Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Imagi-Nation -- Singapore Space

There was once seven tiny islands in the south west of Singapore. Pulaus Ayer Chawan, Ayer Merbau, Merlimau, Pesek, Pesek Kecil, Sakra and Seraya. All these islands had names, they were not anonymous, Alfian has provided an exploration into these names, what they mean and perhaps, what they represent. In so doing, these islands retain some identity, some meaning instead of being empty places. These seven tiny islands were amalgated, refilled to become one big space. One big island. Jurong Island.

In so doing, the histories of the seven little islands, with the formation of Jurong Island, have become pre-history. Preludes to the birth of Jurong Island. Jurong Island is a new space made from several small spaces. It even has a place in cyberspace. If you visit the site, it purports to tell you the history of Jurong Island. The historical narrative is indicative of Singapore's treatment of space :

On the scarcely populated islands of Pulau Ayer Chawan, Pulau Ayer Merbau, Pulau Seraya and Pulau Merlimau, the villagers continued to live a simple and sun-kissed lifestyle. As late as the 1960s, they lived in Malay-style wooden stilt houses on their palm-fringed islands.

This is the history of the seven islands. Rendered into the timeless native-savage narrative. Timeless and mythical. They lead simple and sun-kissed lives. They lived in wooden stilt houses in palm-fringed environments. The Malay archetype which is often re-affirmed in newer lexicons by the official narrative again and again. An issue which will probably require another new entry. The historical narrative proceeds to mention the arrival of three multi-national petro-chemical companies into this cluster of islands. A seamless entry into the simple space. And then :

With these pioneers of Singapore's petroleum industry in place, it became logical that when the chemical industries was identified in 1980 as an industry cluster capable of contributing significantly to the economic growth of Singapore, amalgamation of the islands in forming Jurong Island, become the natural choice for the development of a petrochemical hub.

This is the pivotal paragraph in the historical narrative. A few discursive things have happened. The MNCs are "in place", almost meaning that their claim of the space is divine, pre-ordained. And when they were in place, something "logical" happened. It becomes "logical", it becomes a "natural choice" that the seven islands be amalgated into Jurong Island. To contribute to greater Singapore. The historical narrative proceeds to list the formation of Jurong Island. The same themes you will undoubtedly find in the history textbooks of Singapore.

What has happened to the simple and sun-kissed villagers? Left to our imagi-nation.

Space in Singapore often undergoes such shifts. And when such shifts occur, it is not merely the physical space that is altered. The discursive space, which includes history, culture, the social, also undergoes changes. Very often, the alteration of the discursive space follows the narrative structure employed in the pre-history of the seven tiny islands. The creation of a Casino space is such, the creation of GRCs is such. It is "logical" and there is a "need" to change the space, alter the boundaries because it is natural in Singapore. The GRC system remains unexplored in its spatial effects. How this system has irrevocably(?) altered political space in Singapore. It re-defined Singapore space and it was logical and a natural choice given our multi-ethnic make-up.

The ghosts of the seven tiny islands whisper to us, we suffered this fate first.

There once was a space and place identified by the name of Anson. It had a colorful history. It has a definite place in Singapore's political history. But it is lost already. Physically reclaimed into a GRC. Until today, I have never really understood where is Anson physically. Discursively however, Anson still has resonances. The first constituency to break PAP preponderance of political power. The political "home" of JBJ. It is a place that is not as silent, not as silenced, as the seven little islands.

Land in Singapore is not expensive. What is priceless in Singapore is the power to name the space, to give the space its discursive character. Its identity, so to speak. This is a political power, the power of Naming. In my previous entry, I touched on this. This power fixes your identity. Gives you the reference point in the coordinates of Singapore Space. This is why places like Potong Pasir and Hougang are so "expensive" that the PAP dangled tens of millions of dollars to buy them back.

This fixation with reclaiming this two political spaces have blinded the Government. I use Government deliberately. Its blinded to the fact that people in the two places hold citizenship to Singapore. They are not the mythic political savages in an imaginary land. The Government cannot overlap this desire to achieve Naming power with the propensity to disown the citizens in the two places. It is not right. It is not ethical. It is not good governance. So I personally appeal to my kind readers, Singaporeans local or overseas, whenever you can, whatever opportunities you have, keep referring to these two places in the discursive space of Singapore, keep them alive. There is a deliberate silence on the two places now. To be forgotten until the next GE. To be "punished" until they yield. This is simply unjust.

And we move on with this rambling discourse on space in Singapore. In the past maybe ten to fifteen years, a new space was opened up in Singapore. Cyber space. Like all space in Singapore, the Government seeks to have preponderance in it. First, it was regulations, now it is management. Mr Wang, as usual, pinpoints with accuracy the subtext behind newly minted MP Denise Phua's remarks on Net discourse and the obstinate adherence to the dominating logic. It will fail as usual when the Government seeks to colonise cyber-space whether with regulatory regimes or more accurately, surveillance regimes.

The failure to understand can be summarised thus. The Government has successfully depoliticised most spaces in Singapore. Physical space and discursive space, represented by the mainstream media, has been cleansed. Has been rendered stable environments. There is a culture of mimicry, remember that story of the city of mimics? Now they seek to manage the cyber space. To render it stable, fixed and predictable. Make it logical. Make us mimics. Coming from such an angle, it will safely fail.

Until they see that cyber-space is what it is because of how they have managed physical and discursive space so far, how they have de-politicised space in Singapore, they will not succeed. The reflection in cyber space can only really change when the physical and discursive space is altered. Cyber space is not an isolated space to be managed. They fail to see Singaporeans in Singapore cyber space as same physical beings in physical Singapore. And that is truly sad.

There once were little pockets of islands in Singapore cyber space. Islands called Sintercom, Think Center, soc.culture.singapore, try as they might, Logic could not reclaim these islands into one big island. As the ocean beds shifted, more and more little islands appeared and what a pretty and vibrant place Singapore cyber space became. Imagi-Nation.

Quote of the Day --

"This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference." -- Edward R Murrow, RTNDA Convention Chicago, Oct 15, 1958


Anonymous Anonymous said...

oi dats quote 4m good night good luck right??? good movie, our journalists shud watch it

8:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually your analysis on denise phua is very accurate. Its a fine point; she wants a more balanced Internet etc etc but she does not see or refuses to believe that the Internet opinion is but a manifestation of the sterilisation procedures in our physical world and in the newspapers. And instead of asking herself how this is so, her only reaction is to control/manage control/manage control/manage. Make the Internet medium like the physical world of Sg. Sterile and empty. Is she the woman from Mircosoft? It would explain alot.

11:51 PM  
Anonymous Parkaboy said...

Nice one, Xenoboy, keep them coming.

1:44 AM  
Blogger *The Lunatic Fringe* said...

Denise Phua is not the Microsoft lady - Microsoft lady is Jessica Tan. This is Denise's brief bio taken from

"Denise Phua is a full-time volunteer serving as
President of the Autism Resource Centre (Singapore) or ARC. She also serves as School Supervisor/Acting Principal of Pathlight School, the
first autism-focused school in Singapore. Her role is to lead and direct a team of volunteers and
professional staff to deliver quality services to the special needs (autism) community. The group also aspires to identify critical issues and execute world class initiatives with government and public to shape a future Singapore where no disabled people, physical or otherwise, are left behind."

The PAP's success in controlling an entire population and country for 40 years has led them to continue in their unrealistic view that the can "control/manage" the internet. Just as Al Gore did not invent the internet, the PAP will be cutting off the very lifeline of Singapore's connection to the globalised internet connections with the rest of the world that allows electronic commerce, communications and trade.

Increasing the newer PAP MPs show themselves really to have left independent thinking on the doorstep, zombies who venture into the real world with only one objective, to perpetuate the PAP system of soft totalitarianism.

Increasingly, citizens are starting to realise that these zombies are in our midst, and it is becoming more obvious that while it is the year 2006, we are living in the world of George Orwell's 1984.

7:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

date: 05/26/06

from: Yap Keng Ho
to: Soh Kee Hean -director Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau

subject: Request for Investigation – Corrupted Practice concerning General Election 2006

I took part in GE2006 as Election Agent for candidate Chee Siok Chin of Sembawang GRC wef 10.May.2006, I am also a voter of Tampines GRC, but I am requesting CPIB for an investigation as a member of public. I was prepared to stand for the same election myself but I lack some assenter for the nomination. I am sure you are already aware that miss Chee Siok Chin had already filed complain to Election Judge under parliamentary election act asking for the election to be declared as invalid.

May I bring to your attention that there is possible corrupted practice in GE2006, in that Lee Hsien Loong both as Rep of Singapore PM cum Finance Minister & GE2006 candidate have committed himself in VOTE BUYING during GE2006.

This is in particular through the Progress Package by which voters of entire Singapore had been arranged to receive money payable on 1.May.2006 just few days before the polling. Over a million voters and or their family members had received money ranged from hundreds to thousands of dollars, just days before they had to cast their votes.

This inevitably have the strongest effect of VOTE BUYING, in favor to the ruling party which Lee Hsien Loong and his father Lee Kuan Yew are both belong to, and both stood as candidates for GE2006.

Lee Hsien Loong being the finance minister & Rep of Singapore PM proposed and implemented the Progress Package, through which voters are given S$2.6 billion in total sum, and he is the PM who is almost the only person who can initiate the dissolve of parliament and call for election. And that the dates of withdrawing the Progress Package and the polling day are only apart by less than a week, so the arrangement that voters are given the handout of S$2.6 billion just before casting their vote have to be the intention of Lee Hsien Loong.

The criminal intention of vote buying is further affirmed by Lee Hsien Loong himself in his public statement during the election period as reported by the media that he talked about "fixing the oppositions" and "buying the votes". Please refer to affidavit filed by Chee Siok Chin.

I plea your firm and thorough investigation regarding possible vote buying crime committed by Lee Hsien Loong, and any possible involvement by his father Mentor Lee Kuan Yew in this General Election. Please assure me that your investigation will be fair and of integrity despite the fact that Lees are your direct superiors. CPIB is law enforcement bureau and no one should be above the law. I plea with you to act accordingly to uphold justice and equality.

I request you also to publicly announce your findings after investigation.

As I understand as long as there is any criminal intent an action committed especially involving huge sum of money paid to voters when candidates including Lee Hsien Loong himself stand to be voted and return to power, it is to be regarded strictly as a crime. I believe that many individuals had been charged in Singapore based on their criminal intents, and in Singapore's court it is the accused person's burden to prove that he / she is innocent while being presumed as guilty.

The fact that the S$2.6 billion is not private fund, but entrusted in the care of Lee Hsien Loong under his capacity as PM cum Finance Minister, show that he is in position with the most ability to abuse this fund for the electoral gain of his ruling party PAP as well as his father and himself. This is the fact that had disturbed me the most.

Acting for myself according to my conscience for fairness; justice & equality, I made this request to you as director of Corrupted Practices Investigation Bureau to perform your official duty according to law and constitution of our republic.

Thank You,


11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

your writing is brilliant.

9:17 AM  

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