This is an unfortunate turn of events in Singapore's political history and political media. It is a politically regressive move by the PAP ministers which undoes the efforts of the PAP to "shape a more inclusive society." For the following reasons, these lawsuit threats must be regarded as serious strategic errors by the PAP.
- Such lawyers' letters only serve to perpetuate the image of PAP ministers as intimidating figures who are intolerant of dissent and criticism, whether such an image is warranted or not. Few people are going to bother about the true substance of the allegations, but many people are going to bother about the threat of lawsuits.
- Such lawyers' letters only serve to regressively link the PAP with iron-hand authoritarianism of the past that is widely associated with MM Lee Kuan Yew (who will soon become a historical figure), rather than trying to progressively move the image of the PAP forward as an inclusive, tolerant party. This only plays into the hands of the opposition who are more than happy to play the role of the voice of the people, rather than the iron fist of power.
- Such lawyers' letters only serve to draw far more attention to the allegations than there originally was in the first place. Perhaps only a few thousand people read the original article on TR Emeritus, but now that the lawsuit threat has been splashed on national headline news, everybody knows about it!
- Such lawyers' letters make PM Lee and K Shanmugam come across as insecure individuals who need to hide behind the threat of legal action, rather than confident people with nothing to hide. A truly secure person would not feel bothered about unfounded allegations and only needs to state the truth and move on.
- Such lawyers' letters only serve to push critics further underground and deeper behind the veil of anonymity. Richard Wan must be seriously regretting his decision to come out into public, now that he has been served with a lawsuit threat mere days after his public appearance. Other bloggers and writers will take serious note of this incident and be reminded to stay out of public view. Meanwhile, the allegations will still continue to swirl around the internet because the anonymous posters are not going to go away.
- Above all, unlike the Economist, Financial Times and Wall Street Journal, many of the bloggers and posters are ordinary Singaporeans, some of whom are struggling to make ends meet, and all of whom have the final say where it counts — the polling booth. Such lawsuit threats only serve to further alienate the population of PAP detractors, and perhaps even push neutral parties into the opposition camp!
PM Lee needs to think seriously about this if he wants to win the hearts of the people. If not, his party will pay dearly when 2016 GE comes around.
Today (Feb 20, 2012) "PM Lee's lawyers take Temasek Review Emeritus editor to task"