I first came across the book Self-censorship: Singapore’s Shame by James Gomez, sometime in late 1999, in a sundry shop at an MRT station. I was curious enough to get a copy. I read the book and found that it helped crystalise what I was feeling and thinking about for quite sometime before I bought the book. Here’s the synopsis,
For a country that is economically advanced, modern and positioned as a global city, Singapore resonates with a climate of fear.
Democracy is often misrepresented, misunderstood or treated as a dirty word. When it comes to politics, it’s pure paranoia. Few question why by-elections are not called or why the presidential process ends in no contest. Instead what is common is the practice of self-censorship. Frequently it ends with the censorship of others. It is interesting to see that self-censorship operates without the direct intervention of the ruling party.
What makes most citizens, residents, and foreigners living and working in Singapore behave in this way? Why does the majority avoid alternative political expression? How do they censor themselves and others? What special hold does the city-state have over their individual behaviours? In such an environment, what are the chances of legitimising alternative political expression and action? What repercussions does this uniquely Singaporean self-censorship hold for the Republic?s future?
Finally, how can the situation be improved?
Written in a lucid and easy to read style, this book analyses these questions and evaluates the implications.
I wrote a letter to James after reading the book expressing how interesting the book was and offering to help in any way. Eventually, I attended a human rights forum in March 2000 organised by Think Centre. I hooked-up with him and several others after that forum.
Which led to some intense & exciting period of time, in which, we did a number of activities & events. Among them was the opening day event at Speakers Corner (Sept 2000); commemoration of International Human Rights Day (Dec 2000); Save JBJ Rally (Apr 2001). 😀
During the time i was with the Centre, I was Deputy Executive Secretary, editor of the Centre’s website, public affairs head, managed and organised activities and ran day-to-day affairs of the Centre. Of course, I worked alongside, and was supported by, a number of remarkable individuals. 🙂
When the book was officially launched in Nov 1999 at MPH Stamford Road, it sold out in its first week. A week later, it was numero uno on MPH’s bestsellers list. [The book is now available for free download here]
Its been 10 years. How time flies. I’ve not been as active, for quite awhile, as I was during the time I spent at the Centre and a little bit after that. That might change at some point in the future. Or it might not. Only time will tell. Till then, I just am where I am.
James is currently reviewing Self-censorship: Singapore’s Shame, which was his first book, and has set-up an author’s support group at facebook where he has begun posting revised chapters and to ask friends and interested people to help me re-think and reflect when revising the book.
Talk about sequels!! 😀