TAY LEONG TAN: Jim Sleeper of Yale opined that Yale-NUS should stand up to Singapore authorities regarding screening of the film “To Singapore, with Love”.
I’ll speak with honesty. I’m a Singaporean and I am one of those who believe in the right to free (and responsible) speech. I even believe the movie shouldn’t be swept away from public eyes, condemned only for viewing in cold conference rooms of lecture theatres.
I don’t however, agree with the content nor intent of the movie because let’s be real here – this is not casual Hollywood entertainment. This -is- a documentary with an agenda to meet and whatever that agenda is, is anyone’s guess.
However it irks me no end when some tries to tell me what to do. Especially a liberal Western type speaks holier-than-thou.
Said Jim Sleeper of Yale, “…are we liberalising Singapore or are becoming more like it”?
I think that’s very haughty of a foreigner to think that it is up to them to “save” us and to “liberalise” us.
In 2012, I saw the ex-MM Lee in Parliament. He clearly had difficulties getting out of his chair and needed some momentum to swing himself up. A concerned MP reached across to help him, but lo – the feisty old man swept his hand away. Although with difficulty, he stood up on his own.
This is Asian pride. We know what should be done in this country and it is not up to any foreign body to tell us what to do nor how to do it.
Does the liberal West think we don’t know we need more political freedom in this country? Or do they think we cannot achieve it on our own?
When Holoucast survivors who had been starving, were suddenly fed by liberators, the victims soon died because their stomachs could not handle the food. I learnt this is known as the “re-feeding syndrome”.
People forget that Singapore had gained independence a mere 50 years ago. This was a very different Singapore that faced poverty, violence and leadership by factions. If you had force fed Western type liberal democracy to this fledgling nation it would have collapsed from re-feeding syndrome.
As we move through the decades, you can observe that Singapore is slowly liberalising.
When Goh Chock Tong took over the country as the second Prime Minister in the 90s, he spoke of a kinder, gentler nation. Case in point – Speakers Corner then was a place you could speak, but without microphones, no loudhailers and topics had to be submitted in advance to the police.
Today, protestors and demonstrators of all sorts can simply file an application with the National Parks and proceed with a variety of demonstrations. It had been used as a platform to fight for anything from Gay Rights, corrupt banks and yes, even the Government and the ruling party.
Singaporeans will collectively decide what is best for this country and how best to do it.
No foreign body has that right, and certainly not with Singaporean’s blessing.
This commentary was written by Tay Leong Tan.