"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"The Argument from Intimidation is a confession of intellectual impotence." - Ayn Rand


Comments on the 20 page proposal, "Proposals for Internet freedom in Singapore":

As LDPVTP comments, "it presupposes that singapore believes in the democratic process".

The document reads like a Internet user's wishlist, calling for deregulation, abolishing of OB markers, community regulation rather than the threat of legal sanctions and more. While I agree wholeheartedly with the wishlist (and indeed would like it to go further in some areas), as a policy proposal it fails.

It presumes that our government (or rather, the party running it) is not self-interested. Race and religion is one of the trump cards justifying the Mandate of Heaven, both giving carte blanche for administrative fiat and allowing the regular stoking of moral panic; to get rid of it would be unthinkable*. The reason for our schizophrenic laws is that the Powers That Be want to control what they can control (offline media), but leave untouched what they have no power over (online media - or at least, have token laws and regulation for appearances' sake). Consistency may be a virtue, but it is better to have some power than to have none.

Furthermore, even if the laws and regulation are ineffectual, together with the OB markers, they create an aura of fear and uncertainty. The Tarkin Doctrine is that it is better to rule through the fear of force rather than through force itself; if fear and uncertainty were removed, this would remove much of the ability to keep the populace in line.

While we're at it we might as well call for an independent commission to draw electoral boundaries (the Elections Department is under the Prime Minister's Office) and for GRCs to be abolished.

Meanwhile, the part on Sex and Violence ignore the fact that, as with 377A, current laws act as a sop towards the 'Moral Majority' while still giving a lot of latitude for the more liberal to do what they want. Both parties are happy (even if imperfectly) and we have a satisficing outcome. A similar parallel can be drawn with escort agencies and massage parlours (even though they do not officially offer sex, you can get it from them if you want it), or indeed with the larger issue of the sex industry in Singapore (many people do not know that prostitution is not illegal here).

I hope the people drawing it up do not hope that most or even many of the recommendations will be adopted. At the most, a few of the peripheral proposals will be adopted, and even then, they will be unacknowledged. Indeed, its public airing may have blunted the proposal's policy impact, since the Powers That Be would be unlikely to want to be seen as bowing to pressure or lobbying; ironically, cloak-and-dagger petitioning the Emperor in private may be more likely to yield results.

However, this publicised proposal forces the Party to admit that the laws are in their interest, or rather get them to obfuscate this with yet more platitudes about nation-building, our fragile racial-religious situation or even the terminal shortsightedness of a ragtag team of academics and students. It also shows that the online community is a formidable force with credibility, incisiveness and analytical skill, and that policy analysis is not the monopoly of traditional channels.

I would actually have taken part in the drawing up of this document, but I was busy (either with exams or my thesis) and so did not go to the coven (in any case, they already have 13 witches so I would've spoiled the magic number).

* - "DUH it is too flowery. unless of cos ur a lawyer, then u have achieved ur purpose of mass confusion"; translation of sentence: The government justifies its existence and sometimes harsh actions with the spectre of racial and religious turmoil. The 'threat' of racial and religious turmoil justifies all sorts of laws and otherwise-arbitrary decisions (e.g. OB markers). The population is also given regular reminders of the seriousness of this 'threat' to keep them excited and mobilised (back to main post)
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