Recently Pope Francis reminded us that freedom of expression was a "fundamental human right" like freedom of religion, but one that must be exercised "without giving offense."
So why are we in Singapore restricted by laws that do not allow us to gather or express our views without applying for permits?
The ruling party and government are not backward in trumpeting their successes; not the least of which is educating Singaporeans and developing the economy?
Why deny that we have matured in these 50 years by keeping laws that can be used on anyone who speaks up?
Is our government “all mouth and trousers” (sometimes this is also expressed as “all mouth and no trousers”)?
Personally, I find it downright insulting to be treated as if we were children or sub-normal.
Mainland China set the speed record in the race from huts on dirt to landmark architecture and has taken its place as one of the major economies in the world.
China is beyond dispute a much bigger country and has diverse geography, ethnic groups, dialects and cultures that often share little in common with each other. This makes governing it a herculean task.
And yet their people generally have a greater degree freedom of expression than in many self-styled democratic countries.
A recent piece in the New York Times by Murong Xuecun questions the even-handedness of President Xi’s anti-corruption drive.
Few in our country openly attach their names to overt criticism for fear of being hauled over the coals by senior government officials in our MSM. Or, worse, hauled into court in Singapore.
This only drives irate or frustrated Singaporeans online or to tap into the grapevine, both of which do a job of disseminating real or imagined peccadillos or shortcomings of prominent people.
Isn't it worrying that people in Singapore believe in messages, texts, emails, posts on social media and word-of-mouth rumours - often over our mainstream media reports?
But the MSM sometimes has itself to blame for being slow with the news and information.
And as the main bearer of good news for Singapore it’s not surprising that they have bored readers into reducing their subscriptions or eliminating them altogether.
My grouse with the daily ST and Sunday Times is that they still have not managed to suspend (even though they are one of the few newspaper companies that do not extend one’s subscription period or credit one’s account for suspended home delivery) our newspapers when we are away.
Anytime you wish to see the emails that have been exchanged since 2011 I would happily send them to you.
A pile of unclaimed newspapers surely signals that the occupants of the home are away? I’d be livid if I lived in a terraced or other type of rather than a condominium as it would show anyone passing by that the home is left unattended – might as well display a flashing sign that says,”rob us, rob us!”
The inability of getting little things right should worry all of us. One reads about it too often – obviously training, supervision and follow up are overlooked as long as the boxes are ticked off.
There’s no doubt that our government has done us a lot of good and continues to do so. But that does not absolve them from being accountable, open and honest.
The earlier generations of leaders may have preferred to be feared than loved, but governing this way is going out of style.
Sometimes I feel that Singaporeans’ acceptance of the way things work here is due to ignorance or plain old conditioning. I wonder if fear (fear of the unknown, fear of the government, fear of loss) is gradually diminishing as people are better educated, travel widely and do not perceive external threats from occupation or war.
Luckily, our tiny country has managed to dodge the darts of ill fortune and the undertow of political currents manifest elsewhere. But for how long more?
And for how long are we going to enjoy the support of our big and powerful allies if our usefulness to their causes is in any way offset by changes in our circumstances?
We are often called a kindergarten, a nanny state. These terms persist although we are a few generations removed from the urgent need to impose such order on our people.
Maybe, in keeping with the times, our government should update itself on modern trends in child raising?
In any event, spending much time away from Singapore helps to get things into proper perspective.
Occupy Central would never have happened in Singapore. Perhaps, the ring leaders would have been detained and the movement nipped in the bud.
In any event, it happened in Hong Kong and what we thought might blow over in a few days lasted about three months.
We experienced the beginning and the end and thus were spared the long and exasperating period of planning our daily trips, taking the MTR and doing a lot more walking than usual.
The exercise was an unintended benefit for most except those who had breathing or mobility problems.
The unsung heros were the men and women who worked the MTR and pulled extra duties. They were joined by former colleagues who came out of retirement to help during the crisis so that the heavy passenger loads could be eased by running trains at greater frequency – without fuss, inconvenience or breakdowns.
No one made a big deal of this although the general populace was well aware of what was happening – as they were of the men and women in the police force.
Only near the end of OC did the South China Morning Post publish (Dec 7, 2014):
“An outpouring of support for the police - driven by their front-line and often controversial role in the Occupy Central protests - has seen close to HK$10 million donated to support officers in the past month.
Officially, the force remains tight-lipped about the amount raised both internally and externally. But according to informed sources, cash donated by serving officers since a special fund was set up in October, added to the amount raised through a public fundraising drive that ends today, brings the total amount donated close to eight figures.
The fund was set up by two unions to support officers whose livelihoods were affected by the Occupy Central protests.
However, it is unclear how the cash will be spent, as relatively few officers have suffered directly as a result of the protests.”
Support for the forces was posted on web sites and in round robin emails.
These are recent samples of the messages posted on the Police’s web site: http://www.police.gov.hk/ppp_en/03_police_message/appcorner.html
The Hong Kong people also deserve to be given credit for being so patient even though they held decidedly strong views, most of them opposing the disruption to their daily lives and businesses.