Imitation is the Best Form of Flattery
Bloggers would have known by now that NMP Siew Kum Hong was under ferocious attack in the Internet because of his involvement in intra-Aware politics. His critics have continued the skirmishes even after the EGM early this month when the Aware Exco led by Josie Lau and masterminded by Thio Su Mien was shown the door. Lately, the NMP who was wrongly labelled as a gay issue-only MP, implied embarking on bringing his more ridiculously rambunctious critics to court for defaming him.
There is a need for slander and libel laws even in an utopia of freedom of speech. But when such legal batons are brandished in political and semi-political contexts, any local political watcher would immediately think of the PAP. A political figure is, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, expected to be a lightning rod for rumours, scandals and criticisms by both the public and competitor political personalities. Whether to ignore the attacks or dignify them with a response is a difficult tightrope to walk. Nevertheless, it is a shaky tightrope that politicians have to walk in the big top and all eyes are watching to see if he would fall. On using defamation laws rather than wit, rhetoric or ironically silence to silence critics, imitating the PAP is the best form of flattery.
NMP Siew Kum Hong makes police report against netizens
18 May 2009
SINGAPORE: Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong has made a police report against netizens posting defamatory comments about him. He revealed this in his blog. He has also requested forums which hosted such remarks to take them down.
When contacted, Mr Siew refused further comment, saying the matter is now with the police.
The latest attacks have alleged or insinuated that he had asked for and is receiving foreign funding from a Swedish politician who allegedly funds the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) as well.
They have also alleged that he is involved or associated with the SDP and may be their representative or “mole” in Parliament.
Mr Siew has issued a strong rebuttal to these allegations on his blog. He said both of these allegations are untrue and false.
He considered them extremely defamatory and criminal in nature and goes beyond anything that a reasonable person could possibly perceive as being a valid or legitimate exercise of the right to free speech.
Mr Siew stressed that he did not at any time ask for and have not at any time been offered or accepted any sort of funding from any local or foreign entity.
He said the only sources of income or funding that he has are from his employer and the government in the form of his monthly NMP allowance.
He also said he is not involved or affiliated or associated, whether directly, indirectly or in any other way, with the SDP, and certainly not their representative or “mole” in Parliament.
The attacks on Mr Siew first started in the aftermath of the extraordinary general meeting of the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE). They have culminated in a campaign to sabotage his re-application for a second term of NMP.
A week ago, netizens flooded the REACH portal with comments about why he should not be given a second NMP term.
REACH chairman Amy Khor confirmed that the feedback unit has received Mr Siew’s request to take down defamatory comments about him.
As a general policy, while “always mindful that over-regulation could stifle participation and engagement of contributors”, Dr Khor said that like other online platforms, REACH would not hesitate to remove postings “deemed sensitive or offensive”.
As at 8pm on Monday, the discussion thread involving Mr Siew had almost 13,900 page views and more than 900 postings since it was initiated on May 1.
On one occasion last week, REACH administrators urged Netizens to refrain from personal attacks and offensive postings. After growing feedback from users and as the discussion “became heated”, said Dr Khor, REACH had removed some of these postings.
Meanwhile, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has referred to the Law Society the issue of Mr Siew’s role in the AWARE saga.
Earlier this month, corporate counsel Tongel Yeo had emailed the AGC and three other legal bodies, including the Law Society, to ask if Mr Siew had breached the Legal Profession Act by advising the AWARE “Old Guard”.
When contacted, a Law Society spokesperson said that under the Act, it “cannot comment on any complaint or disciplinary matter”.