Tuesday, March 24, 2009
PAP Cha Cha - One Step Forward Three Steps Back
I have just watched the news on the proposed PAP law on political films and illegal gatherings. I have very mixed feelings at first but that lasted only for a mere 5 minutes and thereafter I begin to feel amused again by PAP's policy of micro management.
The thought of the Cha Cha dance comes into my mind straight away and yes, it is PAP's Cha Cha with its monopoly of power again. While it tries very hard to "mitigate" the "problems" brought about by the New Media, it also tries very hard to make itself looks good. Well, it tries to show Singaporeans, especially the young ones, that it is willing to "take a step forward" in "loosening up" on such rules, but in actual fact, it is taking THREE STEPS backwards in TIGHTENING the screws that the New Media has loosen for FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION as well as Freedom of Information Flow!
Incidentally, just minutes after I recompose myself from such amusement, Martyn See has sent a note to me via facebook. Yes, he has exactly the same thought I have with regards to the issue on political films. PAP's INTOLERANCE of the "mocking nature" of some creation of its critics in Youtube has prompted it to implement such rules on political films. The spin doctors of this very establishment will go around to boast about the "OPENNESS" of PAP for the coming few days but in actual fact, what the PAP government tries to do is to try to erase away all those grey areas and deprive its Internet Critics a platform to dance around. But of course, the PAP policy think tank will have to hoodwink Singaporeans into thinking that PAP is actually "loosening up" when in actual fact it is trying very hard to tighten it up.
Singapore has the most absurd laws on Freedom of Expression. In this new era of multimedia, it actually restricts politicians and Singaporeans in the form of media expression. For example, why do we have such strange rules on "no animation" in political films? I guess the next possible ruling would be political films should be all dry and high with no jokes and satire expressions allowed!
The truth is, such absurd rules have existed in other forms in the past and present. For example, when the rock and roll bands are so common in the 1960s, the law on political rallies during elections are banned from using songs, music and any other kind of entertainment means. Luckily it does not ban opposition politicians from speaking during rallies and force them to use sign languages!
This law has its political historical background. For the benefits of my younger readers, I will have to dealt with some political history of Singapore here.
The leftist movement that helped PAP in bargaining against British Colonial rule has used songs and music very effectively in motivating and mobilizing its supporters in big and small rallies. The most active anti-Colonial movement existed in Chinese school choir and drama groups. Of course the communist elements have infiltrated into such organizations but not all of them are communists. They are just students and educated people back then trying to mobilize the Colonial subjects to protest against the British Colonial administration. Of course, PAP leaders back then have ride on this wave of anti-colonial movement to come into power. However, there was a break in the different factions within PAP back in 1963 when the faction that Lee Kuan Yew led, decided to have a merger with Malaysia so to break away from the British Colonial rule. Malaysian Malaysia was the slogan of this faction. But the other faction resisted and break away to form the Barisan Socialist party.
History has proven that that the Barisan Socialist faction is right about the merger with Malaysia. It only took two years for the merger to break. This is a great moral challenge against the PAP leadership back then. It created a serious doubt on the PAP leadership's political judgment but the next thing you know, Operation Cold Store was executed to round up all those ex-anti-Colonial fighters whom most of them are in the Barisan Socialist party. They were conveniently labeled as Communists and arrested under ISA without trial.
There may be a big grey area between Communists movement and the anti-Colonial movement. All Communists are against Colonial rule but not all anti-Colonial people were communists. It was due to this blurring perception that PAP back then was so successful in putting the Communist labels on almost all its political dissidents. After Operation Cold Store, the General Elections was called and naturally, with no strong dissidents left to contest against PAP, PAP won a landslide victory.
It was under such political background that PAP decided to eliminate the most effective tool of its dissidents which anti-Colonial elements has used against the British Colonial rulers, songs, music and drama. Right from the late 1960s throughout the whole of 1970s, we have experienced more than a decade of WHITE TERROR rule. Any artistic creations of songs, music, playwright, books, essays, poems and dramas etc that suggested any slight anti-establishment sentiments will be termed as "communist". It will be banned immediately and its authors and groups of people behind such creation will be asked to "limp kopi" (Hokkien dialect term for drinking coffee) in Internal Security Department. Many of these people were locked up in ISD without trial for weeks and months, if not years or decades.
This has resulted in Singapore becoming a cultural desert in contrast with its cultural vibrancy back in the 1950s and early 1960s where we are the Gem of Cultural revival of Southeast Asia. We were the hot bed of artistic creativity whereby many classic movies were made in Singapore instead of Hong Kong before this rule of White Terror came into play.
I have gone into length of this piece of Singapore's history to illustrate a simple fact of PAP's monopoly of power. PAP could only monopolize power via its tight control of the media as well as the suppression on the creativity creation of the people. Freedom of Expression was curtailed at a huge social and cultural cost, just for the perpetuation of PAP's monopoly of power.
This simple mindset still exists today with the latest additions to its effort in trying to control on the Freedom of Expression on the New Media, Internet. Of course, it has to be done in the guise of "openness", so to speak.
Beside changing the political film act in a bid to eliminate grey areas for other people to dance around, I believe that it is a change in law so that PAP sets to allow itself to use the New Media in the coming Snap General Elections. It has to "fight back" the overwhelming anti-PAP sentiments expressed in the New Media in the form of home made videos. Thus, it chose to limit the space for its critics while pathing the legitimate way for its own use of the New Media. At present, the political film act has unwittingly tied up PAP's hands in using Youtube and the New Media in its campaigning effort. The latest move IS NOT A SIGN OF OPENNESS but rather A MOVE TO UNTIE PAP's HANDS WHILE MAKING MORE RESTRICTIONS FOR ITS DISSIDENTS, CRITICS AND POLITICAL OPPONENTS. It is basically a ploy in laying the "FAVORABLE GROUND RULES" for PAP to enter into the New Media Battle Ground.
I would not be surprised that PAP will flush the Internet sphere with all sorts of political films of speeches and political messages once the General Elections is being called. PAP has the resources to get professional production team to do up all the films needed for this New Media campaign.
I have told many of my comrades that the BATTLE GROUND for the next and future General Elections will be fought over the New Media. I have been preparing for eventuality of the usage of the Youtube in the coming election campaign. If you have studied PAP's political behavior well, you would notice that PAP will always try to put up new rules or laws that are advantageous to them or to eliminate strong opponents' participation right before they go for elections. This will be no exception and yes, this is a BIG SIGN that PAP is really preparing for a Snap General Elections.
If PAP is all for OPENNESS on FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, why would it restrict people to film "illegal political activity"? It does not want people to know the truth on how the police treated these political dissidents via the net? This is definitely not a World Class mindset but rather, a Third Class dictatorial mindset similar to the Burmese Junta's brutal suppression of dissidents and the restrictions imposed on those who "leaks" out the "TRUTH" of what is really happening during that period!
Only a CLOSED MIND government would not want people to know the TRUTH of what is happening on the ground, whether it is legal or illegal political activities. They could ban or control the conventional press and media from giving an independent account of such events but they are helpless in preventing others to video taped it to put them up on the net! Thus, this new change to the present laws comes about, NOT in the spirit of OPENNESS or with any respect to Freedom of Expression, nor does it comes with spirit of Freedom of Information flow or respect for Truth to be told. These changes are in fact a blatant attempt to RESTRICT information flow as well as Freedom of Expression over the Internet.
Don't be fooled by such sweet sugar coating of words like "Openness", "Loosening of rules" etc etc. The real poisoned beef lies in the details.
If you ask me, the greatest HARM of these new changes lies in "the banning of filming illegal political gatherings". Is there anything to hide from the matured Singaporeans about such "illegal political gatherings"? Well, to be honest, I could only see one reason behind it. It is not the "legitimacy" of the political gatherings that matters. It is the inexperienced, clumsy and sometimes hilarious way that the police officers handled the situation that the administration is trying to hide from the public eyes. Of course, such filming may become evidences submitted to court which may contradict police statements! (From the past cases, we have seen some instances whereby police officers' statements that have been contradicted by factual video evidences that were submitted by the Non-Violence-Action group of people).
Having said all these, I don't mean to indicate any support to the NVA movement. Personally, I still believe in the parliamentary path. But I would find it strange that a self proclaimed First World Government actually want to emulate a backward Third World Dictatorship like Burma or North Korea regimes in disallowing people to report on video the TRUTH of such "illegal political activities". It would mean that reporters (alas, of course I mean the foreign journalists! The local media will naturally be gone missing!) would be banned from reporting on such events as well!
Such little change in the law has actually exposed PAP's anxiety over the negative responses ignited by FACTUAL REPORTING of what actually happens on the ground; never mind whether it is illegal gathering or not.
Personally, my take is this. PAP is fighting the losing battle over the New Media. The more it tries to control the monster, the more it exposes its own inadequacy as well as anxiety over the negative impact of the New Media that has brought upon it.
Well, folks, it seems that the Battle has just begun. All of you have done a great job back in 2006 in defying such absurd laws on political films over the New Media and I hope you will continue to push the boundaries in the coming elections.
Goh Meng Seng