The year of the Snake is coming.
Last year's dragon,
Becomes this year's snake,
Missing horns, missing claws,
But fangs are still there.
Above remarks by Chen Show Mao at the Workers' Party rally remind us that the knuckle dusters are still in play, disguised only by the velvet gloves made necessary by the exigencies of the election hustings. Leopards rarely change their spots.
When A P Rajah once complained in the Legislative Assembly that the Prime Minister was claiming to play all his cards openly but he had put them face downwards, Lee Kuan Yew retorted, "Only fools place all their cards face upwards!" (Singapore Legislative Assembly Debates, 11 December 1959)
Vincent Wijeysingha had apologised to Tan Chuan-Jin unreservedly for describing the latter as “dishonest”, “deceptive”, “untruthful” over the complaints and issues involving the striking SMRT drivers. The last report on the subject has it that Tan was seeking damages from Wijeysingha. We'll have to wait until the by-election is over to see if the fangs will be bared.
If Tan does follow up with his demand for financial satisfaction, he is not inventing something new. More senior party members have threatened critics with expensive lawsuits for defamation in the past, establishing a legacy that human rights groups see as a tactic to stifle dissent. Lee Kuan Yew set the tone years ago by suing political foes and foreign media organisations. "We decide what is right," he told the Straits Times newspaper in 1987. "Never mind what the people think."
Human Rights Watch's deputy director for Asia, Phil Robertson, has been quoted saying, "The jury is still out on whether we're seeing a sustainable change in government attitudes towards their critics."