Oct 15, 2007

Race, Religion and Media

An article from AFP:

Lee Kuan Yew dismisses low press-freedom ranking for Singapore

(AFP) — Singaporeans are free to read whatever they want, the influential founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew said of his country, which ranks near the bottom on a watchdog's index of press freedom.

Lee was referring to the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) annual ranking for 2006, which placed the city-state at 146 out of 168 nations, and lower than Zimbabwe at 140.

RSF cited "new legal action by the government against foreign media" for Singapore's slipping six places in the rankings.

"There's nothing that you'd want to read which you cannot read in Singapore," said Lee, who holds the influential title of minister mentor in the cabinet of his son.

"You can buy our newspapers and see whether we read like Zimbabwe..." he said Sunday night in a keynote address to the International Bar Association annual conference, which has attracted thousands of lawyers and jurists from around the world.

Lee said Singaporeans have wide access to information.

"Everybody's on the Internet. Everybody's got broadband. They've got cable television, access to all the information. You can blog. You can do anything you like," he said in the speech which drew frequent applause.

"But we do not allow certain subjects to be made bones of contention."

Lee said issues of race, language and religion had to be handled sensitively. Singapore is majority ethnic Chinese but with significant Malay and Indian minorities.

"A multi-racial, multi-religious society is always prone to conflicts," Lee said.

The city-state has bitter memories of past racial incidents in its early years and clamps down hard on anyone inciting communal tensions.
Whenever you hear Lee Kuan Yew talk about race and religion, you may get the impression that the multi-religious, multi-racial society is a rather unusual, rare species in the world, and furthermore suffers from some wicked, magical curse that dooms it to endless riots, civil war or other conflicts.

Actually, Singapore’s multiracial, multi-religious nature is hardly unique among modern cities. Think, for example, of Kuala Lumpur … Bangkok …. Melbourne … Sydney …. New York … London …. San Francisco …. Vancouver …. among others.

Even China, which we often think of as relatively homogeneous, has as many as 20 million Muslims, and 40 to 100 million Christians (according to
these estimates).

We have to lose our traditional Singaporean mentality that just because some of our HDB neighbours are of a different skin colour or pray to a different God, we are all on the perpetual verge of beating each other up and therefore Singapore is constantly in peril.

As for RSF's rankings, well, LKY can dismiss Singapore’s low ranking for press freedom, but others will not be so easily convinced. The link between state and press in Singapore is just simply much, much, muuuuch too strong, for most people to believe that our press is independent of the ruling party's influence.

"Hey, Tony. Is it true that before you became the
Chairman of the Singapore Press Holdings Board of Directors,
you were the Deputy Prime Minister; the Minister of Defence;
the Minister of Education; the Minister of Finance; the Minister of Health
AND the Minister of Trade and Industry of Singapore ...?"


Anonymous said...

Oh, so witty, Mr Wang. :)

moomooman said...

hahahaha... one of the best caption I have ever read. Not too often I can laugh from reading your blog. This is one of them.

Anonymous said...

A hilarious piece of writing!

Oikono said...

I love martin sorrell. I met him in Dalian and he always has that same intense stare at all times.

Anonymous said...

funny - we can read anything we want, see anything we want, and we still have section 377A and film censorship. We can't buy R21 DVDs in Singapore, but can download hardcore porn at any PC.Uniquely Singapore.

Anonymous said...

I disagree. The race issue is something of great sensitivity- esp. in an area where you have so many ethnic groups bunched together tightly. Look at the horrors caused during the Race Riots of the 1960s - or the recent bloodshed in the Balkans. Even in Australia- racial riots and disputes happen from time to time - the authorities there have even setup a special task force to deal with ethnic gangs. You've lived too long in a safe country, Wang.

Anonymous said...

I think the old man must seemed to have forgotten to add :-

"The only thing that is not allowed is the slightest criticism of Gahmen policies" even if they had been proven to be failures or anything that will cause the PAP to lose votes. That must be the only reason why the immensely popular Mr. Brown was given the boot although I did not necessarily give the order".

Anonymous said...

As usual, he uses a lot of smokescreen to cover the fear and injustices that he had imposed on us for such a long period of his autocratic rule.

In fact I am now beginning to get a little tired over the type of excuses that he & his team uses to justify their actions. I suppose as we begin to mature in our thinking, we will be able to debunk such excuses as mere propaganda coming from political liars which are readily accepted as gospel truth by our naive peasants and heartlanders!

Anonymous said...

Funny? Maybe. Sad? Definitely!
I mean people in other parts of the world have fought for these freedoms and won. I thought that you only come to value something once you loose it, but I am not so sure. Bear it and grin seems to be the way.

Maybe this is the reason why some place this country and the dark side of Germany's past in the same sentence.

What Mr Brown says must be true, not just a satirical send up.

Anonymous said...

You can read all that you want. This is because the government cannot stop this information from being accessed by Singapore residents. But is a very different situation with "DO all that you want". You cannot do anything that disagrees with the government. The same with "Say all you want"

Anonymous said...

Religions have always been a sensitive issue to be discussed here. Even the IRO only highlights the so-called similarities.

However, I always believe that genuine religious harmony would be that, in the spirit of agree to disagree, that everyone would know the differences among the various religions and accept them as that.

Tat Yang said...

We can read anything we want? what about the Far Eastern Economic Review?

Anonymous said...

@[October 16, 2007 11:38 AM]
But did you know that the riots in Cronulla included same ethnic groups fighting on both sides. Maybe there were some idiots as there are everywhere who had an excess of testosterone.

And besides, you would rather the "benevolent" hand of the government come in and mediate? In such a situation both groups loose in more ways than one.

Suppressing what is boiling under the surface will only cause it to erupt in a greater way later or will cause the people to loose their spirit. Look around. How much gumption have you come across lately. Not much I think. It has mostly been suppressed.

And one more thing. You seem to be implying that countries other than Singapore are not safe. When you have to watch your back here in case you say something that happens to disagree with the PTB. That is not safety. Sometime back a Faustian bargain has taken place. Those other places are quite safe.

George said...

Guys, what he meant was:
HE can read and say what HE wants!

Anonymous said...

At the conference he gave international rankings of our judicial system as proof of its quality, but dismisses the abysmal ranking of the media. Inconsistent and illogical rhetoric, as always.

Anonymous said...


Mr Wang Says So said...

Anon October 16, 2007 11:38 AM:

Which part of my post do you disagree with?

Do you really believe that your neighbour is plotting to beat you up, because your skin colour is different from his?

Or are you the one plotting to beat him up, because his skin colour is different from yours?

Anonymous said...

"You can read all you want"

That is very true,no question about that.

But the newspaper/TVs most accesible to majority of the people are heavily controlled by PAP,would any one disagree to that?

MM Lee was giving a scenerio that sounded like 90% of our people turn on BBC every morning ,but he did not mention that only about 50% of our people did read in that foreign language. That is his trick,master stroke for many years.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

It is true,Paris is more multi-racial than Singapore,mainly due to the mass movement of people from ex-colonies.North Africa,Vietnam,Cambodia,for example.London might also be more multi-racial than Singapore

And I do regularly read from the media that they have many, many racial riots.