values, as pointed out by A.K.Sen in his famous article [“Human Rights and Asian Values: What Lee Kuan Yew and Le Peng don’t understand about Asia”,1997)] has always promoted freedom of speech and expression but in its own methods and context.

    If Singaporeans like Mr.Chua Sheng Yang dislike the concept of freedom of speech and expression, why dont they consider shifting to China because it will be a matter of time Singapore will be forced into throwing in the towel in its relentless fight to control, restrict and deteremine speech and expressions?

    Singapore today only has 21st century buildings and roads (concrete and tar). It has yet to prove its people, mindsets and ideas are 21st century.

  3. tfl said

    I think it’s more like a good number of Singaporeans don’t want the freedom to speak in places like the Speaker’s Corner, and that they have a wish to be arrested.

  4. Adrian said

    I think China is too good for him, I think Cambodia will be more suitable. 😛

  5. Gerald said

    In fact a World Bank report released in 2006 gave Singapore high marks for all aspects of governance except “Voice and Accountability”, where we scored even worse that three years earlier.

  6. Kim Buay Soong said

    Seriously, ladies and gentlemen, do you think if anyone speaks or demoes in the Speaker’s Corner, others will come and listen. He or she will be talking or demoing to the birds. Most Singaporeans are just struggling to earn more money to fight off inflations, GST price hikes to even bother while others who are very rich and enjoying life will want anything to change since this will hurt Singapore (= hurt their rich and fatuous lives).

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