11. November 2011

Selective perception Singapore style

Glitzy Singapore makes you happy as long as you don´t ask too many questions. You shouldn´t ask "What have Ai Wei Wei and Chee Soon Juan in common?", for example. These days the two government-approved English language newspapers are commenting at length on the way China tries to silence dissident artist Ai WeiWei by prosecuting him with accusations of tax fraud. He has been jailed and may have to face bankruptcy.

This pattern rings a bell with the critical observer of politics in sanitized Singapore. The same fate endured opposition politician J.B. Jeyaretnam and Chee Soon Juan in Singapore during the 80ies and the 90ies, the latter until now. He was declared bankrupt in 2006 which bars him from candidating for Parliament. Although the government claims that things have changed, freedom of expression is still alien to Singapore.

In October the Liberal International awarded Chee Soon Juan the 2011 LI Prize for Freedom. He shares this privilege with eminent freedom fighters like Aung San Suu Kyi and Vaclav Havel. Singaporeans are eager to be the best in all fields. The smallest recognition is dealt with in the media. To risk your life, your health and your career for freedom seems to be excluded. None of the Singaporean media mentioned the award. As a Singaporean you better excel in less risky fields like sports or entertainment to become the news of the day.

Photo: www.sdp.org (Singapore Democrats), 25 October 2011