Sunday, July 10, 2005

Political Forums in a Police State

Political Forums in a Police State

I have attended a couple of political forums and book launch recently. One of them is the forum on Death Penalty (Organized by Open Singapore, JBJ and Dr. Chee are speakers) and the other one is Dr. Chee’s recent book launch.

I always feel that as opposition politicians, we are very “privileged” that we will always have “police protection” whenever we hold such public forums! Usually, they will send a team of two to put up video cameras (yes, two cameras) to take down the whole proceedings. Sometimes, they will even call in uniformed police officers! (It did happen during the Death Penalty forum.)

In view of the recent terrorist bombing in London, I wonder whether the police is afraid of us being bombed by the terrorists or that they are wasting their limited resources to “monitor” harmless patriotic people who attend the forums. They should have spent more time in tracking down terrorists out there instead.

I do not understand why the police officers have to do all these things. Maybe they are really looking out for subversive messages being transmitted in these forums. However, normally for these forums, the attendance is very small. When you minus the “regulars”, party members, reporters and of course, the agents and policemen, you will only have a handful of “genuinely public” individuals attending the forums. Even if there is any “bad messages” (defamation included), the outreach is really very limited. Isn’t the police “killing chicken using knife meant for cow? (This is a Chinese saying.)

Even though I do not agree with Dr. Chee and JBJ on many issues and stands they take, but I think it is only good for us to listen to diverse views WITHOUT INTERFERRENCE. We are matured enough to judge for ourselves what is right or wrong, good or bad.

What happened during the Death Penalty forum was that one plain cloth police officer just walk up to Dr. Chee and demanded particulars of a speaker. Strange enough, the police officer in plain cloth did not approach the Malay lady speaker directly (even though she was sitting right there) but he chose to ask Dr. Chee. Although the forum was ending but it was still in the last minute of Q&A session! To a bystander like me, I could only have two impressions:

1) The police officer was very rude to interrupt a forum like this.
2) The intention of the police was to exert authority on the whole audience right in front of the stage.

Of course the police officer may just be following instructions from the top, just trying to do their job but at least, common sense and tact should be practiced on the ground. When the Malay lady lawyer raised her voice to register her dissatisfaction, the plain cloth police officer actually called in two uniformed officers into the room later!

During Dr. Chee’s book launch yesterday, what happened was that during the Q&A session, a muted video of the May Day incident (whereby Dr. Chee was arrested) was screened on the background. I am not sure about the law but as a normal bystander, it seemed to be perfectly o.k. as video has been screened in wedding dinners as well. Besides, the attendance is less than 70, no big deal. But the police came in and seized the cd that contains the video.

This brings us back to the film act again. As I have stated in my previous posting, I feel that the film act is totally outdated, in view of the fact that many Singaporeans could afford a video camera and just shoot. If recording a true event is a crime, then all news video clippings would be put into question. The arrest of Dr. Chee captured in the video clip is not a “mock up” but a real life event. Is it a “political film”? I would just say that it is merely a historical recording of what really happened in the past. It is not a film of “re-enactment”.

I would appreciate more if the police could just perform their duties effectively, especially on fighting terrorists. Making a mountain out of a mole hole would not give us a good image, especially so when there are foreigners present in these forums.

When I attended the memorial service for Zhao Zhi Yang in Hong Kong, no police officers in uniform were seen on the rally ground. It is normal to them and it has demonstrated the state/government has more trust in its people even in a rally that has tens of thousands of people attending. Police officers could only be seen outside the compound regulating human flow. There are no interference from the police or the state even when a special memorial video was screened on a big make shift black drop in the open air, with ten of thousands of people viewing.

PAP government has claimed that they wanted to open up. So far, we have not seen any moves in opening up the political space in Singapore. We are just behaving like a police state as ever.

In this globalised world, it is only time when people, both Singaporeans and foreigners, come to this conclusion that we are still a police state when they start to make comparisons. The acts of the policemen so far give me an impression that they are all out to nit pick on opposition members like Dr. Chee. They would bounce on you readily on the slightest sign of mistakes being made. This is like having police officers (in plain cloth or otherwise) guarding at every traffic light to make sure that everyone (in this case, opposition members) cross the roads according to the law! This isn’t what an “open society” supposed to be isn’t it?

If the PAP government wants to play it this way, why not just declare all opposition parties illegal? It will save a lot of manpower and hassles for the police department to be re-deployed to fight terrorists!

Goh Meng Seng

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr Gomez has shown us that they are extending the police state to install video cameras everywhere, even inside the Election dept. Would there be a hidden camera inside the Voting Booth?I am frightened.