VALID OB (OUT OF BOUNDS) MARKERS?
Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean said freedom of expression does not mean that one has unfettered rights to insult and denigrate another’s religion or race. This position is correct and wise.
Religion is one of the three cans of worm – race, language and religion – that once opened is extremely difficult to close. More important, it has unintended consequences with long lasting impacts. For this reason it is one of those subjects best left alone so long as it stays within the confines of private practices and do not intrude into the public domain.
This position was first articulated by Lee Kuan Yew during the early years of his rule and it marked him as a wise leader deserving of respect and admiration. He certainly won my admiration and respect then. It was only in latter years that he took it upon himself to open the three cans of worm that was proscribed by an unwritten code of social harmony of his own making.
The race, language and religion issues were the earliest OB Markers laid down by the government. It made sense and the people were behind the government 101% on this matter.
Like all good things that turns bad when overcooked and overdone so can a perfectly good idea like OB Markers instituted in the name of social harmony. It is one thing to declare sensitive topics like race, language and religion out of bound to one and all. It quite another to also declare discussion on the behavior of the person who came up with the idea of declaring the three cans of worm out of bound as well. Even more pestiferous is the ruling party’s attempts to leverage on the one good idea that is socially beneficial and make a mockery of it by claiming legal immunity from wrongdoings even remotely arising out of an infinite degree of separation from it.
It is this ruling party’s pernicious mischievous habit of claiming immunity from any criticism that is making it lose credibility with the people. Its relentless campaign against any and all forms of opposition, with the help of the state media and blinkered judiciary, is galling to say the least. Without the shadow of a doubt it is taking the art of hypocrisy to new heights.
Having said that, the people must rise to the occasion and not sink to the depravity of the ruling party in their attempt to hold on to power way past their stay of welcome. We must recognise that the three cans of worm – race, language and religion – is a valid and sensible OB Marker and must remain caged and confined. Not only that, we must voice our bipartisan disapproval vociferously no matter who breaches it. None shall be immune from social opprobrium and even legal sanction if warranted.
To rise to the occasion in this instance is to applaud and support Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean’s caution against unfettered freedom of expression on matters of religion whereby it can lead to social unrest. It is the right call and all of us should stand by him on this issue.