Get your debunking tools ready!
In the previous post, I went to the National Archives with fellow SBPer Pleinelune to search for the Holy Grail of Singapore politics: undeniable proof that Papalee threatened to find out who exactly voted in Jeyaratnam and Chiam in 1984, and why.
We didn't find any such account in the Straits Times.
What we did find:
A much more sympathetic report of the opposition in its stories (although numerically, articles covering the Whiteshirts still dominated).
More critical reporting of the Whiteshirt campaign and election issues, compared to the 2006 election.
The combination of sympathetic and critical reporting led Papalee to accuse the press of being biased against his party, a claim he continued to make as late as 2006, in a televised dialogue session with ST journalists.
What does Cherian George say about this editorial from the Straits Times, in 1984?
"Let's take it in our stride"
What is disturbing is talk of the need to re-examine the one-man, one-vote system in light of what happened. Equally disturbing is the prospect that residents of Anson and Potong Pasir are in for a lesson, for voting in opposition candidates.
Can Cherian George honestly say that today's Straits Times is capable of printing such editorials? That it is more fair towards the opposition?
We also paid attention to photographs of the politicians. All were of low quality and in black and white. Papalee had one of the worst photos (him in side profile, clenching a fist at the microphone), while other PAP and opposition MPs and candidates had full-face passport photo style mugs, regardless of position and post.
There was also a half page interview with Chiam, where he outlined what he'll do in Parliament. A quarter page interview with an outgoing opposition party leader, his analysis of how his Malay party managed to garner suprise Chinese votes in 1984. ST also published full articles from foreign newspapers (the Bangkok Post, the New Straits Times, the Wapo). These were articles chastising Papalee for being a sore loser, pondering over his rejection of one-man one-vote democracy, and suggesting that voters, in their 12% national swing towards the opposition, were rejecting the increasingly hectoring style and torrent of Papalee's national campaigns.
Which is the Pro-PAP ST?
A. ST in 1984: Quoting Whiteshirts word for word, no matter what they say. Headlines are direct quotes from their speeches, and come with quote marks.
B. ST in 2006: Spinning Whiteshirt speeches, dressing up headlines to mislead readers, editing out unfortunate phrases like "fix them and buy my supporters votes".
Cherian George, I'd like to see a retraction of the statement in your blog, really. And it took just 2 people 1 hour at the National Archives to do what you thought would take 2 years by NUS/NTU honours thesis candidates. Gah.
Just to see how the Whiteshirts have commited the mistakes it accused opposition parties of making in 1984, and how little things have changed, here are the headlines of the post-election coverage from 24 and 26 December 1984:
PM replies to voters' signal (papalee promises a more open and less austere government)
Genuine distress or blackmail, asks Raja (Raja vows to show voters they cannot blackmail the government into compromising policies and principles. This man does not understand the meaning of democracy)
Senior ministers' pay to go up (he did promise a less austere government. and is leading by example)
PAP has support of most younger voters (claim by Goh Chok Tong, then a new MP)
26,000 voters cast spoilt or rejectd votes
Snake pit politics will scare off credible candidates (now we know why the Whiteshirts find it so hard to recruit)
Brigadier-General Lee makes early "thank you" call
We will settle accounts (Papalee refuses to congratulate Chiam and JBJ, vows not to put election clashes behind)
PAP must make greater effort (to bond with voters. GCT)
Not so much a vote for opposition: Mah (it's a plebiscite)
Chua to step down from Cabinet
By-elections may be needed (to allow Mah Bow Tan to get back into parliament after defeat by Chiam)
Let's take it in our stride (critical editorial by ST chief. Soon replaced by a more pliant and cooperative candidate)
Voting is not like making a film (excerpt from Papalee election victory speech)
Voting not based on racial lines, says Yatiman (denies Malays ever vote as a bloc)
Opposition denies playing gutter politics