MP Zainudin Nordin explains posting of 'provocative' quote by US writer

PEOPLE'S Action Party MP Zainudin Nordin has responded to intense criticism from some netizens for a quote on democracy he posted on his Facebook page earlier this week.

The quote, by the American fantasy writer Terry Goodkind, included the line: "Gang rape, after all, is democracy in action."

Mr Goodkind was arguing that the mob-rule form of democracy was undesirable. He made the comment during an interview in which he criticised America's attempt to, in his words, "enforce democracy" in Iraq.

Last night, in an e-mail reply to The Straits Times, Mr Zainudin said he had been sharing quotes he found interesting. Mr Goodkind's quote was, in his view, "provocative" but also delivered a clear message that democracy operates on the principle of majority rule, "whether or not the choice of the majority is morally right or supports the overall good".

"My only intent was to present my view that each individual has a choice and each decision comes with tremendous responsibilities. Hence, to follow a majority mob might be democracy, but it is democracy in its basest form. As a part of the quote says, and I agree: 'Democracy in and of itself is not necessarily good,'" Mr Zainudin wrote in his e-mail reply.

His belief is that society should strive for "a thoughtful, moral and enlightened democracy, where we each make our decisions based on what is right, what is moral, and what is beneficial for us, for our family and for our nation".

He said he "never for a moment intended to offend anyone" and "I apologise sincerely for the unintended offence which the posting has caused".

Since the posting - which was not accompanied by any comment - went up on Monday, the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP has come under fire.

Naysayers say he was being insensitive, especially towards women. They add that the posting was poorly timed, given recent reports of tragic gang rapes in India.

Some have also challenged him to state what, if anything, he was trying to imply about democracy in Singapore through the quote.

Non-Constituency MP Lina Chiam issued a statement on Wednesday calling the quote "abhorrent" and urging the MP to "retract his statement and apologise to women in Singapore".

But other netizens pointed out that the single line on "gang rape" had been taken out of context.

Association of Women for Action and Research executive director Corinna Lim acknowledged that the MP could have "exercised more discretion" in reproducing the "gang rape" part of the quote, but said: "It surely cannot be taken to mean that he is condoning rape culture. To the contrary, the quote is challenging democracy that is practised like gang rape - as a tool to persecute those with less power in numbers."

Mr Zainudin remained quiet until last night. He did, however, send a take-down demand to blogger Ganga, who had posted on his Facebook page a picture of the MP beside the quote.

"This is a statement by Terry Goodkind, and not me," wrote Mr Zainudin in an e-mail message to Ganga.

He threatened legal action, calling Ganga's posting mischievous, highly defamatory and "calculated to embarrass me and cause me damage".

Ganga has not taken the picture down, although he has added a clarification on the original source of the quote.

elgintoh@sph.com.sg