Sunday, January 15, 2006

Open Sesame

George SorosGeorge Soros is on record as saying that "Singapore does not qualify as an open society". This remark was made at the Raffles City Convention Centre during the Singapore Perspectives Conference organised by the Institute of Policy Studies on January 11, 2006. Singapore's Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA) pointed out that if Singapore were not open, George Soros would not have had the opportunity of making that remark in Singapore, much less at the Raffles City Convention Centre.

Many other more sensible rejoinders have been expressed, by Professor Tommy Koh, Dr Catherine Lim and even Mr Vivian Balakrishnan of the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports. But I thought that MICA's remarks were a tad defensive and really, stating the obvious. MICA said:

If we were not an open society, George Soros would hardly be able to make the comment at an open forum in Singapore, and be reported in the Singapore media.

It gave the impression that MICA didn't really appreciate the central message that Mr Soros, and others, were making - that open-ness covers a wide spectrum, that Singapore just hasn't covered it all yet. The choice here is not between a totally open society and a police state. So there was really no need to say anything, reply to anything. But government departments have been conditioned (obligated?) to rejecting and replying to any and every criticism that it has become predictable and formulaic. I don't think people would miss anything if MICA had kept its peace.

As all growing people, and nations, know, changes happen over time. Attitudes and behaviour yesterday may not (will most likely not) be the same tomorrow. That's a sign of movement and hopefully, progress. Ariel Sharon's political moves in recent times is a prime example of this. I think we are opening up gradually. Only those who are figuratively blind or literal babes are not able to see or appreciate the shifting social environment toward more open-ness in Singapore.

For the original report, see this TODAY report

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