Ms Ng, Yale resolution is not annoying: a re-post of Ng Kok Lim’s May 13th, 2012 piece in Temasek Review Emeritus

Dear Ms Ng E-Ching,

I refer to your 9 Apr 2012 Yale News article “NG: Show Singaporeans some respect” [1].

You used your own experience of discussing banned articles within the confines of your own classes to show Yale academics what they can do in Singapore – practise academic freedom within the confines of their classes to stay out of trouble. But doing things on the sly is not freedom. If you’re free to do it, why do it on the sly? Why not do it openly? Your so-called ‘freedom in practice’ is really just freedom behind closed doors, which is no real freedom at all. All that you are preaching to Yale is to do things in secrecy which is quite pathetic really.

You feel that the best way for Yale to effect change is not to stress differences between Singapore and the US but to stress commonalities instead. Yet, in your attempt to change Yale perspective on Singapore, you ended up stressing differences in attitudes towards arms bearing, film censorship and Quran burning. While these are real differences, they are not the ones that are at the crux of the issue. The crux of the issue really is the lack of respect for press and political freedoms.

I don’t see the Yale resolution as asking to get kicked out of Singapore but a sincere, good natured attempt at pointing out a fundamental weakness in our society. I don’t find the resolution annoying and it is my honest opinion that Singaporeans who are patriotic towards fellow Singaporeans rather than towards their rulers will feel the same way.

While recent events show that the government does respond to the people’s desire for change, that desire for change has been driven by the recent proliferation of information and opinion online. If such free information and opinion had been made readily available in the press over the last 50 years, the people may have desired change much earlier and our ruling party may not have held power for 50 years.

The reality of our political culture doesn’t make it right and doesn’t justify its continuity.

Singapore is extremely open to foreign influences only in certain respects. Many foreign newspapers have been sued and their influences curtailed.

The Yale resolution isn’t the preoccupation of hecklers but the sincere expression of basic goodness that all human societies including that of Singapore deserve.

Thank you.

Ng Kok Lim


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