Saturday, May 13, 2006

JG and the law

Speaking FreelyJames Gomez (JG) has gone to the police station for questioning over the last couple of days over the Minority Certificate issue. He has been there 3 times. WP's Sylvia Lim and Low Thia Khiang have also been called to assist in whatever investigations the police is conducting. The investigations are now over and Gomez has been given a warning. No fines, no slammer time.

Somebody alerted me to his website the other day and pointed out that he writes quite a bit for the international community on issues in Singapore, so I did a google on him and sure enough, he has a personal website and a blog. The blog may be in his name, but apparently he has some people writing for him occasionally. I am probably the last person to know about this as I am sure the rest of the blogosphere are aware of this. So much for being politically aware. I never claimed that anyway, so I am still an infant, probably because I am not all that 'kay poh', but saying this is just to save my own face.

What I want to ask is, why does JG need to work in Sweden to do his political analysis work on Singapore and probably the region? I do not see from his existing work any interest or commentary on Europe, Russia or the US, so why go so far from the centre of action to do your analysis and writing? But of course, I am a political neophyte. Some would argue that academics and other 'experts' in Harvard and other US institutions regularly comment on things happening in the rest of the world, including Singapore. Perhaps the rarefied atmosphere there improves the thinking process and enhances the commentaries and analyses.

We have precedents. One of Singapore's most reknown dissidents, Mr Francis Seow, is a resident critic there, if my facts are still up to date. Does JG want to write from afar because the atmosphere will be more liberal and he will be among likeminded people, or is it because he is stifled by the tropical heat in Singapore, or both? Apparently, some people do not wish him to write as he likes. I will admit that it can be constraining to write in Singapore. The ban on political podcasting recently is a good example.

Ultimately, however, Singapore needs to loosen up on its own soil and allow different opinions to flourish. It is said that Singapore has been loosening up gradually, but gag orders such as that on podcasting serve instead to strike fear in people. We are forever looking for that invisible Out-of-Bounds (OB) marker. So long as an OB marker exists, writing and speaking as you wish in Singapore can be a dicey thing.

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