And this year’s Comical Ali Award goes to…

October 21, 2009

political-pictures-mohammed-saeed-al-sahaf-fundamentals-economy-strongOne of the most surreal images of the 2003 invasion of Iraq was Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf, then its Minister of Information, barking into ‘live’ TV that the American infidels would never find their way into Bagdad as, behind him on screen, American tanks were seen rolling down the streets of the capital. The sight of Al-Sahaf (aka Comical Ali), now a TV pundit, professing that all was well as everything crumbled around his ankles epitomized the farcical and thoroughly disingenuous nature of the Iraq invasion, propelling him to iconic status. [] 

Al-Sahaf is, of course, not the only figure in history to have turned his face from the inconveniences of reality. Nero and his fiddle are strong favourites for the prestigious Comical Ali Award, so too Dr Pangloss from Volitare’s Candide.

Singapore’s very own candidate is none other than PAP MP Zaqy Mohamad. When asked to comment on news that the Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RWB), saw Singapore move up from 144th to 133rd position, he noted that the “improved ranking “underlines that our press remains credible especially in the face of challenges like the new media””.

According to Zaqy, who is also chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Information, Communications and the Arts, the improved rankings is down to the media diversity here which creates competition which, in turn, provides better-quality work.


Mr Zaqy has blown the competition away. Bullshit may come in all shapes and sizes but we all know pedigree manure when we smell it. Only in a parallel universe is a 133 ranking in the Press Freedom Index indicative of “press credibility”. Only in Singapore do a government-controlled TV station and a government-controlled newspaper constitute “media diversity” and “competition”.

It’s hard to decide which is more frightening – that Zaqy actually believes what he’s saying, or that this is just another ideological reflex action from a PAP MP. If we credit the man with even an ounce of intelligence, and as polite respectful bloggers we sadly must, then it boils down to cynicism.

There are a hundred and one ways to deal with these types of embarrassing data. First, question the selection criteria of the index. Zaqy could have noted that the criteria chosen by RWB may be arbritary and thus favour some types of press and not others. Second, he could have said that the majority of Singaporeans do not seem to want more than what is already offered by The Straits Times. Third, he could have reiterated the PAP’s “nation-building press” spiel. All of this would not have raised a brow. Instead, he chose to go for broke.

When a man can say, with a straight face, that our press is credible after coming in 133 out of 175 countries then he must believe that the rest of us are morons. When a man can announce that we have media diversity and press freedom despite our country’s long trail of political censorship, he must believe that we are an uneducated bunch. They say we get the government we deserve, and given the political apathy of Singaporeans, we deserve Zaqy. After all, we elected him…. or did we?


3 Responses to “And this year’s Comical Ali Award goes to…”

  1. sushibar Says:

    sad conclusion, but so bloody true

  2. 'Mat Says:

    See what you get when you

    scrape the bottom of the


  3. Gerald Giam Says:

    Maybe he kena con by the reporter, who asked him a leading question like “RSF ranked Singapore higher this year than last year…why do you think this is so?”

    So he, being very busy as a part time MP and full-time corporate exec, just answered the question putting in the best effort to make Singapore (ie, PAP) look good.

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