PM Lee has decided to take Roy Ngerng to court over the issues of CPF and allegations of criminal misappropriations. Is that the right thing to do? This post examines the issue from two dimensions: Moral and Tactics
Is suing Roy morally right?
A lot of people view that it is not right for PM to sue Roy because it is a bullying tactic. It is reminiscent of old PAP tactics where political opponents are silenced and bankrupted with libel suits. Which equates to a loss of democracy and freedom of speech.
I believe that PM is on the moral high ground to sue Roy for accusing him of criminal misappropriations. The case is clear-cut. Roy has no proof, and this is shown by how he “took down” the offending postings. If Roy had a strong case with proof, he wouldn’t take his postings down, not when he is prepared to go to court. If what Roy said is true, then where are the heavyweight opposition party leaders that would be ready to back him up? It is also important to note that Roy has been posting for years, but was only served notice recently. Why? Because there’s a fine line between criticising the Government and accusing someone of being a criminal.
But should PM have been the “better man” and not sued anyway? There are people who think PM should not be suing under any circumstances. I find this puzzling. Is it right to allow anyone to say whatever they like about our leaders without repercussion? Especially when we expect our leaders to be morally upright people that lead by example? Shouldn’t a line be drawn somewhere to define what is unacceptable speech? If it is ok to accuse PM of misappropriating CPF funds, it is ok to call PM a racist? A rapist? An unfaithful husband? Someone who murders his political opponents? We cannot be encouraging people to accuse others of anything they like. Surely there is a point where it is reasonable to defend yourself. Everyone should be allowed fair protection under the law.
Freedom of speech comes with responsibility of speech. It is a lesson we teach our children when they are young enough to learn. Don’t say stuff that you can’t back up with proof. The burden of proof is always on the accuser.
Is suing Roy tactically right?
Many people have said that PM has more to lose than to gain by suing Roy. Just look at the number of online blogs and comments that ignore the issue of criminal misappropriation and zoom in on the perception of bullying. The tale of David vs Goliath is an enticing one. President Obama gets all kinds of crazy accusations from hardcore Republicans, yet you don’t see Obama suing all this people.
So did PM gained more than he lost? Here is my perspective.
To begin with, it is important to note that politics in Singapore is the battle for the middle ground. About one-third of Singaporeans will always be anti-PAP, while one-third are PAP loyalists. So the real question is whether the remaining one-third of Singaporeans living in the middle ground are swayed by PM’s actions.
I humbly submit that PM may have done something right this time. If you observe the blogosphere and Facebook reactions over the past few days, there have been quite a number of posts defending the CPF (or at least clarifying that Roy has seriously mis-interpreted the CPF). In my view, this kind of activity is almost unheard of in online history. Online reactions that are somewhat supportive of PAP policy (as opposed to jumping on the anti-PAP wagon) are as rare as solar eclipses. For more proof, check out the links on singaporedaily.net over the past 2 weeks. If we take this level of support, and compare it against vitriol when PAP launched the population white paper and makes changes to ERP or public transport fares, we can see that it is a world of difference. That has to mean something, doesn’t it?
I think the PM was also smart to target Roy. Roy’s one-sided argument about the CPF has painted himself as a dangerous element that is trying to incite anger by selectively manipulating his words and statistics. In one stroke, he has unfairly painted the entire spectrum of opposition supporters in a bad light. His “funny business” of taking down his postings when he didn’t really do so, smacks of childishness and mischief. (He made the posts private and sent links to the foreign media.)
So this episode may not have been entirely to PM’s loss. Opposition supporters can cry foul all day long, but what really matters is the net result to the middle ground. Sure, there will still be people who have a bad taste in their mouth due to the perception of bullying, and there will still be people who think they can manage their CPF returns better than government. But it is still bad news for opposition supporters when the Facebook feeds of the middle ground light up with arguments shared by friends that defend PM and the CPF.