Singaporeans are indeed bonkers

Posted on 19 June 2011

If they allow Tan Cheng Bock to succeed in his bid to become elected president.

By Belmont Lay

A GERMAN variety show recently came to the tongue-firmly-in-cheek conclusion that Singaporeans are bonkers based on our quirks.

But that really is not a big deal because that was a satire, it was meant to be funny and wait until you get a load of this: Presidential hopeful Tan Cheng Bock supported the detention of the so-called Marxists conspirators in 1987 and he wants you to vote him for president this year.

Even when he hasn’t come clean about his true feelings regarding what he knew then and what he knows now about what is perhaps one of Singapore’s reigning undemocratic practices of the 20th century.

However, according to him, he had good reasons for supporting the arrests — based on the known facts THEN.

For the uninitiated, the 1987 capture, detention and subsequent release of 24 individuals was based on the suspicion that this group of so-called “Marxists” were subversives and a threat to national security bent on destabilising the government.

Recently, The Online Citizen ran a video interview with Tan about this issue, in which he said: “And I think at that point of time all the facts that were given to us were from the government source (emphasis mine)”

“And to check it out actually, as the feedback chief, I went to the people. And I presented the case to the people. And they all agreed based on what was given then, the facts and so on, that they felt that the security then was being threatened.”

He continued: “Rightly or wrongly we believed that was so because that was just from the facts of the day then.”

“And at that point of time I stand by what I said because that was the facts of the day given to us. And I thought this issue was already settled by the court… the ISD didn’t actually abuse their role.”

Let’s count the number of times he emphasised “the facts” of the day back in ’87: No less than four occasions.

And how many times did he mention the natural harbinger of doom? He said “facts… from the government” once.

But are we scapegoating him by singling him out and putting so much pressure on him to speak honestly about this case?

As far as I can tell, no, because he was the one who is putting himself out there as presidential hopeful and inviting public scrutiny in the first place.

And if you’re going to counter with the argument saying that hindsight vision is 20/20 and Tan was just doing his job as a PAP member of parliament, and it is easy to look back and say what went wrong with perfect retrospective knowledge, well, you’ve just uncovered a paradox, baby, because you’re missing the point — while getting it at the same time.

SINCE hindsight vision IS supposedly 20/20, aren’t we at the perfect juncture to resolve old problems and heal uncovered wounds based on what we know now?

And aren’t we getting ahead of ourselves if we want to talk about the FUTURE presidential elections, when we haven’t even revised our knowledge and come to terms with the past?

Especially when it is clear that the facts of the day, back in ’87, are severely lacking in light of what we can uncover now?

Because what people want to hear is whether Tan can say with the same amount of conviction and confidence that the arrests were justified then, as well as now.

And if he can’t, is it because the ISD cannot be celebrated openly as a key institution of Singaporean triumphalism, whereby quasi-democratic principles have ensured our national security endured?

Or is it because the case of the Marxist conspiracy was dodgy at best to begin with?

But if he honestly (or rather naively) thinks that this issue can be buried, he must be mad.

Which would then probably explain why he is running for president in the first place.

And if he really does win it, then we as Singaporeans are truly crazy-assed.

And the Germans weren’t that far off to being with.

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  • notdaft

    So here’s the question. If TCB said if elected as president, he intends to pardon” and clear the names of the marxists detainees (ie. to do right what’s wrong judgment then – which i believe even good pple can get hookwinked by their own internal system”) then would you still vote for him?

    And the next question to ask then : will the 6 wise men council approve or override him?

  • Alan Wong

    I thought the issue about OTC asking for detailed account of our reserves that we have is rather the attitude of the PAP govt of the day in not being able to give him a satisfactory response and sort of telling him off to mind his business. If they don’t even want to be transparent to the President, how can we expect the PAP govt to be transparent to us ?

    Remember we are constantly reminded that the President has a duty to jealously guard our reserves against any possible misuse, but isn’t it odd that in reality, the President don’t even know exactly what he is guarding really ? If our President don’t even have a original list with frequent updates, how on earth can he tell whether any particular item forming our reserves has disappeared from his guard ?

    Supposing LKY or Ho Ching or any appointed officer decided to syphon off some of our reserves or sell off some items which forms part of our reserves to cover some investment losses, will our sleeping President be any wiser if he/she knows next to nothing about our reserves ? As it is, some of our reserves might be under the name of certain proxies only known to a very select few but who is really there to serve as a check ?

  • Patrick Seong

    “And I thought this issue was already settled by the court… the ISD didn’t actually abuse their role.”

    If by “issue”, TCB meant the ISD was cleared by the court in a finding that they did not abuse their power, then I am afraid the Presidential-hopeful is very much mistaken.

    To put it very simply, what the Singapore court did was to confine itself to the letter of the law (in this case the ISA) and said that its role was to ensure that, on the face of it (repeat: on the face of it) the Singapore government was acting in the interest of national security. The court will not question whether the Minister or the govt was in fact acting out of national security interest. So, if the Minister swore an affidavit that he so acted, and that he had advised the President that he had so acted, that is a conclusive statement of “facts” for the purposes of those habeas corpus proceedings that the detainees mounted.

    After the detainees were released between 1987 and 1988, they issued a joint statement alleging ill-treatment during their detentions in May 1987. It is important to remember that the detainees were released because the ISD and the government (in particular the Minister for Home Affairs) had decided that the detainees were sufficiently “rehabilitated” (an odious word) and were no longer a security threat. And just because of this statement, the released detainees were detained again in 1988 under the ISA. In other words, the issuance of a joint press statement was considered a threat to national security.

    Because of the nature of the habeas corpus proceedings, and the conservative approach adopted by the Singapore court, the court did not at any time look into the statements made by the detainees that they were physically and mentally assaulted. The courts also made no finding that the ISD did not “abuse their role”.

    TCB should get his “facts” straight if he wants to be taken seriously.

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  • Kueh Chap

    Dear Mr Lay,

    Appreciate your comments about TCB’s “mis-step”, but I’m still going to vote TCB!!

    Cannot judge a man’s 31 year record of speaking for the people on one incident lor… He spoke up for us man, against streaming, lesser foreign talent, more C class hospital beds. many things lah. Even my relative have gone to Uni education because he gave us CPF for education! When he tolk about all this, kennah whack by GKS, LKY, and cabinet! Of the 3 candidate he got long time record speaking for the people, others can ‘say’ only they will speak for us, but who can ‘show’ for so long? Got staying power man… reliable lah. TT and TKL only now then tolk.

    going back to MC. If thats what the people thought then thats what he should report as feedback chief. How can dilute??? But he also said “upstanding citizens” did not believe, this is also feedback of the minority view. So his feedback got balance balance! Wahlau, how can you leave that out???? I find out more about TCB, i like him more man… blog a bit luan tho…

    Aiyah, if you want justice go after the cabinet at the time lor, they made decision to arrest. And if TCB did believe then thats what he believed. I remember auntie unlce at the time also believed (i kid lah, overhear parents…). They believe man! At the time, cold war, insurgancy in latin america, asia and africa common, i think people give benefit of doubt. Like now everything link to Bin Laden, oo nia bo???? cannot be one!!! I’m sure we arrested some innocents for terrorism, 10 year from now Mas Salamat innocent we all bang balls siah! Wasted an olympic swimmer! See, even now i believe he terrorist, but really, Gahmen only tell us one… }%^{&:$$:)!?, make me sweat we could all be fools. We have all believe error before lah. Judge the man by his overall, not one incident. He has spoken up for us long long time.

    Kueh Chap