When Lèse majesté, oops I mean Libel suit, was slapped onto blogger Alex Au, some people questioned whether it was cowardice that Alex issued an apology and retracted his posting. However, most of these people are just shooting from their mouth, sitting in their aircon comfort and posting with anonymity. Who is more coward, I wonder sometimes? Libel suit, especially against the PAP government, costs a lot of money, if those people are willing to sponsor the thousands if not millions of dollars AND their time to help defend the case, please let Alex know. Furthermore, have anyone seen our PAP government lose a libel case before?
The problem here is access to information. This is not unlike the cases with NKF and City Harvest Church. When whistle blowers within leaked improprieties about the affairs within those organisation, those poor people where sued for defamation and had to pay damages. This was when those organisation was in unquestionable power and they could withhold information even though there were truth in what was being said. It was only when another bigger power, aka external auditors, came in that the truth could not be hidden and was finally exposed.
The same is with our PAP government, even if what we said is correct, there is no way for any of us to prove its correct simply because they had the power to withhold those information and transactions. Sometimes, even if the truth is known and there are adequate witnesses, the mechanism instituted by our governments prevents their accounts from being challenged. Many of the ISA detainees whose lives where destroyed simply because they believe differently and wanted to help Singapore are a good example. Even if it goes to trial, do we feel that whoever takes the stand will tell the absolute truth about their actual mission? Even our late well respected President Dr. Ong Teng Chong could not get PAP to produce a list of assets for the President to protect, let alone you and me who have no access to government information; and he was voted out during the next Presidential election. That said, this doesn’t mean it will never change. Overtime, if we get good and strong opposition who can take over the government, this is where the power balance will shift, and I wonder what skeletons in the closet we will find when that happens. If there are skeletons, then it will be NKF and City Harvest Church all over again.
The libel suit is a double edged sword. On one hand, any scanty accusation of corruption and improprieties are taken out of circulation. On the other hand, just because someone apologized, it doesn’t mean that the original statement is wrong. It just means that one could not get the prove required to sustain those accusation, so the accusation still stays. So all the libel suit does is make people remember that there are truths in the accusation that the someone else doesn’t want the public to find out or talk about.
But mostly importantly, we should not forget that there are still a number of unanswered questions regarding the AIM saga:
1) PAP refusing to declare how many companies they hold and which companies have dealings with the government is detrimental to the public interests. If undeclared, what this means is that there could be PAP companies running services for our various ministries. What happens when another political party takes over those ministries? Will there be a deliberate denial of services to those ministries because we have no clues which ones are politically-owned? How could this benefit the public? How many our of government services are being managed by PAP held companies? If PAP refuse to tell, we can only speculate and it is probably worst for them, because the public will see this as a sign of possible cover-up.
2) Did AIM buy the TCMS software out of commercial or altruistic purposed? It doesn’t seem so. Firstly, 4 other well-established commercial entities having looked at the tender did not find it commercially appealing enough to tender nor does it appears that there were enough information for them to make a good tender decision. Secondly, the termination of the contract by AIM when WP took over AHTC due to “material changes” doesn’t seem like a commercial decision. After all, me staying a Holland Avenue used to be in Bukit Panjang GRC and the last election, I was suddenly in Tanjong Pagar GRC; that is certainly a “material change”. If AIM is consistent, why didn’t they also terminate the contract for Tanjong Pagar GRC? In fact, I believe a lot of boundaries changes were made and the only termination we have seen so far is where the WP was elected. Obviously, the timing of the close of tender and when AIM actually submitted the tender needs some explanation.
3) The fact the PAP does not see a conflict of interests in engaging itself using public monies must be the real shocker. This shows how blinded some PAP members are by their own sense of self-righteousness. Ng Boon Gay was charged with suspected corruption just because he had an affair with one of the vendor, and it was not even his own family members. In the banking sector, if any of my relatives and known friends linked to me were to suddenly invest heavily on shares which my company dealt with at the most opportune timing , I will be immediately suspected of insider trading. All these rules and regulations are there to protect both the company, public interests, and any possible bias/blindness in our own decision making. I am really really surprised that the PAP could not see any conflict of interests in this elicit affair and was rather proud of it.
I am not particular anti-PAP nor Pro-opposition, I just want a good government out there who looks after the interest of Singaporeans for Singaporeans and not for themselves to hold on to their power. I want one that is able to recognize its own failings and institute checks and balances within either the constitution or the law to ensure that there are truly independent bodies like judiciary and election commission, freedom of information and freedom to question, that can help the public ensure that whoever is in power does not become complacent and abusive of the power they have.