Singapore

Consul-General rebuts HK report on open letter by Catherine Lim

PAP has weathered crises since claims were first made 20 years ago, says Jacky Foo
Published: June 14, 4:06 AM

SINGAPORE — A South China Morning Post (SCMP) report on Monday about novelist Catherine Lim’s comments in an open letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has drawn a sharp rebuttal from Mr Jacky Foo, Consul-General of Singapore in Hong Kong.

SCMP’s report titled “Writer Catherine Lim’s open letter to Singaporean PM fuels social media debate” had quoted Dr Lim’s open letter to Mr Lee, in which she said Singaporeans “no longer trust their government”.

In a forum letter to the newspaper published yesterday, Mr Foo said Dr Lim had first asserted this claim in 1994, when the People’s Action Party (PAP) had won the 1991 General Election with 61 per cent of the vote.

Since then, the ruling party has taken Singapore through a number of serious crises relatively unscathed and has won four further general elections by healthy margins, he pointed out. “But still, (Dr) Lim continues to regularly bemoan a collapse of trust and respect for the government,” he said.

In Dr Lim’s open letter published on her blog last Saturday, the political commentator observed that Singapore is “in (the) midst of a crisis where the people no longer trust their government, and the government no longer cares about regaining their trust”.

People, she said, are resorting to forms of high-visibility and high-risk protest never seen before and this is spreading to involve large segments of the population. She also criticised Mr Lee’s defamation suit against blogger Roy Ngerng.

Mr Foo refuted Dr Lim’s claim that the suit will further erode trust. “Mr Lee acted because the Government prizes integrity as the ultimate source of the trust it enjoys,” he said. “A leader who does nothing when he is accused of criminally misappropriating monies from the state pension system must engender mistrust in his honesty and leadership,” he said, adding that the accuser should have basis for the accusations.

In a follow-up post on her blog published yesterday, Dr Lim clarified that Mr Ngerng’s defamation suit was not the direct cause of her writing the letter. She had been observing with increasing dismay at a series of happenings in the political scene, culminating with the defamation suit, she said.

Addressing criticism that she was being too much of an alarmist, Dr Lim stressed that “it is a crisis, or at least a crisis-in-the-making”.

She pointed out that the “disgruntlement” of a minority of 40 per cent of the electorate in the years leading to the 2011 General Election had led to “the worst-ever performance of the PAP”.

She said that while graffiti and mass protests are common in other countries, they are unique in Singapore. “One senses, uneasily, that this could be just the beginning,” Dr Lim said.

When asked about her response to Mr Foo’s letter, she referred to her follow-up post. “I welcome all comments, as I find it instructive to get as many perspectives as possible on a subject that I’ve been writing about for years.”