On 24th February, SunT’s headline on its regular column by SPH’s Managing Editor* screamed: “Who’s out of touch – our leaders or people?”. In slightly smaller lettering,” S’poreans have to also prove that they are not a mollycoddled lot who have forgotten the realities of making a living in this competitive world and how this country made it against the odds.”
It irritated me for three reasons. The obvious one is that S’poreans already know “the realities of making a living in this competitive world”: in the last few years, they have had to put up with minimal increases in real income, escalating property prices** and inflation caused in part by the government’s very liberal immigration policies, amidst turbulent economic conditions. The immigration policies that only now are being revised: not to reverse the situation, mind you, just to slow the growth of FTs from the cattle-truck load to a lorry-load. I didn’t say this, Grace Fu said this when she blasted WP’s plans to limit FTs.
The second reason is that he seems to have forgotten that the govt had already admitted that ordinary S’poreans neede income rises: the issue was how to achieve it. On 25 February, Tharman announced the Budget and he said later, “And if you can’t raise incomes for the average person, for the median household and for those at the lower end of the wage ladder, your society frays.”
The third reason, it irritated me is is the unspoken assumption (which he may not even realise he made) that S’poreans are not sovereign: we have to answer to a higher authority. And this authority grades us to see whether our views are acceptable or not. If not acceptable, go get locked up under ISA, is it Mr Managing Editor?
This assumption is best explained by Alex Au in this and Dr Jothie Rajah (the first wife of our Law Minister, according to Kum Hong)
It is here that Rajah brings up a novel point. Very often, the PAP in its defence alludes to how Singapore’s legal and political system is descended from Britain. This is used as yet another bullet point in support of ‘rule of law’ legitimacy. But she points out that in many ways, our laws are not descended from Britain. They are instead descended from colonial rule, and colonial rule is inherently illiberal. Colonial governments did not rule over citizens; they ruled over subjects. Colonial governors did not submit themselves to election nor permit much political contestation; they enacted laws such as the Internal Security Act and the Sedition Act meant to control rebellion, and they saw themselves as the enlightened and civilised few sent here to protect the natives who could not be trusted to see their own best interests, grasp the facts or even understand the complex issues of the day.
The examples she studied and presented in her book all have a similar character. She thus argues that
The nation-state has adopted the colonial legal regime in a manner that renders the nation-state a neo-colonising entity, subordinating and infantilising citizen-subjects.
Coming back to Mr Managing Editor: with an ally like this, the PAP and PM must be wondering, “Who needs enemies?”
*His picture reminds me of one of Philip K Dick’s Unusuals in “Our Friends from Frolix 8″. The Ususuals ruled the solar system.
**Mah Bow Tan even ensured that property prices flew in a recession.http://atans1.wordpress.com/2009/12/15/property-prices-mm-lee-is-too-modest/