Opposition ask for high premium, but cannot deliver: DPM Teo

This, to act as checks and balances against the ruling party in the event the PAP falters, noted Mr Low.

But the PAP’s 2nd Assistant Secretary-General, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, said the opposition is asking the people to pay a high premium, for something it cannot deliver.

Belgium has been unable to form a government for the past 297 days due to the presence of too many political parties.

Britain and Australia both have weak coalition governments, unable to take major decisions for the future.

In citing these examples, Mr Teo noted that the “insurance policy” of having strong opposition presence has not worked in delivering a government capable of making long-term decisions.

“By the opposition’s own admission, if you ask them, are you ready to form a government? Show me, where’s your Cabinet, who’s going to be it, they say, no no, we’re not ready. So what they’re asking you to do, is pay a very high premium, for a so-called insurance, which when you have to call that insurance, they can’t deliver.”

Mr Teo was speaking at a media conference to introduce the latest batch of new candidates.

See also: Teo Chee Hean and his nonsense

PAP, SDP video saga: TODAY readers respond

Source: Todayonline Apr 27, 2011

A storm of controversy has erupted over the Vincent Wijeysingha YouTube video (picture) saga, with well over 200 Internet posts on TODAY’s online forums as well as several letters sent by readers to the newspaper.

The bulk of the responses expressed varying degrees of dismay with the People’s Action Party (PAP) team for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, and Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in particular, for what many perceived as “smear tactics” and “below the belt” tactics.

On Monday, the PAP team had issued a statement about the video and asked if the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) was pursuing a gay agenda – a claim the Opposition party has categorically denied.

TODAY reader Lisa Li, writing late that same night, expressed sadness over “the appearance of such gutter politics”.

“I am keen to elect politicians who are able to articulate sound, thoughtful and diverse views for discussion on any number of issues in Parliament, regardless of whether I agree with them or not,” she said.

todayonline.com forum user ‘Gosh!!!’ said: “Is Vivian Balakrishnan playing a dangerous political card? I (worry) such a tactic is going to divide this supposedly inclusive society. I hope PAP can … steer away from adopting such a dangerous game.

TODAY was told Dr Balakrishnan could not respond by press time “as he was involved in a meeting with his GRC team and grassroots leaders and volunteers at Ulu Pandan”.

There were, however, those who felt that the it was pertinent to question the SDP’s stand on homosexuality and Section 377A, the law which criminalises sex between men.

One reader, using the name “Matthew Tan”, posted on todayonline.com: “You want to be gay – that is your private and personal business. But if you want to use the Parliament to propagate gay-ism … that is another matter.”

Another reader, “Matt”, posted: “I am against gay rights like gay marriage … I do not want the party I vote in to fight for this cause. I want to hear directly from (SDP candidates) Dr Ang Yong Guan, Ms Michelle Leea and Mr Tan Jee Say on what they feel on this matter.”

Others, like Ms Vinita Ramani, were concerned that the furore threatened to reignite deep seated social divisions.

The storm was also felt elsewhere on the Web and social media – including Dr Balakrishnan’s Facebook page, where comments posted by irate netizens early yesterday appeared to have been deleted.

Fresh comments, however, were spotted last night, urging the Minister to apologise for making “misleading comments”.

Several comments posted on todayonline.com suggested that, if Dr Balakrishnan had asked direct questions from the start – instead of “hinting” and using “innuendo” – it would have been more palatable.

The issue began at the weekend when Dr Balakrishnan flagged a “certain YouTube video” as raising awkward questions regarding the SDP’s agenda and motivation.

On Monday, his Holland-Bukit Timah GRC team in a joint statement revealed it to be a clip showing Dr Wijeysingha at a forum “that discussed the promotion of the gay cause in Singapore”.

They raised the question of whether Dr Wijeysingha would “pursue this cause in the political arena”, asking for the SDP’s position. The SDP responded with an unequivocal “no”, calling on Dr Balakrishnan to “not adopt smear tactics”.

Netizens also took issue with the PAP team highlighting that the videotaped forum had touched on the subject of sex with boys and whether the age of consent should be 14 years of age.

“This is a very misleading description,” said Ms Lisa Li, noting that the speaker – lawyer M Ravi – had been referring to the situation in other countries, and there was no discussion on whether Singapore’s age of consent should be lowered.

Another reader Nicholas Lim described the apparent “attempt to portray Dr Wijeysingha as a proponent for legalised sex with boys” as mischievous.

However, another reader posted online: “(Dr Wijeysingha) was in the audience. I would have been assured and comforted if he had expressed his disapproval” on this topic.

Echoing this view, netizen ‘Jimmy’ wrote: “If SDP’s candidate is pursuing a gay agenda, voters need to know.”

Lawsuit threats put muzzle on diverse views

by Braema Mathi

MARUAH, a human rights organisation, is concerned over the Prime Minister’s approach in demanding an apology and removal of the article and subsequent posts on the Action Information Management (AIM) and Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC) matter on Mr Alex Au’s website.

These demands were made under threat of a defamation suit (“Blogger Au to remove post after PM Lee takes legal action”; Jan 5). In the recent past, defamation suits by political leaders have exacted high monetary compensations from the affected individuals.

As the AIM-AHTC matter is an issue of national interest, threatening a defamation suit at this juncture on the matter is, firstly, untimely. It is not calibrated to meet the need for deeper discussions on what is seen as an issue with many unanswered questions.

The Prime Minister’s action will have the attendant chilling effect on public debate and increase the cynicism among the citizenry at a time when there seems to be more political space for interaction, which will not always remain sane and palatable.

This defamation threat is also regrettable as there are avenues – Parliament, mainstream media, social media – available to politicians to address the AIM-AHTC matter and let the facts speak for themselves.

Secondly, Law Minister K Shanmugam recently likened defamation to stealing one’s reputation. We say that reputation is not property that can be stolen or reinstated with defamation suits and monetary compensation alone. Anyone defamed does not automatically have his/her honour reinstated because an apology and/or compensation had been secured.

Reputation is an issue of honour that can and should be protected by encouraging open, robust and transparent debates.

There must also be a case to show the ill-will was highly prejudicial, based on malice and/or baseless.

Defamation suits in themselves are limiting and political figures, more than anyone else, will remain vulnerable to aspersions; it will be the merits of the case that will speak volumes. In this case, the AIM-AHTC matter merits a thorough sharing of information by both the ruling and opposition parties.

Thirdly, Singaporeans are discerning and capable of discarding baseless and nonsensical views. What is important is to develop higher thresholds of dealing with diverse views expressed in myriad ways and to use the available avenues to right one’s reputation.

We, the Government and public, are on a journey towards greater political space. Threats of defamation suits can silence discussions of national interest, freeze our expressions and stunt our growth. That would be the greater pity.