Thursday, July 06, 2006

Les Cendres Du Temps

I am a Singaporean. Despite not being in Singapore most of the time. I remember when I was young. Watching the news until the very end. Then this little thrill will come into me as I mimic the newscaster's voice. When the weather is forecast : "Sunny over many areas of Singapore with scattered showers in some areas in the late afternoon". Sometimes they change "some" with "several". Then one day, they stopped forecasting the weather over the news. Perhaps weather is just not very news-worthy in Singapore.

I am a Singaporean. And today, a fellow Singaporean was dealt an unfair hand by the authorities and by the newspaper which hired him as a columnist. It is one of the many black days in Singapore history. And sadly, like the so many black days in Singapore, it will be forgotten.
Ashes of time.

I believe what Molly says is right.

"Accuse the government of being repressive and Molly believes someone would come out confidently, calmly and ever-authoritatively say that the government (if Bhavani's letter represents the government's position, that is) is only asserting its right of reply and, in fact, it didn't tell Today to suspend mrbrown."

This is precisely the problem in Singapore. What Mr Wang calls the climate of fear and a frightening day for journalists in Singapore.

"In my opinion, this reflects the frightening climate of fear under which media professionals in Singapore have to work."

Its worse than that actually.

In Singapore, mr brown has recourse to nobody. He is alone with only his family and close friends. Utterly alone. Despite the noise of blogos, despite the common Singaporeans screaming in cyberspace.

In our impassioned appeals across cyberspace, we forget that mr brown is just like you and me. Common Singaporeans with no access to the Government. We can scream. But our screams will only echo off the walls.

There are no civil rights, human rights, professional groups in Singapore which can take up his case. For that matter, no group will want to take up the matter. In the real real world which is Singapore.

It is instances like this that make Singaporeans leave. When they realise that in times when they are dealt unfairly by the Goliaths in Singapore. They cannot be Davids.

And the saddest in this tragedy is this; we will tell the soon-to-leave, "ok lor", "I understand", "Its sad but perhaps it is better".

This is the sorry state of Singapore. Of Singaporeans. When I, when we, can marshall no defence for someone who wants to leave.

And the Government will proceed efficiently. Wondering why Singaporeans have no love with the State. And coming up with more empty policies, empty promises to engage Singaporeans.

Molly asked for a phrophesy. She got Part 1. I offer PArt 2. In the National Day Rally speech, PM LEe Hsien Loong will in his smiling face talk homourously about the Internet. Claiming to understand, he will offer open-ness but with the qualifications. They will not tolerate the irresponsible views, the rants. He will not allow cyberspace opinion to overwhelm Singapore society. And the privileged audience in the National Day Rally will laugh with him.

There is nothing that can be done in Singapore. There will be no one who will dare stand up and say "TODAY and MICA, you have treated a Singaporean unfairly just because he spoke up".

In Singapore, the only recourse is Time. To turn this into ashes. Scattered across the uneasy consciousness of Singaporeans. Les cendres du temps.

There is freedom of speech in Singapore like Malaysia but not after. And the Singaporean is worse off because after he is silenced, there is no further recourse, unlike Malaysia which has greater vibrancy in the civil rights movement.

For those who owe their salaries, their livelihoods to Singapore Press Holdings. Remember that this is how the organisation will treat you.

For what it is worth, I second Mr Wang's call :

"If you feel strongly about this matter and are concerned about its implications for the freedom of expression in Singapore, you may wish to consider speaking up now and sending an email to media organisations overseas, so that they can follow up on the story. For your convenience:

New Straits Times (Malaysia):
South China Morning Post (Hong Kong):
Bangkok Post (Thailand): (editor's name is Kowit Sanandang)
News.Com.Au (Australia):
The Jakarta Post (Indonesia):

Remember to draw their attention to the RSF article above - they are likelier to detect the newsworthiness of this matter. And the greater the number of you who write to these organisations, the likelier they are to realise that this is a significant matter."

Last, I would like to make just one appeal to readers, to Singaporeans. Do not forget this black day like we always do.

Remember what has been done to a common Singaporean like you and me.

Just because he spoke.

Quote of the Day --

"Some of you have been asking, so here goes. I have been informed that TODAY has suspended my column. It has been a trying few days for me, my family, my mum and my friends. Thank you all for your emails, letters, calls, SMSes, blogs and comments, I don't know what to say. Thanks." -- Mr Brown


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess only PAP is right and citizens are wrong in these KIND of situation. These KIND of situation have repeated many times over the years.

What is more scarier is that PAP took the most popular blogger in Singapore to put on chopping block and use it to show as an example to everyone who wants to blog about politics. (Kai Dao: Open Knife)

It is a very good political move by PAP.It has increased the fear factor by many notches. We are back to the 70s & 80s again.

Most probably after this episode, there will be less activity on political blogs and Singaporeans will be apathetic again which PAP always 'advocates'.

Maybe Mr Brown might even fizzle out.

5:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This would not have happen if PAP did not politicise everything deem to their advantage.

PAP should not politicise the media.

I mean it is like PAP have politicise everything including NDP.

But why the need to politicise?

Is controlling Singaporeans right down to the bone that important and advantageous to PAP? Nothing more is important to them?

This would not have happen if the media was not politicise. The determination by PAP to control all things is scary.

They want to control but refuse to be responsible or apologetic when things go wrong is even scarier.

All we ordinary people can do is vote Opposition in every election even if the Opposition loses. I cannot think of any other way to make PAP eat humble pie.

Then no one would have the need to feel fear,tension and paranoid in their own homeland.

PAP has to be Opposition for some time for Singapore's culture and climate to change, that is the only way.

My vote is nothing but many votes is something.Please do not forget today's lesson even if PAP loosen control come GE 2011.

5:42 AM  
Anonymous Molly Murong Yan Meek said...

I remember the Wine of Forgetting is a bluff. People don't forget; they just act as though they have forgetton rather than bear the yoke of memory, hiding the pain under their flesh.

Even by gaining another self, we just turn schizophrenic.

(When) Would people finally confess their inability to forget their traumas?

6:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Impassioned defence of a man who once used crassness to bring his point across without considering the sensitivity of the times. It is funny how it took this incident to awaken the masses’ sense of indignation and injustice of something which they felt was unfairly meted out. Thousands of words, well-wishes and blessings have gone the way of the man who served to entertain rather than provoke thoughts.

I will put this forth cleanly and clearly. I have no sympathies for the man who has pushed his luck too far, believing in his own hype and tried circumventing the boundaries that have always been there. Political satire has its place in society, but when it is done out of selfish needs, greed and the greater desire for fame, it is hollow, insincere and an insult to the intelligence of the few who know how the Emperor is indeed naked. This man received his share of fame, and now that he has been put back in his place, he has become the martyr of the masses.

However, in adopting his stance of almost no-response – using a podcast as a form of feeble defiance as well as defence, it is part of his sly but weak strategy to garner the sympathies of thousands who believe there never was and there never would be anyone like him who spoke “for the people” or “represented the freedom of speech”. He has engineered the hoisting of his persona on the pedestal of martyrs by the masses. Or lemmings, frothing at their collective mouths, spewing some nonsense about boycotts, protests and printing of T-shirts.

Is he the best thing since sliced bread?

Is he fit to be a martyr?

Are there none before him?

Indeed, for all his satire, humour or whatever discourse that comes out of the podcasts, his sole agenda was fame and that with the moniker of being the “godfather of blogs” there was money to be made and fame to be milked for all its worth. A martyr whose agenda is self-serving is an insult to those who bled, suffered and died for noble causes.

There were those who perished during the turbulent 60s, 70s and 80s. There were many tales of injustice which were buried under the weight of time and would possibly die with those who carried them in their hearts. There was even a man who was incarcerated without a fair trial for decades which many had forgotten or choose to forget. He was a young man when he was put behind bars and left the prison only when he was graying, frail and feeble, having lost all of his youth fighting for a lost cause behind bars.

The masses have only the hunger for entertainment or to be tickled by senseless and one-dimensional jokes. Forget about whether they do understand what political satire is because in the first place, they choose not to know and they choose not to understand.

For one who is considered intelligent and smart, he should have the economic means to support his wife and three young kids. He owns a car and has, on several occasions, showed off the range of gadgets he acquired just for his podcasts. So together with a Mac he owns, why is there talk about donations? With the words he seemingly used in that offending column about the “rising cost of living”, are there no other worthy causes for monetary contributions, even for those without internet access, languishing in their one-room flats, or scavenging for aluminum cans at the food centres?

This example alone, the many calls to donate to this man, is indicative enough of how some simply do not think enough and are easily swayed if an entertaining form of rhetoric is repeated long enough in their ears.

With the clamours, the braying calls to action, the grand ideas of boycotts and many other chest-thumping wails, I await with bated breaths how they will make our world a better place. It will certainly be a joke if more believe in their own hype than they really should. - IRTCC

8:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isnt TODAY guilty of politicization of the issue and being partisan by dropping Mr Brown?

I mean Mr Brown gave some private opinions and PAP replied. End of story.

Let the people decide who is right and who is wrong.
Not PAP or Mediacorp.

There is no need to drop Mr Brown and make this issue a political fight between PAP and Anti-PAP.

In fact, it is Mediacorp who is politicising the whole issue. It is Mediacorp who is partisan.

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous has pointed out a very pertinent fact, that is political prisoners such as Chia Thye Poh and Lim Chin Siong have been imprisoned and broken by the Internal Security Act through idefinite detention without trial.

The PAP was able to maximise its total control of the press and main stream media to effectively put these PAP opponents out of the sight and hence out of the minds of the citizens. The propaganda machine constantly labelled them communists and in Chia's case said he would not renounce the use of violence (but did he ever declare it in the first place?)

Mr brown has emerged into the public eye because the internet and blogosphere has allowed him to connect to each one of us individually, to know him even though we do not know him personally. Through his blog, we see him as a human being, a father, son, husband and a Singaporean.

Lim Chin Siong and Chia Thye Poh were not connected to many of us, especially those born long after they were kept in detention. Hence, the empathy and tears about the injustices they bore could not be felt by the present generation.

The world is changing, just as Nelson Mandela was able to lead South Africa after apartheid was defeated, globalisation is starting to open up the minds of the present post 65 Singaporean generation to not only clamour to fight the injustice of today, but also to remember the injustices of yesterday.

I post this because I am a Singaporean.

So say we all.

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have heeded your call, XB. Some may wish to write to an Australian newspaper, The Age, as well.

They can be reached at

1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please suspend all the Pro PAP Journalists as well for being partisan and politicised.

There are train loads of them. Everyday churning out Pro PAP news until like PAP is God.

Paint Opposition like demons.

Please be fair in implementing laws(if any) and policy.

I can name some for you: Chua sisters, Loh Chee Kong, Aaron Low, Nicholas Fang etc.

Please suspend all of them as well.

9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel it too. I wished I could do something but I don't know how and what.

But, deep inside me, I know I ought to fight for the survival of me and every Singaporean who calls this red dot our country.

Our soul, our will and our convictions. Yet, they are so easily crushed without any viable defense.

These are times when one really wants to pack up and go.

I will forward this to the australian media.

3:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you've got some very interesting thoughts here...

these are dark times indeed.

im not a mr brown fanatic, i have great respect for LKY and the PAP, i love singapore. but im nonethless disgusted by the recent happenings.

everyone has a right to be heard, be it the govt or the individual. and being in power does not mean having the right to silence the opinions of others.

forgive me if im wrong, but isn't this a democratic society we're living in? however illiberal singapore's democracy is, i think this is taking a step too far, too far away from democracy. what democracy is there when the people do not even have the right to be heard?

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The PAP's insatiable thirst for absolute power is indeed unnerving. but what is even more horrifying are the actions executed to attain their goals. I deeply regret the suspension of Mr. brown’s column especially when it is gaining popularity fast and even succeeded in transcending academic and social borders such that jc students like myself have espoused his discursive rants as well as his political ravages.

The way I see it, it’s the PAP who’s afraid of our outspoken and daring generation which they ironically have tried so hard to mould. This should not be the case. Mr. brown is a classic example of a modern political maverick who has found means to package his views into humorous satires which are palatable to most layers of society.
His efforts should be lauded and definitely not guillotined by the government just because he’s “dirtying” the squeaky clean Colgate image of the PAP.

Absolute power brings about absolute corruption. Period.

Although the PAP keep’s insisting upon its purity and non-corruptibility, all I see is a spotless uniform. I am in total agreement with XB for the need of the undistorted truth. Till the day society realizes the need for the truth, we will continue to be shackled by the paralyzing fear of the ISA and reduced to writing mails to foreign medias.

I can only hope that more will find their way to this blog just as I did upon chance.

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you write like a MESSIAH

1:21 PM  
Blogger prettyplace said...

Good thing you did mr brown....albeit...a trying and your thoughts are much appreciated..keep going...

and what happened to that Dr guy...on a donation drive...for you....

It's about time things change.....i say..and will say...they will...they must....

I used to ask my father many years back ...why is Singapore like this( the system, just wasn't right enough).....must add...

... i had the opportunity to go abroad to study and also see other systems....the way they work through problems...

i have seen strikes......and also their picket fences..... their thoughtful governments.....their way of doing things ....

made me wonder and many of my friends stay put....

Every aspect of society is considered...and thoughtful plans brought forth with encompass the lot....which i hardly see here....

you make money....if you are morally volunteer...that's it...

.....No Spirit....At All....

...and may add...that they try to center it around some M(W)IW

very seldom...people have that here...and it's sad.....
And i dare say...the government the way is going.... will never be able to bring forth or forge A Singaporean Spirit....they can only fake it.....

somehow....with the net, i feel....that there are.... now people.. ...incognito, nevertheless.......with that Spirit....and

Thank You for bringing them togather with your cause.....

10:29 AM  

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