Thursday, August 26, 2004

*Letter to Today*

I hope this get published. I cannot abide by such 'well meaning people'

I read Mr. Jeffrey Law’s letter, “Good to register for Speaker’s Corner” with some measure of dismay because it is very disconcerting that he bases his argumentation for the registration on some very flawed assumptions.

To begin with, it seems rather odd that by not registering a speech and then proceeding physically in the full view of the public to deliver it is somehow not taking responsibility for it. The fact is that this method ensures a lot more responsibility than certain contributors to newsgroups who hide behind the anonymity of the Internet to deliver truly awful rubbish do. And even so, it must be noted that that a person’s arguments if lacking merit, would soon be picked apart by the more rational and thinking members of our society. Why then could this ‘free market of ideas’ not work in a similar fashion in the ‘real world’? It is precisely this exchange of ideas and points that have led to many a great advances, whether in electorate suffrage, science or civil liberties.

Just because a person disagrees with your views does not automatically make it wrong. It is just as possible that our views were made per incuriam i.e. on the basis of an error in knowledge. And when the facts change, we change our minds, that is how we learn.

Furthermore, it seems ludicrous to assume, as Mr. Law has seemingly done, that the rights to freedom of speech are absolute. No rights are and in Singapore we are very explicit on that. Other than the traditional legal recourses that are libel and slander, the fact is that it is a criminal offence to make racially or religiously insensitive comments or as PM Lee says ‘to incite a riot’ reflecting the traditional view Justice Holmes made that it is not alright to shout fire in a crowded theatre. Hence, what seeming fear should Mr. Law have of allowing people to speak without registration? If the topic is out of bounds, let either the people shout him down or the law to take custody of him than to stifle the freedom to speak.

In the same vein, if we are allow speaking at Hyde Park, why not let people of other nationality speak at our Speaker’s Corner? Even so, why should we make what is obviously a rather xenophobic statement which should cause no worry in any event, seeing as how society or the judiciary could always respond. Furthermore, just because they have ‘no obligation to support or reflect our multi-racial society and national objectives’, there is no direct causal link to them deciding that they should speak in direct contrast to these lofty aims. Even within this paragraph we see the internal contradictions and concessions made by Mr. Law. By claiming “non-Singaporean speakers, unlike our own people, may have their own agendas”, he is effectively conceding his earlier points. If Singaporeans can be assumed not to have their own agendas (which in and off itself is odd because without an agenda we would not know what to make of ourselves) then why worry about Singaporeans not registering to speak?

And the final paragraph by Mr. Law takes the cake. Here he displays the most awful form of discrimination by stating in black and white that a person’s background should have bearing on the public’s response to the logic, matter and outcome of his speech! Mr. Law has displayed a repugnantly paternalistic attitude, which assumes the part of the average person on the street, who cannot even distinguish between two differing arguments based on their own merit. Shame on you Mr. Jeffrey Law!


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