It is barely the first week of the new year and we already have a threat of legal action from the People’s Action Party (PAP) / Government. PM Lee Hsien Loong had sent a lawyer’s letter to well known and very much respected blogger, activist and writer, Alex Au, demanding Alex removed his blog posts about Action Information Management, the PAP-owned company embroiled in the controversy over a certain computer system.
It is unclear whether PM Lee had sent the letter in his personal capacity, or as the prime minister or secretary general of the PAP. Whatever it is, the demand was clear – remove the allegedly offending post, and publish an apology, or else.
It is the same old tiring, tiresome, and tired tactic of issuing threats instead of engaging the issue or the alleged allegations. Threatening to take legal action over blog postings is, to be honest, infantile. It is childish because it does not befit the office of the prime minister to take offence so easily, when he has in his power all the resources to engage the issue, clarify any perceived falsehoods, or lay out the facts of the issue at hand. In short, he could very well take some time, have a bit of patience, and debate or discuss the issues and in the process enlighten everyone – and maybe gain a bit more respect too from his detractors.
But no. A lawyer’s letter was obviously deemed the better option.
Nonetheless, lets not let this threat of legal action distract us from the very important matter of the AIM/PAP controversy – for there are still many questions, serious questions, left unanswered, even after some 3 weeks since the matter came into the public spotlight.
Dr Teo Ho Pin, the coordinating chairman of the 14 PAP town councils, have yet to explain, for example, why he and the chairmen of the town councils, did not see the conflict of interest of awarding and selling the rights of the computer system to a PAP-owned company. If they did, why did they still choose to go ahead in awarding the contract to AIM?
He has also not disclosed how much was used to develop the software in the first place. Or indeed, how much AIM paid for the software. Why was AIM’s bid for the contract submitted, apparently, one week after the closing date of the tender – and accepted?
Alex raised some very pertinent matters too – such as the danger that there is nothing to stop the PAP from selling out other services to PAP-owned companies. By the way, the PAP has declined to reveal how many companies it owns. This too is a problem because any opposition party which wins a constituency may find itself having to deal with PAP-owned companies, as the Workers’ Party did with AIM in Aljunied.
It is thus important, in the name of full accountability, that the PAP disclose the number of companies it has, and the nature of their business.
In the case of AIM, the PAP declined to disclose its past business dealings, or other details about the company.
So, in spite of the threat of legal action by the prime minister, these questions are being asked even more loudly now – and it would do the PAP a whole lot of good if it addressed each one openly.
And the best way to do so is in a “live” press conference in the presence of the mainstream media and the alternative media. Take the matter head-on, clear all doubts, lay out all facts.
That is, if the PAP has nothing to hide, which I am sure is the case.
And it really – I mean, really – is time to lay down the hatchet.
Engage Singaporeans. Engage the issue. Engage the questions – and not engage lawyers to issue threats.
Stop being so childish, prime minister.
Read Ravi Philemon’s letter to PAP chairman, Khaw Boon Wan, here.