01 January 2000


Oct 14, 2005
Don wasn't non-partisan in his analysis

DR CHERIAN George, in his letter 'Govt shouldn't equate analysis with advocacy' (ST, Oct 13), regrets that the Government had 'cast (his) article ('Managing civil disobedience'; ST, Oct 10) in partisan terms'.

His article states that it was 'based on an academic paper on calibrated coercion'. This paper, titled 'Calibrated coercion and the maintenance of hegemony in Singapore', describes Singapore as an instance of 'authoritarian rule', declares that 'the normative thrust of this essay is directed at democratisation', and claims to offer a 'sophisticated understanding of what makes certain kinds of authoritarian rule endure - the better to resist and challenge them'.

These statements, which show Dr George's true intention, were omitted from his Straits Times article, which was a sanitised version of his original paper. Is this being non-partisan?

Dr George also denied that he had 'commended' the strategy of civil disobedience. He protested that a terrorism expert who explains the motivations of terrorists is pursuing academic research, and not siding with the terrorists.

But if the expert goes further to suggest that there are good and legitimate reasons why a person has to resort to terrorism, that must be a different matter.
Indeed, Dr George's article did not directly commend civil disobedience. However, his attitude can clearly be inferred from its conclusion, which I quote:

'Mixed Blessing

The contemporary scene of calibrated coercion is a mixed blessing for Singaporeans who want more freedom. This is bad news for pro-democracy activists, who consequently have a tough time reminding Singaporeans that they should care about political liberalisation. That is where Dr Chee (Soon Juan)'s strategy of civil disobedience comes in. It is a predictable response to the PAP's success at calibrated coercion.'

I am, however, happy that Dr George has now clarified that, in his view, Singaporeans who want to press for change need to do so within the law.
It is no surprise that critics of the Government, especially those who are academics, will want to portray themselves as being dispassionate observers who are above the fray.

However, the Government's response will depend on the substance of what they say, rather than the pose they strike.

Chen Hwai Liang Press Secretary to Prime Minister

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