This letter was sent to ST Forum on 2 May 2013, but was not published.
The Straits Times
We refer to the joint statement by the Ministry of Manpower and Ministry of Home Affairs (“Joint Response to Media Queries on Statements by NGOs/individuals and Former SMRT Driver He Junling”, 26 April 2013.) The statement accuses the NGOs and individuals involved in the SMRT drivers’ case of “hindering the investigation while continuing to cast aspersions on the integrity of the police.” It also claims that the NGOs and individuals have exploited vulnerable foreign workers for their own political ends.
We are troubled that the government sees the involvement of civil society in pushing for greater transparency as casting aspersions on the integrity of the police and “working for their own political ends.”
MARUAH seeks clarity on the government’s definition on “political ends” and would like to know how asking questions on processes of investigations has cast aspersions on the integrity of the police. We believe that transparency is key to confidence-building and dialogue between the government and civil society, essential for a healthy democracy. More will be achieved with greater clarity from the government to clear doubts and assure that individuals in police custody are accorded proper protection, which is important to both the government and to civil society groups.
It is also part of Singapore’s constitution that guarantees Singapore citizens the rights to freedom of speech and expression, and association. Rather than taking an adversarial tone and seeing civil society as the political opposition, we call on the government to respect and in time also welcome such non-partisan citizen engagement on the major issues that concern our country.
We hope Singapore will continue to evolve and become a mature society where differing points of view can be discussed openly and honestly, without acrimony.
Ms Braema Mathi