S’pore Inc: A rare victory and why is it so rare

In Uncategorized on 18/12/2010 at 10:41 am

It seems that the unhappiness felt by native-born S’poreans as articulated by the SingNetizens has resulted a reversal of what many perceived to be a key govmin policy: swamping the place with foreigners. There has been a sharp slowdown in foreigners getting citizenship and PR. (Though it would be interesting to see if the number of applicants have dropped.)

But assuming the number of applicants have not dropped, it would seem that shouting loud enough peacefully when a GE is looming,  the govmin has to listen whether it likes it or not.

Ever wondered why such victories are so rare? The last was in the mid 1990s 1980s* when the attempt to prevent us from withdrawing our money from CPF at age 1955 was abandoned. The people were angry. Even then the govmin got its way, look at the amount one can withdraw at 55.

In the main, we accept being treated like mushrooms, kept in the dark and having odious but nutritious stuff poured on us).

What got me ruminating on this topic (other than the news report) is an interesting piece (that I rediscovered while clearing my files this morning) drawing a parallel to the time when the people belonged to the state and the S’pore constitution which provides “every citizen of Singapore has the right to freedom of speech and expression”; however, “parliament may by law impose… such restriction as it considers necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of Singapore…”. Another big exception, not mentioned in this excellent piece, was that the constitution was subject to all existing laws (which incidentally included the right to detain without trial).

The author contrasts this with the US Declaration of Independence: … that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Back to mushrooms. The history of how we became an independent city-state explains why we willingly accept being mushrooms.

When S’pore was a British colony, the people (self included) were subjects of the queen of the United Kingdom. Technically we were her property. Of course, the unwritten British constitution, gave us some rights vis-a-vis her ministers and officials.

S’pore ceased to be a colony when it became a state within Malaysia. S’poreans were never given the choice of becoming an independent country. The elected leaders of the colony negotiated S’pore’s  entry into M’sia. As M’sia was and is a constitutional monarchy, we became technically the property of the M’sian king, with a written constitution giving us some protection against him, and his ministers and officials, oppressing us. 

In 1965,  S’pore finally became independent, joining the comity of nations. It was a decision of the M’sian leaders dictated to the state leaders. Independence was forced on S’poreans. Again, we were not given a choice, and we didn’t riot for not being giving a choice. We accepted passively.

It was this sequence of events that, in my opinion, led to the mentality among the elected leaders, civil servants and the sheep voters that the rights of the state were paramount, not subservient to the rights of the citizens. Being a society that had always deferred to authority, not withstanding the efforts of one Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP when S’pore was a colony and then part of M’sia, didn’t help. Blame this deference on the cultures we came from and the culture of the governing British.

The collective state-of mind was that the people were subjects of the state, led to the habit of the elected leaders scolding S’poreans for everything, avoiding answering the questions of S’poreans and this

To end, imagine if Magna Carta had the exceptions of the S’pore constitution that it was subject to all the existing laws in place in 13th century England? Would the charter be described thus, The charter was an important part of the extensive historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law in the English speaking world, although it was “far from unique, either in content or form”.[3] In practice, Magna Carta in the medieval period did not in general limit the power of kings, but by the time of the English Civil War it had become an important symbol for those who wished to show that the King was bound by the law. It influenced the early settlers in New England[4] and inspired later constitutional documents, including the United States Constitution.[5].

BTW, in the 13th century in England, things like detention without trial and torture were legal.

*This correction was made on 19 December 2010 at 10.38am. Excuse: These things do happen

Sobriety doth dry up all delight,
And drunkenness doth drown my sense outright;
There is a middle state, it is my life—
Not altogether drunk, nor sober quite.


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