Where are the writers?

The Singapore government’s proposed anti-fake news law has been heavily criticized by local and international media and rights groups for investing too much arbitrary power in government ministers to decide what is fact or otherwise. Most recently, a group of 59 academics, with expertise, experience, or interest in Singapore and Asia generally, have joined in the chorus of criticism by issuing a joint public statement and sending letters to the Education Minister and Singapore University Leaders.

Other professional groups with a stake in free speech and democratic process should do likewise. Unfortunately, the Law Society of Singapore has been gagged by a 1986 law from commenting on legislative proposals unless they are invited to do so by the government. Singapore’s creative writers are not so proscribed. Individual writers have spoken up but they could make a far bigger impact if they would speak together, as the academics did.

Although Singapore does not have a national organization like PEN America, which advocates for both literature and free speech, there are well-established literary organizations in Singapore that could lead the effort to speak. So far they have chosen to remain quiet instead. A variety of reasons could explain this silence. They do not think that writers have a duty to speak up against arbitrary power, having forgotten powerful literary precedents, such as the late playwright Kuo Pao Kun, the poet Mohamed Latiff Mohamed, and the short-story writer Catherine Lim. They occupy themselves with literary programs and initiatives, and have no time for politics. They rely on government funding.

When the Law Society kept quiet, they received so much on-line flak that they felt compelled to issue a public explanation. Sadly, there is no such expectation of Singapore’s writers to defend free speech. This does not have to be the way. Members of literary organizations could ask their leaders for their stance on the anti-fake news bill. Readers and audiences could question their providers about what they could do to fight this unconstitutional law. We are not as powerless as we think.

Jee Leong Koh

 

 

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7 Responses to “Where are the writers?”

  • Puah Kheng Wah Wah:

    I’m waiting to see if the local theater community will issue a joint statement. Oh, they rely on National Arts Council for their operational grants.

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  • doomsday is nigh:

    Silence Of The Lambs, SGov style.
    who dares to have their rice bowls ripped from them?
    as it is its being stolen by hungrier foreigners-with the full approval of the same bunch of incompetents running our country.

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  • LIONS:

    *FREE* SPEECH,NO writers,eh?
    The author of this good article makes a valid point.
    Where are the *WRITERS* ?
    How come NO DEFEND *FREE* SPEECH one?

    Tell you,frens,in $in City,WHERE GOT *FREE*?
    Everything ties to *$*.

    If writers defend FREE SPEECH,they scared NO *FEE$* lah.

    So,THERE IS NO FREE speech,ONLY *FEE* $peech???

    Ask the famous tua-kong writers in $in City,they TALK FOR *CHUA JEE*(dollar note$).

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  • Plps existence on blackmail:

    Many perceive that a professional succumbs to bootlicking aka compliant to the power therebe because of greed. It may be so but the initiation is essentially on fear of public disclosure n shame of some indiscretionary behaviour incurred by himself or family members. For example adulterous act or even an innocent meeting with innocent body contact which was photographed, or a criminal demand of convenience as condition of acceptance of a deal or even an appointment in exile to ease his threat stricked presence.
    A professional esp a bright one would generally has sufficient pride to resist stooping to such despicable role of bootlicking which essentially does the bidding of the licked source which the source has the need to cover up n avoid criminal consequences. When bootlicking door is opened n esp with financial gain legally or illegally, self confidence gradually eroded with the basic human conscience fast following. Bootlicking is a warped caeer path of no return unless the power therebe collapse n the possibility of criminal prosecution looms large. This is the same for the bootlickers n bootlicked. There will be no compliancy allegation when no blackmail, no fear of exposure of indiscretions n no escalation of greed. Human Conscience is a very fragile human attribute. Generally the fear of public shame outstrips the eventuality of criminal offences n if power is available it will be used incessantly to gag, seal, bribe n do the reversal blackmail with other’s fear to conceal his own.

    Many therefore should speak up but rather remain in silence seen incongruent but if only with full n detailed investigative understanding will the truth reveal. The recent spate of fake laws n unusual transference of justice from public constitutional regulatory institution to political power desperation sparks off alertness n extrapolative thinking of fakes concealing fakes like an onion. This vicious cycle psychologically begins with the fake covering up operation to avoid prosecution n deep fear of repercussive judicial punishment. Like gambling habits, the gambler erroneously believe if he continue everything will be alright. In a human world when the power sinks into such deep trap, the powerless innocent simple masses could only kpkb n wish for karma, a religious philosophy to calm n sooth the souls of the helpless innocent oppressed.

    Present kpkb over the fake laws n their accessories will soon lapses into cry for karma. As Chinese theory of self defense, it is better to believe there is n tackle it than to believe there is not. But with Karma, how to avoid except to come clean but that is exactly what the onion operation starts anyway. So fear begets fear, fakes beget fakes: universal law of nature which was shared by Newton in his action…

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  • Un un believable:

    Can you believe this?

    Singapore government gets 2019 award for …

    championing …

    human rights.

    Un-un-un-un-unbelievable. Stung by vegetable.

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  • More Pain Needed:

    Local writers should not talk.
    Why speak to get helplessly pinned down by dishonorable elements?

    What are needed to say have largely been said for many years in alternative media.
    Dafts are simply to stupid to realise, any further inputs will not help.
    What is needed is more pain, continuous relentless pain.

    As the painful wrench is jacked further, change will come naturally.

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  • HarderTruths:

    In prison under ISA

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