Singaporeans cherish their hard-won freedom

Mr Jolovan Wham and his fellow activists have sadly misconstrued why Singaporeans are up in arms over their meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

There is absolutely nothing wrong in hooking up with one of Asia's enduring political giants to ask him poignant questions about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, like Mr Wham did, for example.

Even the late Pope John Paul II has hosted the legend at the Vatican.

But when Singaporeans lobby any foreigner, including Tun Dr Mahathir, to interfere in our domestic affairs - especially on highly sensitive issues - that is when alarm bells start to ring.

As Mr Wham and his lot ought to know from their support for the Pink Dot movement, such forms of interference are a no-no here.

The reason is very simple. Most Singaporeans value and respect the independence that our ancestors fought so hard to attain from our former British colonial masters and, subsequently, from Malaysia on Aug 9, 1965.

"Merdeka! Lagi sekali, yang bersemangat, merdeka!" How we love the passion and conviction in founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's rallying cry, as much as Dr Thum Ping Tjin enjoys mocking this exclamation on Facebook.

Mr Wham and his friends can, of course, choose to agree with Dr Thum and continue to press their luck in pushing for a certain brand of "freedom and democracy" here - with support from their foreign backers - but they had better be prepared to deal with very stern local opposition, as they would in any democracy, on such matters.

Toh Cheng Seong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2018, with the headline 'S'poreans cherish their hard-won freedom'. Print Edition | Subscribe