Singaporeans need to express themselves

·3-min read

OCTOBER 31 — A local rapper will be charged in a Singapore court for “promoting feelings of ill will between different groups.”

To me, it’s not so much the individual case but the fact that rappers are entertainers. It's their job to be controversial and draw attention to issues in society.

The question is — is the space for dissent and discussion in Singapore shrinking?

Odd when you consider that Singapore has really never been more prosperous and successful. Over the past few years, we've seen money and capital pouring into Singapore on a massive scale.

Instability in Hong Kong, economic issues in Mainland China, the uncertainties of Covid have all pushed wealth into Singapore. Our reserves and capita GDP are doing very well.

But this economic brightness seems to be coupled with darkness in terms of expression and discussion.

Singapore should be heading in the opposite direction.

Over the past few years, we've seen money and capital pouring into Singapore on a massive scale. — TODAY pic
Over the past few years, we've seen money and capital pouring into Singapore on a massive scale. — TODAY pic

We are stepping out as a leading world city. No longer in the shadow of Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York, or anyone — but a leading centre in our own right; the very apex of the world economic order.

That is our situation right now and that is our destiny but surely a part of this destiny is to be a centre of thought, of ideas and debate.

And of course, as we change and grow rapidly our citizens also need space to reflect, comment and criticise the pace of change.

The other major world cities — New York, Paris, Tokyo, London — along with their financial might also possess tremendous cultural power but without the space for robust debate and for creative dissent, how will we ever acquire this sort of creative edge?

Again, I understand where Singapore has come from — total freedom of expression overnight is not attainable. I understand why the government has long kept a lid on political activism.

In the 70s, 80s and 90s in a fledgling and tiny nation this degree of social control may have helped us develop more rapidly and more cohesively than our less stable neighbours.

But today in Singapore our rules, systems and guiding bureaucracy is secure.

So why restrict individual musicians or historians? This seems unnecessary at this point and basically against the tide of history.

We are inevitably reaching a point where virtually every Singapore citizen is a privileged member of the global community.

More and more of us have opportunities and financial resources that allow us to make an impact so as a people we need to be more aware of debates, tensions, dichotomies and alternatives within our society — not less.

It is only with more awareness, more expression that we will grow as a nation.

Suing or charging individuals who are passionate about things — and who do not seem violent or dangerous — is surely something from our past and something it's time to move beyond.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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