Freedom of speech has its limits

The prolific anti-government blogger Roy Ngerng was recently served legal letters from our PM Lee Hsien Loong. He was alleged to have defamed our PM with allegations that he has misappropriated the hard earned CPF funds of Singaporeans.

Freedom of speech is a phrase bandied about by many people critical of the PAP government and in many less-than-democratic nations. I support freedom of speech in principle but, there is always a big but, within reasonable limits. Freedom of speech neither give you the right to shout “Fire” in a crowded theatre nor shout molest just because an ugly guy bumps into you accidentally on the bus.

Freedom of speech in this case is about criticizing a politician with solid facts and figures not baseless allegations. Freedom of speech is about taking responsibility of your words and have the balls to fight it out in court if you think you are right. Past bloggers who dutifully took down their posts have shown that they are willing to claim the world but decide to retreat back into their shell when push comes to shove. How can I respect bloggers who refuse to stand by their words?

Coming back to Mr Ngerng, a young age of 25 has defended by many anti-government supporters is not an excuse. People as young as 24 years old have contested in elections. Even if PM Lee is double his age does not mean he has to show magnanimity, silence means consent. Politicians have the right to sue for defamation for not doing so implies the allegations are true. It is a slippery slope of allegations are left unanswered. Look at what happened in the US when many Americans still believe Obama is Muslim or born in Kenya because some opposing senators still continue to play up those untruths.

If opposition politicians like Chiam See Tong and Low Thia Kiang have never been sued for defamation, why can’t Roy follow their examples and not exercise his keyboard warrior skills to the limit. In fact Chiam sued a restaurant once for misusing his fame, defamation suits are not the sole domain of PAP politicians.

Criticize on policies if you must, but never criticize a public figure unless you have solid evidence. My question is, where is the evidence that our hardworking PM Lee or anyone else in the PAP Cabinet for that matter, is corrupt? We are rated highly in anti-corruption index by independent international organisations, it is highly doubtful that that rank fell from the sky.

One must always be prepared to defend what they say online or offline. Mr Ngerng and the scores of other anti-government bloggers before him have clearly shown they do not. Paying the legal fees and damages is a justified deterrence against such unsubstantiated behavior in future. Roy, you are perhaps a testosterone filled young man. Like the many young guys I know at my age, they are generally prone to rash behavior. Studies have shown that young men have the highest non-natural mortality rate. Please reconsider your words before you open your mouth against a honest and hardworking government official who has Singapore’s best interests at heart.

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