16 April 2006

Great moments in television history

On 12 April 2006, Channel News Asia Singapore telecast a dialogue between Papalee and several Singaporeans born after 1970. You don't have to watch the entire thing, because you can fast forward to about the 12m30s mark of the video to view this interesting exchange:

(previously: a journalist fields a question on whether any invasion of privacy and violation of the secrecy of the vote had been committed since (allegedly) the PAP does know the percentage of people, down to the apartment block or polling district, who voted one way or another)

MM Lee: But you won't know who comprises the 60%, right?

Ken Kwek, 26 - Journalist; Never voted: You don't need to know that to strike fear, though.

MM Lee: Oh, come off it! (laughter) You mean to tell me you have, you're one of the 40% who voted against the PAP and something happens to you?

Ken Kwek: I mean, I've never voted for that matter, but I mean - we talk to hundreds of voters in the course of our work, and it's either "no comment" or "if I vote against the PAP, I may..."

MM Lee: No, no. Let's get down. What are the hundreds of voters? You name the hundreds of voters, a few of them. Tell me.

Ken Kwek: Well, I mean I can't name them by name...

MM Lee: No, no. You tell me you've spoken to and tell you they're afraid.

Ken Kwek: A few weeks ago, the Straits Times did a report, we polled a hundred voters...

MM Lee: No, no, no, no. Never mind the Straits Times poll. You made a statement just now, that "I spoke to a hundred respondents, and they were all afraid." I say, you name them. Tell me who.

Ken Kwek had the guts to start this, but he did not have the gumption to go all the way. After being badgered by Lee Kuan Yew, he remained silent for the remaining 40 minutes of the forum.

Foreign media should watch this video clip and take down notes here. When the Minister Mentor goes to a foreign talk show, he answers difficult questions through spinning. This video shows how he answers difficult questions from his own citizens and subjects.

Since Ken Kwek did have a point to make, let me perhaps construct what he should've said to the Minister Mentor, had he the guts to finish what he started:

Mr Minister, what will you do with this list of names of people who believe there is a climate of fear in Singapore? Can we trust you not to run investigations on who these people are, who they have studied with, who taught them?

Sir, many Singaporeans of my age do not want to live in a country where people get their names on a list because they espouse a view that you cannot accept, a view that you insist is factually wrong.

You may have started life as a cross-examiner. I have started life as a journalist, and one of the basic rules of the profession, one that is legally protected, is the right to confidentiality of journalists and their interviewees. You may ask for the list of names, but you have no right to ask for them. You, sir, do not have the right to know.

My editor at the Straits Times would have that right, to check my findings. You do not. You may even cross-examine me in court. Our judges, whose legal standards and rulings are in lockstep with judicial matters elsewhere, will answer to you the same way: you do not have the right to ask me for that list of names. Perhaps you could test this out legally. I welcome you to cross-examine me, not in a television studio, but in open court, in the full attention of the world media.

Mr Minister, why are you so insistent on proving that there cannot exist a hundred people in Singapore who believe there is a climate of fear? They are but a hundred. They are insignificant, compared to the popular support your party has had.

We at the Straits Times polled a hundred people. On the conservative side, say we have 10 people out of the 100 who believe there is some fear, and 40 who gave no comment. We shan't bother with the 40. What is the probability that out of this sample, the actual number of people in the entire population of Singapore who believe there is fear, is less than 100? The Prime Minister, your son, is a mathematician. He can tell you the odds, and he can certainly tell you that it's silly to swipe at this claim just because I didn't personally interview all the 100 respondents. Your own department of statistics operates on the same principle as well, and I don't see you swiping at them.

Why are you so insistent, then, that there cannot exist even 100 people in Singapore who believe the electorate is cowed by your party?


locky2ky said...

may be Ken Kwek should name himself. He was already being intimidated by MM

akikonomu said...

He should have. But I doubt he felt courageous enough at that point in time.

Anonymous said...

i hope you'll email your comments to ken kwek, as i think they are very constructive. his email is kenkwek@sph.com.sg

Anonymous said...

I don't think Ken will bother. He just reported about a Finish guy commenting about how great Singapore is with low tax...etc. That guy was the same one who beating up a local woman over a dog issue recently. Ken is just another barking for the boss of harry's island.