How the Clampdown of Freedom of Speech Made Singaporeans’ Economic Lives Worse

Why should we care about the freedom of speech? Because it has a direct impact on the economic lives of Singaporeans.

The PAP’s arrest and imprisonment, and subsequent legal prosecution of Singaporeans have prevented Singaporeans from questioning their policies and proactively supporting Singaporeans who need help, and have thus resulted in the inequalities that are present in Singapore today.

In the first 20 years of Singapore’s history after independence from the British, the PAP arrested and imprisoned without trial hundreds and thousands of Singaporeans, including opposition politicians, labour unionists, students activists and news editors – people who actually wanted to help Singaporeans, and imprisoned some of them for more than 10, 20 and even 30 years.

Operation Coldstore and Spectrum

Dr Poh Soo Kai, who was a founding member of the People’s Action Party (PAP) and who later became the Assistant Secretary-General of Barisan Sosialis, was imprisoned for a total of 17 years.

In an article earlier this year, Dr Poh said that if “the Barisan Sosialis had won in a fair and clean election” and were not unjustly imprisoned, “There would be social justice and economic dignity for the sick and disabled, the old and retired and other vulnerable groups.

“There would certainly be no astronomical salary for ministers; no polarisation of wealth in society; ministers would have to declare their assets on taking office and beprohibited to have personal holding companies, exposed to the lure of investing in tandem with the Government Investment Corporations (GICs).

“We would have promoted a robust 2-party system for checks and balances in the parliament which till today I would very much welcome.”

Dr Poh also said, “This obscene gap between the rich top 1% Singaporeans and the bottom 99% ordinary Singaporeans, results in the latter feeling insecure and marginalized: they worry about the value of their HDB flats and most importantly, if they would be able to live off their CPF when they retire, for all around Singapore, they can see the less fortunate of the pioneer generation, gathering card boxes, selling tissue packets, and offering to carry passengers’ heavy luggage with their feeble strength.”

Indeed, in the first 20 years of Singapore the first-generation PAP politicians did at least take care of Singaporeans, where wages increased, the CPF interest rates increased, housing prices were cheap and income inequality was declining.

However, after 20 years of arrests and imprisonment, and after the first-generation PAP politicians were removed from cabinet and replaced by the second-generation politicians, that was when policies started turning against Singaporeans.

From the mid-1980s onwards, the PAP-run government reduced health subsidies, increased university fees by several hundred times, reduced CPF interest rates and started inflating housing prices.

From the mid-1990s onwards, the PAP started increasing their own salaries to millions of dollars, the real wages of Singaporeans started becoming stagnant, income inequality started increasing while the share of income that went to the rich also started increasing.

The mid-1980s to 2000s also coincided with the PAP’s use of the defamation law against opposition politicians and international media which dared to question the PAP.

Opposition Politicians Defamation border

As such, the PAP was able to use the law to clamp down on the freedom of speech, which allowed them to widen the rich-poor gap in Singapore and allowed themselves to get ahead at the expense of Singaporeans. But in prosecuting Singaporeans, the PAP also stopped Singaporeans from organising themselves to help one another.

In 1987, the PAP also arrested and imprisoned without trial more than 20 Singaporeans, such as social workers and lawyers, some of whom were working with a Catholic Church to outreach to single mothers, ex-prisoners and migrant workers, doing good work. However, they were arrested on the pretext that they wanted to subvert the government. But in reality, it is clear that the government was uncomfortable that they were organising themselves and helping Singaporeans.

“On Singaporean society – well, many organisations died after 1987. Those that survived tread carefully and mainly aim to work with the government or at least to gain recognition from the government,” Teo Soh Lung said. She was imprisoned for more than 2 years in 1987.

Another was Tan Wah Piow, who was president of the University of Singapore’s Students’ Union (USSU) in 1974, and was imprisoned for a year in 1975 after he was set up as having instigated a riot. But Wah Piow was prosecuted because he was helping the workers.

But because the PAP was able to use a sophisticated set of tools to curb the ability of Singaporeans and opposition politicians from speaking up, this has prevented well-meaning Singaporeans from helping other Singaporeans and to speak up against policies, so as to improve the lives of Singaporeans.

Today, the PAP ministers earn the highest salaries in the world while The Economist has ranked Singapore 5th on the crony capitalism index where Singapore is the 5th easiest place for the rich to get rich. Meanwhile, Singapore has become the most expensive place in the world even as wages continue to be the lowest among the developed countries, resulting in the lowest purchasing power as well, putting Singapore on par with Malaysia and India. In addition, personal consumption as a percentage of GDP has kept falling since the 1970s while Singaporeans have to pay the most for healthcare out of their own pockets and also pay one of the most expensive university tuition fees and childcare fees in the world, if not, the most expensive.

In short, the lives of Singaporeans have gotten worse off, even as the country and the PAP ministers have gotten richer. All these have happened because Singaporeans were not able to speak up and if they did, they were prosecuted. As such, it became difficult to question the PAP’s actions and the PAP was able to continue to run amok and depressed the lives of Singaporeans.

As such, it is important for Singaporeans to recognise the significance of the freedom of speech. It is important to protect the people who speak up for us, and to also organise ourselves together and speak up, so that in the eventuality, our lives will be protected as well. If we give up our right to speak up and we do not stand up for those who speak up for us, then we are allowing our lives to be compromised, as it has.

Thankfully when I was sued last year, Singaporeans no longer took it sitting down. You fought back by supporting me and by taking part in the protests. We were able to make some very small changes to the CPF but this is not enough. The PAP government still does not want to reform the CPF system, and be transparent and accountable to Singaporeans.

It is not enough for you to show your support online. You have to stand up and speak up. This is why I admire Amos Yee for putting it bluntly how Singapore is being overrun by the PAP, and why I support the two men who protested outside the PAP. Their calls on “Injustice” and “You can’t silence the people” is apt.

Men Protest Istana Amos Yee

“However, for far too long, dissent has been dealt with very severely, and sometimes, downright inhumanely. We believe in Change, and correcting Injustice wherever we see it,” the two men had said.

“Ruining a person’s life when he simply asks questions (not for his own sake, no less) seems to be the norm in Singapore. Is this not Injustice? Should we turn a blind eye to this?” they also said.

We have allowed the PAP to carry on with its atrocities for the past 50 years but this cannot go on. Our economic livelihoods have become bad enough when it is estimated that 30% of Singaporeans are living in poverty and Singapore has the widest rich-poor gap and income inequality among the developed countries. The income inequality has also resulted in the lowest levels of trust, the highest prisoner rate after America and one of the lowest social mobilities among the developed countries.

If we allow the PAP to continue to pillage our country, I am not sure if the future of Singapore can still be protected. It is ironic that even as the PAP claims that if Singaporeans do not vote for them that Singaporeans will collapse but it is precisely if we continue to vote for the PAP that Singapore can potentially collapse. Yet even as the PAP keeps fearmongering among Singaporeans to claim that the opposition is weak, it cannot be clearer that the PAP themselves are the ones who are weak and have been unable to enact solutions to improve the lives of Singaporeans.

It is time Singaporeans rise up and speak up. We can no longer take things sitting down, while the PAP run our country to the ground. Now is the time to fight back, now is the time to release ourselves from their grip and to get our lives back. We have to stand up and vote right, so that we can put in a new government that will take care of and protect Singaporeans.

It is time we do what is right for ourselves.



    As usual……Profound, Profound Profound. Exposure to Sunlight can only be good for the general health of the country and its citizens. Well done. Just remember that the wheels of Justice turn very very slowly…….so GREAT patience is required. Best wishes. The Observer.

  2. Hardeep Saini

    Another well thought out article that smacks right on the problem.
    I left Singapore for Australia in ’89 but still notice that the same problems created by the old PAP are being reproduced by the new PAP. The only difference is that in ’89 we were being screwed by the old PAP who were intelligent, smart and educated. Today you guys are being screwed by the new PAP who are intelligent, stupid and educated.
    Doesn’t say much about Singapore’s exceptional education system when it is going to churn out rubbish.
    Why do Singaporeans keep voting for a party that keeps screwing them?
    I don’t wholly blame the people for having the PAP in power for 50 years. The PAP have, over the years, come up with many schemes that were effective in ascertaining that the PAP kept winning every election, which included imprisonments without trial, defamation suits and character assassinations ( they have used other methods which I will not articulate here ).
    Why would any party go into such lengths to stay in power, if it did not have something to hide?
    Once the PAP looses control of the parliament there will be a lot of skeletons falling out of their closets.
    There is a reason why they have complete control of everything, which they have painstakingly developed and staffed with PAP members. They are especially active in the media and the union movement.
    These PAP members staffing these organisations are on the ready to create mayhem and chaos the moment the opposition wins an election.
    The police and the judicial system, which acts on every whim of the PAP, will now be stumped and confused as to which way to respond.
    The opposition parties are prepared for an eventual win but I am afraid that they may not be as well prepared for what the PAP and their grassroots members have in store for them. I am also suspicious of the way the President might act. Will he act for the best interests of all Singaporeans or will he be pro PAP? I am suspicious of the so called “executive powers” bestowed upon him.
    If the newly elected party is not quick enough to counter and neutralize such threats than the PAP and their supporters would have succeeded in overthrowing the elected government of the day through “people power”.

  3. turncoats

    After the passing of old Lee, I will not be surprised some of their inner circle will backstabbed one another eventually. The game of thrones has begun.

  4. to Singapore Prime Minister



    3)对邓亮洪等被残酷迫害的游子, 要以博大的胸怀接他们回家,叶落归根。

    4)对鄞义林和 AmosYee 这样的年轻一代,要召集他们听取意见,给他们事做。

    5 )对男性部长或国家正副总理, 最好不要配备女性秘书, 更不要配备2个以上女性秘书, 涉嫌好色. 有损执政清廉。

    6 ) 对破坏纪律的 “ 帮手 ”, 要终止 “精英” 工资待遇, 大公无私 。

    6)对付“ 民众的不爽”, 最好的策略就是要时刻想到:“ 我对政治世家做到了正确的传承 , 我所做的一切都是为了我的人民 。 ”

    7) 如果暂时做不到以上部分,也不要逼自己一颗玻璃心. 先想一想. 读一本林肯的书,最伟大的美国总统林肯不以任何人為敵人, 关于这个,我们曾在电邮里向您推荐过。

  5. to Singapore Prime Minister

    好書推介︰對手團隊(Team of Rivals)
    原著是傳記作家 Doris Kearns Goodwin 女士2005年出版的林肯傳︰《對手團隊︰政治天才林肯》(Team of Rivals,The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln)。

    故事的開始是在1860年5月18日,共和黨提名總統侯選人的大幕拉開了,四位競選者都在等待著芝加哥共和黨全國會議的消息。最有希望獲勝的是紐約州兩任州長,12年的參議員威廉舒爾德(William M Seward)。舒爾德是位才能超凡的政治家,那天他在他的老家紐約奧本(Auburn)等待選舉結果,和他一起等待的還有數千名忠誠的支持者,他們把祝賀他題名成功的大炮都準備好了,只等結果出來就鳴炮致敬。其他幾位候選人包括俄亥俄州州長賽門切斯(Salmon P Chase), 密甦里州的德高望重的議員艾德華貝茨(Edward Bates),伊利諾州的亞伯拉罕林肯(Abraham Lincoln)。賽門切斯和艾德華貝茨在大選那天也是躊著滿志地在自己的老家等待勝利的消息, 唯有伊利諾州的林肯是在忐忑不安之中在 Springfiled 城里等待著,作好了面對各種結果的心理準備,特別是失敗。


    選舉結果,幾乎是戲劇性的,林肯黑馬一匹,擊敗三位對手,獲得勝利。林肯的三位對手都很吃驚,很憤怒,他們都認為選舉什麼 地方出了錯,選出了一位不夠格的人,輸掉的候選人才是更有資格的人。接下來的總統競選,林肯又勝出,他的這幾位對手還是認為他不夠格。

    林肯意料之外地勝出。是歷史開了玩笑,搞錯了?不是,當然不是。今天回頭來看,就像一個穿越到了未來的人來告訴當時的人未來究竟發生了什麼,一切都很清楚, 林肯勝出不是偶然的。林肯勝出是因為他具有非凡的政治才能和超強的判斷能力。

    當上總統後,林肯作了個大膽的決定,任用他的競選對手來組閣。他的理由很簡單,也很無私,那就是這些競選對手都是國家最優秀的人才,應該任用他們。舒爾德(Seward)當上了國務卿,切斯(Chase)是財政部長,貝茨(Bates)是司法部長。另外幾位民主黨的人也被任命。林肯後來任命的戰爭部長埃德溫斯坦頓(Edwin M. Stanton)曾經還非常瞧不起林肯。這些內閣成員都比林肯有更多的從政經歷,受過更好的教育,他們的存在從某種意義上來說有可能嚴重威脅這位來自伊利諾州的小律師林肯總統。林肯敢于這樣組閣,他的超強的自信心是史無前例的。這種組閣方式後來被他的粉絲奧巴馬總統所效法,任用競選對手希拉里克林頓作國務卿。


    舒爾德是第一個欣賞林肯超凡才能的人,以後他便成了林肯的密友和參謀。舒爾德是美國歷史上非常有名的人,兩任國務卿,他的廣為人知的最大手筆的杰作就是用超 低的價錢(每平方公里4.74美元)從俄國人手里購買了阿拉斯加。內閣的其他成員如貝茨,開始以為林肯能力不夠,最終也承認林肯是位無人能與之比肩的總統,差不多是位完美的人。甚至切斯這位始終不放棄總統野心的人,最後也承認林肯超過了他。



    作者除了描繪一個活生生的林肯,對其他內閣成員的性格描寫也非常生動有趣。比如切斯的終身總統夢,貝茨是怎樣的一個愛家的好男人,栩栩如生,讀者隨著作者進入了19世紀,美國南北戰爭那個時代。讀到最後林肯被刺他的朋友們的反應,我也跟著流淚了。林肯被刺給戰爭部長斯坦頓帶來的傷痛比任何人都重,斯坦頓在林肯心髒停止跳動時(1865年4月15日早晨7點22分)說了一句後人永遠銘記的話︰“現在他屬于時代(Now he belongs to the ages)”。一個能被對手和朋友如此愛戴的人,有著一顆偉大而慈愛的心,他的離去不但使他同時代的人傷心,也讓我們隔著時空為他流淚。

  6. landragon123

    Please do not bring the past into this present situation. You need your future, and LKY have leave on a chosen date 23/3/15 a Monday, exactly 7days for the whole of Singapore to say farewell so did the World wept and the Rain came to wash his Sins away if there is any and I believe NOT.
    His son ask him to go get better, by his writing and LKY listen and left us for the Better, to be God or reborn in India as the boy may just be HIM and in 30 years time, watch for him in India. India is the only country to declare a Holiday for LKY.
    Roy, politician have to be dirty to carry on a good job and runs a country well. Where have our gangers gone and bad oppositions have to be gone too. But some of these oppositions came back with degrees

    • Hardeep Saini

      Dear landragon123
      Don’t you know that to move forward, one has to first come to terms with ones past.
      There are a lot of people in Singapore who need to admit guilt for their past deeds.
      Only when one admits their guilt and learn from it can this nation move forward.
      The New PAP is not only in denial about the past misdeeds of the PAP but are now effectively creating more bad deeds.
      One CANNOT hope to have ones sins washed away by just one days rain.
      50 years of misdeeds will not wash away that easily.
      LKY was vindictive, arrogant and self praising. He is right now being judged HIM.
      Spiritually, when one does a good deed ( like what LKY did ) one steps forward spiritually. But than when that person were to now commit a bad deed ( like what LKY also did ) he or she is now going to move backwards again.
      Only GOD will judge LKY for how many bad deeds that he did. How many lives that he and the PAP destroyed. How many times he and the PAP is guilty of interfering with the natural course of destiny for Singapore and Singaporeans.
      Ask the thousands of Singaporeans who have left Singapore, their home town, their country of birth. No one wants to leave their hometown, their motherland. LKY did that to all these people, thereby separating brothers from brothers, sisters from sisters, off springs from parents and friends from friends.
      I know this as I am one of those who is thus separated.
      LKY was also no friend to his own people.
      In 1942, when the Japanese were killing the Chinese in Singapore, LKY had a relatively good life by being the translator for the Japanese.
      For those Chinese whose grandparents were slaughtered by the Japanese, LKY is a traitor. At the very least, he is a collaborator.
      Only cowards do that in war time.
      For that he will be punished by GOD.
      No amount of compliments about him will change these facts.
      The next time you come across a coachroach, don’t step on it. It might be LKY.

      • landragon123

        Hardsheep, Do you believe that LKY knows he was going to the PM when he works for the Japanese during WW2? Flows the flow that is life, live your life as it is needed.
        Let him be, judged by you or Gods, does not matter as the nation weeps for him so did make other countries. India for one declare a Holiday and flew the flag half mast. A new LKY is now born in India, you now can wait 30 years to see if he is the LKY that we have?
        Whatever he did HE did it right to many of us citizen. The new PAP is run by LHL not LKY so blame it on our Sick PM now.

  7. Rotten PAPayas

    “my mother would stand up and walk away from the television whenever Lee Kuan Yew appeared on the screen.”

  8. lea xian loon

    Those ISD guys responsible for this dark episode should hide their faces in shame.
    For these are the ones that sold their souls to deny freedom to their fellow men.
    The laws of Karma will strike them and is best that they now come out with a TRUTH COMMISSION so that lessons can be learned and the Singapore society can then progress on

    For those who has blood in their hands it is never too late to repent for the sake of their children and the future generations. Stop what you are doing now, repent and desist in carrying on what you are doing if you are still selling your souls to deny the freedom of your fellow Singaporeans.

  9. lea xian loon

    L*K said that he bought the land and houses cheaply from British when they left SG in 1960s during one of the PAP election rally. This is a blantant lie and absolutely preposterous. My paternal grandparents, who are poor labourers, land was taken away and my maternal grandmother shophouse was also taken away and paid a pittance under the land acquisition act during the 70s. They have extreme difficulties of making ends meet and to pay off loan and suffered tremendously. Many many commoners have suffered badly similarly during those times. His government has built their riches on people’s sufferings. He and his government is very cruel and e*il. He has to be answerable to his act of cruelty to my grandparents, who had already passed away, and those suffered during those times!!

    • lolz

      yes, there were people who were treated unfairly in the process of growth of Singapore (my grandfather included) but that doesn’t change the fact that Singapore as a whole is much better off as a result of the Land Acquisition Act, as well as other Acts that were then seen as unfair. If there was no such act in Singapore, would the HDB have been so successful in the early years? I think not – many would likely still be living in kampongs without proper sanitation etc. LKY has also admitted that there were things that had to be done at the time that he isn’t proud of, but what newly independent country is proud of everything they’ve done? Even the USA is not proud of the first 50 years of their independence.

      Before criticizing LKY, reflect on how his actions benefitted Singapore as a whole, and what could you have done to ensure an equal, or better outcome without stepping on some toes in the process?

  10. PAPer Tiger

    Over the 7-day mourning period, the elderly Singaporeans were cut off completely from their little entertainment through the electronic box.

    Why must this pioneer generation be made to give everything to dignify one person after all their contributions to his success?

  11. PAPer Tiger

    Peaceful protestors arrested in Singapore after authoritarian Lee Kuan Yew’s death

    For selfish self preservation reasons, the Lees have disallowed all forms of protests anywhere in the island.

    Unfortunately for Lee Kuan Yew’s son, in recent times, these so far isolated incidents of protest are becoming increasingly more frequent. And this latest protest could not have come at a more unfortunate moment for him.

    These protests would undoubtedly cause a little instability to the island, but this is a price worth paying because it will lead to a more democratic, stable and enduring political system. What you are doing is good for Singapore island, even though it is not good for the Lee Kuan Yew family.

    PAPer dogs, you can bark at us, but we can see that you are leashed

  12. Leeann

    I am a foreigner; I’ve been traveling around Asia while my husband works here for a couple of years. Singapore is my home base. I believe I know it somewhat well by now. I am often puzzled. This forum seems like a good place to ask one of my questions, and I hope people will not demonize me and make personal attacks over my sincere curiosity.

    When people speak of the lack of opportunities, I really cannot understand. Anyone with an average intelligence or higher can earn engineering qualifications at school, and everywhere I look there are opportunities for engineers. Why don’t locals capitalize on these abundant opportunities? There are hiring preferences for citizens for these jobs, so when people feel like they aren’t upwardly mobile, I think I must be overlooking something. But what?

    I have other questions, but want to test the waters and see if I am thick skinned enough for whatever backlash appears before asking.

    Thank you for any insight.

    • lolz

      hi 🙂 this confuses me somewhat as well, but I will try my best to shed some insight.

      generally I do agree with you, that there are abundant opportunities for anyone. Even for the low-income in Singapore, there are many bursaries or scholarships available given according to academic merit yearly. In addition, some secondary schools and junior colleges do offer financial aid (and some of my classmates are on Financial Aid programmes) so the government does spend a lot subsidizing education, and helping the poor to afford it. Even my ‘A’ Level registration is free.

      However, there is some issue with the completely meritocratic system. It’s not seen only in Singapore, but also in the US and in other countries. That is, generally children of successful parents tend to experience more academic success. Some of it is eugenics, but some of it is also due to the resources that these children have. For example, they can pay for lots of tuition to augment their learning, so that they have an edge over other, less well-off students who cannot afford it, especially since tuition can be quite pricey.

      There are some lower-level engineering jobs where locals have to compete with foreigners as well, which the government has tried to mitigate by setting quotas for foreign employees. However, firms generally prefer to hire foreign employees because they demand a cheaper salary, which is why some Singaporeans feel the pinch, I think. So I do think that there is some unfairness in the system, but that is inherent, and definitely not to the extent that some people claim it is.

      I hope this helped, cheers! 🙂

  13. Singapore Citizen Mr. Teo En Ming (Zhang Enming)

    Subtle Denial of Medical Treatment by the Singapore Government for Mr. Teo En Ming (Zhang Enming)

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