NParks is a Lame Duck

September 18, 2008

It was reported in The Straits Times (“Red card on race issues at Speaker’s Corner”; 19 Sept 08) that an Indian man, Thamilselvan Karuppaya, applied to NParks to speak at Hong Lim Park, Speaker’s Corner. The nature of his talk? The lack of Tamil signs at Changi Airport and other tourist attractions. Karuppaya’s grouse was that Tamil, one of Singapore’s four official languages, was not represented at major and important attractions while instead we had Japanese signs.


Karuppaya wanted to speak about the public absence of an official language. NParks, however, felt that his talk was race-sensitive. Instead of making a decision as administrator of Speakers Corner, NParks did what most citizens expected it to do – it referred the application to the police. Eventually, his application to speak was turned down.


First of all, this episode confirms what every political pundit predicted. The move to let NParks manage Speakers Corner was just a political show of liberalization. When it came down to the crunch, when a decision had to be made, NParks displayed its lack of a spine and deferred to the police. If this is going to happen again, then perhaps it’s better to take NParks out of the equation and save the applicant’s time by allowing him to deal directly with the police. NParks has clearly shown it’s not up to the task.


Secondly, Karuppaya wanted to speak about language, not about race. Why did the police over-react? Yes, race and language are intertwined in Singapore but surely some common sense and good faith could have been shown? It is possible to speak about language without inflaming racial sensitivities. If speaking about language is deemed to be racially sensitive then I propose we stop the Speak Mandarin Campaign because it may promote Chinese chauvinism while marginalizing other races. The faulty logic is clear to everyone. Quite evidently the police failed to use its common sense and, sadly, such decisions just provides ammunition for critics who claim that ethnic minorities in Singapore often draw the short end of the straw.


Thirdly, all this liberalization malarkey is just that – pure malarkey. What’s the point of having a Speakers Corner when you prescribe what can be said and what cannot? There are already a variety of laws in Singapore concerning sedition and defamation that serve as a check on hate speech. Why the need to have another gate-keeper?


Such actions by NParks and the police only retard our country’s maturing process. In order to better understand who we are and where we are headed as a nation, we need to be able to talk about ourselves. We need to be able to question ourselves and our actions in a frank and honest manner. And to do this we need to have faith in ourselves not to over-react, not to self-censor for the wrong reasons. It’s unfortunate that the people at NParks and the police do not share this faith. In perverse way it’s rather understandable – the nanny state wouldn’t want its citizens to grow up or else it’ll be out of a job.



One Response to “NParks is a Lame Duck”

  1. sushibar Says:


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