In a move that seems to be more appropriate North Korea than the gleaming city-state of Singapore, the country’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has launched a massive lawsuit campaign against a blogger who criticized the government’s handling of its Central Provident Fund. Now the Prime Minister is pushing the courts to not even allow a fair trial and to instead simply rule in his favor and award damages. What the Prime Minister should be doing is apologizing to his people for the embarrassing and flagrant abuse of his powers and position, and dropping the lawsuit all-together.
Singapore: Heavy Handed Government Driving People Away
While the blogger Roy Ngerng may have been in the wrong in regards to his accusations, Singapore will need to embrace free speech and public debate if the country truly hopes to hold itself together. The Singaporean government has long pointed to its small size and population and size in order to justify heavy handed tactics to keep the country stable and well-governmed.
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The government’s argument about the necessity harmony and unity is spot on, but its methods for trying to drum up such unity are backfiring. The heavy handed tactics being pursued by the People’s Action Party are likely also driving the steady decline in the party’s popularity.
Mr. Ngerng’s blog post itself was filled with inconsistencies and a full understanding of how the Central Provident Fund works and the full benefits of the investments made by the fund. The government should have issued a strong rebuke and torn down his argument, line-by-line, rather than hiding behind the courts and lawyers.
By failing to address the problem in public and to rebuke the blogger’s claims, the government will do little to convince people who hold similar views, namely that the CPF is misappropriating funds. Sure, people might not write blog posts in the future, but that won’t stop them from organizing, protesting, and voting against the PAP.
If the PAP were to begin to engage in more meaningful debate with its citizens and to try to win their approval with strong arguments rather than the threat of lawsuit and other heavy handed tactics, it would almost certainly improve its public image. The PAP has done an admirable job modernizing Singapore, but now it must prove that it has the maturity to manage a fully modern and developed society.
Blogger’s Life Ruined Over Blog Post
Internet blogger Roy Ngerng has already lost his job and is now facing a lawsuit that could cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, over a blog post he wrote back in May. The blog post itself was rather innocuous, at least by the standards of the United States, Europe, Japan, and other modern Western countries.
The most “damaging” part of the blog post can when Mr. Ngerng noted an “uncanny” similarity between a group of church leaders who had been swept up in a recent scandal for misappropriating funds and how the government handles the Central Provident Fund’s assets. In parts of the blog, Mr. Ngerng seems to insinuate that Prime Minister Lee is acting like the corrupt church leaders, but never directly accuses Mr. Lee of anything illegal.
Already, Mr. Ngerng has lost his job at a public hospital and it now facing a massive lawsuit that could bury him under hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt. Mr. Ngerng did issue an apology to the Prime Minister, though the apology itself appeared to be made under duress. The blogger also offered the Prime Minister a cash payment of $4,000 dollars, which was dismissed as derisory.